“Who is the minister here?”
Before arriving in Chicago, I thought that the street use of Minister was fairly universal. Because of my background, I thought everyone used the term in reference to church vocational staff. In the my church affiliation, some border on a misuse of the term by an insistence that the Ministry staff be called “the” Minister but I had already begun a transition to a more inclusive use of the term myself.
However, after being invited by an African-American friend to attend worship with them, I responded that I couldn’t be gone on Sunday because I was a Minister. His reply was, “I am too.” But I knew Greg wasn’t talking in vocational terms. That was a pleasant surprise to hear the use of the term expanding. However, I even found that at Greg’s church it only extended to those people had been officially designated for ministry by the lead staff member.
However, consider the implications within the body of Christ when one of two scenarios happen:
Scenario #1: I’m Gifted — You’re Not!
Have you ever run across someone who acts as if their contribution to the church’s ministry is by far the most important role anyone could play in the body of Christ? In 30 years of ministry, I have run across my share of spiritual gift snobs … those who look down on others who do not possess their gifts and talent. Can teacher/preachers struggle with seeing the value in the custodian? Is it possible for vocalists and instrumentalists to recognize the ministry worth of the nursery staff? Do some leaders despise the “limited” ministry of those who serve in quietness with gifts of helps and service? Absolutely, and it often happens.
Imagine the mouth saying to the hand, “I don’t need you. Out of me flows the beauty of music. Out of me escapes the forceful Word of God. I give directions, and everyone marches to my orders. All of the rest of the body is dependent upon my ministry for through me comes all of the nourishment to satisfy the needs it has.” If I was the hand, the next time the stomach told the mouth it was hungry, I would go on strike. It wouldn’t lift “a hand” to help. It wouldn’t be long before the mouth realized my contribution.
In ministry, we may even play into feeding the ego of the mouths within the church (after all sometimes they are the biggest complainers). They are most likely to hear the applause, be encouraged by an “Amen”, or see the influence that they have on others by changes others make in their lives.
The hands hardly hear these words of praise. Usually their contribution to the body goes unnoticed, if not outright ignored. That often leads them to fall into the second scenario.
Scenario #2: You’re Gifted — I Am Not!
On the other “hand”, some people look at what they have to offer and think I can’t do anything of importance … I have nothing to offer. I can’t stand up in front of people and swallow, let alone speak. When I open my mouth to sing, it is more closely associate with a horses whinny, a dog howl, or a cat’s screech than anything like a human voice. Thus we downgrade our own capabilities. We envy those whose upfront gifts seem to give them star power. In light of all of the accolades that they must get, we don’t measure up.
In the body of Christ that would be like the lungs saying to the heart, “You’re ministry is really important. Everybody recognizes what you do. You push blood throughout the body to provide nutrients to the farthest extremities. All I do is expand and contract … pull in air and push it out. The heart is the place of passion, feeling, and motivation. People draw hearts to express their love for one another. No one has ever said, ‘I love you with all of my lungs.'”
Or perhaps a greater contrast of heart and pinky toe … imagine it saying, “The heart gets all of the attention. Look how it is protected by a shield of ribs, while I hang out down here next the rest of this crew that smells something like a locker room. Does anyone bother to guard and protect me? No, I get kicked into the table leg in the middle of the night. I don’t matter.”
At this point, many a pinky toe, a helping hand, a supporting arm, a listening ear, or a discerning eye have cashed their ministry in … given up … said it’s no longer worth it!
But try to go without breathing for a few minutes … and your body will quickly inform you how important your lungs are to the rest of the body. Or have your pinky toe removed and have to go through relearning the art of walking! Even your armpits, provide a valuable ventilation area for your body so that it does not overheat. Or let’s return to the original mouth/hand scenario — how much better can the mouth minister when supported by the mouth by holding the microphone?
Don’t minimize the contribution that you make to the body of Christ. When you do you paralyze the body of Christ. When you fail to function fully, the impact is felt throughout the rest of the body.
Whether your ministry is out front or behind the scenes … loud or quiet … before the crowd or one-on-one … with a microphone or with a mop … within the church walls or out in the street … physically active or mentally contemplative … your ministry is important.
The church needs the helping hands, the supportive arms, the soft shoulders, the listening ears, the discerning eyes, the going feet, and numerous other ministry roles that “the overlooked” often fill. If your ministry is in one of these areas, know this, you are appreciated — I love what you have to offer the body of Christ. The effectiveness rests heavily on what you do behind the scenes.
If you are one of the ministry “stars”, give some affirmation to those who don’t get to stand center stage. Let them know you appreciate how they help you.