By Kurt Lammi
It happens just about every day.
I serve as a pastor, and just about every day I receive some kind of mail at the office that basically says, “You’re not doing church right.” Or maybe it’s not in the mail that day but in some online article or some social media discussion. Or maybe it’s a book that I hear about. Or maybe it’s from other church leaders in the area. However it comes, the message seems to be the same:
You’re not doing church right. But I am. I know what I’m doing. I know that I am making Jesus happy in how I’m doing ministry. You want to make Jesus happy too, right? You want to make sure you are being faithful to your calling. You want to make sure you’re interpreting Scripture correctly. So buy this book, this product, this curriculum – or just listen to what I’m saying and agree to do it. Follow me – because I’m following Jesus. Then you’ll really be spreading the gospel to the people who need to hear it. The times are changing and you need to keep up.
Yes, times are changing. Yes, we are 2,000 years removed from when Jesus walked around Galilee with his original disciples. Yes, we live in a different culture and a different place and we need to keep up with what’s going on around us.
But when I see these things in the mail, or I read these articles, or I hear these people saying these ideas, honestly, my first reaction is, “Shut up!” That’s because these comments feel like an emotional and vocational beat down. I already know that I’m not perfect. I already know that I’m probably not doing some things right. I already know that I’m broken. But this calling is hard enough as it is – so hearing “You’re not doing it right” is no way to encourage people to keep doing it. Sure, I know these articles and books and people aren’t out to encourage. They are out to sell a product or push an agenda or revolutionize the church with the next latest, greatest idea.
But the church is not built on the next latest, greatest idea. The church is built on the promise of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
So every now and then – and much less frequently then I would like – I come across something that actually encourages us and cheers us on as we do this hard work of ministry in the trenches. And, I imagine, that’s the case for you too. So, given that, let me remind you of something we all need to hear.
Even if you’re not getting A+s in all areas of your ministerial life, even if you are weak and broken as a person, and even if the community of faith you serve is not perfect, remember God works through weak and broken and imperfect people. Quite simply, if you are telling people that God loves them, then your work is not in vain. In fact, your work is good work. It is life-changing work. It is work that shows evidence of God’s kingdom in this world. I know sometimes you might not see it. I know sometimes you might feel like all of your time and energy is for naught. I know that it can feel like you never see the fruit of the seeds you plant. But, remember, the seed is still good. God is still at work to make it grow. And God still needs you – yes, you who sometimes doubt your significance – to be a part of the planting process.
Yes, maybe the gardens we work in have weeds. Maybe there are some bare patches. Maybe some of the plants are wilting. But the flowers are still quite beautiful. There will always be people who tell you that you aren’t tending your garden right – and by that, most of the time, they mean how they would tend it. And, yes, there are ways that all of us can continue to grow and learn. There are things that we could improve on. But God is still doing good things in you and through you right here and right now. God is still making the garden grow through your hard work in it this very day.
People’s lives are being changed. It may not be obvious. You may not make headlines for it. Your name may not be known outside of your little community – but you are making Christ’s name known among the people. And that is incredible! The work you do makes a world-changing difference. The words you say transform people’s lives. The way you love people revolutionizes how they see God in the world.
So even if you don’t get messages like this in your mailbox at the office – or in your inbox on your computer – or from your colleagues at your meetings, let this article be your reminder. Your ministry matters – and I thank you for it. More importantly, I thank God for you. It is through everyday people like you who serve the everyday people around you that God’s love is known every day in this world.
We may not be doing everything right as church – but, by God’s grace, we ARE still the church. Thanks be to God for that!