Since I began this series, God keeps confirming the timeliness of this message. The comments and notes I’m receiving from readers tell me we’re all struggling to reclaim some space in our lives. We must pull back from the edge to reclaim the beauty of healthy living.
One reader sent me this powerful quote from Bill Hybels’ Simplify: Ten practices to unclutter your soul. “That was my rock-bottom moment, when I finally realized the price of depletion…I just sat there, asking God, ‘How did this happen? How did I become this overwhelmed, overscheduled, exhausted person who is devoid of compassion and angry at everybody?’...Before I left the parking lot that day, I made a vow: Never again will I allow myself to get this depleted. The cost is too high. Never again. And to this day I have a maniacal aversion to depletion. I know what I’m like when I get to the edge. I know what I’m capable of. And I’m not going there again.”
Before I tackle this final subject, I want to add a disclaimer. I understand situations arise when God allows us to spill into the margins for emergencies. When that happens, and it is indeed His idea, He will supply the resources we need to meet the crisis.
SPIRITUAL VITALITY AND MINISTRY
However, too often, we decide we must continue to function in the margins. We have the mistaken idea that burnout is more holy than trusting God; that things won’t get done if we don’t do them ourselves. I know this is true, because I’ve been guilty of this most of my life, and God is calling me to account.
With that said, it’s time to explore the final frontier “Margins in Ministry.” If you’re a Christian, all of life is ministry. No matter what you’re doing, you’re also “in” ministry. And yet, God gives guidelines even here, to prevent burnout or fruitless activity. Ministry should look and feel healthy and beautiful.
The first margin God calls all Christians to maintain in ministry is:
Put Home First:
To the man who wanted to follow Him after He healed him of demons Jesus said, “Go home and tell them what God has done for you” (Luke 8:38-39, emphasis added). What better witness could there be to the change in us than to the people who’ve seen us at our worst? Other examples of ministry at home:
Manage your family before you lead others - 1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12
Provide for your family first - 1 Tim. 5:8
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ - Eph. 5:21-6:3
Fathers don’t exasperate your children. What’s more frustrating than a father who’s there for everyone else, but never for you? - Eph. 6:4
Message and Method:
The Good News that Jesus brought 2,000 years ago hasn’t changed, but the methods for reaching people change continually. What works in one culture or political climate doesn’t in another. And some methods and programs that worked in past centuries have become outdated and unfruitful. This is difficult for some of us who’ve grown up in the church to accept. We can get more attached to traditional Methods than to the Message itself.
Camp Meetings, Revival services, street preaching, Sunday night services, Sunday school and other forms of ministry are giving way to Facebook, small groups, coffeehouse evangelism, podcasts, Celebrate Recovery, and an increasing use of technology around the world. I’m not saying to stop any of these things if they’re working in your church. But if we insist on doing things “the way we’ve always done them” and refuse to adjust to the needs of our culture, we will become irrelevant. Why waste precious time and energy doing things that no longer work?
We have limitations, but God does not. He needs no margins or boundaries. He brings innovative methods at the perfect time for each generation. We need to “rediscover the boundlessness of God” (Mrs. Charles E. Cowman).
Paul said it well in this excerpt from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel” (emphasis added). The New Testament is rich with examples of diverse methods for ministry.
Build relationships by meeting physical needs – James 1:27
Answering questions people were already asking – Acts 17:22-23
Teaching large groups – Acts 2:14, 40-41
Through healing – Acts 3:1-16
In response to opposition and persecution – Acts 4:1-4
One on one conversation – Acts 8:26-39
Going outside comfort zones – Acts 10:1-48
Taking a stand against evil – Acts 13:6-12
We also need to minister to those already in the Church:
Lean on the Holy Spirit for every task, no matter how menial – Acts 6:1-7
Providing further education for believers – Acts 18:24-28
Teach, rebuke, correct, and train believers – 2 Tim. 3:16
Next week I’ll post part two of this final subject of the Margins series. As always, I’d love to hear your comments and how this is working out in your life.