If you do not minister, I do not survive. As I look at the world, there is so much suffering and so much need, it would be impossible for me to be the pastor of a passive church. My conscience would slay me.
I could not lead worship services for people who just go home and watch TV, or spend their surplus mainly on cabins and toys, or take no risks for others, or close their eyes to the killing of the unborn, or grieve not and pray not for the 55,000 people a day who die without hearing the gospel, or dream no dream for the need-meeting ministry God made them for.
The older I get the more I smell eternity. With every passing day I want my life to count more and more for the glory of Christ in the relieving of pain (especially the pain of hell, but also the pain of impoverishment).
I am not the least interested in making well-to-do people comfortable. I would give my life to make them radically happy in risk-taking, pain-relieving, people-saving ministry—but not to make them more secure and comfortable. Something in me screams against the addictions to ease and self-centeredness in our pathetically miserable western opulence.
So how do I survive as a well-to-do pastor of a church of well-to-do folks in a nice new building with air-conditioning and elevators and cushioned seats and motorized window shades? The answer is this: I survive if you minister. I live if you love. I press on if I see you being changed into people for eternity out of sync with the values of TV advertising. I have hope to go on preaching where people are dreaming of how to give their lives away to the needs of the world for the glory of God.
Paul said to the Thessalonians, “What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
And you are my glory and joy when you take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. You are my joy when you sell your possessions and give alms, and when you love Jesus more than you love anyone. You are my joy when you dream of a chapter in your life that may seem crazy to your secure, comfortable relatives—perhaps creating a new ministry to American Indians or international students, or pouring yourself into Laotian youth or street people, or starting a discipleship house or a pro-life pregnancy clinic or an Uptown outreach, or taking a job in Iraq or Oman, or whatever else God only knows we have not yet dreamed of for his glory.
Again Paul said, “We live if you stand fast in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 3:8). That’s the way I feel. My life hangs on your firm and growing stand in the Lord.
I share this in the hopes that it will stir something deep inside of you as we begin a new school year of ministry together at Bethlehem. I plead with you: think ministry. Get alone with God and ask him to blow your mind with some call that will open you to more of his power and grace than you have ever known.
Alive in your ministry,