Preachers. I have a very important question for you. Does your ministry ever leave the church building?
You know, many times we church folks act as though we have done our duty when we sit in a congregation and listen to a preacher preach or a choir sing. We may participate. We may sing heartily. We may even get a chance to preach to the people of God. But then we go home. And what happens at home? A plethora of television, sports, games, fun, and just life. And we should live our life, but has church made a difference in our lives? Does it affect our lives in any meaningful way? And more specifically, does it make a difference in how we relate to the hurting one?
Many of us say we are called to the ministry, but do we [really] mean that we are called to preach? Some don't necessarily provide any real ministry in their daily lives. Some are just as mean as everyone else at the Wal-Mart when the line is slow. Some are just as ruthless as anyone else at work when they are trying to get the promotion. Some are just as heartless by making fun of the one who is different from any one else. And yet, we are in ministry.
The other day, I had the opportunity to talk to [someone] who was just being ordained to the ministry. The individual was excited about the opportunity. Now, I agree that it is a good thing to have your community to recognize and affirm your call to ministry. However, there is a two phase call to ministry. We are called individually by God, but that call is also recognized by a community. At any rate, I affirmed the excitement that comes from this recognition. But I also encouraged [the individual] to recognize that the call to ministry is an all-encompassing call. It affects all you do. You may not get that church, but it doesn't free you from the call and its responsibilities. Even if you end up flipping burgers at a burger shack, you still have that call that changes the way you relate and live in the world.
Too often we just limit our ministry to the church. And when we do that, we harm the Kingdom in a number of ways. When we limit ministry to the church, we tend to fight over the few opportunities to "do ministry." Often this "ministry" is nothing more than simply being in front. Reading the scripture during the worship hour is important, but what does it profit to do that while no one knows you are a minister in your daily life? Preaching powerfully can be a very important thing, but what good is it if the preaching of your life is the very opposite of what you preach in the pulpit?
When we limit our ministry just to the church, we end up fighting over meaningless drivel. My brother told me once that, "the line to genuinely help people is always short. If you want to make a difference, help somebody." That is the essence of ministry.
Preaching is important, and I would encourage you to continue to get better at it. But, let us not forget that we are called to "ministry" and not just to "preaching." If you visited me when I was sick; and you helped my cousin who was in jail; and you prayed for me when my momma died; then your sermons will mean a lot more to me than someone who has 10 thousand members that he can never see.Christ decided to come into the world and live among us and touch us, not as a king sitting on a throne, but as a little child. And Jesus changed the world by being among us. If we are to turn the world upside down, as has been done in the past, then we must be in the world (Acts 17:6). As a "minister," God expects us to be on the front lines and not simply pass those assignments to others while we pontificate from a separated pulpit.