The Minister of the Gospel and Personal Preference

So, I’m reading an interesting and quirky little book that I recently won. That’s right—I entered a book drawing and I won! I’m so pleased with that fact, I’d read it even if I thought it sucked. But, as it happens, I am only a few pages in and very much enjoying it. The book is Church Planting is For wimps, by Mike McKinley.

Mr. McKinley has already delivered a little gem for me to think about.

“But I know a lot of guys who say they have a ‘burden’ when in reality what they have is a ‘personal preference’ or ‘a level of comfort’ with a certain location. So they reject all kinds of gospel opportunities because it doesn’t fit with their ‘burden’. But if God gives you an opportunity to plant a church in a place that has either Christians who need a church to proclaim the gospel to them or non-Christians who need a church to proclaim the gospel to them, you should think long and hard about it, even if it’s not in a location you would prefer.”

Now, in a preface to this statement, he concedes that God certainly does place burdens for specific ethnic/cultural/economic groups or locations on individual hearts. This is just a call to be honest about whether or not we have a genuine, specific, exclusive burden. When our vision of the people we would like to reach and minister to (and how that would look) excludes other kinds of opportunities, is that because God has supernaturally given us a very narrow focus? Or is it just because that type of ministry to that group of people in that kind of location appeals to us?

The funny thing is, his own prejudice wasn’t what you might expect. He loved all things punk and envisioned himself having an edgy ministry in the inner city where all the action is. The opportunity he was presented with was rejuvenating a dying church in a suburban neighborhood in one of the richest counties in the United States. Needless to say, he was less than enthusiastic at first.

Hubby and I are looking at ministry jobs, and I’ll be the first to admit that there are some positions that are more attractive to me than others. Some age groups and cultural settings are simply more comfortable for us. Do we feel like we have a burden or a calling to a specific group? Nope. Honestly some things sound like fun—and some sound intimidating. (I won’t go into detail for fear that if I suddenly become famous and widely read, it might compromise our chances of getting certain positions. :))

But, if we are given an opportunity to reach and invest in a group of people who need it—should it matter if that is where I feel most competent or comfortable? I might not be the most “gifted” with that particular group, but how is that relevant if they aren’t currently being reached by anyone? I might not enjoy their company as much as another group, but it’s funny how that can change once I decide to love someone and invest in them.

This does not only apply to vocational ministry. Any time we are deciding how to give ourselves in service to others, we need to be willing to examine our hearts. What criteria are we using to determine what we will or will not do—and is it honest?

1 Corinthians 9:22b-23 (NASB)
I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.
I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

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