As a family, we believe that life is meant to be an adventure. When our kids look back at their childhoods, we hope that they will not only see a highlight reel of outdoor adventure experiences, but also be convinced that every day life also holds the potential for great challenge and thrill!
Thus far, our plan appears to be working. Maybe a little too well…
Unfortunately, along with every adventure comes risk. Yes, we do a lot of fun stuff, but it never comes without the chance that someone will get hurt. We’ve certainly had our fair share of bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes, and, of course, the tears that come along with them.
But one of our other great ambitions as parents is to teach our children the value of choice. We operate, as Tim calls it, on a “challenge by choice” basis – meaning if you don’t want to participate, that is your choice. But if you do choose to participate, you must understand that “risky activity may lead to potentially painful consequences”. You may get hurt, but you must understand that you took that risk!
So, when you decide you want to try ‘snowboarding’ on a plastic sled down an icy, hard driveway, you may experience quite a thrill! But you also may end up falling flat on your back – OUCH!
And making yourself a snowbank-chair where you can get a front-row seat on your sisters’ antics is never a risk-free activity…
After over 20 years of being a member of the body of Christ and actively serving in this body, I’ve learned that ministry is never a risk-free activity. Getting involved in what God is doing in the hearts and lives of others can be thrilling – there’s nothing like witnessing God on the move and knowing you were a part of it! However, the adventures of serving God never come without possibility of painful consequences.
You may be taken advantage of. Having a heart that is willing to serve wherever, whenever is key. But since those hearts are few and far between, that often gives you a fast forward to the top of the volunteer list. Others may even decide you’re so willing and so good at what you do, you must not need them anymore (and *poof* they’re gone!).
Your efforts may go unnoticed. The majority of ministry happens behind the scenes and the time, energy, and heart that you pour into a person, group of people, or task may never be recognized. You may never be thanked or honored – in fact all you may ever get are complaints because…
Someone may disagree with what you’re doing or the way you’re doing it. No matter how confident you are, it’s still no fun to be told you’re wrong. Though most critics are well-meaning on some level, there’s a strong possibility the good you are doing will take a back seat to what they think you could be doing better. And speaking of people…
You may be hurt by someone you serve or serve with. The church is full of broken people, which means your chances of exposure to brokenness (and therefore hurt) in ministry are right around 100%.
You may mess something up. Since you and I are among those broken and flawed people, we don’t always make the best choices. Even those of us who diligently strive to seek and obey God in our ministry activities still have our judgment clouded by self and rush and fear every once in a (short) while. In other words, this one’s a guarantee!
You may even find out it’s not your gifting after all. Those first steps of getting involved in a ministry are often hindered by the nagging questions of “What if I’m not good at that?” or “How do I even know what I’m good at?”. Yes, there’s at least a small possibility that all the effort and time and energy you poured into a specific ministry may feel like a waste when you find out it’s just not your thing.
And finally, your ministry may appear ineffective. Since most of God’s work happens in the heart – in the deep places of the soul that are not visible to the general public, and since God isn’t in a rush like we are, the probability of you seeing that immediate, visible ‘fruit’ you think you need to see is low. Even if you are seeing some ‘results,’ they will rarely feel proportionate to the effort you’re putting in!
As parents, we recently added a new ending to this much repeated family phrase. It now goes something like this: “Risky activity? Potentially painful consequences. Totally worth it.” When I say this to my girls as they’re deciding whether or not to try something (or more often after the tears of failure or injury have ensued), I’m reminding them that the experience of adventure trumps the “OUCH!” that might happen as a result.
When I accepted Christ and then committed my life to ministry, I was ready for adventure! I knew I would be ‘stretched’ and ‘challenged’, but my naive self had no idea the kind of risk I was taking! I can safely say I’ve experienced everything on this list – and since I’m not done yet, I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.
But it’s been totally worth it! Even knowing that one person came to know Jesus or grew in their relationship with Him – and that I was a part of that – makes it worth all the pain on the other side. As 3 John 1:4 states: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Other than the joy of knowing God ourselves, there is no greater thrill than the experience of seeing others come to know Him – or know Him better!
Yes, you may be taken advantage of and your hard work may never be appreciated. Yes, the critics may arise and the relationships might get tricky. Yes, you will make mistakes and it may even feel like you’re wasting your time. But it’s your choice. The risk of bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes – oh yeah, and the tears that come with them – is real, but I think you’ll find the adventure is totally worth it!