One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. The plaque was covered with names, and small national flags were mounted on either side of it. The seven-year-old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside him and said quietly, “Good morning, Alex.”
“Good morning, Pastor,” replied the young man, still focused on the plaque.
“Pastor , what is this?” Alex asked.
“Well, son, it’s a memorial to all the men and women who have died in the service.”
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque.
Little Alex’s voice was barely audible when he finally managed to ask, “Which one, the 9:00 or 10:30 service?
I hope we will not have any such casualties during this morning service after my sermon.
We are still fresh from the Christmas season. For many of us, Christmas is not just a celebration. We try and use this season to influence others and to get others know about Christ and the Gospel. Many organisations organise Christmas events for non Christians and try to get across the real meaning of Christmas to as many people as possible. Even on the Christmas day, we try to call our neighbors, our colleagues, friends, especially non believers to our homes so that we can share the joy of Christmas with them. And many of us do this with a genuine desire to get the Christmas message across to them. So the burden to reach out and explain the message of Christmas, the Gospel, is there with many of us. This is good, God has called us to do exactly that. God tells us that the harvest is plenty, and workers are few. (Luke 10:2) . Hence it is the right thing for us to think about what we can do in this area of However, many of us struggle to find the right ways to reach out, the right ways to convey the good news. We are faced with questions.. what is the right thing to do? What is the right thing to say, will they get offended if we say some thing? How open should I be about the gospel to others?
This is a question which haunts many of us who want to do ministry… or in other words, am I Shaped for Ministry work? SHAPE is an acronym coined by Rick Warren, Author of “Purpose driven Life” and “Purpose Driven Church”. He coined this in the context of Leadership. However I would like to use it for ministry too.
? Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12) : What are the spiritual gifts that I have been endowed with, for ministry?
? Heart or Passion : Do I have passion for ministry?
? Abilities or Natural Skills : What are the abilities and skills that God has given me for Ministry? Am I willing to dedicate those skills for the
? Personality : What personality traits of mine should I use for ministry?
? Experiences: What experiences have I had in the past that I should use for furthering the ministry?
I am going to dwell on just the personality part of the SHAPE this morning. What are the right aspects of personality to do ministry, where we are placed, In our neighborhood, in our workplace, in our business, in our friends circle. I am not talking about full time missionaries here. I am talking about you and me, who live among the quote unquote “pagans” and are called to influence them so that they may have same hope that we have too.
My studies reveal to me that there are six aspects of the personality that we need to be conscious about to do ministry in our own space.
We need to be a person of the six P’s for us to be able to do ministry effectively.
The first P is the Person of Peace. Talking of peace, I am reminded about a story. You might have heard about the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
In Jerusalem, a CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall to pray, twice a day, everyday, for a long, long time. So she went to check it out. She went to the Wailing Wall and there he was!
She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, she approached him for an interview.
“I’m Rebecca Smith from CNN. Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wall and praying?”
“For about 60 years.”
“60 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”
“I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the hatred to stop and I pray for all our children to grow up in safety and friendship.”
“How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?”
“Like I’m talking to a wall.”
In Luke 10:5-6, Lord Jesus Christ asks the 72 messengers to offer peace to the house where they visit and he says “if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. Else it will return to you. “ To have this happen , there are two conditions. Firstly I must be a man (or woman) of peace. Am I seen as a Man of peace by others? Will people see Romans 12:18 in me?
The second part of Person of Peace is the ability to identify another Man of Peace. Jesus says in John 4:34-38, that the harvest is ready even now. We must be able to identify when is the harvest time. We must be able to identify who is the Lost sheep of Israel (Matt 10:6) and know that there will be people who will reject the Gospel, Jesus was aware of that (Luke 10:16) . We must prayerfully ask the holy spirit to guide us in identifying the men of peace with whom gospel can be shared
The second P is that of People relationships. Here again, we have two types of relationships. One is passing relationships. This could be some one we meet in the market, or in the lift, or may be a co traveler, a person whom you interviewed for recruitment. There is all possibilities that you may never meet that person ever again. The question that we need to ask ourselves is whether we are willing to make use of this passing relationship to plat a seed? (1 Cor 3:6), or do we pass the opportunity saying that “hey.. I will never be able to take this forward, so why waste my time here?
