Where Will We Do Our Ministry?

Welcome, friends! The Great Commission of Jesus is to go and make other disciples. To “go” doesn’t exclusively mean to travel to another place or overseas. It mostly involves the willingness to get up, go, and walk across the street, or even just across the room. Click the videos below and let us consider together how we can be the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus to the folks around us….

Pastor Tim Ehrhardt, Matthew 28:18-20

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Where Will We Do Our Ministry?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (New International Version)

We will do our ministry by going and jumping into the people’s lives who are in our neighborhood and community. To “go” doesn’t exclusively mean to travel to another place. It mostly involves the willingness to get up, go, and walk across the street, or even just across the room.

Tony Campolo is a Christian preacher, professor emeritus, and author. He tells of once being in a city doing some business and could not sleep. So, he found a greasy spoon diner that was open all night. He retells his experience this way:

“As I sat munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the morning, the door of the diner suddenly swung open and, to my discomfort, in marched eight or nine boisterous prostitutes. It was a small place, and they sat on either side of me. Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman beside me say:

“Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.”  Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me, a birthday party?”

“I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the large man behind the counter named Harry, and I asked him, “Do they come in here every night?”

“Yeah!” he answered.

“The one right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why do you want to know?”

“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do you say you and I do something about that? What do you think about us throwing a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night?”

Calling to his wife, who did the cooking in the back room, Harry shouted, “Hey! Come out here! This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday. This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night!”

His wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, and nobody does anything nice and kind for her.”

“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”

“No way,” said Harry. “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

At 2:30 the next morning, I was back at the diner. I had picked up some crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” I decorated the diner from one end to the other.

The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in the city was in the place. It was wall-to-wall prostitutes and me!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend. I had everybody ready, and when they came in, we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”

Her mouth fell open. As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter, we all sang “Happy Birthday”‘ to her. As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday, dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

Harry gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles!”  Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said, “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I keep the cake a little while? I mean, is it all right if we don’t eat it right away?”

Harry shrugged and answered, “Sure! It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake. Take it home if you want to.”

“Can I?” she asked. Then, looking at me, she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, okay? I’ll be right back. Honest!”

She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door. As we all just stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying, “What do you say we pray?”

I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed, and that God would be good to her.

When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he said, “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered:

“I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.”

Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

My friends, that’s the kind of church Jesus came to create!  We may not know any prostitutes, but there are people around us who need basic human kindness expressed in basic caring actions, no matter who they are.

Many people want nothing to do with church or Christians because they believe they’ll be given judgment instead of justice.

Its important where we are located. God has sovereignly placed us there. So, we need to be attentive and listen to the people and the neighbors God put around us, no matter who they are. To ignore them is to treat the Great Commission of Jesus as if it were the Great Omission.

One of the best ways to be missionally rooted in the place we are planted is to walk the community, be in it, and hang out. Developing an understanding of what’s going on and being connected to the issues a neighborhood is facing, is key to building neighborhood credibility and demonstrating that we really do care about the people, whomever they are.

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

Discovering what people care about doesn’t necessarily mean we need to do something for them but with them. To go most often involves going where the people are – getting to know them and being a friend.

Whenever a pastor or parishioner becomes someone the community knows, neighborhood residents will share their hopes and concerns. The church can be the center of community life, going out and opening up to the neighborhood.

Often, we might focus on what’s lacking, what’s not there, the deficits within a person, family, or community – instead of looking for the assets, what is there already, and what is going right. It’s wise to begin with the good things already happening, the potential which already exists, and the dreams people have for the future of their place.

In focusing on what’s already there, here are some things we begin to see:

  1. Each person having a contribution to make, no matter who they are.
  2. Relationships building the community.
  3. People being active participants in developing what is good, right, and just, rather than passive recipients.
  4. Everyone can get involved because everyone has a meaningful place in the community.
  5. People caring and not apathetic about the neighborhood.
  6. Making decisions with everyone’s voice being valued.
  7. Asking for ideas is better than giving solutions.
  8. Folks doing the work are given authority and power.
  9. People mentoring others and building into their lives.

All of this requires getting to know local businesses, neighborhood associations, healthcare institutions, places of worship, schools, and cultural groups, as well as the individual talents of those within them.

