It is common for Christians to make a call for people to get involved or sign up to serve or even to give because there is a great need.
And there is a great need!
However, if the need is the only basis you ever use for that call you will usually get only average responses. When things are simply “needs” they only need simplistic solutions. Stop gaps. Temporary fixes.
However, when you call people to be involved in something massive, something’s that will matter and make a difference, you might get fewer people, but you will get more invested people.
It’s the difference between, “hey, we really really need Sunday school teachers or else the class can’t run” and “hey, there are 10 kids you are like sponges every Sunday, and you could be one of the people they thank God for putting in their life when they are 60 years old.”
A thermostat never keeps the temperature exactly right, it just has a “too hot” and “too cold” number, and tries to keep the temperature between those. And that’s like much of how we do ministry.
Preaching that tends to focus on Godly obedience and rejoicing in grace… you’ll never nail it. Even if you think you have, some people will hear one more than the other. But you need to make sure you’re operating between tolerances.
Preaching that teaches the deep truths of the faith and preaching that has detailed “how-to” application… you’ll never nail it. But you need to be aware of the tolerances you should work between.
Church meetings that are great for newbies and church meetings that help established Christians in their walk… Growth Groups that facilitate deep relationships and Growth Groups that facilitate maturity and biblical understanding and faith and obedience in God… Welcoming that helps the majority and welcoming that helps the minority…
We shouldn’t come down on either side of any of these. But rather realise that we can never nail it, we just operate between tolerances.
The complaint usually goes like this; “When you keep challenging us to give up our careers and secular work, you’re subtly implying that our work is not as valuable as gospel work and that makes us feel like second class citizens in the church. You should see that all good work is part of God’s good intention for the world. It helps people have food, housing, health, education. These are just as valuable as gospel work.”
When faced with this, you could defend the claim that gospel work is more valuable than secular work (which it is) – but I think this is falling into a trap.
The whole question/challenge carries with it an “identity misunderstanding”. Your identity is not defined by your career. It never was and never will be. Your identity is defined by God’s declaration about you at the cross. If you feel like a second class citizen when I attack your career as less valuable than gospel work… why?? Is your identity caught up in your career or life-decisions? Don’t let it be!
There are two things to discuss, 1) Your identity in Christ that is perfect and unalterable, 2) Your work that can be more or less valuable in light of God’s plans and purposes for the universe.
So… the mother who wakes at 3am again to look after her kids because God values families does good. The terminally-ill patient who lies in a hospital bed and prays for the people she knows and the staff who serve her, she does an enormous good. Both activities are much more valuable than testing the accounting software for a finance company who underwrites the insurance policies of other companies who do some aspect of manufacturing (like what I used to do).
So, you ARE valuable in Christ, and therefore, give up your ambitions and DO the most valuable thing with your life you reasonably can… which is as much gospel work as you can.
If you’re going to ask someone to take on a responsibility, make it short. Not the responsibility… but the “ask”.
If you make the “ask” long and wordy, it will communicate that this task you’re offering them is so huge, so massive, so immense, that you have to take a long time to ask them. Instead, make it short.
“Hey Bill, could you lead a growth group night in a few weeks?”
Don’t say anything else. Just stop there. Let them answer. If they say no, that’s fine, all the words in the world probably wouldn’t have changed their mind anyway.
If they say, “Maybe” you can ask them what their concerns are, and you can address those concerns.
If they say yes, you can then go through the details they need to know.
If you make the ask BIG, then you’ll only freak them out by the apparent BIGNESS of the task.
Since we pastor people, and people are not in a vacuum but are part of a culture, the cultural norms and tools affect what pastoral ministry look like from generation to generation. Our culture uses SMSs, phone-calls, emails and social media in particular ways, and if we are pastoring cultural-normalised sheep, we need to properly leverage these tools. So here’s my current perception/opinions/ideas… that will probably be proved wrong in many cases… But just observing the 18-25 year olds…
- Phone calls are for serious business. They are the 90’s equivalent of a formal letterhead. Calling to just say “hi” is a confusion of categories. Phone conversations needs to be planned-in; you need to SMS in advance, “Hey, can I phone you about this? How about now?”. This generation is telling us that the prospect of getting a “welcome phone call” is somewhere between weird and scary… and yet… if it’s done well, it still works!! Maybe because no-one else does it and they realise there’s actually a real person at the other end of the communication (sometimes lost in SMSs).
