When you are a part of a church plant, having the right expectations is one of the most helpful things when it comes to overcoming discouragement and maintaining a right perspective. There is nothing so sad as seeing someone who starts out excited to go and preach the gospel give up because it was more difficult than they expected. I don’t think anyone thinks starting a church will be easy, but sometimes we can be caught off guard by exactly why it is so hard. Jesus tell us we are to count the costs and follow Him. I believe that as we have a heart to reach nonbelievers and unchurched people in our communities, we need to also consider the mess that will bring. What do I mean by that? Ministry is messy!
I want to share something with you that I have come to expect when ministering to those that aren’t following Jesus yet…they act that way! I have come to a place where this doesn’t surprise me and I am not offended by it. I have seen first hand in my own life that the only way to overcome this is to be changed from the inside out through a personal revelation of who Jesus is and then accepting His grace by faith. This is what Jesus means when He talks about being spiritually born again (John 3:3-8). I was spiritually dead before I accepted God’s grace and lost in sin (Eph 2:1-5) and so is everyone who has yet put their faith in Jesus. Paul would even tell people that if they think Jesus Christ didn’t rise from the dead, they should be sinning as much as possible because this is the only life they have! (1 Cor 15:13-19). So I have come to expect people to live what they truly believe. And for those that don’t believe in Jesus as Lord, I expect them to be living in sin. The Bible teaches us that sin brings death. And that death is messy.
I have to remember that the mess of ministry is actually an answer to many of our prayers. We prayed for many people to get saved and find life in Jesus Christ. And God has sent us to preach the gospel to people so they would have hope. I have had to understand that we are called to love people right where they are, and they don’t need to clean up their lives before they come to Jesus. God sends us into the brokenness, hurt, pain, and mess of people’s lives to shine the light of Jesus into their darkness. The Bible warns us that if we are to make disciples, this will take work and things won’t always be neat and tidy like we tend to like.
Prov 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
The more you serve people that are far from God, the more you will start to see that if you want to see life change around you, you are going to have to work in the messiness of people’s lives. Remember we are to love people, and that love makes a real difference in people’s lives. It was the real love of God that changed our lives when we were still in our mess of sin. The Bible tells us that Jesus died for us while we were still enemies of God, and because of that great love we are now able to know Him. God wants us to be His ambassadors not only with our words but our deeds as well. We have been given a true love that the world doesn't offer. We have the great chance to love people right in their mess of sin just as Jesus loved us.
This is the answer for true life change. PREACHING THE GOSPEL! Paul believed this was the very power to save, so he needed to be preaching all the time! I have taken this to heart and have seen God work in people’s lives in ways I never could dream of on my own. This is one of the main reasons we have communion every week at our church. This allows me to explain the Gospel and the implications of it every week. I believe if we can’t point people to Jesus through His Word every time we meet, we have failed. Jesus said that all scripture points to Him, so it should be very easy for us to use Scripture to bring people to Jesus and His heart. It is the only hope that truly satisfies and we need to be preaching Jesus every week as we gather as His bride. Not only is this good for our hearts as children of God, but for those that are far from God because they see it is only God’s grace that can truly change their lives. This is why we highly prioritize preaching the gospel: because only Jesus has the power to save!
So, over time, I have come expect and the messiness and the difficulty that comes from pouring our lives into the lost and broken. And also to see that the only answer is always going to be Jesus. I hope you can join me in learning to embrace this beautiful of this side of ministry.
In part 2 of this article, I will address 3 very practical ways I have found to love people through the messiness of life and reaching those far from God.