When Jesus (in Mark 9:35) said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”, do you think he meant that we should be very, very humble as we ask our fellow Christians to donate money to support us to do the work of ministry (typically while showing them a really sharp PowerPoint presentation with embedded video about “our” ministry)?
Probably not, eh?
If we’re going to take the Bible literally, we probably better make good on Mark 9:35 as part of that package.
Taken literally, Mark 9:35 makes a point quite a bit like Ephesians 4:11-13, namely, that if you’re a Christian nonprofit leader, your purpose is to serve and support ordinary Christians, equipping them to grow into the fullness of Christ in relation to the cause God has put on your heart.
Like Angelo Dundee to Mohammed Ali.
But this is so very different than the self-identity that we breed into our Christian nonprofit leaders. We teach them that they are Mohammed Ali, and we seminar leaders are Angelo Dundee.
That would make ordinary Christians the fans (and major donors the people who pay the really good money for a ringside seat).
What a far cry from the self-identity of the Apostle Paul in relation to his churches.
We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
It’s not that the Apostle Paul experienced all this while carrying out the full ministry of God while being supported by ordinary Christians. It’s that the Apostle Paul experienced all this for the purpose of training ordinary Christians to carry out the full ministry of God.
It’s time for the director of the homeless shelter to reconsider his ministry.
Instead of saying, “Look, my calling is to care for the homeless people of Phoenix; please send money so I can do this,” let him follow in the path of the Apostle Paul and say, “Look, my calling is to equip the Christians of Phoenix to care for the homeless people of Phoenix; let me serve you by equipping you, creating a platform where your giving in every way–your time, your finances, your spiritual gifts–can join with the comprehensive giving of others to accomplish what God commands.”
As I mentioned in a blog post last month,
Larry Lloyd at the Memphis Leadership Foundation told me the other day, “Transformational Giving first requires a change in the self-identity of the nonprofit leader. TG leaders have to be fundamentally committed to mentoring their champions to do the ministry. Absent that self-identity change, TG can never take root in an organization.”
Be Angelo Dundee, friend. Not Mohammed Ali.