We are to serve others, rather than imposing our own agendas on them. This is how we begin making disciples, that is, developing people who follow the words and ways of Jesus.

And it all begins with the command by our Lord to go….

Lord Jesus Christ, let your presence fill our hearts and overflow through our actions so that we may proclaim the good news of your Kingdom. Fill us with your compassion and insight to respond to human need with loving service. Let the fire of your goodness and justice burn into us and through us so that we may seek to transform the unjust structures of society. Guide us to renew and sustain the life of your creation.

Almighty God, in our baptism you adopted us for your own. Renew us by your Spirit in body, soul, and mind so that we may worship you in sincerity and truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Who Do We Minister To?

Welcome, friends! Matthew 22:36-40 are the words of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor. The ability to extend that love is grounded in God because God is Love. Click the videos below and let us consider the great love of God toward us and all humanity….

Pastor Tim Ehrhardt, Matthew 22:36-40

May Christ the Son be manifest to you, that your love and your life may be a light to the world. And may the blessing of God our Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always. Amen.

Matthew 22:36-40 – Who Do We Minister To?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (New International Version)

I love my three daughters. I think God made them beautiful to compensate for all the ornery things they did as kids so I would not go crazy. Once the oldest was at the top of the stairs with the youngest (who was two years old at the time). She put her in a laundry basket and pushed her down with the middle kid at the bottom to catch her. 

I love my wife with all my heart and soul. Yet, she always thought it would be a good idea to have an open-door policy for the girls to come into our bed at night whenever they needed us. I have been puked on, peed on, kicked on and pushed out of bed. Sometimes it was like living with a bunch of drunks. Raising this girl version of “Malcom in the Middle” was often stressful. However, I gladly dealt with it all because I love my girls with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Who do we minister to? The short answer: everyone. The reason we are to pay attention to everyone within our orbit is that God does. The way of loving our neighbor is to experientially know the heart, soul, mind, and strength of our great God.

Love God with All Your Heart

God has children across planet earth, and the Lord loves them all. To love God with all our heart is to begin seeing God’s big expansive heart for people all around the world. God’s compassionate heart is close to the broken-hearted, near to those in need. In fact, God’s wrath is a response of love to make things right in this fallen world. As early as the book of Genesis, just a few chapters in, it says:

The Lord saw that the human beings on the earth were very wicked and that everything they thought about was evil. He was sorry he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. (Genesis 6:5-6, NCV)

God is disturbed with violent and evil hearts. God is heartbroken about the dark places within the human heart. God is deeply concerned for suffering, injustice, oppression, and death.

Every year fifteen-million children die of starvation. Human trafficking of women and girls has increased six-fold over the past five years resulting in forty-million victims of forced sex worldwide. Five and a half million people worldwide have died from COVID-19 Hundreds of millions are locked in grinding poverty, have no clean water to drink, and face a lifetime of illiteracy and poor wages.

The breadth and depth of human need and suffering goes on and one and on….

This is just a small glimpse of what God sees every day. And God knows each one of their names. For us, people need to move from being numbers to being names. God wants us to champion vital causes and aim our collective love toward people in need of Christ’s compassion and deliverance.

Love is a deliberate decision to meet a need in another person. One who fails to see the needs of others will suffer a shrinking heart. But the one close to God’s heart and aware of another’s need will gain an expansive heart. God also sees the good and the beautiful: every obedient act done in secret, each prayer uttered in the privacy of our closet, and all the places of selfless love toward another.

Love God with All Your Soul

I believe the world will experience a mass turning to God whenever Christians reclaim the soul of Christianity by experiencing a newfound sense of God’s wonder and beauty.

If loving God with all my heart means my heart breaks for the things that break God’s heart, then loving God with all my soul has my life flooded with God’s glory – awed by Divine majesty, mystery, and beauty. Loving God with all my soul is to perceive the glory and wonder of God all around me. It is to be profoundly grateful for everything – even and especially for the lessons learned from personal hardship and suffering.

Without a divine perspective, we only see the world as we are and not as it is. The ways to cultivate a beautiful love for God with all my soul is to meditate on Scripture and creation. Literally take time to smell the roses. If we walk or drive the same route every day, be mindful to observe one thing you have never seen before. Then, praise God for it. Each time Holy Scripture is read, do it slowly and carefully, noticing one thing you have never seen before. Then, praise God for that perception.

