When you invest your life into someone; as a pastor, mentor, friend, helper, brother – you’re loving one person — just one — in many ways. Many many ways. Time, meals, prayer, hugs, bible-reading together, the works.
But by doing that, you’re implicitly choosing NOT to love many people. As finite, limited, time-bound creatures, we just can’t love many people in many ways.
But, we do find ourselves loving many people in a few ways; preaching, leading prayers, teaching scripture, uploading the sermon for other people, photocopying the outlines. All these activities love many people, sometimes 100s or 1000s of people. But they only love them in a few ways. They’re not holistic expressions of love, but they are expressions of love non-the less.
1. A body of people can love each other in many ways when they all take care of loving the many in a few ways (sounds very 1Cor12 right?)
2. Most (but not all) “loving-many-in-a-few-ways” are formal ministry roles. Most (but not all) “loving-few-in-many-ways” are informal ministry roles.
3. Have you thought about how many you’re loving in a few ways? Or who you’re loving in many ways?
When you’re a young christian, it’s almost as if everything is for you. Church feels aimed at you. There’s a special group for people new like you. You get invited to camps and getaways that teach you things you’ve never realised were in the bible. Every other person in church is more mature and wants to help you.
But as you grow in maturity (as you should) you also grow up in the community. You start welcoming new people, you start making the new christian feel at home, you help run the camps, you start leading the groups.
In fact, it’s normal Christian life that there seem to be fewer and fewer people around who are there for you. And more an more people for whom you are there for them.
You can see Paul’s disappointment in the Corinthians… “Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly.” (1Cor 3-1:3)
Or the writer of Hebrews… “it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” (Heb 5:11-12)
Jesus wants us to mature, and maturity means “more like Jesus”; more serving others and less being served. Mature Christians give more than they get.
There’s two ways of thinking about ministry; One type of ministry work is being the structure asset; the person who makes the structure work, who can gather the people and make the formal, programmed event happen. You can run a class, run a growth group, preach a sermon. We love these guys!
The other type of ministry work is being a broken play asset. “Broken play” is a concept in sport where the ball is in play, but neither team has a set play in action, it’s almost every man for himself, but there’s still team work going on. These are the people who hang around after the class, after the growth-group, after the sermon. They just sidle up beside someone, strike up a conversation, and apply the word of God into that person’s life.
Notice that broken play ministry is NOT just having a good conversation with someone. It’s got to be ministry – applying the word of God into someone’s life.
Yes, some people find this type of ministry easier than others. But this is something we should all try and develop skills in; becoming a team of broken-play experts.
If you’re in pastoral ministry; teaching the bible, meeting up with people, etc., you start to loom large in people’s eyes. And that’s not bad per se. It’s partly how God has made humans. But it requires some important caveats.
If you ask people a question, especially a personal question about sin or their personal struggles, they will feel obliged to tell you – even if they don’t really want to. They will feel more obliged to tell you (their pastor) than someone else.
Now, on one hand, that’s simply their problem. They “should” know that you’re not their priest, and they don’t need confess to you if they don’t want to. Jesus is their Lord, and you’re just a brother or sister, offering a chance to talk – that they don’t have to take up if they don’t want to.
And that’s the key… You (as their pastor) know they don’t HAVE to answer to you, confess to you, share their struggles with you. But do they know that?!? Have you pastored them to know that? Maybe not?
So do still ask those hard questions (because they’re good questions to ask), but be humble enough to also say, “Don’t tell me if you don’t want to”.
Help them to make the decision themselves, not just let you make it for them.
So just have a go. Why not?! Why not be bold? Why not put it out there? Why not say what you think will help/encourage/build-up/strengthen/correct/etc…? Why stop from saying something that God could use to help people.
That’s just it you see… God uses people. Not great people, not always skilled people, just his people. There’s nothing to make you think that he WON’T use you. NOTHING!!!!
But what about… NO! That (whatever that is) doesn’t mean he can’t use YOU. There’s nothing about you that makes God go “uhh… no, I’m not using you!” (assuming you’re a Christian).
Except for one thing…
There is one thing that will mean God won’t use you…
When you don’t have a go. When you don’t act in love. When you don’t say the hard word, the loving word. When you don’t just give them a call.
God won’t use you, when you don’t trust him enough to act.
So go on, have a go!
Asking people about sin in their life is hard. Its awkward, beat-around-the-bush, so-how-you-going-in-that-area, vague conversation.
But that’s very rarely helpful or loving for people.
Because Jesus didn’t die for vague “areas” of sin. Jesus died for each and every specific sin we do (as well as our entire attitude of rebellion). In prayer, we don’t just repent for vague sins, we repent of specific time-and-date sins.
So, out of love for your brothers and sisters, press through the awkwardness (that satan creates), and move from vague areas of sin to specifics. “When was the last time you…?” “How long has it been since…?” “What did you actually say to her?” “Exactly how many drinks did you have?”
For some people (most by experience) they haven’t thought about these details them-self, and its only as they put words to their own actions that they begin to realise the depth of sin they’re caught in.
Love them by asking hard specific questions, but also be careful you don’t become their preist!!
Keen to do FT ministry? Want to become a great preacher? Want to see 100s, nay, 1000s of people saved? Great! Do 1 to 1 ministry.
It helps you to develop trust for God working through his word to change people.
It helps you understand how – so often – people don’t understand the bible when they read it.
It helps keep you humble as you see how people don’t change just because you tell them to.
It helps you understand the bible really really really really really really really really well as you think about teaching people in other ways – like preaching.
Of course, this is assuming you read the bible with people when you do 1 to 1. So do that.