Don’t take it personally.”
That may be the worst piece of advice I’ve ever received about ministry. It fails on so many levels.
Here are six of them.
1. Jesus Took Ministry Very Personally
Can you imagine Jesus giving anyone that advice? “Take up your cross and follow me – but don’t take it personally.”
Or the apostle Paul? “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ – but don’t take it personally.”
Of course not. They took ministry very personally.
Because ministry is relational. It’s passionate. It’s sacrificial. It’s overwhelmingly personal.
2. We Don’t Need More Impersonal Ministry
What’s the alternative to taking ministry personally? Taking it impersonally?
We’ve had enough of that. We don’t need more churches, ministries or ministers who care more about hyping the crowd than easing the burdens of real people.
3. Taking It Personally ≠ Having No Boundaries
I think I get what people mean when they say “don’t take it personally.” They mean “don’t take on an emotional burden that’s not yours to bear.” And to that I say a hearty “amen!”
So let’s say that. Don’t take on someone else’s problems. Don’t insist on helping someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Maintain healthy emotional boundaries.
Even Jesus urged his disciples to wipe the dust off their sandals and go to another town when people refused the message.
But not taking ministry personally? Never mourning as you see people’s faces fade away through the haze of sandal dust?
That’s not the kind of ministry Jesus calls us to participate in.
4. People Need The Personal Touch
Our communities are filled with people who need someone to take their situation personally.
Even the local coffee shop knows that people want their order called by name, not a randomly-assigned number. Sure, they may get the name wrong half the time, but it matters that they tried.
Knowing people’s names, hearing their story, calling them up because you miss them, and noticing the catch in their voice when they say they’re okay, but you know they’re not, is very personal.
In James 1:27 we’re told that “pure religion” is about caring for the distress of widows and orphans so much that we will live holy lives, unspotted from the world, to give them a safe place to land.
That’s extraordinarily personal.
5. Ministry Is About People – That Makes It Personal
When we stop taking ministry personally, we miss so much.
We start seeing ministry as a to-do list and nothing more. As a burden without the joy. As an unendingly task with little in the way of tangible results.
When we take ministry personally, it stops being about tasks, events and programs. It gets back to being about what it should be about.
Worshiping Jesus and serving people.
People you know.
People you love.
People you want to spend time with as you figure out how to follow Jesus together.
That’s very personal.
6. Taking It Personally Causes Us To Lean On Jesus More
When ministry starts being about people again, everything changes.
We stop leaning on our ideas, our calendars, our events and our cleverness. And we start leaning on Jesus again.
When you spend your ministry time with people you know and love, it has to be personal.
You have to lean on Jesus more.
But, more than needing to take ministry personally, you get to take ministry personally.
That may come with a greater emotional burden, but that’s where the joy is, too.
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