My Love/hate Relationship with my Yard…a metaphor part 2
Last time I talked about my yard, I spoke of the struggle I have seeing the big picture as I stare at the details. That’s not the only thing running through my head as I mow.
I also absolutely love to mow the yard. It is one of the only things in my life that is measurable and achievable. One of the great difficulties of a minister is struggling with the fact that there is very little, if any, objective measuring stick to my work.
When I was in management with Starbucks, they had a very strong system of objective accountability. If you had good labor to cash ratios, if you generated a proper number of transactions per half hour, if your secret shoppers worked out well, you were doing a good job. Even when I was telemarketing, you could measure my strength – more like weakness – by the number of leads I was turning into sales. All of us, my self included (maybe foremost), love to know we are doing a good job. We love to exceed expectations.
As a minister, there is simply no objective measurement of ministry. Jeremiah was called to a people who wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t convert. Jesus didn’t have great numeric success. Furthermore, Jesus own disciples didn’t understand his mission and scattered at his arrest. If we measured the breadth or depth of Christ ministry…he was not a huge success.
So there must be something else.
But even me searching for something else betrays a certain idolatry. I worship success. That’s why I love to mow so much. When I am done, I sit on my porch with a beverage and take it all in. I have mowed this yard. Those blades of grass have to submit to me, Lord Justin of the Push-mower! I can see what I have done, and I take comfort in it.
In Luke chapter 10, the disciples return from their mission that Jesus sent them out on. They are excited that they have accomplished so much in Jesus name; they even boast to Christ that the demons obey them. When they mentioned Christ…of course.
Instead of responding with a round of “attaboys” Jesus subtly chides them and me. He says, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The disciples wanted to measure their ministry by what they had done. I want to measure my ministry by the things I have done, what I have accomplished. But Jesus roundly refuses to allow for this.
Do not rejoice that your ministry is effective, or not. Do not rejoice that your preaching is good, or not. Do not rejoice that people say really nice things to you around noon on Sunday, or not.
Rejoice that I love you. Rejoice that I love you whether or not your church is growing. Whether or not you are the greatest preacher. Whether or not you are asked to speak at big conferences.
Ministry, true/gospel ministry, must grow out of our acceptance of the Gospel. My ministry is pleasing to God, so long as it is born out of my understanding of the greatness of my sin and the even greater-ness of my redemption. If ministry flows from this in my life, my ministry won’t need any sort of objective goals or measurements.
Now if I could just get this through my thick skull.