Ministry In Changing Times

Featuring Branon Dempsey Posted on March 22, 2008

We can observe our outside world and discover many fascinating things that are introduced, developed and what is now considered as the hottest trend. But there exists another window to view other landscapes, the inside of ourselves. Assessing our culture and local community becomes key in interacting and communicating with the world. If we do not understand ourselves as humans, how can we understand the very people we desire to reach? When we understand our own individual makeup we learn how to relate with others. People - listening to them, learning from them, caring for them is the manifestation of sharing Christ’s love. This following quote is often shared among our society, “people will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Care simply means to place self aside and put others first. The Bible puts it this way, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself,” (NKJV, Philippians 2.3).

A few fascinating insights that I’ve discovered about today’s culture are very concerning. We live in a very consumer driven world, more particularly America. Two major values of non-Christian and Christian people have jumped out to me: quick-fixes without the commitments.  Today’s society is filled with express lanes, high speed this and that, fast-food, fast internet, fast psycho-help from The Oprah Show, The Dr. Phil and The Suzy Orman shows, drive-thru cleaners, gigahertz products and so forth. We want it fast and we want it now! It seems that time is more of a precious commodity than money. From my perception, people of today (including myself) are more aligned with the statement, “How much time will it cost me?” over “How much will it cost?” There is always a quick-fix to satisfy our need for time. In this value money is of no limitation. We are especially moved to spend our time and dollars on improvements that offer less hard work and more easy gain. The most outstanding feature of the sale is when it promises consumers the freedom without the commitment. As a result, we fashion and model values that really do not guarantee to satisfy life’s needs. Because we are consumers, we internalize and covet what we see only to be filled with further cravings that are never satisfied.

 Authors like Barna, Kimball and Galloway all discuss why the church culture is declining while they offer strategies for attendance recovery. They bring good insight to the table in addressing the problem. Some of these writers claim that we need to redesign our church services by a definitive style and offer popular programs. These strategies may work well in reaching people, but a greater concern exists after they arrive.  What do we do with them? Don't you believe that the relational value is more important than any program or ministry in the church? It is easy to motivate volunteers to spend their energy and time on a program project. It is much more difficult to influence people to spend the bulk of their time on people or on relationships. Anyone can run a program but not everyone can invest life with others.  My personal concern is that we as a people (Christian or not) have become self-insulated. A greater concern is ministering to the human heart besides programming our ministries for entertainment only to attract people to come to our church. Dan Kimball, in his book “The Emerging Church,” well points out the dilemma of focusing more on the programs than the people. He writes, “As we create a culture in which people come to church, people generally are content to remain spectators,” (Kimball, p. 94).

Connecting people to God’s love is how we live life together via community. What I see in church culture is a shift to lead people to the all One True God, who is able to fill and connect the heart. God built within each of us a capacity to love. It is that same love and need that usher us to love others, ultimately loving God. Relational bridge building is what I see as a key aspect in connecting people to God, where our communities are met together with real, caring and accepting followers of God. Ministry is essential in this area, where people discover that they are loved and can love again. Love is the motivating force of action. God was moved by love to save man. He has never stopped pursuing him. His urgency to seek and dwell with men will never end. It is eternal just as He.  The compassionate words of the book of Jeremiah says: “The LORD appeared to him from afar, {saying,} "I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness,” (Jer. 31.3, NAS).

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