Ministry is often different from person to person. There are a lot of moving parts that will affect a Christian’s ministry. Some Christians may strive to be salt and light as they work at Wal-Mart, the bank, or the local restaurant. Others may have packed up their family to get the gospel into a foreign country. Still others may serve faithfully by telling the kids at their church about Jesus. You’ll have some Christians who desire to be pastors and work week after week teaching and equipping one body of believers.
Ministry often looks different depending on the context in which one ministers.
But there are two non-negotiables in ministry that are true for each and every Christian who ministers. These two truths are evident among every biblical ministry across the world. The Christian must recognize these two non-negotiables if he or she is going to be faithful to minister:
1. Your Work Must Be Completely Dependent Upon Jesus
While this sounds evident, it is rarely understood. Yet, this is one of the very first things Jesus told His disciples before He sent them out to minister.
And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city.”- Luke 9:2-4
Jesus had spent about 18 months with these men under His wings. He had been doing the bulk of the ministry; the healings, the preaching, the teaching. But now Jesus is ready to send out the 12 to do the work. He has discipled and equipped them. Now they have to step up and do the work.
Jesus doesn’t give them much opportunity to be comfortable. He insists that they take nothing with them. He doesn’t even give them hotel reservations. He sends them out empty handed, but the empty-handed Christian has no one to depend upon except the One who sends him.
The point of this text isn’t to discuss how much money or how many shirts a minister must have. The point is that we must go into ministry completely dependent upon Jesus Christ. No other attitude will suffice. No other mindset will work. It is complete dependence upon Him or nothing at all.
Pastor, you can’t grow the church you pastor. You can’t make people attend. You can’t give people a heart that loves Jesus. You can’t make people see the importance of the gospel. You can’t send new people in to hear the Word. Only Jesus can do that.
Missionary, you can’t manufacture opportunity among the people. You can’t open doors of opportunity. You can’t cause anyone to have an ear that is willing to hear the truth. Only Jesus can do that.
Neighbor, you can’t make the person next door want to hear the gospel. Carpenter, you can’t get the job that will give you an opportunity to tell that person about Jesus. Nursery worker, you can’t make that child be interested in how the story of Jonah points to Jesus. Businessman, you can’t find employees to hire just so you can show them Jesus. Grandmother, you can’t cause that young lady you want to mentor to stop and think about the biblical wisdom you’ve given her.
Only Jesus can do these things. Only Jesus can do any of it. If Jesus doesn’t do it, it will not be done!
The sooner we understand this, the sooner we quit ministering as if it all depends upon us. And the sooner we quit ministering as if it all depends upon us, the sooner Christ gets the glory. Depending upon Him in ministry is not a suggestion. It is a non-negotiable.
2. Expect to be Rejected
If you want to be well-received, buy everyone brownies. If you want your message to be accepted with enthusiasm, purchase an infomercial time slot on TV and sell can openers for the low, low price of $9.95. If you want to spark debate, talk politics. But if you want to be rejected the majority of the time, preach the gospel. It is a non-negotiable of ministry that rejection is to be expected in the work.
After Jesus tells His disciples to depend completely on Him for their journey, He tells them this,
“And for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” – Luke 9:5
We would expect Jesus to tell them of the great successes they will have or how people will readily accept their message. If we were writing the story, we would mention how they’ve been trained by the best and now they are ready to succeed. Yet, Jesus says none of this. He only says, “And as for those who do not receive you…”
Rejection is the rule and not the exception in ministry. If Jesus was rejected, shouldn’t the minister expect the same? What makes us think we are above our Master?
This rejection is nothing new. When God called Ezekiel to go and preach His Word, here’s how the calling was described,
“Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” 2 As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. 3 Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. 4 I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. 7 But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.” – Ezekiel 2:1-7
Whether they listen or not. Stubborn and obstinate. Thistles, thorns, and scorpions. Encouraging, isn’t it?
Why would God send Ezekiel to a ministry that would be full of rejection? Ezekiel’s job wasn’t to be successful. His job was to be faithful. God tells him, “…and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God’.” What would the result be if Ezekiel was faithful to obey? “ As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Rejection is nothing new. People have been rejecting God since the Garden of Eden. Ezekiel’s entire ministry was one of rejection. Jesus Himself was rejected and crucified. What makes you think your ministry will be any different?
Don’t expect that rejection could happen to you. Know that it will. It is a non-negotiable when you’ve committed to preach the gospel.