“Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.” That’s what one preacher said in the 1800s.
Of course, we’ve heard the same message in different ways. We have to make sense, for example, of when Jesus said in order to follow him we are to hate our own family. The next thing Jesus tells us is that we can’t be his follower if we don’t renounce all that we have. Indeed, there’s a cost we must account for.
If following Jesus and pursuing kingdom ministry means denying yourself, what does it cost to do so?
One of the churches I served once held a buy-a-brick fundraiser. Part of the project included a brick for every pastor ever appointed to serve there since the church opened in the mid 1800s. With all that great history, I know I was that church’s best associate pastor! Never mind that I was the only one they’ve ever had and there’s only one Associate Pastor brick.
I noticed something when the project was completed.
As I looked over the names of the pastors, early on a lot of them were not around very long. Itinerant ministry was different back then, for sure. But even so, several of the pastors didn’t have more than one year. I asked someone who had been around the church for a while why they thought that was so.
“Well, those were different times, Pastor. My guess is if the people didn’t like what you said, they would let you know. People carried shotguns around back then.”
Of course, that was a joke. Kind of.
Pastoral ministry was different in the 1800s. There was a cost many pastors today might not be willing to pay. Costly ministry in our terms today means thousands of dollars for streaming equipment or new buildings. I’m sure finances have always been a factor in ministry, at least in some regard.
But I’d like to consider the cost of ministry isn’t all about money, not even a lot about money. Instead, the cost of ministry is much deeper. Of course, the ministry I’m talking about isn’t just pastoral ministry either.
It’s your ministry. It’s how you advance the kingdom of God where and when God leads you. There’s a cost we all have to consider.
Luke introduces us to Saul in the seventh chapter of Acts. He’s mentioned almost in passing as the people stone Stephen. In the next chapter, this unknown-to-us Saul is now ravaging the church.
Luke says that a great persecution arose once Stephen died. The church scattered as a result. I appreciate how the NRSV translates what happened. As the church scattered, Saul went from house to house taking people to prison for their belief in Jesus.
But those who were scattered went from place to place to preach Jesus. Evil went house to house, but hope went place to place.
What was the cost of ministry then? It wasn’t money. It was safety and freedom. You could say the cost was humiliation and persecution.
Now, take some time to reflect on your ministry. If it’s going to be fruitful and faithful and accomplish anything for the glory of God, chances are, it’s going to cost you something. Maybe it will be a financial cost. Then again, maybe you’re going to need to endure hardship for a season or even pushback. Would it be worth it to you?
What is it going to cost you to fulfill your ministry of reconciliation?