Polished Brass7:30 AM
"The only thing we get to take to heaven is the people we save."
"We're here on earth to share the gospel."
"Maybe God's calling some of you to the ministry full-time."
"This world is going down. Anything that isn't getting people saved is going to sink with the ship."
There was a certain church, successful, inviting and for the most part, staunch on truth. The altar call yielded at least three saved souls per Sunday - usually five or six. And the vacation Bible schools, Sunday schools and all that good stuff brought about hundreds of baptisms a year. This was not a church that sat on its heels. But it decided, with all its programs, outreaches, conferences, ministries and Bible studies, that it needed to revamp its schedule. Change gears, in other words, to full-throttle ministry. One Sunday it issued a call (complete with fill-in cards in the bulletin) to the thousands of members sitting in the brand-new pews: "Where can you serve? What can you do for Christ? What is God calling you to do?" The bulletin listed ministries individuals could sign up for, get involved in, minister.
Being raised Baptist (not as if I've stopped being raised), I've discovered that there are two sorts of Christians: those who work in the ministry and those who don't. Preferably missionary work or pastoral work or counseling - anything full-time and learned at the local Baptist Bible college - but a stay-at-home mom's poor efforts to serve punch during a children's program is applauded as well. At least she took a step of faith.
I'm being facetious, and I want to make it perfectly clear that I am in no way belittling those pastors, missionaries and counselors out there who have indeed poured out their souls for Christ's cause in a unique way. I hold such men and women in high honor. What I'm advocating in the proceeding long passages is a re-definition of how we approach ministry, calling and God's will.
I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "Our purpose here on earth is to bring others to Christ." That sounds good until we follow the thesis to its inevitable end. If our main purpose on earth is to bring others to Christ, why home school, Christian parent? You're depriving the unsaved public schooled souls of their salvation. If our main purpose on earth is to evangelize, why raise children, Christian mother? You're better off working at church in one of our ministries - maybe children's? If our main purpose on earth is to save souls, why work your day job, Christian man? Get out to the mission field where you belong.
To put it bluntly, if our main purpose on earth is to bring others to Christ, anything that isn't saving others is like polishing brass on a sinking ship. Who cares if the brass is polished if lives are in peril? Or again - if our main purpose on earth is to bring others to Christ, anything that saves souls is justifiable - never mind if it's slightly of the world or gaudy or otherwise unholy.
But I don't think it true that our primary and sole end is to evangelize. It's - well, let me pull out the Westminster Shorter Catechism to word it better than I: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." (I'm such a miserable Baptist, I know.)
If that is the case, then our life and goal is God-focused, not man-focused. See, we get "ministry" and "God's work" mixed up. Ministry is what we do to others - and what a high calling and duty it is that we minister to our fellow men. But that's not the sum and substance of living for God. Worshipping Him doesn't actively bring others to Christ - yet we are commanded to do so. Why? Because we're living for God - not for others.
God is so interested in the salvation of others. That's without a doubt. He became flesh and was crucified because of that concern. Yet He is also zealous that His people be holy, for He is holy. That's what's missing in evangelical Christianity today. We say, "You want to serve God? Become a missionary. You want to do something for God? Hit the streets and start preaching. You want to make a difference in the world? Become a pastor - or a youth group leader - or a music minister - or a camp counselor."
We ought to be saying, "You want to serve God? Obey your parents. You want to do something for God? Work with honesty and integrity at that boring day-job. You want to make a difference in the world? Build a relationship with your siblings and tell them you love them daily."
Hear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying we shouldn't evangelize. I'm not saying ministry isn't God's work or is subpar in any way. What I am saying is that God's work is doing whatever He has laid out for you to do and doing it well, whole-heartedly and to His glory.
That includes little things like working around the house and loving the inhabitants therein. That includes big things, like dealing with government, with the arts, with the culture - fighting the evil in it and proclaiming Christ's truth and justice through it all. It's not polishing brass on a sinking ship - for while this world is coming to an end, the next world isn't. What we do for Christ today is the only thing that will last - whether you can fit a church program around it or no.