The second part of People relationship is the permanent relationships. This could be your immediate family, (like in my case), your colleagues, your neighbors, Can I hold and maintain a permanent relationship with some one , without hurrying or forcing the gospel on that person, and without giving up hope, and depend on God to get them ready? I am happy that my wife Leslie is a person like that. She was patient with me, and never forced the gospel on me. She mustered prayers from everyone in her church, and it is the power of their prayers that got me into the Kingdom. In 2 Peter 3:8-9 Peter tells us that the Lord is patient with us and do not want any one to perish. Let us remember that it is true for those we are trying to “save” too. We need to be patient with them, and let the Holy Spirit prepare their hearts for the gospel.
The third P is the Presence. Some times all that the Lord asks us to do is to be present where he wants us to be. We do not always need to act or shout. Some of us get impatient some times. We feel that we are not doing God’s will if we do not say halleluiah or Praise God a few times in a company. We feel that we are letting God down, if we do not link up the happenings or discussions to God and his plans. Some times just by being present we can bring Christ’s presence to the situation, even though many may not acknowledge the presence. Just being there, just listening, just lending a shoulder to cry on, just to share the joy of some one. Jesus went to the tax collector’s house for supper (Luke 5:29). The Bible does not record that he gave some profound messages while he was there. He was just being there, enjoying the company of sinners… (not sin) . Job 2:13 describes a scene where Job’s friends visit him and just sit with him without a word for 7 days and 7 nights , they were just being present with Job, and knew that words are not necessary at this point in time. Can I be a person of presence?
The fourth P is Proclamation. We some times misunderstand the word proclamation. We take it that we must use oratory, or preaching to proclaim. “To Proclaim” only means “to give an outward indication of some thing”. Can we live and give the outward indication of Jesus’ message of “repent and live”. Evangelism is really inviting a person to walk the walk of faith with you.. not just saying a prayer for that person. 1 Peter 2:12 says “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”.
The fifth P is Preparation. This is a hard one, especially in this world driven by results and quick wins, and so on.. This concept is so much against the corporate culture. Here is the question is are you willing to just plough the field, even if it is not you who is going to sow the seed, forget about watering it , or harvesting it? Can you just be happy to prepare the ground., not knowing if your efforts will even bear fruits? There is a danger if this concept is taken too far. This is true for one on one ministry for people who are not into full time mission work, and are reaching out to persons around them in the workplace or neighborhood etc. Some of the Christian organisations and churches , some time pick up this attitude, and do not plan for results at all. This needs to be seen in the correct context. John the Baptist was very content to just “prepare the way for the Lord” (Matt 3:3, Luke 3:16-17)
The last P is that of Perception. Mark 10:17-22 describes a story when Jesus lets the rich young man walk away, even though Jesus loved him. Jesus knew that the man was not ready. This is what perception is about. To be able to read the response of the person and understand if the person is ready or not. This is not to say that we must be in a hurry to run away from people who are not responding to the gospel, but we must be able to perceive if and when the person will open up to the gospel, and if not, be ready to “shake the dust off your feet” (Matt 10:14) and move on. We by ourselves may not be able to perceive correctly. That is why we should spend enough time with God asking the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us to really identify the Person of Peace in others.
All these are not easy, many of these might not come naturally to us, not very one of us may be good in striking up a conversation with some stranger whom we meet on a plane, let alone sow the seeds of gospel in that person. We may not be good at perceiving the responses correctly. But then we are not alone. God has given us the counselor, the Holy Spirit to help us an guide us. If we are convinced about the call for us to be doing ministry wherever we are, we will get ample help from the holy spirit to exhibit the right competencies for such ministry. Actually, we do not have much of a choice in that matter. Once we accept Jesus Christ as our saviour, we are bound by his command “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go
and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16
I have read this quote some where “Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world.”
Let us pray that the Lord will help us change our personality to give us the six Ps required for doing His work.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. Amen