Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Effective, costly ministry

The religious types of the day must have been freaked out at what was happening around this man Jesus. His life and ministry were upsetting the balance that the wealthy and the powerful had struck to maintain themselves in their positions and with their wealth. Because of the constancy and consistency of his life and ministry and because of this latest sign (the raising of Lazarus, John 11:1-53)  The religious leaders of the South are remarking with fear to each other, “The whole world has gone after him!”

It must have seemed like that – the whole known world was going after Jesus. They wanted him to be their healer, their teacher and their King. They wanted what they wanted. Effective ministry is important to the life of the Church community. Doing things both right and righteously draws people to you and it is up to you and me to minister to those whom God will put in our paths, personally and corporately. One of the things I have been reflecting on recently, is the fact that people we see in the gospels sought Jesus. They went looking for him; the people were reacting to the presence of the power and the healing of God in their midst. The people sought Jesus out and they found him. In turn Jesus offered what he had for them: healing, wholeness, and a challenge to live rightly for the kingdom because God had come near to them.

What people often don’t see and know about those who minister to them, is the price that those who minister pay for the ministry they offer. Jesus himself pointed out to those around him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12.24-26 ESV)  Does this mean we are to actually hate our lives, treat ourselves with fear and loathing and make ourselves to be martyrs for a cause? By no means!

We are called to love Christ and to follow him in such a way that it may seem to others that we have not only left the old life behind but that it is dead to us. By implication then, that might mean that we see people around us as dead... and so what would we be prepared to do to see that the people around us live? Such is the costly nature of ministry in the life in the Church and in the world.

If you are going to follow Jesus, what are you going to take with you on that journey? Let me make a suggestion? Take with you the fruit of the Spirit and the death of Christ, so that you might live for Jesus, walking in step with the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5.23, 24 ESV) As baptised people, we carry with us both the death of Christ, who died once for all and the risen life of Christ that we might live with him and for him in this life. And in doing so that we might discover that the life within is welling up as a spring to eternal life.
So in essence, we live out both the dying and the rising of Jesus on our everyday lives.

To be effective in our faith, we need to focus ourselves on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12.2 ESV). We need to seek, to see so that we might serve him in those places and spaces we find him and those who are with him.

After all we are with him in his ministry reaching out to draw the world in and Jesus himself will build his church. And remember, the outstretched hand of another, is the altar of God. It is an opportunity to serve.