How to Not Waste Your Efforts in Ministry
Within the four cinder-block walls that formed my cubicle-sized dorm room at Taylor University, I sat on my bed, doubting again how God would provide for me this summer. Overcome with worry and hesitation, I resorted, eventually, to what should’ve been my automatic response to doubt and fear: prayer. A few days later, I found myself on College Park’s employment page, scanning the application, the requirements, and the expectations for the church’s Community Ministry summer interns. After a few interviews, the Lord had once again shown me his providence and grace, for the billionth time.
I soon discovered that a summer internship at College Park consists of incredibly rich conversations, a deepening knowledge of the behind-the-scenes work of a church, and an ever-knowing awareness of the Lord’s provisional hand. I was able to engage with leaders from several different ministries, including Women’s Ministry, Compassion, Soul Care, and Small Groups/Membership. What did they all have in common? A passion to proclaim the gospel.
I saw Karen Pourcho’s desire for women to learn the Word and grow in truth about biblical womanhood, Don Bartemus’s compassionate heart for those experiencing hardship, Jeff Ballard and Kelly Alexander’s deep longing for individuals to step out of darkness and find hope, and Bob Martin’s zeal for people to take steps of growth through covenants, confessions, and fellowship.
I saw Taylor Kirk work diligently in preparation for events to be both successful and relational. I saw Jane Schuth’s hope for women’s gatherings to be well-done and gospel driven. Jeff Brown, Kasey Clark, and Paul Nystedt’s efforts to deepen their understanding of what ministry looks like didn’t go unnoticed, and neither did their humor. Kelli Ellis’s mastery of databases and heart for excellence added a new level of ministry to the team. And Mark Schuitema’s shepherding and direction for all these individuals was ambitiously gospel-minded, for the sole purpose of glorifying the Lord.
Through their example, I grew in my ability to be “intentionally invasive.” I saw humility lived out and I grew in my understanding of how to execute pride. I came to the realization that ministry is much, much more complicated than it seems.
But beyond all these, I learned the ministry you do, the ambition you have, and the excellence of your efforts are all losses if the glory is for yourself instead of for the Lord. Being a part of the Community Team showed me this team craves and yearns for the gospel to be driven into the hearts of every single person touched by their ministry.
Moreover, the same is true for the ministry of every individual who testifies to the name of Jesus. One’s ministry will never be a failure if the goal is God’s glory.
So, as I pack my bags to head back to Taylor for one last year, I’m packing this truth with me as well: Whether I am in the art building painting, in the psychology building doing research, or in the admissions building calling new students, all of my efforts are a loss if they don’t point to Jesus. My degree and career will be worthless if I am seeking personal glory instead of God’s glory.
As I leave the College Park internship, my prayer is for the Father alone to be glorified in all and through all I do. The hymnist put it best: “Thou and Thou only, be first in my heart; High King of Heaven my Treasure Thou art.”