Working together in ministry isn’t just about working, even if you’re the leader. It’s even more about the “together” part. Ministry of any kind ultimately isn’t about the task—it’s about the people God puts in our path while we’re doing the task. As we spend time together, we “catch” things—we learn things from one another—that we might never have discovered if we were just focused on the task or following instructions. And sometimes just being able to trust others helps us discover things about ourselves we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his classic book Life Together, said it well: “Christians… forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking…. [H]e who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.” If we want people to be involved in our ministries, then we need to be involved with people. It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult.
So think about this: When has God used you to really grow others—whether it was one person or a group? What do you think helped that person or persons grow the most?
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
Most of us are familiar with this passage about the early church. It’s often held up as a model for how we should do church. And yet, this example from God’s Word has often intimidated us as much as it’s inspired us. So let’s take the “spiritual context” out of this passage for a few minutes and see what’s left to talk about.
• Which of these activities could anyone do, whether they know Jesus or not?
• How does adding Jesus to the mix transform these activities into something more—something that honors God even as we enjoy each other’s company?
• Think again about our first question—particularly, the things you didn’t mention. Do we always need to add these other activities back in to make it “a God thing”? Why or why not?
Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12).
• In what ways do Paul and company care for and grow the Thessalonian church? What actions and attitudes do you see here?
• What kind of “children” do you work with right now? Are they compliant? mischievous? rebellious? something else?
• How can you convey to them “I’m all in”—that you’re not just there for them as a co-worker but as a friend, a fellow “child,” maybe even as a more involved “parent”?
Hopefully at least one thing you’ve learned about leadership is that while the responsibility may fall to you, you’re not in this alone. Jesus gave us an example, and He gave us way more than that. He shared all of his life with his followers, and He gave all of his life for every one of us. And He left us with the opportunity to remember that because of the life He gave for us, we all have life together in Him. Let’s be sure to live it out.