Ministry to the Few is as Important as Ministry to the Many

God is more concerned with your faithfulness than your fame. Ministry to the few is as important as ministry to the many. While these two phrases might get you plenty of likes and shares on social media, they actually represent two of my deepest ministry scars.

“Can we please just play pool and hang out today?” said Joel.

I had crafted an epic eight-week sermon series on discipleship. I literally believed the heavens would open up, revival would break out, and my student ministry was going to triple in size. My city was never going to be the same! These students would almost instantaneously become like Christ. This sermon series was going to go down in the records of history and be canonized into thick, leather-bound books on the shelves of every seminarian—right alongside the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the Matthew Henry commentary.

So instead of following my normal pattern of dismissing whatever Joel said—because he was the lovable clown that didn’t know what the five-second-rule was—I actually agreed with him.

“Well, I was planning on starting our new sermon series today, but since—for some odd reason—you, Simon, Christina, and I are the only ones here today; sure, let’s do it. Let’s skip the sermon and just hang out!” And at that, I schooled everyone at a classic game of eight ball. (My dad owned a billiard hall while I was in high school, so I had a bit of experience when it came to pool.)

Typically, on a good Sunday, we had a few dozen students that showed up, so when Joel asked if we could hang out instead of learn, I thought to myself, Why waste this epic sermon on one student? I would then have to catch everyone up the next week, since this was part one of eight in this series. The logical thing to do was hold off on preaching this sermon until next Sunday. Also, this way, I could get one week ahead in sermon preparation. So not only did this benefit me, but it also made me look like the cool student pastor. It was clearly a win-win.

Until that afternoon.

Have you ever felt slightly off?

It’s like that moment, after entering the grocery store, when you suddenly feel like you forgot to lock your car doors. Or like that moment when you’re joking around with your friends and you take it too far.

Well, that’s how I felt when I returned home that afternoon. Something wasn’t right, and though I felt like I knew what it might be, I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to walk back to the car and lock the doors. I didn’t want to apologize to my friends for taking it too far. So I just tried to ignore that feeling.

No matter what I did to try to suppress that feeling, it just didn’t go away.

So I took a deep breath and decided to pray and ask the Lord why I felt the way I did. In that moment, I sensed the Lord saying, “That sermon that you worked so hard to prepare for was actually for today, not next week! It wasn’t for the masses; it was for the few.”

What at first seemed like a wise and common sense decision, ended up being the wrong one. And it was all because of my motives. I wanted to start the sermon series off with a bang and create momentum. I didn’t want to have to play catch-up with the majority of the students in my ministry. I wanted the sermon to have as big of an impact as it could. So naturally, I didn’t want to waste the sermon on a couple of people!

After repenting to God for being more concerned about my fame than being faithful with the message that he had entrusted me with for that Sunday, I ended up calling Simon, one of our leaders, to apologize. While it definitely felt awkward to apologize for not preaching and instead schooling him at a game of eight ball, during that call, as I listened to what he was going through, it clicked. That sermon was actually for him.

And that’s when I discovered that ministry to the few is as important as ministry to the many.

From that day forward, I promised myself that I would try to be faithful regardless of the size or perceived impact that any ministry opportunity had. Whether there was one person or ten thousand, I committed to choosing faithfulness and always bringing my A-game.

Instead of seeing every opportunity as a blessing from the Lord for Kingdom impact, I was judging effectiveness by attendance. My metrics were totally off. That experience, as minor as it may seem, was actually foundationally influential in shifting my perspective on success and effectiveness in ministry.

Now when it comes to developing a plan for discipleship and growth in your church, the one is as important as the many. In fact, the only way to see your entire church grow spiritually and numerically is to start by discipling one person at a time.

But how do you know when someone is mature? When someone’s been discipled?

Are there metrics or things that you can do that can predictably influence the formation and maturity of an individual? Actions that balance the tension between faithfulness and fruitfulness? Our work and God’s?

In No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry, I unpack a different metric for maturity—one that’s based on one of the largest research studies done to date on discipleship. Pick up a copy today to learn more.


> Read more from Daniel.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Im

My name is Daniel Sangi Im and I am the Director of Church Multiplication for LifeWay Christian Resources. I lead NewChurches.com, an online hub for the mission of church multiplication. I am passionate about leadership and the local church. I love being a part of creating the systems, strategies, tools and resources to help new churches get planted, campuses get started, and multiplication to happen. Before coming to LifeWay, I served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, and Edmonton.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Ten Red Flags Indicating Ephesians 4 Might Be Turned Upside Down at Your Church

I don’t think my pastor understands what I do or believes my work and ministry matter.

This oft-repeated, sad comment reveals bad theology and, more sadly, the neglect of church leaders. How can we ignore the ministry and work of so many people, often leaving them to believe their lives, work and ministry are less important than the paid staff?

