Scot McKnight has a good post on Colossians 1 about how ministering the gospel takes place. He draws out two important aspects — ministering the good news of God’s kingdom requires hard strenuous work and suffering.
I think anyone involved in any form of Christian ministry recognizes this truth. However, I think many of us also have an over-idealized image of Christian ministry being easy. We think that if we just lived and flowed in the Spirit, then ministry would be easier. This is reinforced as we look at others in different ministry situations and assume they have it easier than us. But the ministry of the gospel is hard in every situation. It’s not laborious or drudgery. Rather, it’s joyful and fulfilling. But it’s also hard.
Here’s what Scot says:
“Instead, [Paul] is speaking of the effort needed to get the job done. That effort, and I can’t develop these here, involves praying, yearning, striving, planning, anticipating, waiting, seeing plans fall flat and seeing plans come to pass, wondering, worrying, executing, teaching, guiding, preaching, leading, administrating, studying, reading, …. you get the picture. For Paul, the person who is called to minister the gospel will find a million tasks involved in both performing and proclaiming the gospel. Everything can get swallowed into the task.”
We sometimes forget that implementing the New Creation that Jesus inaugurated requires work and takes a ferocious toll. And as I’ve been reading through Revelation, I’ve become more aware that the unfolding of God’s New Creation is viciously opposed by evil on all fronts. As God’s plan unfolds, people suffer. And people die.
Even the New Creation being birthed inwardly is painstaking. It requires death to self-will. It requires a significant shift of loyalty — self is not Lord, Caesar is not Lord; Christ is Lord!! Becoming a person who actually embodies God’s effective will by not being a person who is driven by lust, anger, contempt, etc., is a painful process.
So whether ministering within a house church, a small church, a megachurch, a gigachurch, high church, low church, no church — ministering the gospel of God’s kingdom coming on earth will develop calluses and even scars. But I find hope in the Revelation as Jesus, the Lion of Judah, appears as a Lamb, “looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:5-6).