Author: puchtacg

A General Reluctance?

Regardless of church size and denominational affiliation, we regularly discover there is a general reluctance among church leaders and churchgoers to forge spiritual conversations and share the Word of God. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

Speaking to His disciples and the crowd of followers, Jesus declared:

  • Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 10:32-33
  • If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. - Mark 8:38

The Gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.
If we love, we care. If we care, we disciple.sm

Christian dove with bright sun rays

What Constitutes Ministry?

While the Bible is clear that believers are expected to provide material and practical support to those in need (e.g., Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 5:3, James 2:16, 1 John 3:17), what distinguishes “ministry” from community service (e.g., charitable efforts, humanitarian endeavors)?

Before answering the question, please consider the following.

FIRST, a few months ago, my wife and I began picking up bread and bakery goods at a local Panera and taking it to local homeless shelters, food pantries, and schools for distribution. When people from our church found out, a typical response was: “What a wonderful ministry.” I, however, do not see it as a ministry. While we devote time to picking up and delivering physical bread to local organizations, aside from exchanging pleasantries with staff, there is seldom an opportunity for conversation. As such, I consider what we do to be charitable, NOT ministry.

Contemplation

SECOND, earlier this year, a local newspaper featured a story about former a Cincinnati Bengal and his wife who expanded their prison ministry“the message he preaches is common sense.” The article highlighted their efforts to empower adult inmates and help change the direction of people’s lives. Participants in the MANA (Mentoring Against Negative Actions) Program learn life skills that promote healthy behavior. “Fulcher touches on all aspects of life. How to find a job, get a Social Security card, driver’s license, or state ID, and how to be a law-abiding citizen.” While I most certainly applaud Mr. & Mrs. Fulcher’s efforts, and presume they are believers, what distinguishes a person’s 'ministry' – referring to the way he/she gives back to the community, from the ministry of Jesus Christ?

THIRD, according to Oxford Dictionary, ‘ministry’ is defined as “the work or vocation of a minister of religion” as in “the spiritual work or service of any Christian or a group of Christians, especially evangelism.” Synonyms include teaching, preaching, evangelism. A recent post on Christianity.com (3/16/20) states, “Ministry is about giving of ourselves and our time, talents, and resources to help bless and help others.” And, in the Bible, the Greek word for ministry in Acts 8:21 is “diakonia,” and it refers to “Spirit-empowered service guided by faith.” (Source: https://biblehub.com/greek/1248.htm)

I welcome the chance to see or hear what you think distinguishes ministry from acts of kindness and community services. Please share your responses via email – feedback@ our CareMinistry URL or call 513-973-7700. Blessings, Charles Puchta

Yes, 5,000 were fed, but…

While it is true that Jesus did feed 5,000+ people on one occasion and 4,000+ people on another, both of the historical accounts indicate Jesus was NOT teaching about physical food or feeding the homeless and those who may be less fortunate. Rather, Jesus was teaching about spiritual nourishment and revealing He is the Bread of Life. "For they had not understood about the loaves, their hearts were hardened." (Mark 6:52)

Don't take my word for it, instead, receive His. In the following video I explore and explain what Jesus is teaching.

What and in whom do you believe?

People believe all kinds of things. Believing, however, does not mean people embrace and exemplify that which – and in whom – they say they believe. Similarly, could it be that statements of faith declare things that are inconsistent with what churches really believe, preach, and teach?

If you believe something and then discover your beliefs are contrary
to the Scriptures and Jesus’ teachings, are you going to stick with
what you believe, or embrace and proclaim the Word of God? 

For example, do you believe the following statement: “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) If YES, how does that truth influence and inspire the ministry activities and efforts within your church?

Oswald Chambers may have been spot-on when he said, “Today we [presumably referring to the American church] have substituted doctrinal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many people are devoted to causes and so few are devoted to Jesus Christ.”

