The Difference Between Ministry and Ministering

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'” Matthew 25:40
I hope you were all as blessed last month by my wife Cindy’s update as I was and that this letter finds you well & enjoying the fruits of the holiday season. If you don’t mind I’d like to share with you another valuable lesson I learned this past year walking beside my wife in her cancer/chemo battle. And that is what the difference is between ministering to a particular individual as we are led by the Spirit of God especially in times of suffering and being a part of a particular general ministry at church. Allow me to explain.¬†
As a former worship leader, children’s ministry worker, Jr High youth leader and custodial assistant I have done my fair share of being a part of a church ministry. And yet it wasn’t until my wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma & I was forced to take care of our three small children completely on my own at times, that I was forced to really see what it looks like to minister to another person one on one outside of the confines of what we call ministry (when no one is looking).¬†That is what the God of Heaven has slowly and methodically worked into the fabric of my heart over the past year. That is what I want to share with you now: the difference between being a part of a visible, tangible expression of public Christian service in the abstract impersonal and intentionally going out of one’s way to sacrifice one’s time energy and resources to serve an individual most are unaware of when no one is looking.
Now I need to clarify. I’m not saying that general church ministry is inadequate or unbiblical, quite the contrary. But church ministry in the corporate sense is meant to be the outflow of ministering to people in the individual sense not as the source but as the fruit of God’s overall work by the Spirit in His body. Furthermore being in church ministry can become an excuse to isolate from & worse yet even ignore the people we interact with on a daily basis both at church and more specifically in the world we live in.
Francis Schaeffer wisely remarked (I am paraphrasing) that the difference between the secular humanist and the Christian is this: The humanist will typically (nearly always) publicly address some general human need, trumpeting causes that never really touch them where it hurts or make them vulnerable where they live as an individual (I think of the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the outcry it has created, or hunger & poverty in the abstract). Where the individual Christian is called by God in Christ to practically minister to EVERY individual they encounter personally as they are led by the Holy Spirit. And there is a big difference between the two, huge, if we are willing to see it. But that is just the problem. Most the time we are not. It is far easier and less invasive to send a meal from a distance than to show up in person and sit beside the hurting or worse yet…dying for a few hours. It is far less time consuming to write a check than to visit the broken and downtrodden in our own neighborhood or further, far less difficult to send our love with a card, a Bible verse or even a Facebook or text message than it is to manifest it in person, much easier to send a prayer than ask how we might be involved in the answer to one. Is it not?
I know that is the case for me. And I am certain I am not alone. The problem with the American church as I see it (and I am included in this) is that we are far more willing to speak of being led by the Spirit than we are of actually being led by Him especially in the most practical ways, far more willing to study the scriptures and apply them to others than be exposed by the scriptures ourselves for what we are and be sanctified by the Spirit through them as we interact with other people. We are far more willing to speak about the ills of our country as a whole than interact with them as individuals and we are far more able and willing to serve when others are watching us than love when no one is. And that is the truth. It is our nature as human beings, Christian or not to do so. And that again is the problem.
But that is exactly why God gave us His Spirit to begin with: to sanctify us out of our old humanity and way of doing things and conform us into the image of His Son as both individuals and a corporately redeemed body of believers both representing & partaking in the reality of the new creation. We want the world to see Christ and yet we refuse to be changed by Him in the core of our being through the revelation of the gospel and our own need for it as we interact with both fallen and broken humanity. Now I am not saying we can or will do this perfectly. We can’t and we won’t.
But we CAN try and begin by submitting to the Holy Spirit as He leads us to minister to the needs of others in person according to His will. We can grow in our willingness to sacrifice when no one is looking to the praise and glory of our God. We can admit when we fail and repent in faith that God will use us in spite of our self and redeem the time we have wasted on ourselves. And above all we can saturate ourselves with the gospel and cry out to God in prayer that He would change us from the inside out through it so we can reflect more of His heart for the individual and less our own to the watching world.
I know this is a heavy topic to be discussing during the holiday season, but honestly what better time? What better time than now, in the hustle and bustle of church pageants and Christmas shopping, of planning parties and spending time with the ones we love to get outside of our comfort zones and ask if God would not lead us by His Spirit to reach out to whomever He wills for their own individual benefit even if it costs us our own? I pray that this word is an encouragement to you even if it is painful to hear at first. I know for me it has been the healing work of God in my own heart, even if I daily fall short to live up to the glorious ideal it represents. And I know it is because of my very failures in this area (and so many more I don’t even know about) that God sent His beloved Son to begin with to that lowly manger not only to die on my behalf but live in it as well. Merry Christmas Friends and a Happy New Year. I pray it is a glorious and God centered one for you and your families.
We love each and every one of you and thank you for your support.
Chris, Cindy and the Family
-We got to spend thanksgiving with family in the Central Valley this year!
-Noah is improving in potty training.
-Gods amazing provision for our financial needs!
-Josiah got awarded the character award for thankfulness!! What a special award!
Prayer Requests-
1. Cindy’s health… She has some unusual symptoms in November so she will have another PET scan December 9th. Please pray for clean scans and for all the details cause she can’t be around the kids. Pray also that Cindy would continue to heal and get stronger.
2. Pray for Noah at school. He is in special Ed preschool. Pray for his continued development.
3. Pray for Rebecca as she adjusts life with her brothers during the day.
4. Pray for us as a family as we figure out what things as we move forward as a family!
5. Pray that we would continue to trust God to provide for all of our needs.
Thank you for praying!! Please let us know how we can pray for you and your loved ones!
Christmas family pictures
Noah_s 4th Birthday
Brotherly love
Mommy and Becca