During this summer internship at Castleview Baptist Church, I have been required to read books pertaining to the ministry and then discuss with the pastoral staff the practical implications for the local church. One of the most edifying books throughout this process has been The Trellis and the Vine. I do not like to quote books often at length, but I think the following is worth doing so:
Imagine a reasonably solid Christian said to you after church one Sunday morning, “Look, I’d like to get more involved here and make a contribution, but I just feel like there’s nothing for me to do. I’m not on the ‘inside’; I don’t get asked to be on committees or lead Bible studies. What can I do?”
What would you immediately think or say? Would you start thinking of some event or program about to start that they could help with? Some job that needed doing? Some ministry that they could join or support?
This is how we are used to thinking about the involvement of church members in congregational life—in terms of jobs and roles: usher, Bible study leader, Sunday School teacher, treasurer, elder, musician, song leader, money counter, and so on. The implication of this way of thinking for congregation members is clear: if all the jobs and roles are taken, then there’s really nothing for me to do in this church. I’m reduced to being a passenger. I’ll just wait until I’m asked to ‘do something’. The implication for the pastoral staff is similar: getting people involved and active means finding a job for them to do. In fact, the church growth gurus say that giving someone a job to do within the first six months of their joining your church is vital for them to feel like they belong.
However, if the real work of God is people work—the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another—then the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.
So you could pause, and reply to your friend, “See that guy sitting over there on his own? That’s Julie’s husband. He’s on the fringe of things here; in fact, I’m not really sure whether he’s crossed the line yet and become a Christian. How about I introduce you to him, and you arrange to have breakfast with him once a fortnight and read the Bible together?” (pages 26-27)
The authors go on to lay out a couple more of examples of what this could look like. Nevertheless, the point is the default mindset we have in ministry can tend to focus on programs, not people. Now, while programs can be helpful and can facilitate ministry, the primary work is people work. I promise you I do not have all this figured out. Yet, I do believe this is a ministry mindset and mind-shift we need to take a hold of and implement in our lives. This means being intentional in our relationships and discipleship. That is where we must start!