I just returned from a weekend retreat to discuss “vocation” with Steven Garber of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture. We discussed this issue at length and why the church still has so far to go in valuing people’s work and calling in the ordinary everyday world.

Garber’s work addresses the whole range of what it means to be alive and engaged in the world with our whole being. Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good.  He says “vocation” includes our occupation, but is so much more. It includes “also families, and neighbors, and citizenship locally and globally” and that “faith shapes vocation, and vocation shapes culture.”

Speaking specifically about our occupations, Garber mentions friend and pastor Tom Nelson, author of “Your Work Matters,” as one who gets it right, a leader who needed to repent before his large congregation of his ignoring their work and not supporting their ministry.

Here’s a few minutes of his story and why he wrote the book.

Does your work matter to your church leaders?

Here are 10 red flags suggesting there is a problem and that maybe Ephesians 4 has been turned upside down.

1 – The staff consistently pleads for more volunteers to help them do their work.

2 – You are asked to give more money so “we (the staff) can get more ministry done.”

3 – Announcements are filled primarily with “what is happening here” and “how you can get involved and serve here” with the ministries “on campus.”

4 – “Success” is measured primarily by attendance at services, dollars donated, buildings completed, and how staff members have met their ministry goals.

5 – When there’s more ‘ministry’ to be done, plan A is hire more staff who recruit people to their team.

6 – You hear more about the staff members’ lives and work (often the pastor’s family, ideas, vision, writing, travels, etc.) that vision, ministry, lives and callings of people in the church. (We hear, ‘pray for pastor as he travels…’ yet there are so many members who travel the world each week for their work. Who prays for them? I wonder what they think when they hear such a plea.)

7 – The “pastoral prayer” almost never includes a blessing or intercession for people who labor in the name of Jesus each week in their daily work, except maybe on Labor Day weekend.

8 – “Ministry” is defined primarily as that which is done in programs officially sponsored by the church.

9 – Reports about “how we are doing as a church” are limited to updates about finances, building programs, or peak attendance at holiday services.

10 – High capacity people and influential community leaders (particularly the wealthy who “have the gift of giving”) are only viewed as potential board members or donors, not as people to partner with as they use their vast influence, skills and experience to impact to shape our world for the gospel. (One executive said, “Basically, the message I get is, ‘leave your work at the door, but be sure to bring your wallet.’” – Yikes!

Turn This Around

To turn this around leaders and members alike must recover a biblical understanding of vocation, work and “ministry.” And we must pray with and for those who labor in their ministry – their calling—every day, everywhere.

God of heaven and earth, we pray for your kingdom to come, for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Teach us to see our vocations and occupations as woven into your work in the world this week. For mothers at home who care for children, for those whose labor forms our common life in the city, the nation and the world, for those who serve the marketplace of ideas and commerce, for those whose creative gifts nourish us all, for those whose callings take them into the academy, for those who long for employment that satisfies their souls and serves you, for each one we pray, asking for your great mercy. Give us eyes to see that our work is holy to you, O Lord, even as our worship this day is holy to you. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. (by Steve Garber, Visions of Vocation, p. 239)

LEADERS: For one pastor’s journey into this transformation that helped him reframe how he viewed his calling and the work of the congregation, please read this short article in Christianity Today.

>> Read more from Bill.

Download PDF

Tags: , , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

sufferingservant — 02/03/15 8:12 pm

Great content and perspective that complements marketplace and career ministries.

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Lab or the Factory

Seth Godin uses a business example to point out that some organizations are content with doing what they’ve always done while others are always in search of the next great idea. This has HUGE implications for ministry work, but first, listen to what Godin says:

At the lab, the pressure is to keep searching for a breakthrough, a new way to do things. And it’s accepted that the cost of this insight is failure, finding out what doesn’t work on your way to figuring out what does. The lab doesn’t worry so much about exploiting all the value of what it produces–they’re too busy working on the next thing.

To work in the lab is to embrace the idea that what you’re working on might not work. Not to merely tolerate this feeling, but to seek it out.

The factory, on the other hand, prizes reliability and productivity. The factory wants no surprises, it wants what it did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.

Some charities are labs, in search of the new thing, while others are factories, grinding out what’s needed today. AT&T is a billing factory, in search of lower costs, while Bell Labs was the classic lab, in search of the insight that could change everything.

Hard, really hard, to do both simultaneously. Anyone who says failure is not an option has also ruled out innovation.

Did you catch that? If the fear of change in the advancement of the Kingdom here on Earth keeps us from choosing to experiment with new ministry ideas and models, then we have also said we w0n’t value innovation! It is impossible to please both God and man. Why do we hold on to things that keep us focused on trying to please the latter?

Here’s the question: Is your church or ministry a lab or a factory?

Download PDF

Tags: , , , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Seth Godin

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.