Lately, I’ve found myself contemplating the “dark side” of Christian ministry. If you think that there couldn’t possibly be a “dark side” to such a noble thing as serving God and His people, you’re absolutely right—but not everything that calls itself “Christian ministry” is actually serving God and His people. We’ve witnessed some downright ungodly “stuff” going on in the name of Christ in our lifetime—including prominent people and organizations twisting the scriptures to promote personal profit, political and social agendas, and lifestyles that are hostile to “untwisted” Biblical Christianity.
Paul warned that this would happen, in his first letter to Timothy:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3, NNAS)
It’s unfortunate that many people hearing a discussion about Christ immediately see images of Robert Tilton, Jimmy Swaggart, the PTL Club, and the local preacher that was shown being arrested for something on TV news. Others recall images of TV and radio preachers pitching for donations, or of that Pastor whose huge church they once visited—the one who preached up a storm, then slipped out the back door so he wouldn’t have to deal with the crowd. The really sad thing is that, for many people, these are the only images of Christian ministry they can see.
If you’re in that camp, let me acquaint you with the side of Christianity that you’ve been missing. This side represents the majority of Christian ministries, by far. They don’t have that appearance, because they don’t get much press coverage. The media isn’t drawn to them, because there aren’t any juicy scandal stories to report. Most of these ministries can’t afford to spend their money promoting themselves in the media. Even if they could, they wouldn’t—they’d rather invest their resources in changing lives and healing broken hearts. They don’t have time to waste on superfluous self-promotion and spotlight grabbing. They’re too busy serving the Lord, serving their communities, and spotlighting Jesus.
These are hearty, gutsy folks. They know where the battlefield is, and they march on to that field determined to settle for nothing less than victory. They are Pastors and church staffers who are underpaid and overworked, driven not by fortune and fame but by a deep passion for the Gospel. There are gifted musicians with talent that could make them secular superstars, but who choose to work in relative anonymity, leading God’s people in worship and teaching them to praise God with their voices. They are bi-vocational Pastors who work full-time jobs and then work almost as many hours leading small churches that can’t afford to pay them. They are dedicated servants who build up homeless shelters, food pantries, and soup kitchens with their own personal funds, often going without to help others rebuild their lives. They are prayer warriors who spend hours on their faces before the throne of God, wrestling with the evil one and shoring up those kingdom laborers on the front line of the battlefield. They are people on a fixed income who would rather do without than not support their church with tithes and offerings. They are teens and college kids who volunteer their time to help others in need, following the example of their adult mentors, who work alongside them. They are ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God and are bold enough to take Him at His word, follow His direction and leading, and expect extraordinary results—and, they’re rarely disappointed.
I used to be impressed with big ministries doing big things with big promotional budgets and big name “stars.” Praise God, I’ve outgrown that. I’ve learned that the real “stars” of Christian ministry aren’t necessarily the ones who make the loudest noise—they’re the ones who make the loudest impact. They are totally sold out to God, tools in the hands of the master craftsman of the human heart. They may not make as much noise, but their contributions shout out the Glory of God in a powerful voice that makes those little “big-time” promoters sound like mice with laryngitis.
You have a choice. Which would you rather be?