Stop Loving Your Ministry

Dr. Seuss is a genius. His story about an elephant who hears things is remarkable. When Horton proclaims, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” he is making a profound statement of humanity. Everybody matters.

Last week, I read two articles that were important to me. One talked about the importance of reclaiming the pro-life movement (here). The other talked about the importance of showing our love for gay people with our actions (here).

Both stated a similar theme: people are people to be loved, not issues to be won.

For too long, we have spent so much time trying to be right that we have forgotten to be loving. All the animals in the forest knew that Horton was crazy because no one could live on the tip of a flower. They were so convinced they were right they were ready to cage Horton and boil the flower.

They were so convinced they were right. But they were wrong.

Dr. Seuss has given us a parable for how we interact with our communities today. Sometimes, we are in danger of focusing so much on doing everything right that we forget we are called to love, serve, and minister to people.

In other words, we need to quit loving our ministry and start loving people.

I first heard this idea at the National Urban Ministry Conference last month. NUMA president Jim Harbin said this as he addressed the conference attendees. Stop loving your ministry. Start loving people.

Falling in love with a ministry is akin to falling in love with an ideology. In politics, this leads to people being more loyal to their party than to their constituents. In business, this leads to people making decisions to improve the bottom line instead of employees’ lives.

In churches and para-church organizations, this leads to people tying their specific formula to the path to Heaven instead of following the call of Jesus to love people.

Stop being convinced of your right-ness to the detriment of your love to others.

We need to stop loving our ministry and start:

  • Giving people another chance
  • Developing job skills to make people more employable
  • Creating housing projects to give the homeless a home
  • Partnering with medical professionals to offer necessary care for those who cannot afford it
  • Working with other agencies who have greater resources than we do
  • Working with other churches regardless of denominational affiliation
  • Providing the appropriate 12 step programs to help people overcome addiction
  • Mentoring men and women of all ages to help them learn what it means to live responsible lives
  • Sharing lives with those we serve

We must remember that a person is a person, no matter how small. Or how poor. Or what ethnicity they are. Or gender. Or orientation. Or religion.

We are called to love and to serve. We do that by loving people, not our ministry.

When Jesus’ disciples started bragging about stopping a person from driving out demons in Jesus’ name because “he wasn’t one of us,” Jesus rebuked them. He said, “Anyone who offers another a cup of cold water in my name is doing the will of My Father.” The importance was the presence of love; not being included in a certain group.

In other words, Jesus was saying, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Jesus was saying, “Stop loving your ministry and start loving people.”

Let us go love people.

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