My Uncle James was head of Parks and Recreation for one of the largest cities in the country: a demanding job managing thousands of employees. Several years ago, feeling the need to do more for God, he asked the leaders of his local church how he could become more involved. So, they asked him to serve on several important committees including the Pastor-Parish Relations committee and the building committee and he even became a trustee.
As he talked, I noticed the church never seemed interested in the job my Uncle managed most every day of his life: A job, which often impacted several million people. My Uncle was seeking a ministry but the church put him on a committee.
James is not unusual. One recent trend in America is called “Halftime” named after the book by Bob Buford, describing people who desire something more in their life to enable them to move from financial and career success to achieve goals that are more significant or even spiritual.
The issue is not whether people want something more significant in their life. We already know they do. The real question is how will the church respond? Will we help them find and develop a meaningful ministry or will we take the easy way out, plug a hole and put them on another committee?
What about you? God called you for a ministry. Do you know what it is? How should the church help? Committee work is important but there is so much more. As a minister, I emphasize two themes:
1. A church should provide an atmosphere of encouragement and love for you to improve your relationship with God through worship, prayer, Bible study and small group participation.
2. Then we should help you discover your unique gifts and talents and use them toward a ministry of helping others within your family, at work, at church, in your community and around the world.
“The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and villages he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: ‘The harvest is so great and the workers are so few. Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest and ask Him to send out more workers for his fields. Go now and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take along any money or a traveler’s bag or even an extra pair of sandals.'” (Luke 10:1-4)
I found at least five major lessons in this passage:
1. The Lord chose: You don’t just decide to serve God. You were chosen long before you were born. The questions you should ask: “What task were you chosen for? Are you doing it?”
2. Travel in pairs: God knows it is very difficult to work alone. We all need encouragement either from a friend, a pastor, a church group or family. Ministry always needs a partner.
3. Pray for more workers: Your life of prayer is just as important as your willingness to work. Praying and asking for God’s help is an important part of your ministry.
4. Lambs among wolves: You are receiving a divine warning to be careful. Remember wolves see lambs as only one thing… supper. Serving God always involves risk. Be prepared.
5. Travel lite: The ad says, “less filling… tastes great!” Too much stuff, no matter how good can become a burden and weigh down your ministry. Keep your message and your faith simple.
How are churches doing with following these basic lessons? Actually, not very good. A survey was taken among active Christians. What they found was startling: 70% never encouraged someone to believe in Christ, 45% never talked about their faith, 64% rarely pray and 77% rarely read the Bible.
Why? There are many reasons. We are afraid of controversy. Churches tend to seek members rather than disciples. We’re busy and preoccupied. We fear rejection. We face too many choices for our time.
One minister said: “Life is like a dog race. You are forever chasing the rabbit. One day the rabbit breaks down and stops in the middle of the race. Now what? There is instant bedlam as dogs begin yelping and biting each other. Is this how we are? Running to achieve success but upon catching the rabbit, not knowing what to do next?” If this describes you, welcome to the potential of half-time.
Next, I’ll examine the Half-Time trend more fully.