Sadly, it seems many people are unaware of or unfamiliar with the Gospel message and basic biblical truth. Others, though they have been exposed to the truth and have some degree of understanding, are actively or passively rejecting the truth, and rebellious. I don’t say that to disparage anyone or come across as judgmental; rather, I do so to make a point. Many people who self-identify as ‘Christian,’ don’t know that they don’t know what it means to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Plus, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

If we love, we care. The two are inseparable. And, if we care about people, we disciple.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who [truly] believes.” (Romans 1:16)

-- Charles Puchta 

Creatures of Habit

The lens through which we see and have come to understand caring ministry is significant as our beliefs sway our values, which shape our attitudes, and support our behaviors. The story below points out that as creatures of habit, we often do the things we do for no other reason than, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

     As Betty was in the kitchen preparing the Easter ham, her husband asked, “Why do you always cut off the ends of the ham?”
     Betty paused for a moment and then responded, “That’s a good question. I’ve always cut off the ends of the ham because that’s the way my mother did it.” With her curiosity peeked, Betty called her mother and asked why. Her mother replied with a similar sense of intrigue, “That’s the way my mother always did it.”
     Betty then called her grandmother, mentioned cutting off the ends of the ham and being perplexed as to why. Her grandmother broke out into laughter. Once she gained her composure, she answered, "Because the pan was too small.”

lens

Rather than perpetuating the past for the sake of continuity and simplicity, we encourage you to examine the Scriptures and ensure that your caring efforts closely align with Jesus’ commands. When the narrative that informs us is based on human ideas and opinions rather than God’s Word, it calls into question whose agenda we are advancing.

The first four lessons of our Faith Fundamentals Training series share Bible stories and foundational principles that help church leaders and churchgoers reimagine and reframe caring based on a biblical narrative. As the saying goes, what we see is what we get. Therefore, if we overlook the purpose of troubles and confuse what caring entails and love requires, we miss the basic tenets of the Christian life.

Lessons 5-7 of the series help to retool how we interact with and love people. What we know is what we do. Therefore, until we understand and exemplify what Jesus teaches about presence, listening, and asking reflective questions, despite good intentions, we naturally do and say things that are inept and which come across as insensitive.

Lessons 8-10 of the help to reinforce disciplines that are fundamental to Christianity – knowing God’s Word, prayer, and discipling. Since what we believe is ultimately how we care, starting with a solid theological construct, and developing key capabilities and confidence are critical to our success and the achievement of unity and maturity.

What You See is What You Get!

Whether passing by people or engaging in conversation, what we see is what we get. Despite how good people may seem or say they are, the appearance of physical health and material wellness is not to suggest that our lives are free from trials, trouble, and temptation. The point is that many people are carrying burdens, feeling crushed, and facing fears beyond what we fathom. Seriously, we have no idea what many people are dealing with.

Damaged Box_400

The truism “what you see is what you get” also applies to Scripture. Take the following Bible verses for example:

  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).
  • “My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
  • “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:6-8).
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
  • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As the church and the body of Christ, do we truly believe that God is greater than all our troubles and concerns? And, if so, do we truly reflect that in the ways we love and care for others?

While the frequency, variety, and severity of our struggles and strongholds vary, if we truly believe the verses above, might it make sense to emphasize, and to equip people to provide emotional support and spiritual encouragement?

“God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.” - Max Lucado

Pain in our lives is not to suggest that God doesn’t care, rather it establishes our need for Jesus! Instead of being who we turn to when all else fails and our strength is gone, Jesus wants to be our Lord and Savior. Despite good intentions, as Christians, we miss the point and do little to help when we fail to provide the type of sustenance and support that offers true life and lasting hope.

Humanitarian efforts: Are they enough?

From raging floods and forest fires to senseless acts such as 9/11 and the recent riots, no one is immune from trouble. Regardless of the specific instances and our individual differences, when tragedy strikes, it is certainly nice to see people coming together and rallying around those in need. While kindness and generosity are core tenets of citizenship and humanity, as the church we must ask ourselves, are they enough?

Humanitarian efforts play a vital role in meeting basic needs and sustaining lives. However, as our Kingdom Care framework indicates, Jesus expects more than good deeds and temporary relief. Moreover, while the lives impacted and the path of destruction are undeniable when the storms are catastrophic, let’s be careful not to overlook those among us who are facing less apparent storms of life.

