Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been participating in a newly released New Testament Bible study program called “Come Follow Me.”
To be honest, though I have loved Bible stories since childhood, as an adult I have skipped around in the Bible, (with a lot more skipping in the Old Testament if you must know) and have never made a serious effort to study its messages.
With this new study guide however, the bite-sized grouping of verses, the beautiful art, and the thought-provoking questions have provided a very different experience.
I’ve been finding new levels of understanding and peace in my study time in the early mornings on my own, at church with my neighbors, and occasionally with my family in the living room or over video conference so we can all be together . . . stretching from Grandma’s house to the bachelor’s pad.
One of the interesting things that I have noticed is that as you study the life of Christ, you don’t hear about His three-year teaching assignment. Or His three years of service. It’s his three-year ministry. So, what’s the difference?
To teach is to instruct in knowledge or skill.
To serve is to aid or to work for.
To minister is to learn or attend to another’s needs, representing Jesus Christ and acting as His agents to watch over, lift, and strengthen those around us.
Do we recognize the difference? We aren’t just taking care of physical or even emotional needs, but we are coming to understand people and offering our love, hope and care as Christ would if he were here caring for the daughter, neighbor, mother, co-worker, stranger, child next to us.
Because for us to be like Jesus—to be Christians--we need to learn how to think, feel, and act as he would if he were here personally ministering to those he has placed us amongst.
In speaking of ministering Jeffrey R. Holland described it as “labor[ing] side by side with the Lord of the Vineyard, giving the God and father of us all a helping hand with his staggering task of answering prayers, providing comfort, drying tears and strengthening feeble knees.”
With all of the talk of ministering, some of us are still confused as to what that looks like. How it can become second nature? Heck, some of us are still stuck on trying to figure out what counts as ministering.
In an attempt to wrap my mind around a big concept in a simple way, I find it helpful to look for look for a phrase, mantra, or a hack. Everyone loves a good short cut.
Here are a few “hacks” you may have heard and could use to give new emphasis to your ministering efforts:
· Just do it.
· Lengthen your stride.
· Never Suppress a Generous Thought
· What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)
· Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam
· If the Savior Stood Beside Me
· Scatter Sunshine
· Have I done any good in the world today?
One of my personal favorites is one my son used on me. After some real head-butting during his teenage years, he left to serve a two-year church mission in South Africa. When we picked him up, we decided it was a perfect time to take in a wildlife safari.
One particular evening, his dad had left our room to go retrieve something from the main lodge, so my son and I sat on the bed talking our heads off. We were desperately trying to catch up on two years of pent up conversation.
I finally told him “You look tired Honey. Why don’t you go to bed? We’ll have plenty of time to talk in the morning.”
He made me smile when he said, “But I just can’t get enough of this.”
Then he gifted me a moment I will never forget. He reached the doorway, turned back and said “Mom? Is there anything I can do for you?”
I was stunned. My heart softened. I felt the harbored hurts from those snarky teenage exchanges just dissipate into thin air. He wanted to help me. He loved me. And I was in utterly in love with him. I felt truly ministered to.
How I’ve Been Ministered to:
Ministering continues to happen to me. As a recipient, these were more than just kind acts. I have been humbled and strengthened as people do simple things that left me sure of their love and of the God they are patterning their lives after. Here are just 10:
· During a women’s dinner, someone went to the church kitchen and brought me out a toothpick loaded with skewered bread and butter pickles, because I had mentioned that I loved them.
· Several someone’s asked about a recent project I had underway and celebrated its completion with me.
· Someone played with my hair and scratched my back.
· Someone gave me a little ring, just so I knew I was loved.
· Someone showed up with lunch for my hubby and me when I returned her cheerful text inquiring how I was doing with a desperate, rambling text about how I was failing in multiple arenas.
· Several someone’s texted to offer help at our son’s wedding reception.
· Several someone’s consistently ask how my missionary is doing and show interest in his experiences on social media.
· Someone drove my child to and from an extracurricular activity for three months in a row.
· Someone bore her testimony of God’s hand in healing and strengthening her through her child’s addiction.
· Several someone’s have taken time to help me plan our family’s epic trip to Asia, giving me phone numbers of favorite drivers, sending me the travel and language apps I need to download, and loading me up with books to peruse.
Could you easily make a list of how you were ministered to this week? It’s like a gratitude journal, with a ministering twist.
Might I also point out that even though these folks didn’t necessarily use Christ’s name anywhere in our conversations, because I know they follow him, their actions bore testimony to what they believe and Who they follow.
I’m fortunate to be a member of our neighborhood’s Digital Ministering Committee. If you’ve never heard of that, it’s most likely because we’re the only one. (That we know of anyway.)
As members of this small committee, we were invited to help define how we could encourage others to use the modern tools and technology available to us to spread the love, hope, and gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather than calling ourselves “online missionaries,” which we are not, we were given a charge to teach people of all ages, how they can minister to those near and far through phones, email, text, video conferencing, blogs, forums, social media, and so on.
Since our beginnings last year, our committee has taught youth groups, women’s groups, church leadership, couples and more in bi weekly gatherings at someone’s home, as companions invited in to share a short message during a family’s evening gathering, or in small group classes taught in homes on Sunday afternoons or midweek mornings.
One former bishop of a congregation said “I have a ministering brother whose health is falling apart and another who’s family is falling apart. I never thought about using texting as a way to send them a scripture or encouragement.”
Two young parents who were both returned missionaries shared that they loved their missions but hadn’t been sure how to keep inviting and teaching other’s about Christ now that they were busy with their young twin girls. Using technology provided an efficient and comfortable way for them to do that.
A retired couple who have served numerous missions was happy that though their health would no longer permit them to serve away from home, or even to leave their home, they still had a way continue their joyful work of reaching out to bless and lift other’s through love and faith-promoting messages.
You don’t need to be a social media influencer to have influence. You don’t need to be a millennial techie to use technology.
What you DO need, is to have a ministering mindset and an at-the-ready question like “Is there anything I can do for you?”