Ministry can be a lonely place. It is even more lonely when you minister in a smallish church (c. less than 50 members) in a place most people have never been to, through or (potentially) even heard of. Of course, large churches in out of the way places get noticed because they are trotted out as ‘success stories’ and are where the money (which inevitably buys influence) lies.
But, the reality is, most ministers do not head up large churches (which, in the UK context, begins at around 100 members). Many people minister in small towns, in smallish churches, and generate very little interest as a result in anything they happen to be doing. In working class towns, with little movement into the town from outside due to unemployment, and thanks to Tim Keller’s focus on the city – along with the relative discomfort of moving to a deprived satellite town or estate – it is easy to believe the world has passed you by entirely.
If that is you, here are a few things worth bearing in mind.
Your area needs you
After all the allure of affluent, middle class market towns or the sense of coolness derived from city centre living – and the desire to live in areas full of people just like me – somebody needs to take the gospel to the forgotten places. There are people heading for a lost eternity and, but for your ministry in your area, nothing is going to change that heinous reality. Your area sorely needs you.
The Lord sees your faithfulness
The eyes of your denominational leaders, or the interest of well resourced organisations, may have absolutely no regard for your ministry or any idea you exist. But the Lord does. Paul Washer and Steve Lawson say things like, ‘the best pastors in the world pastor small churches and no one has ever heard of them’. Whilst I can assure you that most certainly does not refer to me, there are unknown folk out there who probably are in such exalted company.
Even if you belong in the far humbler company of such as me and just about pass as doing alright, the Lord sees. He sees your desire to take the gospel to that unlovely area, those supposedly ‘hard to reach’ people or just to where you know you will be utterly unnoticed. We are not, after all, working for the the praise of man but for the glory of God. If that is your motivation then be encouraged that the only one you are interested in pleasing sees everything you are doing for him.
The harvest is plentiful
Yesterday, we were considering John 21:1-14. We noted the symbolism of the net of the gospel bring in a huge haul of fish and yet ‘the nets did not break’. Despite what we so often tell ourselves, Jesus said the harvest is plentiful and the fields are white for harvest. We kid ourselves into thinking nobody will be interested or we’ll press on with little to no response because people aren’t interested nowadays, but Jesus cannot be wrong on this point.
Whilst it may be true that white, middle class British people seem disinterested (and I’m not convinced that is always so), white, working class Brits are generally more open. As we look beyond Britain, we find the church exploding in countries like Iran and China. We find similar response among many of their citizens that have made it to the UK. Nobody in the Christian world may know you are there but those coming into the kingdom cannot be anything but eternally grateful for the Lord placing you there. There are people ready to respond to the gospel but it requires us being in a position to share it with them for them to respond. Know that your labour is not in vain.