- SMSs are the new phone-calls. They work for our current Individualistic culture, because they are easily ignored. You don’t have to reply straight away. The message has arrived, but you are culturally allowed to deal with it in your own time (10mins, 10hrs, even 10days!!!). This means, while SMSs do steal people’s attention, they are good ways of one-way communication. And they do open the door to two-way communication.
We’ve recently tried sending mass SMSs to our whole church to pray for an evangelistic even WHILE it happens. Anecdotally, this has been received well.
- Email is more and more becoming a one-way communication tool. Most people are swamped by emails… but what that usually means is that they only respond to a very few of the emails they think they should respond to. Let me say that again… people still read almost all their email (headers/subjects at least). And for many of these emails, they feel an internal conviction that they SHOULD reply or take some action, but they don’t. Therefore email has become a huge source of individual guilt for people. They are not swamped by email, but rather swamped by the guilt produced when they look at email. Take home message, if you want a response, email is very unlikely to garner much.
- Social media is still a new beast. Someone somewhere made the valid point that in 20years time we’ll look back and think, what on earth were we doing then!?! It has certain characteristics of SMS and email; there’s so much of it (like email), but people don’t feel the guilt they do with email. It’s also personal like SMS. We’ve found that people are more willing to give their Facebook details and be Private Messaged on FB than they are being SMSed… maybe a trend to continue?
One of the take home messages is, if you’re involved in pastoring people aged 15-25… you should consider SMSing them a lot! I mean a lot… from a pastoral point of view, you get easy access to people’s personal thoughts almost 24/7. And then when you do meet with them, they feel much more connected to you – even if you don’t feel much more connected to them.
It seems like a sound argument… If 100% of Christians tried to do paid-ministry, there’d be no-one to pay them. Therefore the church needs people who will faithfully decide to not do paid-ministry. Right?
Even though the statement is “true” it fails on three counts.
- It’s putting the cart before the horse. You don’t make a decision about entering paid-ministry on the basis of whether other people are doing it. You offer your life to God, you work it out with him – regardless of what other people are doing. What if God actually wants lots of people going into paid ministry!?!?
- No-where near 100% of people are going into full-time ministry. In fact, only about 50% of people who start on the road to paid-ministry end up in paid-ministry. Our church has a congregation of uni-students & grads, and only about %4 of them start on the road to full-time paid ministry!
But think about all the other churches around Australia where students and grads are NOT being challenged to consider paid-ministry!!! That 4% ends up closer to 1%.
Your church may not need more paid-ministers, but Jesus’ church does. So train at your church and take it to other churches.
- The argument implies that people who choose to “stay in the workforce” will be just as helpful to the gospel by being able to pay for others DOING paid-ministry (as compared to going into paid-ministry themselves).
Anecdotally, this is false. If it were true, wouldn’t these people be making the same financial sacrifices those entering FT ministry make? The average MTS Scholarship is about $25-$30k. If you really believe the argument above, doesn’t that mean you should invest every cent you earn above $25k into gospel workers – people who are doing MTS?
…it’s only cool until you know how its done.
Every kid who’s seen a magic trick starts imagining themselves as a magician. That’s why toy stores sell those starter-magic kits. But if they sold so many, wouldn’t there me so many more magicians?
The reality is, as soon as a kid realises that the magic trick is more trick than magic, they quickly lose interest. Doing magic is only cool when it’s amazing. When you’re just hiding a card in the other hand, it’s boring.
Inviting young men and women to consider a lifetime of gospel ministry is a bit like that. They see you doing “impressive” and “amazing” Christian ministry…. they hear the bible knowledge and wisdom… wow! But when they start doing it, they soon realise that ministry is hard work, taking hours of preparation time, years of just reading the bible one your own and with others. Regurgitating the same wisdom you’ve been given over the years. It loses it’s shine.
Which is sad, because ministry really is the closest thing to real magic in the end. By the grace of God, we see people move from death to life. God uses us to raise the dead, proclaim forgiveness of sins, melt hearts of stone, rejoice for eternity. Amazing.