Apologies twice. There’s no motorcycle involved in this post, just a picture of my busted ute. Neither is there any reference to the famous Robert Pirsig novel – I simply could not resist.
Here is the honest headline: Christian ministry is more like fixing a car than driving one.
In Christian ministry, we want to go somewhere with people. The journey is from unbelief to trust in Christ and growing likeness to Christ. Ministry is all about helping others on this path, by announcing Christ.
As Paul said about Jesus:
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
So often we treat this trip as a straightforward drive. We think that all who enter the vehicle will end up and the right destination. The vehicle might be church services, or small groups, or some other programme.
Motor maintenance is messy. When the car breaks down, you have to get safely home. Perhaps there’s a tow truck involved. Or roadside patch-up repairs.
When back in the garage the process is still irregular. Thirty minutes while the other guy finds the special tool he just knows he bought. Two hours testing out one part of the engine – that turns out to have no problem anyway. More time scratching heads for further options. Wondering if there’s an expert around. And always getting your hands dirty under the hood.
And this is just like Christian ministry. The word of God is sharp enough to open us up (Hebrews 4:12-13). The scriptures equip us by teaching, rebuke, correction and training (2 Timothy 3:16-17). These things are messy.
Ministry uncovers guilt and broken lives. It teaches that on our own we’re all stuck in sin. It makes confession and repentance a normal part of belief. It shows that reconciliation is God’s way, though running away is more appealing.
Often also ministry has long periods of apparently nothing happening. There’s no conversion or no change to see. We look at one area of life as a big problem – but it was not so important after all. So we keep on, even if unsure about what is the real story in that life.
We feel inefficient and not able to make the difference and unsure of ourselves. But that’s perfectly fine – because the ability never lies in the person ministering. The ‘ability’ to minister always lies in God and his grace. And he will bring his children home. So press on!
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.