A couple of months ago I was at Granger Community Church for a couple days of workshops that they were holding. I took Mark Waltz’s classes both days, and a statement he made in that class has stuck with me and keeps replaying itself in my head (Yes, I hear voices! – JK). That statement was this, “We are responsible ‘to’ people, we are not responsible ‘for’ people.”
As I have mulled that over in my head for the last couple of months, and used it as a lens in which to do ministry, it has helped to to focus on what I need to do for others, and leave the rest up to God. As I was reading in Acts this morning, I came across Paul’s goodbye to the church in Ephesus. As he writes to them, he says in verse 26 “I tell you today that I am no longer responsible for any of you!” A few verses later (32) he says, “I now place you in God’s care.” He says that after he tells them all of the things he has done to help them take their next steps and after he tells them, “Ok, now it is up to you to go on from here.” Paul knew he had come to the end of what he could do, and that the rest was up to the work that God wold have to do in their lives.
Many people in churches today have this idea that we must push people along the same route, and that it all takes the same amount of time for everyone to get to the next step. They treat the journey in Christ like it has a cookie cutter design to it that everyone should follow. That breeds image rather than true spiritual growth. It breeds Pharisees rather than disciples. But that is what happens when we think we are responsible for people rather than to them.
Being responsible for people brings a pressure and responsibility that God never designed into a person’s life. If someone does not take their next step, then I feel like I have failed. Being responsible to people means that I am sharing what I have to share, leading people to the table, but they have to make the decision to eat, I cannot force them. That is up to them to decide and for God to work.
Mark illustrated it so well. Let me just cut and paste here:
- If we understand that are are responsible to people, then I understand they have a choice… if I feel responsible for people, I think I should choose for them.
- If we understand that are are responsible to people, then I know they must figure out their next step… if I feel responsible for people, I think I should tell them what there next step is.
- If we understand that are are responsible to people, then I understand they must bear the consequences of their actions… if I feel responsible for people, I assume the guilt, or worse yet the shame for them.
- If we understand that are are responsible to people, then I share their journeys, offering encouragement and teaching… if I feel responsible for people, I try to direct their journeys, never allowing them to wrestle or mess up.
- If we understand that are are responsible to people, then I talk to God a lot on their behalf… if I feel responsible for people, I tend to talk to people a lot on God’s behalf.
- “If Jesus trusts the Holy Spirit, maybe we should too!”
- “It is God that does the growing, we just get in the way.”
So, how do you do ministry? Do you feel responsible for people or to people? What do you think about the difference?