Over my many years of ministry I have learned to let go of my pride. Well, that is not 100% accurate, I am still learning. It is not easy for me because I am a fiercely independent man. I want to depend on no one but my Lord and even then it is a struggle. But what do you do when you find yourself in a ministry where everything is taken away from you? No more house, no car, empty bank account and you are forced to borrow what you need from other people? Would you quit, walk away, consider it all a failure and start up somewhere else? But what if the Holy Spirit wouldn't allow you to quit and you had to stay in that situation? Could you continue in the joy of the Lord?
I have heard a lot about viable ministry recently. I have seen examples of new church plants closing down after a year because they only attracted 100 people. I heard of ministers walking away from ministry because it could not pay him the salary he expected. I have heard people say that if you are "poor" then something is wrong, God isn't in that ministry. I think such people are full of themselves and don't have a clue what they are talking about. A ministry cannot be evaluated by size and income. The success of ministry cannot be valued according to the benefits it provides the ministers. The value of ministry is not measured by what it brings in but instead what it puts out.
I think a few people need to re-evaluate their purpose and the goal of our Father. Have they forgotten Jesus and the life he lived to bring the good news to the people? How many camels did he own? How many homes did he possess? What was his income like? Need I remind you:
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Jesus possessed nothing. He lived off of the generosity of other people. He laid claim to nothing, trusting the Father and putting the Kingdom (people) ahead of his own interest. Do you realize that even in death he had no grave of his own:
Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27:59-60)
At the end, after three years of tireless ministry, he only had 12 disciples. One of those killed himself and the others went into hiding. At his death there were only a few women standing at a distance and John who was probably too young and brash to understand the dangers in associating with this criminal on the cross. Twelve men and a handful of women after three years. Doesn't sound too successful to me. Oh, but what men and women they were. Three years they had been taught and prepared by Jesus, so that when the Holy Spirit came upon them they were people of quality. These few people ended up changing the whole world because they were empowered by the Spirit and willing to sacrifice anything. Considering how "poor" he was and what small following he had, today the Church would have encouraged Jesus to quit. Praise the Lord he came when he did.
I don't mean to be disrespectful but I do want us to wake up from this nightmare and realize what we are doing. One pastor with a small congregation of thirty people may end up producing a better quality of servants than a pastor of ten thousand. We need to be careful that we do not despise the small works of God because you have no idea what he is producing in that thing. There are pastors out there who have such determination never to give up what God has called them to do that they adjust to whatever is thrown at them. They have a mission and they are not about to let go of it. They may have to borrow a friend's car from time to time. They may have to use a bicycle. They may have to walk an hour to meet with people. Whatever they have to do they will do because it is the Kingdom that comes first.
These works should not be despised, they should be celebrated and supported. Not every downtown church has moved to the suburbs to survive. Some have remained where God has planted them and they sacrifice plenty to serve the people God called them to. Not every pastor has the goal or the desire for a 3,000 member church but instead desires to train people into good works so they may grow into maturity. We must be careful not to judge any ministry big or small because that ministry belongs to the Lord and we certainly can't be judging it according to the values of this world. Where do we get off judging a pastors success according to his income when our Lord was buried in a borrow tomb? I think it is about time we get ourselves orientated with the Kingdom principles again and learn to serve in the joy of the Lord wherever and in whatever he has called us to. The calling belongs to Jesus as does the ministry in which it is played out. The people belong to him and he provides the resources we need, not what we want. Let's be careful that we are involved in building his Kingdom and not our own. To God be the glory.