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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Is Writing Your Ministry... Really?

The other day on facebook, I asked what ONE thing each person would be willing to do today to be Jesus to the world.

Someone  wrote that they were going to get busy writing. This got me thinking about whether or not that's enough.

Now, I don't know what that one lady is doing. Perhaps she tithes her work, writes stories that she shares with church newsletters, blogs, etc that have to do with furthering the kingdom of Christ.

I write for a living. I'd like to think that it's also a ministry. But should it be my only ministry? I strongly believe that if it was, I'd be deluding myself. My writing may speak to some people, others it will just entertain and at the end of the day, it's how I pay my bills.

Should that count as my main ministry? For myself, I don't think so. If I was a plumber, I might minister to people throughout my day. Always do a great job at a fair price because it's the right thing to do as I'm working for God, not man. I might share the gospel when the opportunity arises but when people ask me what I'm doing to serve the church--and I don't define the church as a place, but Christ's body of believers, I might say, I'm a plumber, I serve God all day long. I'd probably get a few raised eyebrows from people who are thinking, um, that's your job.

If you write, trying to get published, or are publishedm and that's all you're doing for the body, may I challenge you to not be content as this being your only ministry or even your main one. If you hope to make money, the truth is, it's your job.

Take a moment today and ask yourself what you're really doing to encourage the body of Christ, as we are commanded, to pick up your Bible and start reading, studying so that you can be reminded (or learn) what God wants of us. What are you doing outside of writing a novel? What you're doing to feed the starving, clothe the naked, to serve in our home churches in some capacity, to minister to the hurting, and most importantly fulfill the great commission to spread the gospel of Christ to the world--which is what we are all asked to do by God Himself.

Other than the great commission, you can't do it all, but you can do SOMETHING. You SHOULD do something.

Yes, ministry can be done through writing, but let's not delude ourselves, it is our job. It should go without saying that we'll do that to the best of our abilities. It is the sacrifice of time and resources that love asks of us.

We, as a nation, are lazy, apathetic, and self-centered. I include myself in this group, but I have decided I don't want to be those things anymore. It's a constant battle in a country where even our poor are richer than most of the world to find a reason to care. If I fill my mind with American Idol, and QVC purchases, I don't have to think about the suffering my fellow man is under. I lie to myself and say there is nothing I can do about it. Make no mistake that is a lie.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted around the world. They are starving. They are orphans. I challenge you to pray to be burdened as God is burdened for His children. Pray for THEM, not just for a book contract, not just for your sales to improve, or your writing. Pray for THEM.

There are things you can do. Things you SHOULD do--prayer is a big one, but shouldn't be the only one. Ministry is possible for everyone. It's possible for YOU. Right now. Today.

I recently spent a few days in the presence of people who are dedicating their lives to what the rest of us try to ignore. You can be part of this. If you don't do anything else, you can do this. It's called Media Change. As a nation we spend billions of dollars on entertainment while much of the world doesn't even have enough to eat. Think about that for just a second. That HBO, satellite dish, dinner out, could feed and clothe people for weeks who have nothing. NOTHING.

This organization equips ministries around the world, who are doing what WE should be doing, to give them a chance to reach so many more than they could without their help. They produce videos that are shown in churches that show the needs of the people so that the viewers will be moved to actually help. They help them design their websites so that they look professional enough for people to trust they're helping something worthwhile. They are traveling to the Sudan and other parts of the world to see the needs, photograph the people, and bring the burden back to this apathetic nation, to OUR apathetic hearts.

Having spent time with the leaders, the movers and the shakers, I can tell you from one friend to another, that it is a worthwhile cause that humbles me. What they're asking us to do is to take $10.00 a month (just ten stinking dollars!) that we would spend on entertainment and partner with them to reach the world. Because our ten dollars doesn't do much alone, but coupled with other's ten dollars, the impact is powerful.

Losing HBO, or a couple of Starbucks coffees a month, or making burgers at home instead of going to Mc Donalds, or whatever, is not such a big sacrifice when our brothers and sisters are being slaughtered, or when mothers are watching their children starve to death, or families murdered because they are Christians.

Besides joining Media Change (www.mediachange.org) OURSELVES, we can share Christ with the world through sharing scripture on our facebook page, by tithing our writing on our blogs or websites by sharing a story that needs to be shared, receiving nothing in return . . .  there are so many things.

Yes, writing is a ministry, but unless you're tithing it, sharing the gospel, feeding the poor, encouraging others to do the same, it's your job, or a hobby. We are called to reach the lost. We are called to feed the poor. To help the hurting. We need to snap out of this trance we're in. It's killing people. And whether we realize it or not, it's killing us.

The apathy we feel as a nation is understandable. We have never known the kind of pain, the kind of need, the kind of horror so many around the world must live through every day. Does God need to put our nation through it so that we feel finally feel real empathy?

 But we can do something. We can pray. We can join Media Change. We can share stories to encourage others to wake up from their apathy and do something.

Faith WITH action proves faith.

What will YOU do today to serve the church? To serve your God?  It's not just me asking, I believe it's Him through me today meant for YOU. Meant for ME.

