by Charles Bello & Brian Blount (taken from From the Sanctuary to the Streets)
People may not receive God’s healing, but they can always receive our love. The way we approach ministry, the way we treat the people we are ministering to, our own sense of responsibility for the outcome of the ministry time and how we are to help people process their disappointment when “nothing seems to happen” are all built upon a set of values.
Values are basic assumptions we make about how we should do life. From our values we develop a set of priorities. Priorities are what we focus our time, attention and resources toward. Our values and priorities give shape to our practices.
Values not only shape the way we decorate our homes and who we let in. Values also shape our ministry priorities and practices. Two different churches can emphasize praying for the sick, but their values can cause the same ministry to look totally different. The following are some of the values that shape our approach to ministry and the people we minister to.
God is Actively Involved in and with His Creation
Because we believe that God is already involved in the person’s life, this takes the pressure off of us to “make anything happen.” He is already intimately doing something in them. Our job is to ask the Father, “What are you doing? How do you want me to cooperate with your present activity?” We simply respond with faith and obedience to whatever He shows us.
God Loves People
God loves broken people. God loves sick people. God loves religious people. God loves people who do not yet love Him back. Love is not simply something that God does; love is His very nature and character.
God does not turn away from sinners in disgust, He moves toward them with compassion and grace. The parable of the Prodigal Son is as much about the love and character of God as it is about repentance on behalf of the younger brother. It is a tremendous privilege to minister to people because they are the object of Gods love and affection.
Being God-Focused Rather than Sin-Focused
Gregory Boyd opens up his book Repenting of Religion with a story of himself sitting in a mall on a Saturday afternoon, sipping a Coke, watching people as they pass by. But soon his people watching turned into people judging as he began to make judgments on the basis of what people wore, their facial expressions, how they related to others, and so on. He found himself concluding that some were “godly” while others were not. As he recognized what he was doing, he also realized that he felt good while doing it. Boyd even goes so far as to say this activity of judging others was feeding him.
This issue of examining what is feeding our soul is at the heart of learning to be God focused rather than sin focused. It is too easy to look at someone and make quick and many times wrong assumptions why the person is sick, poor, or in the sorry condition they find themselves in. Our aim is not to try to figure out why the person is suffering; our aim is to ask God what He wants us to do. Jesus modeled this value throughout His ministry. He often spent his time with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Rather than focusing on the outward negative things we may notice about a person, ask God what He is doing and minister to them accordingly.
Dependence on the Holy Spirit and Not on Formulas
The Holy Spirit brings to us at the moment of need the power to do what only God can do. Magic operates under the assumption that the world is simply a force or set of physical or spiritual laws that can be manipulated. We are not shamans looking for the religious formulas that will unlock spiritual power. We are disciples of Christ, wholly dependent on God to give us grace at our point of need.
It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to do ministry. We can only do what He empowers us to do in the moment, and there are times when we don’t even know what that might be. Rather than conjuring up some religious platitudes, when we don’t know what the Holy Spirit is doing, we can never go wrong with just listening to people and loving them.
Compassion and Kindness
As our friend Jack Morraine is fond of saying, “We may not be able to minister healing, but we can always minister love.” We believe in treating everyone with compassion and kindness. Jesus tells us plainly that when we show kindness “to the least,” He takes it personally. When we show kindness to people we are showing kindness toward God.
Honesty and Truthfulness
It is not enough for us that a person has all the symptoms of his sickness, but claims “by faith to be healed.” Our definition of healing says that the symptoms are gone or have subsided to a noticeable degree. If the person’s condition is noticeably improved or totally gone, this is a victory. Our aim is to discern and bring healing to the root cause of the illness as well as alleviate the symptoms.
All healing is partial and temporary. All those that Jesus healed eventually died. Even Lazarus who was raised from the dead returned back to the grave. None of us are totally well or healthy on this side of heaven. We live in the “now and not yet” reality of the kingdom.
We encourage those we minister to be truthful about the measure of healing (if any) that they have received and we seek to be accurate when sharing these stories with others. Being truthful is a higher priority than “being positive” and less than truthful.
It is important to us not to hype ministry, to make it seem bigger or more exciting than it really is. To us, faith must be rooted in reality and truthfulness, not wishful thinking. Emotional excitement does not equal biblical faith, and neither does stretching the truth. We are not against the genuine release of emotion in response to the Holy Spirit’s ministry, but we are against manipulation and stirring up emotions and calling this faith. The truth does not have to be hyped or supported by wishful thinking. “No hype” means we don’t promise more than we can deliver and we don’t stretch or deny the truth in the name of building faith. Ministry must always be grounded in integrity.
