We love seeing Millennials own their faith – as in, put it into practice, make it practical, live it out. We call this “Personal Ministry.” Everyone is called to ministry, not just paid ministers. I often experience a lot of complacency in churches – and it creeps up on Christians because we live in a consumer mindset.
When we go to restaurants, we expect to be served. Even at a buffet – we expect food already waiting each time we grab a plate. We expect businesses to cater to our needs, we expect better customer service from the companies we get services from, we complain if products don’t meet our expectations. And why shouldn’t we? We’re consumers – we’ll take our money elsewhere if the producers/suppliers can’t get their act together.
And then, there’s church. How often we forget we are the suppliers. We were called to be producers. God called us to be a priesthood of believers, not believers who pay a handful of priests. God called us to do good works, produce good fruit, exemplify good character, meet people’s needs. We are to be producers who make good: to supply food to the hungry, comfort to mourners, love to enemies, light to darkness, Christ to the lost. He calls us to be God on God’s behalf – to be his hands and feet, to do his deeds, to speak his words, to heal and preach and set the captives free.
Yet, so often we feel like consumers. We go to church and it feels like a show put on for us. A five minute meet & greet, we take in a sermon, enjoy some live music, listen to a pep-talky prayer that reinforces the sermon, then it’s a wrap. We head home until next week, feeling refilled. Except that we don’t feel refilled. Because we didn’t do as a church what the church was designed to do. We paid someone to do church for us – we paid someone else to produce a message of the good news and a worship service and then we sat back to be the consumer. Forget about everyone outside the church building. If they wanted to be religious consumers too, they should’ve showed up. They’d probably just be free-loaders anyways.
Just keep in mind that Jesus fed 5,000 free-loaders lunch one day just to see the looks on his disciples’ faces. And he gave them a stunning message – “YOU should have done this.” When God gives us the power and authority and sets the example and then commands us to go out there and do, produce, make and grow, it’s sort of a shame to sit back, the sum total of our faith being what we consume. Sermons. Worship services. Bible studies. Christian conferences. Youth events. All for us.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes we need to be filled in order to keep on pouring. But if we do the getting-filled part but don’t do the pouring-out part, we’ve missed the heart of the faith. In fact, we’ve missed the heart of God. That’s why we love seeing Millennials out there making a difference, being producers instead of consumers. Creating a personal ministry for yourself is a far more important Christian duty than going to church every Sunday to lounge around on sofas in the air conditioned lobby. Church is headquarters, a weekly refresher, a family reunion. The real work is out there to be done. My home church has a sign over the main exit that says, “Now you are entering the mission field.” A great reminder! Your personal ministry starts when you walk out that door after getting refilled.
If your Christian experience is restricted to two hours on a Sunday morning, one hour Sunday night, and a mid-week pick-me-up on Wednesdays then you need to find something to do for God the rest of the week. That is why Christians exist. The faith isn’t for us to enjoy and hoard. It’s for us to share. It’s called good news for a reason – the world needs to hear it, and those of us who have it ought to be out there sharing it – with deeds all the time, and words when deeds fail us.
“All Friars should preach by their deeds.”
– St. Francis of Assisi, Rule of 1221 Chapter XII
I’ll leave off with examples. Last week in just one day I heard three stories of Millennials making a difference and each made me smile – enjoy!
“I got sick and tired of passing homeless people and giving them nothing. Feeling guilty, looking away, driving away as soon as the light changed. I was praying about it, and God gave me an idea: I started making bags with simple food items and bottled water to give away. These bags open up an opportunity to smile and be kind to others and listen to their story. These type of acts impact the giver as much as the recipient.”
“I’ve been feeling the same thing, and God gave me an idea too! On cyber Monday I bought several gloves, scarves, hats and socks from old navy for $2-$5 each and wrapped little packets of the warm items. I have some packets in my car, some for men and some for women, to pass out when I see the need.”
“The big story is being a part of a community of people that dare greatly for their families and their city everyday. And that is pretty amazing to witness. Because when we push past ourselves and leave our comfort zones, beautiful things happen. Walls break down, people find freedom, and love spills out all over the place. And last night, boy, did love spill out in a new church in the mall parking lot!”
What does your personal ministry look like? Feeding the hungry? Clothing the cold? Creating loving community for strangers in mall parking lots?