You name the ministry, I’ve probably done it. Homeless. Door-to-door evangelism. Special needs kids. Teaching. Orphanage. Preaching. Healing. Prophecy. Manual labor. Cooking. Worship leading in languages I don’t even speak. Mentoring. Writing. Sunday school. Women’s ministry. Hiking mountains to go visit sick people and do church in their homes. Going into bars to befriend prostitutes. God’s given me the opportunity to start a ministry, and also a glimpse of what it’s like to jump behind the wheel of a ministry I didn’t start. God can use any of us as vessels, and it is His utmost joy to do so. From all that jazz, here are 7 lessons I’ve learned…
1. Let Holy Spirit do His job.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve approached situations and tasks with my logic, and fell on my face. I’m talking EPIC FAIL. I rushed in with my YES when I should have said NO! The most important thing I’ve learned is to take the time to ask God what He’s doing, and give Him time to be the First Responder. Holy Spirit is gonna do a much better job bringing conviction to a heart than any of us could. Holy Spirit tenderizes hearts. He heals. He gives us information we couldn’t possibly know, which is heaven’s intel for you to do what needs done. Our job is to be willing to agree with what He’s doing and saying. We need to be attuned like Jesus described in John 5, doing exactly what He saw the Father doing. Another example is when Jesus didn’t show up to heal Lazarus, because He was on Father God’s timeline. Had He showed up on time, Lazarus wouldn’t have died or been raised from the dead. Yield to Him! One nugget for you: desperation is an invitation to enter into God’s chill zone. Any time you feel RUSHED, especially in ministry, guess what? Press pause, even if it’s an internal pause. Have a moment with Holy Spirit and say “hey, what’s the big picture?” and listen. Slow your roll. God is not frazzled, because He’s not losing.
2. You can do it anywhere.
Whatever ministry you do in Thailand, you can do in Georgia. It breaks my heart when people “come home from the mission field” as if there is such a concept. We’re not home, yet. If a certain people group or ministry broke your heart overseas, don’t stop working with them. You can move somewhere far away to tend to a crisis, and many times God will call on the willing to go. But let me tell you… sitting with widows in Nicaragua and sitting with widows in Georgia feels pretty similar to me, except we’re speaking English. Holding a special needs baby in India and holding one in Texas was the same feeling of overwhelming joy to me. Don’t let your address dictate your calling. Sometimes you’re gonna go overseas, sometimes you have 4 kids and can’t. Doesn’t make you any less of a missionary, with any smaller of a heart. The poor are everywhere. The homeless need hope. Kids need instruction and parents. The broken need a shoulder to cry on. The baby believers need teachers. Same same, but different.
3. You need to be ministered to, probably more.
They should have a show on TV called “So You Think You Can Help People” and make contestants go to counseling for a long, long time. Newsflash: you’re super imperfect and messy and you need a lot of help. Once you get that through your head, you can drop the act and get real. We are vessels, and we can give what we receive from God, that’s in 2 Corinthians. That means we ask for help, and we invite people into our lives to call out our mess and make us deal with it. Mentors, counselors, brutally honest friends… give people the double scoop on what’s going on in your heart and let them minister to YOU. Receive it. When you run into a hurdle, grieve it. Life is hard, yall, especially when you go and put yourself out there to help others. You’ll hear some stories that hurt, and see some things that stick with you. Don’t let pride lead you to trauma. Take care of yourself… on that note…
Burn out is real. You need time to smell flowers, and stick your feet in the ocean. You need a drive with your windows down, and breaks from whatever is super difficult. PLAN TO REST. It’s not selfish. It’s a commandment, if you’re gonna get technical. The work will be there for you when you get back, I promise. Take the time. Bubble bath. Movie theater. Road trip. Trail run. Whatever it takes for you to hit reset and calibrate yourself to the rhythm of God’s breathing. Jesus would sneak away. Be like Sneaky Jesus and take your time away.
5. Leave the 99.
We all know and love that sweet parable of the lost sheep that wanders off, and the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to go get it. What does that mean for you? One time during a women’s ministry meeting, I knew someone was missing. And I knew they needed to be there, and that something wasn’t right. I left the meeting and went to pick her up. She had been having thoughts about hurting herself, and I showed up at her door. Don’t busy yourself trying to get your validation from 99 that you miss the opportunity to do what the Good Shepherd would, which is to know His sheep and take good care of each one.
6. You’re never stood up.
This is kind of a joke, because yes you are. All the time. If you do one-on-one ministry with vulnerable people and set up 4 meetings, and actually end up with one meeting, guess what? That’s okay. People cancel. People sometimes don’t show up. Plans change. All the babies get sick. Sometimes you cook for 5 and end up eating alone, and you cannot take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. I’ll say it again: it’s not about you. Don’t let yourself get bitter and give up on people. God sees your heart, and He gets your frustration. He also rewards you. Keep showing up, just like Jesus does for you, and know that when you pour grace on someone who can’t make it (instead of shame/disappointment/anger/frustration) they will experience that grace, and maybe that was the whole point of the meeting anyway. Check!
7. Don’t wait for permission that is already yours.
If you look at the greatest scholars, they started out as babies, pooping themselves. Their brains may be brilliant, but so is yours. Their organs are the same as yours, their hearts beat and so does yours. You can disqualify yourself from contributing to the Body of Christ by comparing yourself to someone up on the stage, but let me save you the time and tell you that’s silly. God teaches you things every day if you listen. Little things and big things. My favorite thing to do is ask people what God is teaching them today, and wait for the answer. There’s always something. You hear Him, too. He teaches you things that He may not have taught me. You have something to bring to the table that is unique and much, much needed. The Bible says you’re competent as a minister of the gospel! Did you know that?! Jesus didn’t have a flashy diploma, nor a rich upbringing. He wasn’t privileged, but He certainly knew His Father. We’re loved equally and there are no favorites. If you’re older, you could mentor a younger one. If you’re younger, you could be a great friend to someone, and have deep conversations about God. You have God’s permission to do Kingdom work, and it’s unlimited. Go do the thing that God put in your heart to do.