Ministry

CARING FOR THOSE WHO PLAY THE VICTIM

God’s call upon us is clear. We are to love Him with all that we are, and we are to love our neighbor.

If we are to practice love of neighbor, we must step into their lives, including their hurts and burdens.

However, sometimes we cannot help but wonder if some of the people we are trying to care for are misusing our care. In short are they “playing the victim card”?

Even if people are playing the victim card, does that automatically let us off the hook from being responsible to love them. If we are to love our enemies, should we love those who misuse our compassion?

The short answer is that we are to love every person we meet regardless of the worthiness of their situation or their attitude. Everyone without Christ is broken, blind and totally lost.

The complicated part is how should we put our love for these people into action?

God does not necessarily want the answer to always be immediately clear and easy. There is benefit in searching our souls and the Scripture to find clarity. When answers are too easy, sometimes that is an indication of pride rather than wisdom.

Nick Batzig walks us through this conundrum in this article “Jesus and the Victim Card”, which is found at the Reformation 21 online magazine. He writes:

At the end of the day, our job is to point others to Scripture and to the Savior who is revealed in Scripture. We must resist the snare of putting ourselves in the place of the Redeemer in the name of “being there” for those who are hurting. Our job is to point others to the only one who is able to give both us and them the grace that we need to change.

RELATIONSHIPS ARE NOT EASY

Why is it essential to think of ministry in terms of relationships?

God and theology are relational

God by nature is relational: one God who exists in three persons

The word of God is relational

God’s means of saving us is relational:  God eternally took on our nature and gave himself for us

Worship is meant to be relational

We cannot follow God unless we have a relational focus

The Great Commandments are relational

The Great Commission is relational

The fruit of the spirit are revealed relationally

The nature of the church is relational; we are the family of God and the body of Christ

How can we love or how can we show grace if we do not live out “God in us” relationally?

However relationships always bring problems

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox” Proverbs 14:4

Everyone you have a relationship with is a sinner

It’s impossible to have problem free relationships, but it is possible to have correct perspectives and responses

We don’t have marriage problems or relational problems, we have sin problems

Remember our people and problems don’t make us sin, they can only squeeze out what was already inside us

Even with all the mess God keeps pushing us together

He instituted the Family and the church

His word keeps pushing us into closer involvements, by telling us to love our neighbor and live in fellowship with each other

It is indefensible for a believer to isolate themselves from relationships

Ministry requires large doses of grace – patience – love – forgiveness – persistence etc

If we are to carry out a biblical perspective in relationships

Burying relational problems and ignoring them is not a biblical option

Walking away from relational problems is not a biblical option

However, God does not ask you to be run over by people; we need to establish boundaries or we are enabling their sin

In many ways life is simpler when we have a self-focus. We only have to worry about me!

But life is much fuller and fruitful when it is relational

When these relationships are God-centered, we are carrying out the most meaningful labors on earth

Ministry involves bringing more oxen into our barn

Make relationship building a way of life

Be helpful and friendly, this draws people to us

Be interested in people’s lives; people like those who listen to them over those who talk at them

Be a servant, so people realize your agenda is not just about yourself

Each morning pray about the interactions you know are ahead of you that day

Look for those who are hurting and on the outside

Our world is filled with ministry potential

If you do not see them, ask God (who does) to open your eyes

When conflicts happen, respond with God’s agenda rather than your own

We typically see conflicts in relationships as an obstacle or as a sign to leave!

God’s wants us to see these moments as opportunities for growth and ministry

Rather than focus on establishing our position, ask God how we can serve his purpose

We are not all people persons, but what we do can be about people

A NEW LIFE, BRINGS A NEW JOB

God has changed us, with the purpose of making us his instrument of change in others

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf – be reconciled to God”’.  2 Corinthians 5:17-20

We are a “New Creation”

God has changed us significantly, eternally and wonderfully

When we received a new nature, the change was not subtle or just along the fringes of our life. The Bible says, “all things have become new”

We have a new relationship with God

To be “in Christ” means we are connected to what He has accomplished: his death, life and perfect obedience

Our identity is now forever ‘in Christ’; everything we receive from God is connected and secure in Him

We have a new understanding

If we look at ourselves without seeing supernatural differences – we have a false perspective

How we value what we are and do, is literally turned upside down

This change is not all finalized, but it is complete

Although we are not yet perfected, in the plan and sovereignty of God it is finished

“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”  Ephesians 2:6

Serving God is a matter of living out what he has already done

Examples of this are in Ephesians 6:11 “take up the whole armor of God” and Romans 13:14 “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”. In these examples we are not carrying out a new work, we are joining in the work Christ has accomplished for us

God provides all we need to be fruitful

We have the Holy Spirit, who is the fullness of God, residing in us.  It is impossible to have greater help!

