By Arron Chambers
If I had an “easy” button, I would have pressed it and . . .
• Assembled my son’s bike on Christmas morning in just seconds—instead of spending all day on it in an episode that almost ended my marriage.
• I wouldn’t have dated that girl, because she would have worn a label that read, “Warning: High Maintenance!”
• My teeth would be straight.
• My wife would not have endured long months of pregnancy; instead, our four kids would have been delivered to the front door about an hour after breakfast on a Saturday morning.
• I’d never be stuck on I-4 again.
• My dad would still be sitting in his seat at the family table, reachable by cell phone for parenting advice, and lying on the couch in the living room on Saturday night with his head in Mom’s lap listening to A Prairie Home Companion.
• Dirty diapers would automatically replace themselves with clean diapers.
• I would understand what the women in my house are really trying to say to me.
If I had an “easy” button, I’d press it and everything would be easier, including ministry. There would be no more controversy in the church, no church splits, no anger-filled congregational meetings, no moral failure, no fights over the style of music, no underpaid staff, no overworked elders, no members dealing with terminal illnesses, no more funerals for children, no arguments over baptism, and no need to preach the gospel any more because the whole world would be saved.
But I don’t have an “easy” button to press, so I do what James told me to do:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
And I remember what God promised through James:
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
If Joseph had an “easy” button, he could have pressed it and not been sold into slavery, but then he wouldn’t have known how to rule Egypt. The Israelites could have pressed it and avoided the wilderness, but they wouldn’t have known the taste of manna. Naaman could have pressed it and never had leprosy, but he would have never known what it felt like to arise out of the Jordan River for a seventh time and feel new skin where diseased skin used to be.
If it existed, Jesus could have pressed it and avoided the cross, but you and I would not know what it feels like to have hope.
So Jesus would never have pressed it.
And, neither would the apostle Paul.
Paul understood some very important truths about ministry that we don’t seem to grasp.
Ministry is Challenging
Paul understood ministry is hard. When Paul talked about ministry he most often chose the word labor. That word certainly resonates with anyone who has delivered, or been close to someone who has delivered, a baby. Paul used this word to describe the nature of ministry, because Paul was not under the misconception ministry is easy. Paul endured a lot of hardship while fulfilling his ministry. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul recounted how, while “laboring” in ministry, he was imprisoned, flogged, exposed to death, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, and faced with danger from rivers, bandits, fellow Jews, and Gentiles while in the city, the country, and at sea. He had suffered from lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, and was burdened by concerns for all the churches (2 Corithians 11:23-31). And to think, we feel neglected when our raise is 2 percent and not 3 percent.
My grandfather, Tibbs Maxey, was a man of great faith who would never have pressed the “easy” button, either. That’s why he is one of my heroes. He and Grandma courageously followed God’s call to work in cross-cultural evangelism during a time in which people of color—and those who associated with them—were subject to prejudice. Their ministry was difficult, but they refused to quit, confident that on the other side of the prejudice, discouragement, poverty, ignorance, and isolation, was a Restoration Movement that would include everybody. So they faithfully labored starting New Testament churches in black communities and a Bible college (The College of the Scriptures in Louisville, Kentucky) to train men and women for ministry.
The work was hard, but they were undeterred. He and Grandma loved the Lord and were willing to do whatever it took and pay whatever it cost to fulfill their ministry. Grandpa told me stories of the challenges they encountered in ministry and of the way God provided and protected again and again, and they inspired me.
He was not looking for sympathy, but empathy. Grandpa wanted me to share with him an understanding of the price of ministry so I would share his appreciation of the value of ministry.
When Paul enumerated to the Christians in Corinth all that he endured in ministry, he was not searching for sympathy, but empathy. He didn’t want us to pity him, but to share with him an understanding of the price of ministry, so we would share with him an appreciation for the value of ministry.
Ministry Is (Sometimes) Rewarding Now
Ministry is a challenge. It is not easy. Those who minister often pay a high price, so let’s honor them by rewarding them for their service.
All who minister are rewarded with each conversion, each decision in God’s direction, each moment redeemed, and each opportunity to witness—up close—God’s transforming power. These rewards tend to be private. There is a time and a place to publicly reward faithful ministry. The time is now; the place is your decision, but why not:
• Honor your missionaries and their mission by asking them to present their work to the masses on Sunday morning instead of the remnant on Sunday night.
• Throw a party for all of the ministry volunteers in your church who serve faithfully—and often forgottenly (my word)—deep in the bowels of your church programming, ensuring that every lesson is memorable, every craft is a masterpiece, every diaper is changed, every dime is counted, every toilet is clean, every blade of grass is cut, and every person who worships with your church is blessed.
• Recognize your elders, deacons, and their families for their service in an extremely difficult and demanding ministry. I think every elder deserves at least one standing ovation a year.
• Set aside some time in an upcoming service to publicly recognize—and thank—the paid staff at your church. Be creative, thoughtful, and generous to your preacher, youth minister, worship minister, children’s minister, administrator, secretary, and other paid staff whose motivation is not pay or praise. Occasional recognition is both appreciated and invigorating. Yes, they are paid, but they are not often rewarded as much as they should be this side of Heaven.
But looking on the other side of Heaven, all who minister—refusing, like Jesus, Paul, and Grandpa, to press that “easy” button—will be rewarded for their labors.
Ministry Is (Always) Rewarding Later
To encourage, inspire, and motivate us Paul writes this:
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
When we all get to Heaven it will all be worth it.
Each bead of sweat.
Each second of grief.
Each moment of selfless service.
Each time you fought the urge to press the “easy” button and resolved to keep serving—no matter what—will be rewarded magnificently and eternally by the one whom we all serve.
Come to think of it . . . if there were an “easy” button for ministry, I wouldn’t press it, either, because pressing it would deprive me of an opportunity to grow in faith, maturity, strength, and joy.
I hope you’ll join me in not pressing it, either.
Arron Chambers serves as preaching minister with Christ’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida.