Shout it from the housetops: Peter and Kelly Jankowski have moved back to Buffalo, New York. Pete is now the co-pastor at Life Church and in transition to become lead pastor next spring. Look out Buffalo! The kingdom of God is on the move and invading darkness with light!
As we move into this new season, let me strike the iron while it’s hot and share with you some insight on what ministry should look like, and what we hope to demonstrate.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word, "Ministry?" There are probably as many answers to that as there are people. Some will even have negative feelings because they had a negative experience. To some it looks more like a business than a church. To others it smells of hype or manipulation. And some have been members who have felt used or even abused.
I hope you have positive thoughts, because that word "ministry" identifies what Jesus Christ is up to and is doing all over the world through His people. We humans can mess it all up. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The answer to the question has some flexibility. The ministry of the apostle Paul and the ministry of the apostle Apollos were very different. Each had different gifts and different styles. In fact some people were divided on who they’d follow because they liked one more over the other. Sound familiar? That is not unlike how things are in today's church world.
The truth of the matter is that God gives each person different gifts, talents, abilities, personalities and even background experiences. We have been raised in different families, cultures and even nationalities. What each individual has to offer will differ from person to person. When it comes to churches, the leader's personality and leadership gifts will lead that church in proportion to his/her particular leanings. Hopefully as leaders we can be smart enough to balance our leanings with the gifts of others. But that is why every church is different, even if it belongs to the same denomination, etc.
There are some things about ministry that will always be identified as pure, right, and biblical. I will not try to list all of them. Certainly God Himself, His word and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the center of all ministry.
However one obvious dynamic that is often overlooked and ignored, even by leaders, is the characteristic of "family."
We are family.
God is our Father. Jesus is our elder brother. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. If you are a believer in Christ, you are the member of a family, a worldwide "children of the same Father" family. You may not like the part of the family that surrounds you. You may not be very good at family dynamic yourself. But you have been "born" into family. Deal with it!
What this means for my purpose here is that ministry should always flow out of a "family" mentality. Before we are leaders in the church, before we have certain jobs or titles, we are simply family members in "blood" relationship with one another (the blood of Jesus flows through our spiritual veins). So we need to see ourselves in that light. It doesn't matter what local church you belong to or how big or small that church is, or even if you meet in a building or not. If ministry is going to be what it was meant to be and flow from the right heart, then it will always flow out of a heart for healthy family-oriented relationships.
When we deal with one another, work together, or even if we are on the leadership team or staff together, we need to treat each other in the same way Jesus treated his disciples... as family.
It is true that a local church has to operate with strong business principles and have corporate strength. But so does family. A family is not altogether different from a business or corporation. Every family needs administrative structure, financial accountability, vision for the future, plans for growth, and facilities with which to meet - whether a house or a hut.
It is not only what is happening that is important, but also how it happens. I would never treat my children as though they were simply my servants or corporate staff down the hall. They are my family. They may need correction or discipline. They may need clear communication. They may need teaching on how our family operates. But how I communicate and follow through with the people in my family is usually quite different than how the corporation deals with its employees.
Church, in that sense, should be more like family than what we often see in the business world. Because we are family.
Ministry flows out of relationship. If you are just sitting in a pew somewhere on Sundays, you may not experience a spiritual family dynamic at all, except that you are hearing from the head of the table what the leader of the home is teaching in a one-way conversation. In and of itself, that’s not bad. But where are your relationships and how valuable are they in the scheme of things?
Life Church Buffalo is going through a transition. We did not interview people for this new role. I am passing the baton to a younger man who has been a part of my life for more than ten years. We have prayed together and played together. We discuss what God's Word says and we go to movies together. We have watched and yelled at more Buffalo Bills football games on a Sunday afternoon than I can remember. We are family.
In our leadership roles, we treat people like family. Some family members may not be as close to a leader as others. But, as is the case with distant relatives, we relate to people with the dignity of carrying the same name.
Don't just go to church. Be the church! Be a good family member of an awesome family. Don't only look to be served. Be family and look for ways to give and bless your spiritual family. Connect relationally. Help one another grow.
Usually the leader of a spiritual family cannot relate personally to everyone. The immediate family is too big. So you have no choice but to relate to other people in order to meet that need. It may be a small group. It might be a particular ministry that you are involved in. But connect and develop family relationships.
If you are a leader, treat people with the dignity of belonging to the family. You may not be able to be close to everyone, but you can treat people with that kind of heart.
It's called love.
True ministry flows out of heartfelt family-oriented relationships. That takes work and time. But in the end, it is worth it.
Pete and Kelly and Carol and Craig, in the picture above, are family. We are not related in the natural sense. But we have paid the price of becoming family. Their kids call us Marmee and Pa. It didn't just happen… We've worked at it over the years.
That's ministry. That's what it looks like. That is what we demonstrate.
Shift your thinking and belong to the family, enjoy the family, and treat people like family.
It's a good thing. It's a God thing! And the closer to each other a family is, the more it will multiply!
Let's change the world together!