Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Getting the Most Out of Ministry

Suggested Reading: James 2:1-13

Thanks to my children, I used to watch Disney's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, a show about two twins who live in a hotel because their mother is a lounge singer there. In one episode, Zack, the cool one who is constantly annoyed by his brother's geeky intelligence, was putting his friendship up for auction, and several less cool kids were competing with each other, trying to outdo one another in what they could offer Zack for his friendship.  One kid had an awesome gaming system, another had a swimming pool, another had access to a fortune of free Doritos. I don't remember what all of their offers were, but Zack's plan was to choose his new best friend based on who could offer him the most. Unfortunately, we sometimes fall into that trap in the Church.

In the first century, the people who responded to the Gospel with the most frequency were the poor. The rich often viewed Jesus's followers as members of some Jewish cult and were just as likely to have Christians arrested as listen to them. And yet James went to great lengths to remind his readers not to treat the rich better or give them a higher priority than the poor. James asked them, Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him? Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that was pronounced over you at your baptism? (James 2:5-7, HCSB) Why would James even have to remind them of these things, urging them not to make the rich a higher priority than the poor when the poor responded more? Because the poor couldn't benefit them as much as the rich might.

Far too often, we allow ourselves to be influenced with regard to whom we offer ministry to, whom we invite to church, or whom we reach out to, based on who will benefit us the most. We ask ourselves questions like, Who can we find to plug that hole in our church? Instead of, who needs to be ministered to? We make decisions about whom to please based on who will affect the bottom line more if they get angry and leave. Simply put, we make too many ministry decisions and evangelism decisions based on what we will get out of people rather than based on who needs to be reached with the love of God. But ministry based on benefit is selfishness, not ministry.

Jesus had this to say: “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14, HCSB). As far as Jesus was concerned, if you allowed possible benefit to influence you, you should be influenced by who could benefit you the least.

What ministry and evangelism decisions have you been making based on who can give you the most benefit? Whom have you been helping primarily because it might eventually help you? Maybe it's time to rethink how you do ministry.

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