|Photo from RGBstock.com by Sanja Gjenero|
Not long ago, my youngest son came up to me with a puzzled look on his face. “Daddy, what’s a phonebook?” he asked.
I had to laugh. The idea of a phonebook, that was so common to me, is so completely foreign to him.
Reflecting on that caused me to think about our ever evolving culture and the way we do ministry – are we doing phonebook ministry?
Phonebook ministry would be any type of ministry tool or concept that was considered absolutely essential, but is no longer effective in the current culture.
That could be a method that was extremely useful 20 years ago, but has faded in usefulness. It could also be a new tool that is effective in a certain cultural context, but does not translate well when you try to implement it in other areas.
I am not here to go through various types of ministry and determine which one is a phonebook ministry tool. I have my opinions, but that is not the real point. What all of us should really learn is this: don’t hold too tightly to the tools of ministry.
Hold firm to the ministry to which God has called you, paid or volunteer. Hold fast to the doctrines of the faith that have been passed down from the apostles and contained in Scripture. Forever hold tight to the Gospel. If we lose it, we have lost it all. Never waiver on those things.
The tools and ways we do those things? Those can change. Don’t become too attached or you’ll eventually substitute your preferred way of doing ministry with the ministry itself.
Everyone can see the phonebook speck in our brother’s eye, but have we stopped to see the phonebook log in our own?
Ministry tools, be they traditional or modern, classic or cutting edge, are just that: tools. They are not the ministry itself. They are certainly not the Gospel. They should simply be ways to accomplish the ministry and communicate the Gospel.
How can you tell if your tools of ministry have the potential to be “phonebook ministry” for you? Here are five thoughts that may indicate you have elevated ministry tools over the ministry itself.
• If this were changed in my church, I would be angry.
• Most of my thoughts center around this, and not the Gospel.
• I spend more time working to tweak this, than I do in prayer.
• My research time is spent finding new ideas about this, but not in the Bible.
• If I see someone doing a great work for God, but they use different methods, I have a mixed reaction.
This is a never ending process of evaluation for Christians. The tool you use for ministry may have previously been state-of-the-art and, perhaps, extremely effective. That is not the point. Phonebooks used to be vitally important.
Twice a year, the phonebook companies drop off their product at my door. The same thing happens every time. I look at it, shake my head and then put it in our recycling container. Hopefully, something good can come out of what was a waste of paper.
Maybe, it’s time to check your ministry tools. Do any of them belong with the phonebooks?
What new method can you create using the framework of the old one? Be biblical and creative. Don’t be hindered by piles of phonebook ministries.