Don’t you hate it when you have to practice what you preach? You know, those great moments of accountability that you prepare for your whole life while simultaneously praying never arrive. I’m not just talking about the little things either:
- “Kids, eat your veggies,” and now a huge plate of asparagus stares you in the face
- “Don’t drive like a maniac,” and now your 20 minutes away from a super important meeting that starts in 10 minutes
- “Just chill out and quit worrying,” and now, well, you fill in the blank with anything. Am I right?
These little moments of accountability test our character everyday and threaten to label us “Genuine” or “Hypocrite” depending on our response.
Even if no one else knows, we’ll know.
But, every now and then comes a big test. Something that will really cost us something and totally begs the question, “Do you really believe all the junk you say?”
Which, by the way, is probably one of the best questions we could ever ask ourselves.
So, here’s the set up. I had just delivered a message to our faith community on a Wednesday night that I was totally passionate about. It’s from a passage I have journaled about, I’ve spoken on when I am on the road and even blogged about a few months ago (A teeny tiny god). This is one of those life changing passages for me that’s all about how God wants His people to do ministry.
So, here’s the crux. First the passage, and then what it means to be a minister (and we are all ministers if Jesus is in our heart):
Peter Heals the Crippled Beggar
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ac 3:1-10). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
ONE DAY – Ministry happens anytime, anywhere. We should have our eyes open to opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus at the pleasure of God and His will. To put it bluntly, if He is Lord, then He has the right to interrupt your life. Ministry isn’t a scheduled activity if you are a minister. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are.
LOOKED STRAIGHT AT HIM – Ministry is a close contact sport. It’s the opposite of sterile and easy. It’s down, dirty and hard. Real ministry requires eye contact and that creates intimacy which is difficult, dangerous and often devastating to your schedule, plans and life. We don’t do ministry ‘to’ people, we do ministry ‘for’ and even ‘with’ real people we look straight in the eye.
WHAT I HAVE I GIVE YOU – Ministry is about whatever you have. There are no categories you have to fit into, no standards you have to arrive at, no spectacle you must produce. Ministry is more than preachers and teachers (Please, God, let this be true). It’s mechanics, diaper changers, pray-ers, hand holders, planners, leaders, followers, doers. Whatever you have, that’s what you give.
TAKING HIM BY THE HAND – Finally, ministry requires more than a good idea and a vision statement. You have to do the work. At some point you have to suck it up and quit talking, praying and singing. You have to take the broken by the hand and help them up and out of the pit. That is our job.
(Then I talked about the progression of the ministeree who walked, jumped and praised God. We can’t expect them to be spiritual giants out of the chute. Give them time to walk before they jump, and time to leap before they praise)
If I may say so… I was amazing. Words on paper cannot do justice to the power of the message that night. I get goose bumps thinking about my awesomess. Only exceeded, of course, by my humility.
Okay… maybe it was more the Scripture being uber cool… maybe.
So, that’s all the set up to what happened 36 hours later. My wife and I are scrambling to get out of town on a vacation. Packing bags, sending mail, running errands, dropping the kids off with grandma for a week (there is a GOD!) before a romantic Caribbean cruise.
As we are wrapping up and walking through the Dillon’s Grocery Store parking lot headed to Grandmas for kisses, hugs and goodbyes with our boys, what do we see?
There was a 70-80 year old man in a late model pick up with a flat. He’s just standing there looking at it as cars are driving around him and others in the parking lot are just staring.
We all do this in our heads, here are the reasons I can’t help him:
- We’re in a time crunch, we have to leave
- If I help him I won’t get to say goodbye to my boys, and I am a family man
- I’m in good clothes and don’t have time to change before I leave
- There are a bizzilion people in the parking lot, surely someone will help him
- I am incredibly selfish and just remembered if He is Lord, he has the right to interrupt my plans
- Ooooooo, that last one trumps them all. Man, why can’t I just be a sinner…
So I pat my kids on the head and say I’ll see you in a week, and make plans to meet up with my wife for a mad dash as soon as possible.
I asked this elderly guy if I could help and he was more than ready for some aid. Said he’d never changed a tire before. I believe him. Especially on this truck.
The jack was broke, the tire tool was the wrong size and every lug nut was rusted on.
During the 40 minutes it took to change this tire (not my best pit crew record) I made a few categorizations of people during times of need. Here they are:
The Pointer – Don’t be this guy. As I walked up there was man standing on the curb pointing at the flat tire. First of all, I’m pretty sure the old guy didn’t need any help finding the trouble with his truck. I can’t see anyway he would have assumed that he had one good tire and the other three just decided to swell up real bad. “Oh, thank you mister pointer guy. If it hadn’t been for you I’d have spent the rest of this afternoon deflating my other three tires to make a matching set.” Pointers are like preachers who like to talk about everyone’s problems, but don’t offer any grace, solutions or help. Don’t be the pointer.
The Gawker – As I was cranking on those rusted lugs I saw a ton of this. People staring and whispering, but the worst was a guy who pulled up and parked right next to us. He didn’t even get out to go in the store, but just sat in the driver’s seat with the car running to keep warm. You could see him get a little frustrated whenever I would have to impede his vision by working from one specific angle and he would lean way over to try and see around me. “Pardon me buddy, I’ll try and be a little more considerate and not disrupt your viewing pleasure.” Apparently, I wasn’t entertaining enough as he finally gave up and went inside and did his shopping. Gawkers are like church members who want to offer their opinion on everything, but lend their hand to nothing. Again, don’t be the gawker.
The Cheerleader – No kidding, this really happened, I can’t make this up. While I was on the ground trying to use a broken jack someone passed by the far side of truck and actually said, “You go Pastor Andy!” It’s a good thing I was on my face under a truck and couldn’t see them, because if I was upright I would have chunked a tire tool at them (with all the Christian love I could muster). I know there are probably a million reason why they just made a passing comment, and I am sure they we’re trying to be encouraging, but don’t forget what James says: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Jas 2:14-17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Doer – Then, about halfway through the process I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw a friendly face from Venue 302. That’s when these words from a member of our faith community made my day, “Can I help?” Taking turns working on those rusty lugs, new ideas for working with broken tools, and laughing at how far we’d gotten with a jack that only went halfway up and tire tool that didn’t fit, it was the first time I’d been warm that hour. In ministry you don’t have to have all the answers, all the strength, all the anything, you just need to be there. He was awesome.
The Tool Bringer – Finally, we had come to the end of it. We got the old tire off, but just could not get the donut spare on because the jack was about an inch too low. I even grabbed the bumper and tried a squat lift while my buddy tried to slip it on. Did I mention that in my mind I am incredibly buff? In my head, wow, am I in shape. But, nothing. Enter our final contestant: another guy shows up and says, “Could you guys use a real jack?” I think my response was something like, “You have no idea.” Once he brought the right tools to the job, we were good to go in a matter of moments. This should remind us that we all have a certain set of skills and gifts, and without you there are so many tasks that either aren’t being done, or aren’t being done well.
Don’t be a pointer, gawker or cheerleader, but be a doer and tool bringer.
I didn’t get to say goodbye to my kids, I did get dirty and we were late, but I wasn’t a hypocrite (for once).
Most importantly I was what God wanted me to be. I bet you think I am going to ‘minister’.
Nope. I was His.
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Lk 10:37). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
On a side note, for those of you in our faith community we talked about evidences for God this past week and I promised some online resources to follow up. Here you go: Proofs of God word document