As a pastor of almost four decades, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of people don’t really understand the concept of ministry.
My hunch, based on hundreds of conversations and years of observation, is that many people are in search of being involved in ministry that is fun, entertaining and self-gratifying.
Several years ago I was talking with a missionary who hosted a lot of short term mission groups. I asked him about some of the biggest challenges he faced. This veteran missionary shared, “It is very rare when groups ask how they can help us. Instead, they often show up with their own agenda in mind; an agenda that is really more about what they want to do rather than what we need done.”
Bringing it closer to home, its not uncommon for people to ask the pastor of a church how they can get involved in service. Yet, even after learning the various ways to plug in, some people remain uninvolved.
Why does this happen? My take is that some people are simply looking for a place to serve that really doesn’t cost them much. Put another way, they’re looking for they type of ministry activity that puts their felt needs ahead of seeking to meet the true needs of others.
But here’s the deal: true ministry is all about pouring ourselves out in order to help and serve others.
This approach to ministry often requires us to grow and stretch. Ministry isn’t really about us feeling good, as much as it is about helping take care of real issues. In fact, it is quite common to feel a level of discomfort when we begin serving in an area of life-changing ministry. That’s because real ministry can be hard work!
Several years ago I took on the task of teaching a class at our local Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children. Because the students were all women, I felt very intimidated! I felt like a fish out of water. But I knew UGM needed a teacher for this class, and so I went forward. Over the years I’ve become much more acclimated to this type of ministry, and count it a huge blessing to part of the recovery process for these women. And I’m glad to have been stretched in an area of ministry I wouldn’t naturally leaned into.
So here’s my pastoral advice: don’t necessarily look for a ministry that is custom-fit to you; look for a ministry where the needs are real. Dare to care more about the needs of others ahead of your own interests (Philippians 2:4). Ask God to help you overcome any feelings of fear or insecurity so you can lovingly serve those who need your wisdom, experience and grace.
Playing at ministry is tragic. Doing real ministry changes the life of both the on who is serving and the one being served.