Embracing Messy Ministry

Next Monday I will teach my last Religious Education class to a group of fifth and sixth graders; this ministry has been exciting and encouraging while at the same time one of the most discouraging and frustrating experiences imaginable.  You are able to teach them truths of Scripture and clearly share the Gospel, but there is no guarantee that the students will be interested in what you are saying.  In my case more than one would rather be in sport (Physical Education) and had no problem letting me know that.  Sometimes I even heard the three words that have destroyed countless children’s ministries…”this is boring.”

But I still come back every Monday and enjoy it (even on the discouraging or frustrating days) because real ministry is messy.

This fact is particularly true for missionaries who go into foreign cultures sharing the Gospel.  Unfortunately people don’t see the messy side of our ministries very much since talking about the people who rejected Christ doesn’t necessarily encourage financial support.  Instead Ministry presentations are filled with stories of God’s blessings so emotional the only sound you can hear over the weeping is checks being ripped out of checkbooks (editors note:  ask your parents what those are kids, they will know).

It’s good to make sure people know what the Lord is doing, but its also important to share some of the less spectacular ministry experiences with them since reaching the unsaved is usually messy.  When I came to Melbourne there was an idea in my mind about what ministry should be like; it was sanitized (no problems), well-organized, and everything worked out in the end like a thirty-minute television program.  What I learned was real ministry involved discouragement, frustration, drama, and sometimes even anger….in other words it was messy.

Yesterday I handed out Bibles to a group of my students and taught them how to find verses using the table of contents and chapter markings.  They all assured me that they did have Bibles, but these where story ones you would give to a child who was five or six.  Watching fifth graders find Psalm 119:11 for the first time and their excitement when I told them each one would get a new Bible next week is one of those exciting experiences that comes if your faithful in messy ministry.

During the second class I used a version of the Wordless book to share the Gospel.  One of the students (I will call her Kate) started asking dozens of questions, with every one answered three or four came up.  We talked about baptism, my testimony, sin, God’s love, why we cannot go to Heaven, Christ’s death, what it means to accept Jesus, and Heaven in less than thirty minutes.  Towards the end I looked Kate right in the eyes and told all the students to think about whether there was ever a time when they accepted Christ, and if they had not it could happen today.  She didn’t accept the Lord but in my heart I feel Kate is very close believing in Him.

Yesterday was an exciting ministry experience but it only came because I was faithful in ministry that was messy.  Six weeks ago I drove home from class feeling very discouraged and asking God what to do next…His answer was be faithful (also I started bribing them with a candy bar which always works).  Yes, real ministry is messy, discouraging, and painful, but if you’re faithful it will eventually produce real results.

Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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