He was there to see how we behaved, no question about it. I’d never seen the man before, but others said he had been in Sunday School that morning as well as one of the worship services. Now he was trying to get in the main door of the church which leads to the sanctuary. We could see him through the windows of the Fellowship Hall where we were meeting, so someone went outside to fetch him. We had just begun our annual church business meeting in which we would be voting on the budget and a staffing change. It was reported that we had a quorum, but there certainly weren’t many of our church members there. To be real honest, church “business” just isn’t a big draw for most folks in our congregation.
The gentleman entered the room where the 60 or so of us were seated around tables and took a seat with a few other friendly looking folks. I turned my attention back to the moderator at the front of the room. I knew the gentleman would be watching this small gathering from our congregation to see how we conducted the business of our church, but I wasn’t fazed. I knew that if this meeting went like the others I had attended over the past five years, there would be a little discussion (mainly for informational purposes), a few questions (innocent enough, free of skepticism or manipulation tactics), a lot of laughter, and mostly unanimous votes. Not that our church operates on autopilot or that the membership doesn’t care about the ins and outs of the business, but we’re just not the type of church that argues or seeks out division. After the meeting we would sit around those same tables and enjoy homemade ice cream, more laughter, and lively conversation. Truthfully, that’s why most of the people were there – for the ice cream, not the budget report or anything else on the agenda.
I’m glad the man came to a business meeting to check our church out. I think it’s wise for anyone looking for a new church family to investigate the behind the scenes stuff and not just the Sunday show. And I have no idea what the man’s impressions of our simple business meeting were. Perhaps he’s the kind who would have preferred to see some lively discussion or heated arguments. I doubt it, but you never know.
But here’s what I do know. Last night our church conducted the Lord’s business (because it’s a necessary part of being a church in our modern world) with love, respect, and sweet fellowship. And that speaks volumes about our church family.
I’ve been in some nasty church business meetings, I’m ashamed to say. I bet you have too. I’m seen some terrible behavior, malicious attacks, snide comments, ungodly decisions, and lousy attitudes. That’s not to say that every time there’s a disagreement in a church business meeting that it’s a bad thing. Church families can disagree among themselves and still behave lovingly and godly. But you and I both know the difference between simple disagreement and … evil. And, yes, I’ve seen a some evil in churches.
Here’s what we need to know on this Ministry Monday. Ministry is not just about serving others or doing good or teaching the Bible or even loving on the needy. It’s about doing all of those things with enough internal integrity to cause those who are watching to sit up and take notice. It’s about showing the world that you’ve got the “real thing” and the “real thing” has made enough of a real difference in you that you can now lovingly and generously share the bounty with others. Ministry is as much about the platform from which you minister as it is the good that you are doing.
Jesus was constantly concerned about motive, attitude, heart condition, and the like. He called the pharisees hypocrites, questioned the motives of the crowd that followed Him, taught his disciples to truly love, and noticed the hearts of those who gave generously, even when their generosity seemed small to others. He was more interested in the how and why than the what or where or when.
The gentleman who visited our church last night during a business meeting undoubtedly saw a family that loves and respects each other and that is more concerned about sharing the gospel than voting on every little move we make. I’m thrilled to be a part of a church that operates with such peace and harmony.
But the bigger question for you and me today is “What are those who are watching me really seeing?” Sure, they may see us teaching a Bible study or taking food to a grieving family or giving our time on a mission trip or visiting the sick. But do they also see us acting with integrity, respecting our leaders, refraining from gossip and slander, forgiving those who offend us, and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit? Do they see us handling our personal business – schedules, finances, homes, families, jobs, etc. – with integrity and self-discipline and love? Do they see our joy and peace? Do they notice a lack of anxiety and worry and stress? If so, they’ll be more likely to hang around long enough to hear what we have to say about the Lord we serve. If not, we’d be better off to stop “ministering” so as not to mislead. How we behave says so much more than the little details of our “ministry” do. We can all put on a nice show now and then, but real ministry has its roots in the every day, the mundane, the business, the backstage.
It’s when someone sticks their nose in your business that they really get a whiff of who you are. We might prefer they didn’t do that. We might shudder at the thought. But I guarantee you, someone is nosing around and trying to determine if you’re really worth listening to, if you’ve really got anything they need. When they finally find the right door to get inside and check you out, what are they going to find?
I’m thinking on this today. I hope you will too.