How do we tell if a given ministry is legitimate?
In a recent conversation, I heard frustration. My friend felt mired in a church guided by “Wax Museum” elders (my characterization)…
Wax Museum Elders are those who appear, even on close examination, to be believers working for the Kingdom of God. But who, in reality, are fixed and cold. A model of something once living. Changing posture is impossible. Any amount of heat and they melt away…
The question is : Biblical evaluation of a ministry. What’s that?
Statistically, as churches age the number of people “converted” to genuine faith diminishes. On an annual basis, if one simply uses the number of people baptized? It can be far less than 2-3 percent “increase”. The number falls again if you subtract the number of children baptized who are really not of the “age of accountability”.
John the Baptist found himself wondering about Jesus. So he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Lu. 7:19
Jesus’ response is recored thus:
“In that very hour, He cured many of infirmities…” So, John’s disciples personally witnessed Jesus at work in his ministry. And then Jesus returned his reply to John by telling them:
” So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” ” Lu 7: 22
This is how we measure a ministry. Don’t confuse the metaphors.
- The blind receive sight: Spiritual eyes opened to truth.
- The lame walk: Paralyzed get up, move and work in the Kingdom of God.
- Lepers are cleansed: Freedom. Re-birth. Sin covered. No condemnation.
- The deaf hear: Recognize and receive word of God – directly. Discernment.
- The dead are raised: People are brought to life in Christ from lifelessness.
- The good news proclaimed to the poor: Those who aren’t in pews, hear the gospel.
These cannot be faked. “By their fruit you will know them.” If the church we attend isn’t operating in these realms, it’s wax.
We should especially note Jesus’ comment “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” John wasn’t able to do the miracles Jesus performed. Rather than joining the Pharisees in opposition, he stood aside saying “(Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.” He encouraged his disciples to follow Jesus. There was no division.
The problem with wax leadership is that it probably won’t move or step aside… until it’s burned away.
On that last point of fruit – “The good news proclaimed to the poor”. Great wealth exists within the confines of Sunday service or a Wednesday evening study at “church.” Wealth of knowledge, wealth of experience, wealth in temporal terms. Hair washed, clothes clean. Bodies are perfumed and adorned with jewelry. Every eye that needs lenses has it’s corrective. After Jesus had taught in the synagogues (Mt. 9:35.) … Outside, in streets and on the hills were those not welcome in church…
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Mt. 9″36-38
“Harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” …Outside our churches at any given moment are many, many poor – these are ones that haven’t a way of hearing the Gospel. Jesus worked among the messy, the worst, the unwashed and unwell – because he said “those who are well have no need of a physician.”