Thursday, July 26, 2007

Of Hands and Feet

As a christian leader how do you define success? I was recently asked this question by someone in our congregation, and it gave me pause to think. In our results-based culture, where success is generally measured by how big, how much, how often, amongst all the other "hows", it's easy to get busy "laboring and working for the Lord," trying to accomplish the vision we've been given. The inherent danger of that "busyness" is that we often forget to slow down and enjoy the "fruit" of our labor: savoring the relationships that have grown out of our effective ministry in the lives of people.

I call this the "Martha Syndrome". Martha was so in love with serving and helping others, that when Jesus came over for a visit she complained to Him that Mary, rather than sit at His feet as He talked to them, needed to be in the kitchen helping her prepare the meal. Surprisingly, rather than scold Mary and send her scurrying off to the kitchen to assist busy Martha, Jesus chided Martha saying, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10: 41 - 42). I guess the lesson is that sometimes we need to still our busy hands from all the serving and laboring and just sit at His feet.

Ministry can sometimes appear difficult and even thankless. Until you look a little deeper. If the "hows" are all that you look for, you might have a tendency to miss the real fruit of your ministry. I've often said that the journey is sometimes the objective, and not the destination. While this doesn't hold true for every circumstance, there are many instances in which it does. Taking a moment out of the 100-mile-an-hour dash to the destination, to stop and savor the fruit, might give you a whole new perspective on your effectiveness. As I have wrestled with my own definition of succes in ministry, I have continued to have my perspective reshaped by some of the incredible people I've met along the way. Consider the following letter I received from a couple that had attended our church for a season, found a personal relationship with the Lord, and then relocated out of state. While I have removed their names to protect their privacy, nothing else in the letter is changed.

It brings me great sorrow to think that I will no longer be able to participate actively in the growth of "The Well". I came to The Well initially, expecting that it wouldn't be long before I became disinterested. Little did I know that The Well would be my salvation. Not only have I discovered my inate love for God, but I have also been able to contribute for the better of humanity and our community. It is because of your devotion to show what God's love can do, that we can all live in harmony with ourselves. The promise of our life beyond is the prize that we can all look forward to. You have shown me that, and for that I am eternally grateful. It pains me that I will no longer be on the receiving end of pastor Joseph's meaningful sermons. They are truly inspiring and moving. I pray that you will continue doing what you do, knowing, I am sure that you will help to save countless souls.
...You both have been an inspiration and blessings in our lives. You brought a close family even closer, and in the faith. I can never thank you enough. You will always be in our thoughts and prayers.

Wow! This is why we do it. Like the quote for the day says, "Transformation gets people's attention. There's no better method of evangelism than a changed life... it takes a process of discipleship to fully transform lives from darkness into light." Anyone want to sit at the Master's feet with me today?