Christian Ministry vs Christian Church

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In conversation with a friend who leads a Christian ministry, she said that the ministry has now “shrunk to health”: Several employees had moved to another, similar service, and she found clear words for those others who were just followers without actually pulling their weight, leading to a further exodus. Now she has a small team of people who are all pulling together.

In many ways, a church and a Christian ministry are very similar, not only because they both represent Christian values and pursue Christian goals: they are a group of Christians; now and then some migrate to the “competition”; people engage at different levels and some can actually be described as mere hangers-on.

However, it would be fatal to want to “shrink to health” a church:

A Christian ministry has, beyond the hopefully present sense of fellowship among the employees, a clearly defined task that needs to be fulfilled. For this, it is important that all employees actually pull their weight, and a “shrinking to health” can actually be healthy.

In contrast, a church is primarily a community, a family, the body of Christ: a place, a fellowship where Christ’s love is lived and thereby made visible. In every family or human body, there are naturally stronger and weaker members – people who contribute more or less diligently, with more or less skill, to the life of the community, and it is part of the calling of the stronger to bear the weaker.

A few days ago, a brother told me he had been kicked out of a church because he is ill. He didn’t give me any details of his illness, I don’t really know the church, and therefore can’t determine what actually happened; but this brother does not feel carried but abandoned in this situation, he has not experienced God’s love but indifference and a lack of compassion.

“Performance thinking” has its place in a business, a company; in a family, it is out of place.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” says the Apostle Paul, and he also says that we should not judge or despise the weaker members but honour them.

When Christ talks about tearing out a member which offends or tempts us He was talking about our human bodies, and most of the time we do not literally tear off an arm or pluck out an eye; but, very importantly, he was not talking about His body, encouraging us to purge offensive members — as it is His body, only He gets to do this. On the contrary, He warns us not to try to distinguish wheat from weeds, and tells us to leave the weeds alone: He doesn’t say so, but seriously, He who changed water into the best wine can certainly change weeds into finest wheat.

“See how they love each other!” — that is what people outside the church should say about us, not “See how efficient they are.”

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