The Goal of Ministry
PTC Ministry Conference 2012
I Thessalonians 2:17-20
Getting things in perspective is what keeps us going when the going gets tough. Paul puts his whole ministry in perspective here. He views it from the standpoint of eternity: what will matter when Jesus comes?
1. Goals and Achievements
Everyone has their crown of glory. We’re all aiming for something. Some of you have your whole ministry ahead of you and you hope to make something of it. Seem have had their midlife crisis and see that you’ll never achieve what you set out to do.
Press the fast forward button. What does it look like in his presence at his coming? Can you still boast about it? Can you stand before him without embarrassment, without shame? Jesus won’t ask us what denomination we were part of. He won’t be impressed if we kept the doors open. He’s more interested in the 22 million people who don’t come to your church. 70% of UK citizens surveyed say they have no intention ever of going near a church. Ever.
Jesus tells us about a rich man, who presumably the listeners all knew of, and a poor beggar called Lazarus. They both died and there is a great gulf fixed between Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell. Earlier in that Luke 16, Jesus tells us to use our worldly wealth to make friends in this life so that when you died you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. You have to invest in people.
Press the fast forward button. What will you life look like on the day of his return? Will you be able to boast about how you treated your family or will you be ashamed?
God is going to conduct a qualitative review of our lives. So much of what we boast in now will be burned up, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. D.A. Carson: “We may be winning more adherents than converts.”
We also have to question our motivation. Paul is motivated by people, not programs. In this job, there is often nothing to show for the hard work you do. You’re going to hit a patch where you’re going to say, “Let’s pack it in and do something else.” But, press the fast forward button. You’ll have instant job satisfaction, won’t you? There will be people there who you’ve prayed for, lost sleep over and cried over. Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever, Daniel. This will last long after the world has forgotten who Barak Obama is.
Your task is to make people justified at the last day. What a joy to have people who have been justified by the grace of God standing with you at the end of the world.
TIME Magazine distinguishes between it’s most powerful people and the most influential. The powerful change people from the outside. The influential change them from the inside. We want people to want to change, don’t we?
Paul is sure that in these Thessalonians he has gold, not straw and stubble. They will be witnesses that he has not worked in vain. They aren’t statistics. They are solid gold. He can boast about them because they are only Christians because Christ and his cross have made them trophies of his grace. There are others who he cannot mention without crying, 1 Corinthians 3.
What am I? What are the people among whom I work? Will they be someone’s hope and crown of glory or someone’s shame? C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory: “It is a serious thing,” says Lewis, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whome we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.” Immortal horror or everlasting splendour, which will you be on that day and what will your people be?
Have you ever wondered why they don’t play the soundtrack to Hitchcock’s Psycho in the dentist’s waiting room. Ed Clowney: “The church needs to hear the soundtrack in the return of her returning Lord.”
Soon we will be in his presence.