11 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

It's easy to slip into complacency this way, thinking I have no time left. But God is the Time Manager and there IS time if we're honest. I'm so glad you brought this out, Gina. Good stuff!!

Michael Ehret said...

Good points, Gina. Certainly part of my job is also a ministry, but mostly it's a career/job--and that's OK, because whatever job I do, I do it to the glory of God. But ministry, as I see it, is different.

My ministry is what I do to further the kingdom. It might be writing/editing related tasks for my church, it might be singing in the choir, it might be serving at the homeless shelter or volunteering to deliver Christmas presents or praying. But it definitely is walking around my world with an open heart and an open invitation for God to use me as His tool to bring reconciliation and healing.

Provocative post.

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks guys. I'm really struggling with the blues, partly I'm sure the lack of sunshine but in large part because every now and then the apathy around and in me gets me down. Hearing how others are putting faith into action, not just in lip service but in deeds and truth is such an encouragement. You guys are such a blessing. Thank you.

Patrick J. Moore said...

Wow. You lost me once you started your sales pitch for a specific ministry that you believe in. Yes, for some reason you beating up your fellow career writers was interesting enough to hold my attention until that point.

Giving to effective ministries is an awesome thing. I have a handful that I give to myself. I am a paid counselor- and although I don't really consider that a ministry exactly (because "it's my job" as you say) most people who know what I do believe it is a ministry- claiming they couldn't handle this work for any amount of pay.

The people who are employed by the ministries we support get paid by the ministry through our donations. I hope they all consider that their main ministry and pour themselves into it- that is what we are giving money for them to do.

The ministers in our churches are hopefully getting paid. I appreciate the ways they minister to me and my family. You can get paid for your ministry and it can still be ministry. Anyone who's life is in full-time ministry needs to get paid- they need to eat, and have a place to sleep, and have a safe place for their family to live.

If anyone is making donations to support your writing I hope you consider it a ministry and do not let those donors down with what you create.

"most importantly fulfill the great commission to spread the gospel of Christ to the world--which is what we are all asked to do by God Himself" - Gina

AMEN! And we do that using words- speaking out about what God has done in our lives. The Most Important thing we can do is share our faith. I know a few bloggers that minister to me regularly through their WRITING. Testifying to what God is doing in their lives, in the public realm of the internet.

For myself writing is just a hobby. But I know God wants me to do more with it- for Him. God gives us all gifts to use in his Kingdom and if you are using them to His Glory and not your own then you are ministering. Just because you get paid or you enjoy it doesn't mean you aren't ministering.

Jesus says we will suffer for him, but that suffering is supposed to come from the way the world treats us for following Him. It shouldn't be self-inflicted. If you enjoy your ministry keep doing it! Don't go dig a sewer system because you feel guilty that you are paid or enjoy what you do. Serve God because you love God, and serve humanity because you love them too. Ministry should flow from God's love overflowing in your life into the lives of others.

IF you don't have that love- don't give away money to random programs, or go sulk at the soup kitchen dishing out food for the homeless. You can beat yourself up for being a spoiled, selfish, American if you want. But I'd rather you draw closer to God first- read the Bible, pray regularly for people that matter to you, and listen to God for direction in what to do about it- let him use you in answering your prayers. And if He asks you to serve without pay- do it joyfully because you love Him. If you give to starving children, do it because you hurt for them and truly care. If you go into full time ministry- accept payment to sustain your family- and do it because you know God called you to that, gifted you for that, and will provide for you through His people. Don't feel guilty because you are paid- feel grateful. And if God asks you to write I hope you will write.

Gina Holmes said...

There's nothing you said that I disagree with. Getting paid as part of ministry does not make it not a ministry but many of us hide behind the fact that we're writing for the Kingdom with our novels and think that's enough. I don't believe it is. This wasn't mean to stand in judgment, but as a kick in the pants for those of us who are being lazy and deceiving ourselves. We can and should do this if we feel called to. But that doesn't negate prayer. It doesn't negate Bible study. It doesn't negate charity. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Katherine Hyde said...

Gina, I would certainly agree that every Christian should be actively serving his or her neighbor in some way. But to say that because something is your job, it can't also be your ministry, does not make sense to me. What about ordained clergy? Ministry IS their job. I work for a Christian publisher; it's my job, but I also consider it a ministry. And I think writers can have a very great ministry through their writing, even if they don't do the things you mention.

For example, look at Charles Dickens. He wasn't an easy person to live with; as a person, his impact on the world may have been on balance more negative than positive. But the impact of his books was and continues to be tremendously positive. His books spread the Gospel far more effectively than many people do by actually preaching it—and that wasn't even his conscious goal.

I would never say that producing great art justifies anyone in neglecting his Christian duty, let alone in behaving badly. But I do have to differ with you when you say that writing, in and of itself, cannot be a ministry. It just has to be really good writing.

Gina Holmes said...

