What are your goals for the New Year? We often re-evaluate our priorities and commitments in January. We decide how and where to spend our time in the coming months. We may commit ourselves to a new level of involvement in a particular ministry. And sometimes, in our enthusiasm, we become overzealous for others to commit to the same cause.
“God is doing such amazing things in this ministry. I just wish more people would get on board.” As a pastor’s wife for the past 16 years, I’ve had this conversation on more than one occasion.
I understand the feeling. I’m passionate about women’s Bible studies and have been involved in various groups over the years. Sometimes I get frustrated or discouraged, wondering why all the women in the church aren’t passionate about the thing I find to be such a blessing.
When it comes to ministries we love, it’s easy to have tunnel vision. We think our ministry should be flooded with volunteers and have a generous church budget. We wonder why others aren’t as excited about our ministry, and why they’re not willing to invest the same amount of time and energy as we do.
Sometimes the area we’re passionate about requires special abilities or availability. For instance, someone struggling with chronic illness can’t rebuild houses or serve meals to the homeless each week. The man who just lost his job can’t afford to buy fair-trade coffee to benefit adoption. The working mom can’t attend a Monday morning Bible study.
Other times, our fellow believers aren’t doing “our” ministry because they’re already committed to doing other valuable ministry.
Sadly, our disappointment that they aren’t serving in the way we want can lead to judgment and bitterness. I’ve watched relationships falter and people walk away from the church because their ministry wasn’t given the attention, money, or volunteers they felt were necessary.
One Body, Many Members
When we’re disappointed with others in ministry, we find a relevant exhortation in Romans 12:3:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Paul realizes that the basis of our frustration is pride. Our negative assumption that others aren’t as invested in Christ’s kingdom as we are, or are choosing to spend their time on less meaningful things, is rooted in thinking that our agenda is most important.
Instead, we should rejoice over the various gifts and passions God has blessed us with in the body of Christ:
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are the one body in Christ, and individually members of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Rom. 12:4–6)
God grants us different gifts that are necessary within the body of Christ. What one person lacks, another has. And without either, the church wouldn’t be complete.
In much the same way, the passions God has given us for ministries will differ. While one person is excited about street evangelism and mobilizing others to share their faith, another person might quietly serve by visiting the sick or elderly.
Ministry for the Common Good
With this understanding, here are five ways to free others from the burden of our expectations:
Remember that we’re all invested in the most important ministry of the church, which is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. In our everyday ministries and especially in our corporate worship, we’re participating together in our highest calling. Our ministries aren’t in competition with each other but serve the same end goal.
Be grateful for the variety of gifts in the body of Christ. Instead of lamenting why more people aren’t serving in your area of ministry, be thankful for the multitude of ways God is using his people to serve others.
Acknowledge that the body of Christ would be incomplete without the various gifts and ministries of people within the church. “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. . . . If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Cor. 12:14, 18).
Confess any judgmental thoughts. Repent and ask God to help you extend grace and kindness to those who have different priorities.
Free others to serve. Be excited for new ministries popping up within your church body. Come alongside others in prayer and encouragement for what God has given them to do. Release them from the expectations you may have on their time and energy so they can freely focus on their own calling.
Our unique gifts and callings are a way we can minister together for the “common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Instead of focusing on what we wish others were doing, let’s wholeheartedly pursue God’s plan for us and free others to do the same.