The Ministry You Don’t Think About

A man and his wife, Stephen and Elizabeth, said goodbye to our church today.

I don’t know them well.  But I – and a good three-fourths of the congregation – wept when they announced that God had called them to move to New York.

What’s that all about?

In truth, I’ve only ever had one individual encounter with this couple: they introduced themselves to us when, during a special service, they found themselves next to us in the pew.  That’s because the rest of the time, they were on stage during the service we attended: both in the choir, and both members of a small music group that provided special singing.

In addition to this, Stephen always opened the prelude to our church service. He had a soothing, public-radio voice, and he’d step up to the microphone every single Sunday and open the service with the following words: “Welcome to our fellowship today.  As the prelude music begins, let’s try to make the transition from getting here to being here.”  And then, after that, he would exhort us to fellowship, making the sign of the cross as he reminded us: “Please remember that a life connected to God and then connected to others is the richest life there is.”

He was a presence, and so was his wife.  They radiated peace in a way that I rarely ever see in believers, even very strong ones.  They clearly loved each other deeply, and they clearly loved the church.  I often joked with my husband that I wanted to carry them around with me so that her smile and his encouragement to transition from “getting here to being here” could soothe me in my panicked, chaotic, and anxious moments.

When my pastor announced their departure today, he cried.  I cried.  They cried, even as we all rejoiced together in what God might have for them.  But in the middle of the poignant farewell, I also found myself amazed:

What an impact.

We never really knew each other!  I never broke bread with these people.  I never prayed with them or attended a small group with them.  But their consistency and their faithfulness and their whole attitude, both together and individually, became such an encouragement to me and a part of my Sundays that I was surprised by how much I’d miss it.

Real truth: you don’t have to interact with other believers one-on-one to be impacted by them. Sometimes people are such clear examples of God’s love with their behavior and their attitudes that just observing them and witnessing how they are with others is enough.  When you see brothers and sisters who are like that, you’re encouraged to do more yourself for the Lord, to grow a little more, to be a little better.

That’s your implicit ministry, my friends.  The life you go about living day to day, your manner, your interactions, your attitude: it influences and impacts the people around you in ways you probably can’t imagine and won’t even ever really know.

So don’t be discouraged if your explicit ministries aren’t going anywhere, or you feel like your impact for God in the day-to-day is small.  There are eyes on you, and people who observe you and who are impacted by your actions and your attitude (for good and even for ill).  What better motivation to work on our own lives, on how we handle ourselves in the day-to-day, in how we approach our fellow believers, or strangers, or even our own problems?

Each of us probably has more influence than we can imagine, and it’s up to us to be good stewards of that influence – even and especially for those we may never interact with face-to-face.

 

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