taking the words of Jesus seriously

In a society obsessed with consumerism, comfort, and entertainment, it’s not surprising that the Great Commission, God’s command to love our neighbors, and Christ’s instructions to minister to others and care for the poor have been co-opted by secular ideals.

Instead of following Jesus’s example of selflessly sacrificing everything for the sake of others, Christians have become addicted to getting instead of giving.

Christian churches, organizations, and institutions now treat ministry and missions like a business, where believers can conveniently experience “ministry” in the most comfortable and enjoyable ways possible.

Ministry has become a Christian pseudo-industry based on the particular passions and hobbies of others. Whether it’s snowboarding, skydiving, or traveling the world, there’s a niche ministry tailored towards youNOT others.

When it comes to volunteering, ministry, and missions, Christians have become accustomed to being customers, where we want an immediate return on our investment. Too often, ministry is treated like a product we’re purchasing instead of an sacrifice we’re freely offering.

Thus, when we go on a short term missions trip to a third world country, we expect at least one day at the beach full of activities, tours, and fun. When we volunteer at a homeless shelter, we expect pizza afterwards. When we help pack food for people starving around the globe, we expect it to be a game to see who can accomplish the most. When we fast in order to raise money and awareness for the hungry, we expect it to be an all-night party and movie-watching marathon.

Related: Vanity of Vanities…Does Ministry Even Matter?

Missions are marketed—and received—as a commodity, where fun and games and travel and adventure are promoted more than the actual idea of helping someone.

Are Christians capable of loving others without receiving something in return? If a church plans a ministry that doesn’t involve food, socializing, travel, or fun—will anyone show up?!

Churches are guilty of promoting ministry as being glamorous because we’ve become addicted to the comfort of our everyday lives. So instead of incorporating ministry as a routine discipline that demands work and requires discomfort, we pretend ministry is lucrative, convenient, and flashy—even when it’s not.

Unfortunately, Christian culture has created a false expectation of what ministry is. Yes, it can be fun, exciting, and rewarding–but more often than not it’s really, really, REALLY hard.

The brutal reality is that missions (and ministry) is often grueling, tiresome, mundane, and frustrating—filled with heartache, disappointment, and suffering. It’s unglamorous and often unrewarding—requiring a lifetime of selfless serving and sacrifice.

Ministry is not just something you can just jump in and out of quickly. It’s not a weekend activity. It’s not a trip or vacation or destination. It’s doesn’t require a permission slip. It’s not exclusively organized and facilitated by churches and parachurch organizations. It’s not something you attend for a few hours.

Ministry is a lifestyle.

When Christians manipulate missions to be entertaining, light-hearted, and fun, we’re simply believing a lie—embracing a form of spiritual escapism. Too often, we would rather take the easy way out than participate in the ugly reality of the world we live in.

The consequences of trivializing ministry is that Christians become unprepared to handle the harsh truth about what it takes to serve others.  We often glorify ministry and hear testimonies of miracles, revivals, and countless lives completely changed due to the powerful work of God, but what we don’t reveal is the turmoil, pain, sacrifice, and huge commitment required to carry out this work.

Ministry not a short term activity. It’s a lifelong commitment.

Christians need to be more transparent about the hardship of ministry. The suffering of Jesus and his disciples is too often overshadowed by our superficial desire for comfort.

Also by Stephen: 6 Things I Hate About Being a Christian

Before we plaster pictures of our mission adventures to our social media feeds, proudly post photos of the people we “saved, ” and showcase the exotic destinations we’ve “ministered” at, we need to carefully reflect on the messages we’re really communicating.

When ministry is used to make us feel better, our faith has become cheapened.

Obviously, it’s not a sin to have a good time while participating in missions and facilitating ministry, but the problem is when it becomes the primary focus and motivation of our experience. Ultimately, Christians are called to love others no matter what—regardless of whether it’s fun, convenient, or comfortable.

Photo Credit: africa924 / Shutterstock.com

About The Author


Stephen Mattson is the author of "The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ." Follow him on Twitter (@StephenMattson_) and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.mattson

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