Monday, February 19, 2007

Satisfying Service

"Every time you do something that comes from your needs for acceptance, affirmation, or affection, and every time you do somehting that makes these needs grow, you know that you are not with God. These needs will never be satisfied; they will only increase when you yield to them. But every time you do something for the glory of God, you will know God's peace in your heart and find rest there." Henri Nouwen

There was a huge emphasis on ministry at the Bible college I attended twenty years ago. Literally, we had to report weekly on how many persons we witnessed to, how many accepted Christ, etc. You were required to do some kind of outreach for at least an hour every week, and witness to at least one person per week. Not unreasonable I suppose, except that the Holy Spirit seemed left out of the picture.

On most Saturdays, the majority of the students would participate in what was known as the "Bus Ministry." Any other ministry was for deadbeats. Bus ministry workers rose early on Saturdays and Sundays and spent most of the weekend in the inner city, visiting with less privileged families and encouraging them to ride our buses to church. We were out there for 4-5 hours on blustery days when the temps were barely above zero, as well as torrid summer days when our pantyhose clung damply to our legs like a second skin. We had big days where several thousand people rode these buses for over an hour to attend church. Buses would break down en route to or from the city, stretching 8 hour days into 10 or 12.

It was hard work. Especially during finals week when you should have been studying to pass the classes you were paying for. Especially during conference weeks when you volunteered for hours on end, in addition to your ministry obligations. Yet the bus ministry consistently numbered over 1000 student workers. Why? I honestly think it played, unbeknownst to us, upon our needs for acceptance and affirmation. As tired as you are, the thought of a little child looking up to you was strong enough pull to drag yourself out of bed on the weekend.

I still enjoy working with kids and teenagers. I still enjoy being involved in ministry. But since that time, I've come to realize that it's possible for me to do ministry for God out of entirely selfish motives - to fulfill my personal needs for acceptance or affirmation. The approval of others is so much more tangible than God's approval. The problem with having that as our motivation is that we're never truly satisfied in our service. But as Nouwen says, when our motives are right, when our eyes are fixed on Him alone, when to glorify God is our only desire, His peace will satisfy like nothing else can.

7 comments:

Jennifer said...

That would be tough (the reporting on ministry and witnessing). As you know, I like to have a goal and accountability, so I guess that's why the requirements were so stringent. I was actively involved in a witnessing/outreach program at our church, and it did get easier after doing it week after week.

Katrina said...

Thanks for these thoughts, Dianne. I wonder how often -- when I am evaluating a service opportunity -- my decision is based more on what I can get, rather than what I can give? But that quote from Nouwen is so true. Thank you for sharing it.

Kathryn said...

I think that is the key - yielding to the Lord and listening to what He calls you to do.

Mary Ann said...

Excellent post Dianne! I certainly agree.

Kim said...

Great post! I'm so glad you stopped by my blog causing me to find yours. Have a wonderful week.

petunia said...

Just passing through and read your post. I think God does lay on some people's hearts to do street evangalism but not everybody should do it. It's sort of like saying that everyone should teach Sunday school - some people are just not gifted to do it (I speak out of real life experience!). Someone in our missions ministry found statistics about evangelism; did you know that %78 of people said they came to the Lord because of relationships? Only 2% was street evangelism/door to door.
I really believe in just loving people through relationships and the Holy Spirit leads them to the Lord through you.

gail said...

The quote at the end is true. I wonder if the college requiring ministry was a way to teach the students about it, for them to learn how to incorporate it into their lives maybe? So that once they've left that environment, then it might become something they want to do.