To minister to someone literally means to “attend to the needs of [a person]”. It’s not an office held by the few, but rather a call for Christian’s everywhere to serve and love as Jesus has loved us.
Sometimes we get a glorified version of what being a “minister of the Gospel” really is. We can imagine it as having great status or power. Or we can imagine getting a great response from people: that they’ll change tomorrow, turn over a new leaf, follow God with all their heart and never turn back.
But this is often not how it works.
Instead, it's a process. There’s a timetable of events in God’s plan and allowance, that doesn’t match up with ours. We desire to see outward change TODAY, while God desires change in people from the INSIDE out - which usually takes time. God’s time table works as those we minister to continue to grow, oftentimes slowly, and with set-backs along the way. But eventually we look back and see a great distance of change.
We are called to “ministry” not to a “change factory”. We are called to love people like Jesus did and to offer them the life giving power of His Gospel and Spirit, but it’s up to them to accept it. That acceptance is usually built up over time.
We can get discouraged when we haven’t seen someone for 6 months and wonder where they are. We can sometimes get even more discouraged when we see them again, because we wonder if they’ll actually stay this time. We can get discouraged as we wonder if God will ever truly change their heart and bring them into a steady relationship with Himself. But this isn’t our position of authority or responsibility. We are called to love, not to save. Only Jesus is Savior, and it’s best for us to remember this.
People will come and go in our lives, for good and bad reasons, but know that your job, as a Christian, is simple: “attend to the needs of… whoever.”
Whoever is around.
Whoever God brings.
Whoever crosses your path.
We have a holy calling as Christians to love everyone we can with the love God has given us: regardless of how they respond, and regardless of where they end up.
So let us not forget, lest we give up: We are in this for the long haul.