Polished Brass

7:30 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.

Sound familiar?

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.

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9 impressions

  1. I really appreciated and enjoyed this post, Bailey. I've been sitting here for a little bit trying to come up with something that covers my thoughts on it, but well...

    Amen.

    Yep, I think that sums it up. :)

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  2. **gasps WMC???**

    You also forgot to mention that that church's ministry was a little corrupt in "saving souls". A.K.A. the youth program which required earplugs for people who didn't want go deaf.

    And they all said (including moi. :) Amen.

    *hugs*

    P.s. Now we shall see what sort of nasty comments we shall get. *cracks fingers* Our Marine was *this close* to losing his temper when I told him. :)

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  3. Oh! Bravo!
    A few years ago, I read "Do Hard Things" by Alex and Brett Harris. Instead of encouraging me, it left me feeling just a bit depressed. It was like, "Do hard things?!? Does washing the dishes qualify?!"
    The circumstances I was in at the time did not offer many opportunities to do the sort of 'hard things' that the Harris twins were advocating. I was left feeling like perhaps...they were better than me?
    It wasn't until some time later that I realized, "Wait a minute. I don't have to be doing big things to glorify God. He can use the little things I do - yes, maybe even washing dishes!!! - for His glory. He has me here right now for a purpose." It was very freeing.
    Some days it is still hard to remember that I am where I am, doing the things that I'm doing, for a purpose. It's nice to have a reminder. =)

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  4. Very true! And I agree with you wholeheartedly that compromising principles never REALLY helped save anyone! But may I say something a wee bit...can't come up with the word. Anyway. I would like to propose that our main purpose is to glorify God, enjoy Him forever, AND bring others to Him. And why homeschool? Because that helps lead children to Him. Why work at your day job? Because there are people there who need to see that a Christian is real-life, not hypocritical. Why wash the dishes, clean your house, take care of your family? Because Christian families are what produce those missionaries and pastors and what-have-you that everyone looks up to. Just my view of "missions." But it hurts me so much to watch when wonderful women (and men) are put down because they're NOT called to be out on the streets talking to anyone who will listen...and so they don't! So thank you again for this post! :)

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  5. Mmm... needed words in today's day. Amen, amen, amen!

    Julia, I can relate to your response to "Do Hard Things". I really enjoyed the book and took the message to heart. However, after a few days of thinking my work at home was "holding me back", I had to re-evaluate the nature of what I swallowed.

    Doing HARD things doesn't necessarily mean doing HIGH PROFILE things (if memory serves me correctly, they didn't make much of a distinction here). We as gals aren't called to "make *ourselves* known in the gates".

    However, that doesn't mean that we don't have our own difficult (and all to easy to avoid) duties here on the homefront. It's not EASY to manage one's time wisely, stay on top of chores (especially dishes ;), keep a family fed, be patient with irrational babies and be cheerfully obedient to the requests of parents. In fact, I would venture to say that day-in and day-out living with the same people, having to work every moment to improve upon and give toward the relationships in our home is in many ways HARDER than discipling strangers. I can say from personal experience that managing a home is more difficult and requires more blood, sweat and tears than managing a campaign of a candidate for a US Representative!

    What we do in our homes day in and day out lend so much to the future. It's incredible, and I don't think that even we homeschooled, visionary daughters can imagine the extent of our impact.

    Sure, *anyone* can wash dishes. *Anyone* can change a diaper. *Anyone* can fold a load of clothes. But it takes a strong, selfless and dedicated woman to do all of this with constant cheerfulness and diligence.

    That woman, I am not. By the grace of God, He is conforming me to the pattern exemplified in His Son, the Greatest Servant.

    Bleh. Super long comments are embarrassing. Ah well, sorry Miss Bailey.

    Thanks for this post. Thanks for all of your posts. I've read most of them I'm afraid I'm obsessed, and have begun to make "Bailey" just as much of a household word as "Jasmine" (did you know you weren't the only one that literally screamed over the book announcement and literally cried over her blog closing? ;)

    Heheh, anyways... much obliged to ya.

    Christ's blessings,
    Shelby

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  6. Julia - Evangelical Christianity seems to be under the impression that if every Christian were out in big-profile ministry, the Church would be healthy and effective. But I think that if every Christian were able to wash dishes day in and day out without ever complaining...that would be the true test of our devotion to God.

    Confession: I've never read Do Hard Things. *shameshameshame*

    Briana - Thanks for putting in your two cents - especially so kindly and clearly. :o) I've been thinking about what you said, and I'm still of the opinion that evangelism isn't in our "main purpose." God's primary interest is in His glorification and bringing others to salvation is one of many ways to glorify God. Personal holiness is just as important as witnessing. That said, glorifying God and serving others/witnessing run so close together that it's hard (and sometimes unhelpful) to make a distinction. For instance, God can use the quiet spirit of a woman to bring her husband to Christ. That's not "active evangelism," but it does play a part in another's salvation.

    (But you beat me to the punch and touched on something I had scheduled for tomorrow.....:o))

    Shelby - I don't know whether to laugh for joy or cry. Your comments blessed me so much. It's amazing to me how the Lord can use even this blog to influence others...all I can say is wow. Amen. And to God be the glory. *HUGS* (I pity the families of Jasmine-fans. At one point every other sentence started with, "I was reading Jasmine's blog and...." ;o))

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  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this post today! It was just what I needed to read the encouragement I needed to hear.

    And now I will go wash the dishes, cook, and clean with a song on my lips for afterall what kind of testimony am I if I can not make a happy contented home for my precious family.

    Blessings~

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  8. (suppresses a little dance of excitement that she got *HUGS* from Bailey)

    Amen, to God be the glory. Glory is being brought to Him. In fact, the latest post on my blog has a lot to do with how God has used your blog. It's my first step toward keeping faithful to my pledge. I thought about all of this the entire day as I was cleaning and babysitting.. ever present on my mind... ever pressing on my heart. May God keep this flame aglow.

    And may God bless you for all you've done.

    Oh, and you can very well pity my family some more. Right when they thought they'd get some peace (after exhausting my favorite posts of hers and having no more updates to announce) ... then began:
    "So I was reading Bailey's blog.."
    "Well, actually, Bailey says.."
    "Bailey's opinion.."
    "Bailey pointed out in a post she wrote in December.."
    Poor family. I never give 'em a rest. ;]
    (Needless to say, Marmy's quite glad of it - and has told me she's been thanking God that He led me to this blog. You seemed to have affirmed her diagnosis and pushed me towards a cure. Thanks for blessing her as well. :)

    Anyways -- I could go on like this for quite a while, so I'm gonna make myself stop. Goodnight, Miss Bailey. Lookin' forward to the next post.

    *HUGS!* ^.^

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  9. I have read "Do Hard Things", and I clearly remember a section of the book explaining how all the "little", "insignificant" things count as hard things, too, because it really is hard to do them, day in and day out, with cheerfulness and contentment. That said, the book did leave me wanting to go do the "big" hard things.
    Thank you for this post, Bailey. I have heard my father talking about the same idea. You know, that not every Christian has to be witnessing verbally all the time.
    And Bailey, your name is heard a lot at our house, too. I was quite pleased to see your comment on my sister's blog just now.
    <><

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