We have the Word of God which has an extraordinary power to work change (Hebrews 4:12)

We have the Church, a community operating by supernatural principles of support and encouragement (Ephesians 4:16)

What is the result of all this?

We are always blessed abundantly

We are always thoroughly loved

We are always in midst of God’s gracious purpose

But if we stop with God working in us, we have stopped halfway

The process of spiritual blessing and growth are not merely about ourselves

Our salvation places us in a ministry role

The “word of reconciliation” and “the ministry of reconciliation” are ours instantaneously (we see an wonderful example of this in John 4:39-42)

God immediately turns us into His representative or “ambassador”

Being called an “ambassador for Christ” presents a specific word picture

We represent someone else in what we do; God’s agenda is now our agenda

We can declare the gospel of Christ with the authority of Christ. Look again at v20; it is “as though God were pleading thru us”

This indicates the depth of God’s commitment in using us

And it tells us that if we are to represent God, we should have a whole-hearted participation as his Ambassador

What high honor we have to represent Christ in his work of making broken lives whole

Although ministry has labor to it, it brings joy and vitality into our life

God has given us the most significant and satisfying labors possible

So what are we doing?

 

SERGEI HAS LANDED

Sergei (right center) and Valery Beza (left center) will be planting a church together in Minsk

Sergei Lukyanov just landed, and we are asking for your prayers for his time in the U.S. (October 20 – November 17)

Sergei is our ministry partner in Belarus and co-founder with our church of SEE Global, a mission organization that focuses on Belarus, but has recently widened its reach to Muslim ministry in London.

This is an exciting time for SEE Global:

1.  We have a terrific new class at our Bible College in Minsk, Belarus

2.  Sergei is working with an energized leadership team that will be planting a new church with him in Minsk next year

3.  In a few months we will begin a fresh approach to equipping pastors that will involve extensive hands-on-training with a small group of committed men. The idea is to have these men train others and so on.

Would you pray right now for these key areas of SEE Global’s ministry?

Today, Sergei will be traveling with me to the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference in Nashville. In addition to the benefit of the teaching we will hear, we will be connecting with leaders in the areas of pastor training and church planting.

Ask God to help us learn & absorb all that would be good.

At the end of the week, Sergei will head north for a three week swing across New England. He will visit churches that work with SEE Global as well as make connections with pastors who want to know more about SEE Global. 

Pray for Sergei’s energy and that God will use him effectively.

The last week of Sergei’s trip will be spent back in New Jersey. He will be involved in events and services at Greentree and we will be attending a second conference – this one for ministry leaders in churches. This teaching will be helpful for Sergei’s use with his church plant team.

These final days of Sergei’s trip will provide the much needed opportunity for planning in regard to the present and future ministry of SEE Global in Belarus. This relaxed face to face discussion is much better than our usual email and phone contact.

Pray for unified wisdom as we work through the new steps SEE Global is taking in Belarus.

FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN

God expects to use our lives to touch other people

  “(God) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry”      Ephesians 4:11-12

He did not save us so we would be spiritual misers, He saved us to know Him and to be involved in the wonderful works that He is doing in the hearts of people around us – and around the world.  He describes us as “His instruments . . vessels . . servants . . Ambassadors”. 

Think flow

God works in us to work through us.  He wants us to be flowing and refreshing fountains rather than still and stagnant ponds.

When should this start? 

If you are in Christ, it already has!  Being in ministry starts immediately.  As soon as God works in us, He can start coming through us. 

My favorite example of this is in John chapter 4.  Jesus is engaged in conversation with a woman who is spiritually dead, theologically ignorant and morally bankrupt.  But after meeting Jesus, she went to the people in her town and told them about Jesus.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”   John 4:39-42

This unnamed woman did not have time to learn theology or undo all her past mistakes, yet she was immediately and powerfully used, just by representing Jesus and pointing people to Him.  It is a simple plan that still works today. 

But the main point I want us to dwell on is the immediacy of God’s desire to use this woman. At the moment we believe, we know the basics of what the world needs to know – Jesus knows me, Jesus cares for me, Jesus saved me.

Everyone we meet needs Jesus

We can be sure that everyone we meet has an incurable sin problem.  We can be confident that whatever are the problems which plague them, Jesus is the permanent answer.

And if the people around us have already trusted in this truth, we can be sure that they struggle to live it out – just like we do.  We need to know that even the ‘strongest’ Christian needs to be daily refocused and refreshed in the truths of Christ and His gospel.

All this means that everywhere we go, we are in a place where God wants ministry to happen.

Ephesians 4:11-12 does not allow us to isolate being “in ministry” to those with leadership titles or paid positions.  Those  God “gives” to be pastors, do have a leadership role, but that role is again to “equip” the church into being people of ministry.

Think of the bottleneck in ministry, if only pastors and deacons do ministry.  What a constraining limitation on how many people could receive that ministry!