Ministry is a Privilege
To minister as God’s ambassador is a responsibility, but let us never forget that to minister God’s grace to others is always a privilege. When we begin treating people as objects of our ministry or even worse, sources of income or affirmation, we are skating on thin ice. People are so important to God that Jesus was sent to die for them so that they could live forever with Him. To be given the opportunity to partner with God as He pours out His grace and mercy is an honor beyond what any of us deserve. If ministry becomes a burden and we become impatient with those Jesus loves and died for, we need to back up and reconnect with God.
Ministry Models Must be Reproducible
One of the things that continues to amaze us about Jesus is that He chose to do ministry in such a way that His disciples learned to do what He did. Jesus was very intentional about this.
He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3:14-15)
We believe that we are to be just as intentional as Jesus. Our goal in training others is to do ministry in a way that leaves them believing they can also do what we do. We know we have been successful when we quit being invited back to a church because they are not only doing empowered ministry, they are equipping others as well. Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job.
We are always asking ourselves, are the ministry models we are using reproducible? If not, how can we adjust how we do ministry so that others can feel empowered and equipped to do ministry as well? Again, we see this value expressed in the way Jesus did ministry, and we believe it must undergird what we do as well. Our job is not to build our ministry, it is to train and equip others to do the ministry of Christ.
Spiritual Authority is Based on My Relationship to Christ, Not My Own Goodness
Our authority to minister has been delegated to us by Jesus. We believe holiness is important, but our goodness is not the basis of our power. It rests in Christ and in Him alone. When we look to our own goodness (however we may define this) as the source of our power we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will either become a religious legalist if we feel we are good enough to minister, or if we are always falling short, we will feel disqualified. We minister out of God’s love and His authority, not our goodness.
Ministry is meant to be rooted in community. Jesus, upon being released and empowered to begin ministry, began by recruiting a team to work with Him. This was part of the fabric of His ministry. When Jesus sent His disciples out to minister, He did not send them to minster alone; He sent them out in pairs. There is protection in ministering alongside someone else. There is also encouragement and support. Ministry is refined in the context of a community of faith.
Proverbs 13:20 says, He who walks with the wise grows wise.” We will become like the people we spend time with. It is important to develop mentoring relationships with people wanting to do the ministry you are doing. We make it our practice to try to always bring along an apprentice to help us. Our intention is to reproduce our ministry practice and values in those we are training. Ministry is best taught when it is caught.
We are Both the Missionary and the Mission Field
Throughout our lives, God never stops working in our own hearts, exposing the areas that are hurt, hardened and resistant to Him. While we carry out Jesus’ commission on the earth, we are also to continue to let God shape and mold us. We are simultaneously the missionary and the mission field.
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait to be perfect to minister to others. On this side of eternity, we will always carry with us some degree of brokenness. We are not disqualified from ministry for being broken. However, losing sight of the fact that we are still a work in progress decreases our effectiveness in ministry. We approach ministry with humility: we realize our own need and lack, and in the midst of weakness we accept the grace available to join Jesus in His mission on the earth to bring greater glory to Him.
The Supremacy of Love
All ministry models are built on assumptions and values. Ministry built on wrong assumptions and non-biblical values can ultimately be harmful and detrimental to the work of the kingdom. The correct ministry done in a manipulative manner carries the seeds of corruption and confusion. It brings harm to all involved, to those being ministered to and ultimately to the one doing the ministry as well. Paul makes this clear in the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 where he describes love as the fundamental value that is to be imbedded in all ministry activity.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
When we operate in the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit, we must remember the gifts of the Spirit are just that – gifts, not trophies, or ministry or identity builders. They are gifts of His grace, expressions of His love, and invitations to transformation. They are to build faith, hope and love in Jesus, not in the delivery boys and girls. They are His gifts to awaken hearts and glorify Him. We maintain the value of operating in spiritual gifts without ever neglecting to follow the way of love (1 Corinthians 14:1).
Intimacy and Impact
As God works in us to reach the world through us, it is important that we live out of vibrant intimacy with Him, out of the sanctuary. When speaking of our ministry values, it is vital to remember that first and foremost we value our own relationship with Him. Anything we have to offer comes from Him; any lasting impact we have on the world around us will only come out of intimacy with God.
We aren’t called to be spiritual recluses or trail blazing burnouts. Rather, we are to be friends of God who live a life of intimacy and impact as we simply do life with God in a naturally supernatural way. Partnering with Him to advance the kingdom flows out of our friendship with Him. Our prayer is that you will discover and live in the reality of God’s love for you, embrace both intimacy and impact, and follow Him from the sanctuary to the streets.