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Ministry or minister?

Above all my desire is to seek Christ, know Him, and grow in His Word. Never do I assume I’ve reached some level of maturity to relax and just coast along in life. Nor do I want to put anything, even ministry above the Lord. Though I do at times find myself doing exactly that, it’s never the goal for my wife or me. Elizabeth, my wife, is well grounded to always remind me when ministry starts becoming the object instead of simply letting ministry be the result of our lives poured out unto Jesus. Recently, I was really convicted about this once again and really challenged by the Lord.

You see, a few weeks ago, I came across the picture above floating around on Facebook and to be honest, it really hit home. My flesh quickly got defensive and tried in every direction to justify the times during ministry opportunities where I’m quick to take a photo. Now, of course, the picture above is a bit of an exaggeration, but it really got personal for me and the Lord definitely used it to reveal the real danger found within my own heart.

The reason I bring this up is because lately I have developed a mind frame that I’d like to repent from and bury, giving it all to Him. There’s such a great benefit when the Lord unveils sin. Although it often hurts, we are given a huge opportunity to know and grow in Jesus even more than before, learning more fully that He indeed is our all in all.

Once Lost Ministries is ultimately about helping people remember where we once were, dirty rotten sinners desperately in need of new life, the life only given by the One Who is Life. The sooner we are rooted in this simple fact, the less we will be concerned with all the rubbish and rottenness of this world and all of its philosophies, entertainment, agendas, etc. After all, Christ alone is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness and it’s as simple as that. Why search for anything other than perfection when perfection came 2,000 years ago?!

Daily remembering these basic truths, we press onward, responding to Christ’s call. Through repentance and faith in Him, we now trust in His way, His truth, and His life (John 14:6, Gal 2:20). Ministry is then borne out of our love for Him and Jesus revealing His direction as we humbly come to Him in studying His Word and in prayer. Regardless of what direction the Lord leads individual parts of His body, Jesus always remains our sole desire, stripping away all the things that lead us away from Him. We turn to His Word to overcome and go through the obstacles, glorifying our Heavenly Father in all that we think, say, and do. This includes washing and watering the family relationships under our roof with the Word of God. Plus we are called to serve Him at work, pointing to our Lord with His Word and good works. We also speak and do the truth of the Gospel for any and all we run into during our daily activities.

It sounds so easy when written down, yet our proud and arrogant flesh jumps in the way arguing, “What about…”, “Aren’t my feelings…”, “Can’t I…”, “What if I just…” The world is full of distractions we all learn to justify as we live day to day in this postmodern planet. We might start off the day with an amazing devotional, praising our Savior, singing and talking with Him through His Word and then our drive to work begins and we start mocking Him with our responses to terrible drivers. It’s so easy to let the flesh take control. I say this all to myself and pray you understand that I readily admit my own desperate need to daily die to self and live in Christ.

And then there is “ministry”. Yes, we do it ever so carefully, putting our full attention into this “thing”, often thinking, “If I only had more time to do this!” “If only I could do this “ministry” full time. That would be perfect!” We definitely want to serve Jesus in everything we do. We go the direction the Lord leads us, jumping in with a full cannon ball looking to give all the glory to the Lord and make His name known. We start our websites and share newsletters. We even look for opportunities to send prayer and praise reports. All of these are great ways to serve Jesus and encourage the saints, but there’s another side to it all.

I know firsthand that after months, years, and maybe even decades (if the Lord chooses to let us go a certain direction for that long), even “ministry” can have the potential of becoming a distraction. We begin to focus on the ministry and forget about actually ministering. Maybe we started out desiring to serve Him, using resources that point to Jesus. We share any way possible including the ever so popular avenues of social media.

(Quick side note: There can absolutely be evils in every way imaginable by the world and the World Wide Web, but the Lord uses us in the here and now to point people to Him regardless. So we believe this area of social media and the internet can be used to glorify the Lord. We choose to utilize the Web, carefully and biblically using these tools as beacons of the Lord’s true light. Not only do we share videos and articles on the Once Lost website, but on Facebook we also try to encourage Christians to be Christ-minded and follow Him, which means to both grow and go! We post pictures of some of the outreaches we do, along with on-the-street video interviews to show how simple it can be to share the Gospel with the lost.)

What I’ve noticed, and it’s time to land this plane, is that for myself, there is a fine line between encouraging and equipping the body of Christ and actually giving myself some of the glory by always photographing and publicizing what we’re up to. Truth be told, it’s become a habit to always have my phone ready when we go out. Granted we sincerely desire to post pictures online to ask for prayer and encourage those hesitant to share the Gospel, those who are just waiting for a little nudge. But I never want to glean the glory from the Lord and it’s easy to forget how fast the flesh steps in!

I am not writing this to say it’s wrong to post outreach pictures. I have definitely seen fruit from those who’ve come across our website and Facebook pictures and articles. After all, we all need some encouragement and reminders of how important it is to share the Good News with the lost. But I always need to be aware of my own selfish heart. That’s what the Lord was really challenging me on lately. Are we hungry to gain our own glory, drawing attention to ourselves instead of solely seeking to minister? Simply put, we need to stop trying to run a ministry and simply run the race of ministering (Romans 15:16, Hebrews 12:1) to those in desperate need of the Gospel. I need to be reminded of this often and am grateful for the Lord clearly revealing this to me once again!

What joy and rest there is in dropping all agendas and simply serving the Lord the way Paul did. He made tents for his daily provision and then going out, even in the middle of crowds, shouted from the rooftops the truth and love of our glorious Creator and Savior. He then let the Lord bring the increase. May we cease from focusing on maintaining ministries and instead fix our hearts on Jesus, letting His love and power minister in us and through us, truly giving all the glory to our Heavenly Father.

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:1-4

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