ESSENTIAL MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH
A common remark is often heard when Christians meeting Christians in church meetings or fellowship groups or at coffee shops: “Sorry for being late. I was coming from another meeting – no time to eat. I need to leave early because I have an assignment to finish by tomorrow and tonight song practice. So many deadlines to meet! Have been running around so much and workload is piling up. Spiritual and family life is also affected.” Are there ministries of the church that are not essential that we can miss out? It seems that some church members (at least those active ones) are caught very busy, perhaps they think that these are essential ministries of the church. The active ones are truly bogged down and branded as ‘busy’ with many committee meetings and church functions. Are there other alternatives we can explore so that we can truly serve God without getting bogged down with the ‘busy’ tag?
Too many Christians, both full-time and volunteers, unknowingly or unconsciously are caught up with the ‘rat-race’ of church’s expectations. When we look at the level of busyness of the leaders, one will assume that things in the church will be in good and proper order but it is usually not so. It seems that many things in the church and church related activities are not up to the expected mark. This is also true with the spiritual lives of church members. I can think of three categories of busy people in the church today.
Window Shopping Christians
In fact, if we take a general survey of the present church, I sincerely believe that it does reveal a situation with large number of church goers who can be categorized as busy window shoppers. Many church goers are busy looking for exciting programmes or activites, to chase after preachers especially those who are famous and humorous, visit conferences, attending attractive and free events; some are regular church hoppers. This group of window shopping Christians only knows Christ as a distance as a prophet, healer, miracle performer, demon buster, great teacher, loving God, a coming Messiah, etc. The intimate relationship and one-ness with Christ is absent in them. They recognize Christ and can even articulate the biodata and lifestyle of Him in one breath without any hesitation. They can write books after books about Christ and even obtain a Doctorate on it. However, their lives lack the personal commitment and relationship with Christ.
Retail Consumer Christians
The second category of church goers is like those who are serious in searching thoroughly the catalogues or through computer concerning a particular commodity or goods which they desire to purchase. They are not the window shoppers who do not wish to commit. These retail consumer Christians are those having studied and finally ended up purchasing the particular item for self consumption. This brings satisfaction to them. They will likely come back again and again to patronize the shop. However, they are not at all concerned of sharing with others their new found products. Every day and opportunity they will seek and ask for prayers, benefits and blessings either from God or the church with little action of themselves committing to become a blessing to others.
Shop Keeper Christians
There are very few of such category of people found in the church today. I will refer them as the shop keeper Christians. They are not consumers but owners of the shop. They make sure their goods can sell and hopefully sell at a good rate. They take ownership of the products and making sure that they are personally present to sell their products. Good advertisement and quality control are also on the top of their priority list so that they can expect continuous good sale for a long time. They are serious to make things work. They are the ones committing to Christ and willing to walk the second mile.
Which type of Christian are you?
We who are window shopping Christians will need to progress to the next level as retail consumer Christians. If we are still at the retail consumer Christians level, then we should be moving on to become shop keeper Christians. At this level we should take ownership of our lives and actions and to keep them in line with God’s word, the truth, so that all of us can be bless – Jesus is blessed, others are blessed, and we are blessed.
In order for the above categories to move from one level to the next, there must be a deliberate intention to be equipped with the essential ministries of the church – with the acronym L.E.T. – Leading with Vision; Equipping with Precision and Strength; Training with Confidence.
Leading with Vision
Without vision, people will be confused and scattered. (Prov 29:18) Every church will need to have a clear vision from the Lord for the people. So many churches become inward looking and irrelevant because there is no prophetic vision, thus church decline will inevitably set in. Every church must be able to see (at least has planned towards) where she is heading and where she will be in 10 or 20 years’ time. Without clear vision, the people are not going to know what to do next and which training programme or activity is necessary and suitable. When people are not led with vision, people will get frustrated and leave for another pasture. Does our church have a vision? Window shopping is not any vision at all. We must first get the vision from the Lord and then own it. This can come from seeking the Lord and having a close and intimate fellowship with Him. Spending time with Him possibly in contemplation, solitude or silence is helpful and essential.
Equipping with Precision and Strength
There are many types of equipping tools. Only those that can equip with wholesome modules or programmes will be able to bring suitable and good result that leads to strength and courage. Haphazard equipping or equipment will often result in poorly coordinated practices with weak basis. We should not go for goods that are only with beautiful packaging on the outside and poor and inferior ingredients on the inside. Similarly in church ministry, we need to seek good equipping personnel and modules. We should go for the best and do our best. In the handling of God’s word with the equipping of the saints, it is proper to do it through a good and thorough system where we can grow and benefit from it, and at the same time able to share and bless others. Spending time to read and study the Bible and handling it properly is most crucial. Self growing is not sufficient. It is essential to grow together with others in the fold.
Training in Confidence
Large portion of church goers are not confident in articulating their faith or the gospel alone. Some are not comfortable to pray aloud or in public. Proper and good training must be introduced to churches to raise the standard of confidence. A well and steady articulation of one’s faith and gospel can only result with a confident learner and trainee. Similarly, training with confidence is prerequisite to good foundation and future development. Proper and precision training is necessary in order to raise the confidence level of the trainee. A cook will surely have greater confidence if he can master his tools and cooking skills. The level of mastery is comparable that of the surgery knives in the hands of the surgeon in a successful operation. This is ownership which can be employed for greater benefit. Self awareness, God awareness, Spirit sensitive, and obedience are inseparable ingredients for training in confidence and balance.
All glory to God in the Highest!