I think a lot about ministry. The very nature of ministry is helping others. It is not possible to successfully minister without help from others. Collectively a group can accomplish far greater then the singular. When a group work together toward a common goal they are said to be in unity.
A goal every church congregation should be striving for is unity. Not a blind ‘follow the leader’ as some would desire, rather a commitment to achieving the greater goal of reaching the lost and training the found. Church programs, also known as ministries, are designed to perform either evangelism or discipleship tasks. Without a cohesive effort from the ministry team success will be greatly minimalized.
Jesus words found in John 17:20-23 (NIV) 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed, abandoned and crucified and his final prayer was for his disciples first and then for those who would believe. Jesus focus was for unity of believers with each other and with God.
Unity begins with and is about connections. Much can be said for the strength unity brings.
I had a great reminder about unity while restoring an old door. This door has been on a house in Iowa for nearly a century. A beautiful seven foot tall oak door with eight pieces of bevel cut glass insets. This door even had its original hinges and handle. However after enduring countless storms and untold opening and closings it was literally falling apart. The finish on this door had not been maintained allowing water to seep into the core. That caused the veneer and core to separate.
I have wondered before how a wood door stays amazingly straight and true. What keeps it from warping and cracking when exposed to the extremes of seasons? As I said already this door is oak meaning it has an oak veneer overlay. Repairs required stripping the old veneer completely off. That is when I found the secret of its strength.
The core of this door is made up of dozens of smaller pieces of wood in staggered position and glued together. What is amazing to me is that none of the smaller pieces have any particular value to the whole piece. In fact most of the pieces are hardly more than scrap. However if one piece tries to warp the surrounding parts hold it in place. There are only two pieces that run the entire length of the door in the core. One provides an anchor point for the hinges and the other provides integrity support to keep the weight of the door from pulling itself apart. These two pieces have the most connections most of the internal parts are only connected with three or four other parts. The entire shape and structure is based on the core.
Next an outer covering is added. This veneer is connected to the entire core. It provides stability as well as visual appeal. The covering also defines its purpose. After that a finish is put on the entire surface of the door. The finish enhances the natural beauty as well as protects the wood from the elements.
The hours I spent working on this project caused me to think about doors.
- What is the purpose of a door? Doors provide access and can offer protection. Doors can also change things, for instance, an alcove becomes a closet and a set of shelves become a cabinet. It can change direction of travel i.e. enter/exit, push/pull (ever walk into a pull door?) A door can enhance and identify a structure. Doors are made for specific purposes, (screen doors make lousy shower doors).
- Doors all have connections. Doors are built with multiple parts. It cannot perform its function without a connection to a structure. Even the finish such as paint or varnish that enhances and protects the door is a form of connection.
- A comparison between doors and ministry. Ministry provides access to needed resources. Ministry can provide security, privacy, and bring about change. It can enhance and identify a culture. Ministry can change an individuals direction in life. Ministries are built with multiple people, nobody can fulfill a purpose alone. Ministries cannot perform its function without being connected to something greater than itself. Ministries are created for specific purposes and are enhanced and protected with prayer. Doors and ministries both perform a function. Function is defined by purpose. Purpose, like the wood veneer, connects seemingly unconnected individuals.
- Unity occurs when connections become bonds. Bonds are created under pressure. In order to repair the door several pieces had to be reconnect with wood glue. To get the best results when gluing wood together is apply pressure until the glue sets. If I were to place two pieces of wood next to each other on my work bench they could set there until they rot and never connect. If I put glue on both pieces and leave them separate they still won’t connect. Setting the parts together with glue will make a bond but the best bonds occur under pressure. For that reason wood is clamped together when gluing. In the same way connections become bonds when we are put under pressure together for a time. That is doing life together!
Ministry is about connections covered with purpose. Jesus placed great value on connections that bring unity. I started out this post with John 17:20-23. A couple of points to draw from this passage are;
- Our purpose is to be one with the Lord so the world may believe God sent His son for us (vs. 21,23)
- Like the wood stained to enhance its character we share in the glory of Christ when we believe in Him (vs. 22).
- Prayer protects us from worldly influence that brings division. Much like the clear finish put on a door, prayer must be maintained to remain effective.
The most important connection you can have is a relationship with Jesus Christ. He must be the anchor point in all we do. His will must be our purpose. Without Him we are like paper storm doors, we might appear strong but we will not be able to stand against the influence of the world. Without a personal connection to God through Jesus we are no better than scrap wood destined for the fire pit.
The good news is no matter how much your life has been weathered by storms God is able restore you. Jesus is only a prayer away.
Rev. Burt Schwab