Take the extra step of sharing your wonderful and beautiful observations with others, especially unbelievers. It does no good to try and scare or cajole people into the kingdom of God. It makes all the difference when the world can see Christians captivated by the beauty and majesty of Christ.

Love God with All Your Mind

True love has an insatiable desire to know more and more about the object of its affection. To love God with all our mind is a desire to learn and experientially know more about the Lord. It is to have a constant curiosity about God.

Loving God takes our full faculties. God wants all our brains, not just one half of it.

Left-brain dominant people rely on the logical, analytical, practical, and think chiefly in concrete ways. Right-brain dominant folks are artistic, intuitive, creative, imaginative, humorous, even sarcastic, often speaking poetically and with satire or metaphor. Loving God with all our minds means we will use all our brains, both the right and the left hemispheres.    

One obstacle to loving God with our brains is that the mind of sinful humanity is death (Romans 8:6). A sinful mind is a small brain; it is not interested in genuine critical thinking – only in stubbornly expressing opinions. Such individuals are merely using a ridiculously small part of their brains. God, however, wants to sanctify our whole brains, to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). 

We are to use our full cognitive capacities to love God – meaning we will value the left brain hemisphere of order and discipline, using all the tools of reason and logic, learning critical thinking skills, and pursuing the life of the mind.

We will also value the right brain hemisphere of mystery, paradox, and gray areas, enjoying the process of discovery, and probing the deepest issues of divinity and humanity – being comfortable with asking questions and not always having the answers.

Love God with All Your Strength

God loves the smell of your sweat. You might stink to high heaven from hard work but for God it is a sweet aroma and sacred incense. Love is measured not only by words spoken but by calories burned. Using our hands and our effort is as valuable to God as using our brains. 

Go hard after God with all your strength! Yet also be mindful that we all have a finite amount of energy. Because of this, we need to ensure we do not inordinately waste our energy pursuing power and control. Pride, anger, and selfishness saps our strength. Guilt, shame, and regret follow it up by draining our spiritual stamina. So, we need to keep busy doing the right things.

Our priorities need to reflect God’s values. Therefore, we will worship the Lord with all our strength, pray like there is no tomorrow, read Scripture like its our favorite food, fellowship with others as if they are adored old friends, and engage in mission with a continual sense that today could be the day of the Lord’s return.

Loving God with all our strength requires helping others in need whether they believe in Jesus, or not.

Since the Lord is truly concerned for all people’s welfare, putting our energy into sponsoring a refugee family, helping someone with their budget or their bills, providing for at-risk children, or organizing the neighborhood to work together, we let people know we care about them – and not just about whether they end up attending church, or not.

At the same time, we never need to ignore genuine opportunities to share our faith with folks we have connected with. Even if we are functioning with tangible help, we can make the extra effort of connecting people with Jesus.

Conclusion

The power of the gospel is strongest when people experience the full life that God desires for their entire existence. That will happen, I firmly believe, when people are in relationships with believers and with Christ.

When a church or faith community pays attention to the holistic needs of all persons within their sphere of influence, the effect on an individual, a family, a neighborhood, and a city is dramatic.

We love God by being obedient to his great command to love the world through meeting needs and establishing caring relationships. We can do this. It’s what we were saved from sin to do.

Gracious God, we give you thanks that you did not leave us in our misery and suffering, but that in love and mercy, you reached out to us. Thank you that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Thank you that Jesus humbled himself, even to death on a cross. Thank you for your heart that seeks the lost. We were once lost, desperately needing you, and going our own way. We are sorry for having hearts that rebelled against you and sought darkness. Thank you for saving us from ourselves.

Please give us hearts that care for the people who are in darkness. Teach us to care for them as you do. Thank you for including us in the mission of reaching other people for your Name. Grow us to care for humanity, both believers and unbelievers. We pray our conversations will be seasoned with salt and full of grace. We pray our friends will see the love of Jesus in us. Enlarge our hearts and make them passionate to see people delivered from their guilt and shame, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, in the mighty strength of your Holy Spirit. Amen