Ministry or People?
While we were living in Sonora, Mexico, I had an experience that illustrates one of the most discouraging things I encounter throughout the Body of Christ in the western world today. If it were the first time I had seen it, I probably wouldn't take the time to write about it, but it is an attitude that I have witnessed over and over again in our 30+ years of ministry.
There are several American ministries that had come to our city over the years. One of them came to co-host a city-wide youth event and brought with them a young man who regularly shares a powerful and moving testimony of his life. On the first night of the two day event, they announced that he would be speaking the following evening, and encouraged the young people to bring their friends.
Dulce, a precious young lady who we were working with at the time, was part of a group of young people that had a dream of putting together a weekly Christian television program. She had previously heard this young man's testimony, and immediately upon discovering that the young man would be sharing again, she asked me if I would help arrange for and translate a brief interview with him. "¡Por supuesto! (of course)," I said.
After the meeting, I approached the leader of the American ministry and introduced her to Dulce, who explained that she'd like bring her cameraman the following evening to meet the young man and conduct a brief interview. This minister told her that she would be granted an interview, but very firmly stated that only she would do the translating.
I was a little surprised that she so forcefully insisted on being the one to translate the interview, but thought to myself, "Maybe she's afraid that I don't speak Spanish well enough to translate accurately," so I let it go.
The following evening, Dulce returned with her cameraman. While interviews were being conducted in the auditorium lobby with the young speaker, she approached the leader of the American ministry for the interview she'd been promised. She was waved off with a brush of the hand and was told she would not have one. She was impatiently told that they already had an interview with an established local magazine instead.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), and Dulce was devastated. And frankly, I was furious at the way she'd been treated - especially by one who stands on the platform and announces to the crowd that they are here to love and help the people. I was so angry, in fact, that I couldn't approach this ministry leader to ask why she went back on her word, as it would have been out of a completely wrong spirit (be angry, and sin not (Ephesians 4:26)...) and most probably not received.
It was only after several days of working through all the negative stuff that was still in my heart, that I really began to think about what I had witnessed, and - more importantly - why? This is not the first time I have encountered insensitive ministers and seen people's hopes crushed. While I'm the first to admit that I'm not as sensitive as I could be, it still grieves my spirit when I encounter ministers that publicly declare their "love" and talk about all the great things they're doing for God and for the people, but privately run roughshod over them and act as though they simply don't care. However the thought process led me to a realization. I've seen this operating somewhere before.
I've seen it in politics. I believe that most politicians begin their careers out of a genuine desire to help and serve people. But they also believe that the higher the political position they can achieve, the more people they can serve, so they begin to focus on getting elected to higher offices. They begin to tell the people whatever they think will convince them to vote in their favor, whether they intend to follow through or not. In many cases, by the time they are in office, they have lost sight of serving the people, and have shifted their focus to remaining in office. And that takes money. So they begin to compromise even more and do whatever it takes to get the money they need to run their campaigns, catering to those who can help their political ambitions, and not to those they have sworn to serve. They will spend more time campaigning than solving problems. They begin to do what's best for their politcal careers, and not for the people.
Could we be doing the same in the Church world? Could we believe that we won't make a difference until we have a big, recognized ministry? Could we be focused more on the things that will give us "big press" - like an interview with an established magazine instead of with a yet-to-be aired TV program? Could we only be interested in the people who can do something for us in return? Could we be doing what's best for our ministries and not for the people we were called to serve?
There are two types of ministers in the church world - those who use people to build their ministries, and those who use their ministries to build people. Which will you be?