Many people are suffering in silence with no help in sight. Regardless of their situations and our intentions, we lead others astray when we fail to provide the type of sustenance and support that offers true life and lasting hope. Moreover, a kindred spirit is no substitute for experiencing the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Things that Really Matter

I’m sorry, friend, I let you down
I always thought we’d get around
to talkin’ ‘bout the things that really matter.

I had this plan to take it slow––
give you a change to get to know
the messenger before you heard the message.

It seems like every chance you had
to serve me well and make me glad,
you did just that and more to me and others.

An open door, your friendly smile,
a free dessert, and all the while
I waited for a chance to share my Jesus.

So many times I meant to say,
friend, you are His, He is the way
to know just why you’re here and where you’re going.

But now I’m left with deep regret
that I let fear and logic get
the best of me, and so my tongue fell silent.

Today your life slipped from your grasp––
I’ll never have the chance to ask
If you were His and He was your…forever.

But thanks to you I’m not the same––
I pray the next time, I will name
the One who knows the things that really matter.

By Tim Dommer - Used with permission.

The bait or the Bible?

Could it be that church leaders and Christians in general are overlooking, wrongly interpreting, or unaware of what the Scriptures have to say about caring (a.k.a., comforting) for one another?

Throughout The Screwtape Letters, author C.S. Lewis writes that whether in the troughs or peaks of life, the Devil is all about perpetuating lies, anxiety, complacency, and despondency. Moreover, the evil one is doing everything in his power to keep us focused on ourselves so that we turn our attention away from God and one another. The Devil’s plan is simple (and arguable effective):

  • Keep people from “the serious intention of praying altogether.” (p.15)
  • Fix people’s attention inward and so they concentrate on their circumstances and not on God.
  • Do whatever it takes so the people maintain a lukewarm spiritual state.
  • Keep non-Christians and people who are less rooted in their faith away from “experienced Christians” so as to avoid appropriate and encouraging scripture passages from being shared.
  • Cause people to focus on the past and the uncertain future, instead of the eternal and the present.
  • Foster aggravation, confusion, and division so as to keep people away from church and disrupt Christian friendships.
trap

At Care Ministry, we advocate a biblically-based discipling model of care that is Christ-centered and thwarts the Devil’s plan. Our resources and training help churches provide care in ways that ​align with the mission of their church, deepen personal relationships, foster spiritual growth, and build a sense of community.

Why Ask Why?

I vividly remember the evening when one of my daughters told me they played the “Why?” game at CRU. Not being familiar with the game, I asked her to explain. In the Why game, once a question is asked (e.g., "How was your day?") and someone answers, the next question is automatically he next question is “Why” (e.g., “Why was your day great?"). She went on to say that to foster genuine relationships, we have to get past the veneer. It made me stop and think about how often we accept what people say at face value without ever delving deeper.

Based on the Laws of Conservation, Momentum, and Energy, certain things are predictable. As Newton’s Pendulum demonstrates, no matter how many times we pull back one steel ball and let it go, the same thing is going to happen over and over again.

Isn't it sad that our human nature is to ask the same question (e.g., "How are you?") and accept the typically response (e.g., "Fine") even though we know that most people are struggling with something?

Newton Pendulum

So, here's a question... Specific to the second part of The Great Commandment – love [care for] people, what are you doing at your church and WHY? Is caring ministry a set of programs, something that has become as “pastoral” responsibility, or are genuine caring relationships part of the DNA at your church?

What's interesting is that in business, what we do and why we do it is based on plans and processes that have been established in order to achieve the desired results. In healthcare, what we do and why we do it is based on best-practices and protocols in order to achieve desired outcomes. The point is that to “succeed,” we must first know what it is that we wish to accomplish and then determine how we are going to achieve our goal.

Whether playing the Why game or caring for people, we have to be deliberate to get past superficial conversations and contrived responses. The resources and support we provide guides church leaders through a systematic process to draw attention to key aspects of caring God’s way and to address care in a way that reflects the aspirations and unique needs of their local church. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your "Why?" and help you take caring to the next level.