Giving Away Ministry

Leaders give away ministry!

If you follow Luke’s story of early church history in the book of Acts, by the time you reach Acts 6, the church appears to reach an important crossroads. Up to this point the church has been actively involved in mission and has been experiencing tremendous growth. But with the growth came a huge leadership challenge.

In Acts 6 a dispute arises between Greek-speaking Christ-followers and Hebrew-speaking Christ-followers. One side, sensing injustice, claims that their widows are being neglected in the daily distribution of food, implying that the other side is being shown preferential treatment.

The apostles called a meeting and uplifted the purpose of their leadership, affirming, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program” (Acts 6.2b). In one concise statement, the apostles clearly communicated the vision for their continued leadership of the church.

At this critical point, the apostles could either continue to perform the ministry themselves or they could begin releasing the ministry and sharing it with others. The future growth of the church largely depended on their response. The apostles realized that their role as communicators of God’s Word was being distracted by other tasks. While ministry to the widows was important, of course, it was a ministry that needed to be done by others.

Rather than giving in to the complaints of the people, they chose another route and offered the following solution: “And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word” (Acts 6.3-4). By choosing to share the ministry with others, they began to shape a missional culture in the church.

The idea was well received and seven people were selected to help lead this particular ministry. Further, “God’s message continued to spread,” Luke records, and “The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too” (Acts 6.7).

By giving away ministry the apostles opened the door for other leaders to be developed. Some of the men who were selected to lead the ministry to widows eventually took on larger leadership responsibilities.

The decision to give away ministry, instead of doing it all themselves, had huge implications for the early church. I believe it has similar implications for the church today. If pastors do not give away ministry they become the limiting factors in their congregations. To expand ministry and reach new people, pastors must release the ministry and share it with others.

Of course, some of the clearest instructions for pastors comes from one of the early church leaders (Paul), who wrote, “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4.12). Christ-following leaders are called to equip others to do God’s work!

“Evan Almighty”

Good movie with a message.

On July 4th, we went to watch Evan Almighty. Though the movie has received mixed reviews and has not done very well at the box office we both enjoyed the movie and thought it was well done. It was a good movie with a good message.

Steve Carell, who play Evan in this sequel to Bruce Almighty, says about the movie in this USA Today article: “It’s about a guy having to make a leap of faith and he hopes others follow suit.” You can read more details about the movie, including the plot, at Wikipedia.

Here were a few things that struck us, in terms of the movie’s message …

Changing the world. The movie sent the message that the way to change the world is through Acts of Random Kindness (ARK).

Framing God’s actions in love. Scripture says, “God is love” (1 John 4.8). Because God is love, all of God’s actions are grounded in love, including his discipline and judgment. This was made clear in the conversation between “God” (Morgan Freeman), and Joan Baxter, Evan’s Wife (Lauren Graham). In this scene, “God,” a server in a restaurant, encounters Joan (Evan’s family was leaving him because they thought he was losing his mind), and tells her, “When someone prays for courage, do you think God gives them courage, or does he give them a moment to be courageous? When someone prays for the family to be closer, does he sprinkle around happiness, or does he give them an opportunity to be closer?” The conversation was meaningful to Joan because, toward the beginning of the movie, she mentioned she had prayed for their family to be closer. The conversation was a turning point for the family who returned to Evan’s side as he continued to build the modern-day ark in the face of increasing media attention and ridicule.

Following God. What do you do when God calls you to do something, especially something that seems out of the ordinary? How do you obey God when you know there’s going to be a high price — the loss of respect, your job, and maybe even your family? Of course, this comedy made the story even more bizarre by making Evan look like what Noah might have looked like millennia ago (i.e. robe, long white hair/beard, etc.), which in Noah’s day, would have looked pretty normal. But it can still be difficult to follow God’s leading sometimes. And this movie forces us to wrestle with that question.

A Little Breather!

Submitted drafts to our mentor today; hoping to submit proposal drafts to D.Min. office next week!

Today, we finally emailed our second drafts to our mentor, Dr. Russell West. Whew!

This latest phase was very challenging. In the last few weeks, it has felt like the project that would never end! But we took a major step today by submitting drafts to our mentor. After getting feedback from Russell, we’re hoping to be ready to submit our “proposal drafts” (assuming only minor revisions!) by the end of next week.

If that’s the case, we’ll be on track to go to Kentucky in mid-to-late August for our proposal hearings. We also hope to schedule in some much needed vacation time then, possibly including a trip to Cleveland, Tennessee, to visit Randy’s family.

In the meantime, we’re moving forward with our proposed projects. Joleen will be contacting some churches to study their small group ministries and Randy will be contacting three leader/communicators who are shaping a missional culture in their ministry settings (see this post for more on Randy’s project).

After navigating the next few weeks of this proposal phase, our next major deadline will be around Thanksgiving. That’s a self-imposed deadline because we want to schedule our dissertation defense hearings on the front end (early January 2008) due to expecting to receive our child sometime around then. If all goes well, we expect to graduate on 05.242008, 324 days from today! 🙂

For now, we’re grateful to God for bringing us through to us to this point and for bringing us through these last few weeks!