Again, I didn't say that because something is your job it can't also be your ministry. My writing is a ministry. I'm saying that is not ALL we are called to do. Novels can be ministering tools but that doesn't free us from the duty to give to the poor, to minister to the needy, to pray, to study God's word. That's what I'm saying.

Patrick J. Moore said...

Gina, I didn't think you'd disagree and I don't exactly disagree with you either. But, I know not all of your readers are career writers, and I hoped to add a balance to your position for those who do write as a ministry.

I know one such writer who has struggled with the validity of a writing ministry. You may have your seat in a chair, but Writing IS Doing something. Whether you are bringing awareness of the working of God, being a voice for the abused and neglected who can't speak up for themselves, or just offering encouragement to those who work and struggle to be Kingdom people in their every day lives. If you are blessed with writing ability then writing is a way that you can touch lives that most people can't.

Writing impacts lives in very real ways... too many Christians keep their mouths shut (and fingers off the keys) to not offend or make anyone uncomfortable, keep the peace... and blend in with the non-believing crowd. Contributing your words of faith, hope, and love to the world does make a difference.

And so does Honesty. I love your honesty, Gina. I can always count on your posts to say it like it is. I hope I didn't come across negatively- I started that last post poorly, but wrote what I felt should be said at the point that I felt the need to say it- but I did go back and finish reading.

Great post! I hope those who needed kicked got kicked with your words, but I hope those who needed encouragement receive that too. Thank you.

sally apokedak said...

Thanks! Good post.

I think my problem is that I am so overwhelmed. There is so much that needs to be done. There are so many worthy ministries and charities. We can't do it all.

The great thing is that together, we probably can do it all. God lays starving children on your heart, pregnant teens on someone else's heart, and persecuted Christians on a third person's heart.

We are all called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that means that we help the injured man in our paths even if he's not in the group we're interested in. In other words, if I'm on the way to a Crisis Pregnancy Center to serve where I believe God's called me to serve, and God puts a homeless man in my path who asks me for money, I stop and give him some money. But I don't then derail my ministry to pregnant teens to go and volunteer in the homeless shelter.

That's the way I've approached ministry. I've found that the things God has called me to have changed over time, too, and when I've tried new ministries and stretched myself it's been good for me and for those I'm ministering to. So I try to keep a balance between staying the course and being in my comfort zone, and moving on when I've grown stale, passing the ministry to someone with more vigor, and stretching myself to try something new.

One thing that I can say for sure is that when I'm serving God and neighbor I'm alive and happy and when I'm serving myself I'm sluggish and sad.

Gina Holmes said...

Absolutely. The thing I'm seeing is that most of us. Yes, most are doing nothing outside of writing. I have used the writing as ministry excuse. Yes, yes, yes, it's a ministry . Possibly the strongest one I have but we should all be involved in something. It doesn't have to be what I am burdened with. But please please be burdened with something. If you're not, pray to be.

What breaks my heart is that we have so much and so many of us give so little. I can do better, I know I can. And for those of you who are, thank you. You don't hear it enough. Thank you for serving our brothers and sisters. Thank you for tithing to your church who then send missionaries and preach God's word. Thank you for giving to the salvation army, the food bank, the rescue mission. Thank you for inviting your neighbors to church. For reading God's word, for praying for those around the world that you can't reach yourself. Thank you for the charities you give to above and beyond your tithe. And thank you for taking the time to read this, because it means you care. Most won't. That's the hard truth. And suddenly God has burdened my heart for those not burdened.

We can't do it all but we can do so much. We can start by doing something. One thing today. And then tomorrow. What the world would be if we all did something. . . wow.

Joshua MacLeod said...

Great conversation. Here's a couple of thoughts to add to the mix...

1. God designs us for good works.

Eph 2:10 - "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. "

2. Everybody has a different role.

Rom 12:4 - "For as in one body, we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many are one body in Christ."

3. If we ask God. He will specifically tell us what to do...if we seek Him with all our heart.

Jer 29:13 - "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart."

4. The Bible lays out some pretty clear guidelines for what "good works" look like.

SPEAK UP FOR THE VOICELESS

Pr 31:8-9 - "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute, open your mouth, judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor and needy."

VISIT THE ORPHAN AND WIDOW

James 1:27 - "Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this to visit the orphan and the widow in their distress and keep oneself unspotted from the world.

FEED THE HUNGRY, GIVE WATER TO THE THIRSTY, SERVE THE REFUGEE, CLOTH THE NAKED, HEAL THE SICK, VISIT THE PRISONER.

Matt 25:34-36 - Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed cloths and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

MAKE DISCIPLES

Matt 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Speak, Visit, Feed, Give, Serve, Cloth, Heal, Go.

People are eternal and so we can only be truly satisfied when we're doing eternal things. All of the actions described in Scripture have value for all eternity.

I personally feel that everything we do should be in some way connected with the "eternal activities" listed above.

if I write, then I want to connect my writing with serving people.

If the writer pays the carpenter to build a house for orphans, I think both people share in the same activity.

But actual action is important.

At the end of revelation, Jesus says some pretty powerful words.

Rev 22:11 - Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

... to repay everyone for what he has done.