Being in ministry is a lifestyle of what we do with our day.  Being in ministry is an attitude we have toward the people in our life.

 Originally posted 6.16.2011

NO RELATIONSHIPS, NO MINISTRY

God and theology are relational   

God by nature is relational; one God who exists in three persons

The word of God is relational; it is God’s revealed plan to save and restore a people for Himself

God’s means of saving us is relational; God eternally took on our nature and gave himself for us

We cannot follow God unless we have a relational focus

The Great Commandments are relational

The Great Commission is relational

The fruit of the spirit are relational

The nature of the church is relational; we are the family of God and the body of Christ

How can we love or how can we show grace if we do not live out “God in us” relationally?

However relationships always bring problems

Everyone you have a relationship with is a sinner  

It’s impossible to have problem free relationship, but it is possible to have correct perspectives and responses

We don’t have marriage problems or relational problems, we have sin problems

People and problems don’t make us sin, they can only squeeze out what was already inside us

Even with all the mess in relationships, God keeps pushing us into them

He instituted the family and the church  

His word keeps pushing us into closer involvements, by telling us to love our neighbor and live in fellowship with each other

It is indefensible for a believer to isolate themselves from relationships

Ministry requires large doses of grace – patience – love – forgiveness – persistence etc, if we are to have a biblical perspective in relationships

Burying relational problems and ignoring them is not a biblical option

Walking away from relational problems is not a biblical option   

However, God does not ask you to be run over by people; we need to establish boundaries or we are enabling people’s sin

Life is simpler when we have a self-focus; we only have to worry about me

But life is much fuller and fruitful when it is relational

When these relationships are God-centered, we are carrying out the most meaningful labors on earth

Make relationship building a way of life

Be helpful and friendly, this draws people to us

Be interested in people’s lives; people like those who listen to them over those who talk at them

Be a servant, so people realize your agenda is not just about yourself

Each morning pray about the interactions you know are ahead of you that day

Look for those who are hurting and on the outside

Our world is filled with ministry potential

If you do not see them, ask God (who does) to open your eyes

When conflicts happen, respond with God’s agenda rather than your own. These can become times of great growth and effective ministry

We typically see conflicts in relationships as an obstacle or as a sign to leave!

But God wants us to see these moments as opportunities for growth and ministry

We are not all people persons, but what we do can be about people

BE CONFIDENT

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.                                     (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

We have been given rather impressive responsibilities:

v18  God has given us the “ministry of reconciliation” (the gospel)

v19  God had entrusted us with the “message of reconciliation”

v20  We are “ambassadors for Christ”

v20  God makes his appeal to people “through us”!

This is all very heady stuff. No king or kingdom on earth can offer higher honors or more noble pursuits.

However, if we look too closely at our ability to represent Christ or the obstacles to representing Christ, we can quickly become overwhelmed as we correctly see that we are in way over our heads!

1.  Be confident, because this ministry is not something we initiated.

God is the One who is graciously and powerfully working in and through us

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)

Since it is in God’s heart to use us this way, He will be the agent of effectiveness. We never have to convince God to use us for His gospel’s sake. He is always out ahead of us preparing the way and wanting to use us

When we step forward in obedience to God’s call to use us, it is trusting that the Holy Spirit will be the real agent of effectiveness. What seems hard for us, is never too hard for him

If serving Christ was easy, we would quickly begin to think we were sufficient and God can simply step back to watch us in action. Thankfully, he keeps us surrounded with reasons to see the foolishness of that perspective

“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

When we know the “power belongs to God”, we are left with a wiser focus.

Instead of trying to be strong, we seek to be faithful. A right heart for God is our great task each day. He will provide the rest.

Instead of trying to change people by our brilliance, we seek to love them, be available to them and share the gospel with them. God will produce the fruit

2.  Be confident, the ministry we have been given is needed by everyone we meet

Christ is the ultimate answer to every need, brokenness, grief and burden. We are not called to convince people into Heaven, we are called to make God’s appeal to them. We share what God’s Word says and we have experienced from Him.

You may not know how unravel the enormous mess that people have made of their lives, but you know the person who can not only give them answers, He is their solution

3.  Be confident, the gospel will never fail those who trust in it

The gospel not only gives us hope at all times, it gives us hope to share

Has Christ been effective to save you?  Does the Holy Spirit ever leave you?  Has God’s Word failed yet?

We are not ministering anything that has not already proven to be wonderfully true

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)

You may not be among the great and powerful, or rich and famous of this world. But I ask you, are they going to be God’s ambassador for the gospel? Is God making His appeal through them or though you?!

Only those who have the gospel can or will bear witness to what Jesus has done through the gospel

When we cooperate and follow God’s heart for us to serve the gospel of Christ, it places us at the center of His will and that is a wondrous place to be!