Polluting the air of our front yard is the stench of a dead possum in 98-degree heat. The lingering, stagnant odor consumes our inner most feelings of gagging. The smell of death immediately becomes noticeable each time one walks in the front yard. The hunt begins to find and remove the blanket of animal decay smell. Attempting to spray incense or enhance the neighborhood BBQ smell fails as the source of the smell continues to melt in the heat and deliver an amazing punch to the nose hairs. By removing the source of the horrific odor, our noses and stomachs resume normalcy in the normal smell of life. Death delivers horrendous and many times irreplaceable memories of sight, smells, thoughts and emotions. Does our children’s ministry deliver such a lingering, stagnant odor of death to the members, children, visitors, communities and even the nations?
Some may answer “no” based on the looks of the buildings, rooms, cars in the parking lot, playground equipment, supplies, smiles on staff’s faces or heritage. Some may answer “yes” based on feelings of worthlessness, inabilities, guilt of sin, lack of people, lack of joy or a prideful humility. Either way, we are left to answer the question based on the smells and odors of ministry rather than the source. People with smiles, skills, nice cars and a list of read spiritual books can smell of ministry death just as much as the ill equipped, joyless volunteers of children’s ministry. Leaders evaluating their ministry tend to seek the structure and it’s supplies to answer the question. We begin to spray educational degrees, manuals, books, conferences, meetings, buildings, staff and strategies over the stench of ministry death.
Ministry death permeated the leadership of Jesus’ time, such as various Pharisees, scribes, elders and chief priests. They oversaw the synagogues, study, application and enforcement of the law, and were viewed by the people as closest to God. Our modern day leadership titles are pastor, director, leader or even head volunteer, in which we are almost in the same position as the leaders in Jesus’ day. Interestingly, the Gospel of Mark leads the reader into smelling the horrific stench of ministry death in Jesus’ day among the religious leadership. The leader’s money, skills, structure, strategy and opportunity were mere perfume on dead bodies. However, as the Gospel of Mark displays, the leaders wreaked of death because their source of life was in themselves, heritage, tradition and works obedience.
Mark reveals that Jesus is the supplier of life, especially eternal life. This implies that Jesus is the source of ministry life. Without Jesus we are dead, even our ministries. Jesus is the only source of life serving the world through His suffering for all to follow (Mark 1:1, 15, 17; 8:27-38; 10:45; 15:39). The reader is continually reminded verse-after-verse and chapter-after-chapter, that Jesus is the focal point of the gospel-the good news (Mark 1:1). The disciples begin to follow Him (e.g. 1:18) listening, learning, receiving, obeying, doubting, wondering and many times failing. They witnessed demons cast out, people healing of blindness, life given to a dead child, feeding of thousands and a promise from Jesus of dying and rising again come true in front of their own eyes! The Gospel of Mark utilizes a truthful story account to contrast Jesus, the disciples and normal people to God’s enemies – Satan, demons and religious leaders. The contrast compares life versus death, seen in the temporal and eternal, individual (salvation) and community (ministry) and even who we follow and who we don’t follow. Who and how we follow determines life or death of our ministries.
If Jesus is the source of our eternal life (salvation), is He the source of our ministry life?
To be continued …