First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Personal Ministry Versus Crystal Cathedral and Sarah Palin

crystal cathedral

The Crystal Cathedral in California, the first so-called Mega-Church, is in bankruptcy court. Too much mega-debt and not enough mega-giving. As they haggle with their creditors, Sarah Palin is traveling the northeast visiting sites associated with the founding of our country. She was at the Liberty Bell the other day, an object that is a total fraud, but makes for a nice photo-op. I’m going to use these two examples as a way to contrast what many of us think ministry is, with what ministry actually is.

The Crystal Cathedral offers so much more than our little First Baptist does. They have programs and services for everyone. They take polls and surveys and find out the needs of their constituents and address those needs with the best that money can buy. If they find out a large number of their people want special worship services for their pet Chihuahua’s, then by golly on Tuesday evenings, there will be a special worship service focused on cute little short haired dogs. However, if the people in the pews need personal ministry, that is more difficult. The professional staff is few in number, and the membership is large. The ministers can only provide personal ministry to a small percentage of the church. Volunteer ministers are called upon to reach out to the rest of the folk through small group missions. The system does work, but a lot of people just show up on Sunday and sit in the pews, and a chance to minister and be ministered to passes them by.

Famous people, like Sarah Palin, are even more distant. At the very least, a person who makes an effort can speak personally with the Senior Pastor, or one of the staff. The closest any of us can get to someone famous is a handshake on a receiving line, or ‘personal’ messages on Twitter. The cult of celebrity is creating the illusion of personal contact, without all of the messy bother of actual personal contact. Without saying whether I like her or not, I can say that she is great at establishing a bond with people without meeting them. This is not ministry, of course. But for many, like those who follow the infamous Harold Camping, the illusion of personal ministry is powerful.

But mega-celebrity is just a mega-sham. Ministry is personal. In the story of the Woman with Uncontrollable Bleeding (Luke 8:40-56), Jesus stopped his mission of mercy to a sick girl and asked the famous question – who touched me? A woman, who was healed by just touching his cloak, was sinking back into the crowd without further contact with him. Jesus insisted on speaking with her. He wanted to look her in the eye and minister to her personally. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ ministry is personal. He makes lots of speeches, but his most powerful ministry is doing good as he passed by.
Jesus’ handling of crowds is a different matter. The story of the miracle of the loaves and fish in the sixth chapter of John has Jesus walking away from a crowd of 5,000. He retreats to the other side of the lake for some quiet time. Some of the crowd follows him and what does he do? He scolds them by saying they are motivated by the desire for more food! Can you imagine a celebrity like Sarah Palin scolding her audience? It won’t happen, because today, numbers are everything. To Jesus, individuals mattered, numbers didn’t.

I was friends with a man for a brief time who was a big fan of a radio preacher. He thought the world of this man on the airwaves, even though he only met him once. He didn’t think so highly of me or my church family, and said so on numerous occasions. I tried my best to minister to him, but he cursed me out and disappeared. I hope he finds what he is looking for, but he was looking in the wrong place. He was looking for personal ministry, without the bother of getting along with people. Celebrities and Mega-Churches offer a lot. But ministry will always be one on one.

God bless you,

Pastor Bill

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