Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ministry Endurance

I was wandering the Charlotte airport the other day, taking some time to pray as I waited for my flight to board. And as I prayed, I began begging (I know it sounds unseemly) God for endurance and for zeal over the long haul.

It was one of those times when God sent an answer to prayer, or at least a fairly clear message, quickly.

I wandered past one of those book and magazine stores, and my eye caught a spinning rack filled with Christian books. Couldn't help but take a look of course, and at the very bottom of the spinning rack--underneath the books about visits to heaven and hell--there was a tiny paperback book about Christian leadership. It was by a guy named Jeff Iorg (I've never heard of him, have you?).

There was a chapter in his book called "Sustaining Passion." I read through the entire chapter.

What he basically said was this. Sustaining passion in ministry is actually about sustaining compassion for people. Don't try to take the direct route--maintaining passion for ministry per se. Instead, invest in the people around you, love them, spend meaningful time with them so that you truly like them. It is this that will sustain you.

He looked at Jesus through this lens. He wrote about how much time Jesus spent with people--by intentionality, but also by the nature of the culture of the day. The lifestyles of Jesus' day required much lengthier times with people as you walked together, ate together, etc. Much different that the quick runs we do into people's lives, as if they were 7-11 stores.

I hadn't ever heard this path to ministry endurance prescribed. It struck me as quite true. Endurance in ministry is not about being passionate for the concept or systems of ministry, even less is it about being passionate for our chosen career path. Dare I say, it's not about being passionate for theology unapplied or for pure worship or for being missional or for any other isolated cause. It's about having compassion for people, so that we really truly want to bring them to Jesus again and again.

I realize this is only one part of the Great Commandment to love God and love others. Surely ministry endurance is about both sides--and this post has done no justice to the absolute desperate necessity of ever growing in our love for our Savior God. And in fact, Jeff Iorg mentioned in his little chapter that Jesus even removed himself from people to spend time with his heavenly Father. But that will need to be a different post for a different day.

Jesus, for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Surely that joy involved his people, those for whom he died, else he would have never set foot on our globe. Let's follow those footsteps.

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