Ministry to the Few is as Important as Ministry to the Many

God is more concerned with your faithfulness than your fame. Ministry to the few is as important as ministry to the many. While these two phrases might get you plenty of likes and shares on social media, they actually represent two of my deepest ministry scars.

“Can we please just play pool and hang out today?” said Joel.

I had crafted an epic eight-week sermon series on discipleship. I literally believed the heavens would open up, revival would break out, and my student ministry was going to triple in size. My city was never going to be the same! These students would almost instantaneously become like Christ. This sermon series was going to go down in the records of history and be canonized into thick, leather-bound books on the shelves of every seminarian—right alongside the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the Matthew Henry commentary.

So instead of following my normal pattern of dismissing whatever Joel said—because he was the lovable clown that didn’t know what the five-second-rule was—I actually agreed with him.

“Well, I was planning on starting our new sermon series today, but since—for some odd reason—you, Simon, Christina, and I are the only ones here today; sure, let’s do it. Let’s skip the sermon and just hang out!” And at that, I schooled everyone at a classic game of eight ball. (My dad owned a billiard hall while I was in high school, so I had a bit of experience when it came to pool.)

Typically, on a good Sunday, we had a few dozen students that showed up, so when Joel asked if we could hang out instead of learn, I thought to myself, Why waste this epic sermon on one student? I would then have to catch everyone up the next week, since this was part one of eight in this series. The logical thing to do was hold off on preaching this sermon until next Sunday. Also, this way, I could get one week ahead in sermon preparation. So not only did this benefit me, but it also made me look like the cool student pastor. It was clearly a win-win.

Until that afternoon.

Have you ever felt slightly off?

It’s like that moment, after entering the grocery store, when you suddenly feel like you forgot to lock your car doors. Or like that moment when you’re joking around with your friends and you take it too far.

Well, that’s how I felt when I returned home that afternoon. Something wasn’t right, and though I felt like I knew what it might be, I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to walk back to the car and lock the doors. I didn’t want to apologize to my friends for taking it too far. So I just tried to ignore that feeling.

No matter what I did to try to suppress that feeling, it just didn’t go away.

So I took a deep breath and decided to pray and ask the Lord why I felt the way I did. In that moment, I sensed the Lord saying, “That sermon that you worked so hard to prepare for was actually for today, not next week! It wasn’t for the masses; it was for the few.”

What at first seemed like a wise and common sense decision, ended up being the wrong one. And it was all because of my motives. I wanted to start the sermon series off with a bang and create momentum. I didn’t want to have to play catch-up with the majority of the students in my ministry. I wanted the sermon to have as big of an impact as it could. So naturally, I didn’t want to waste the sermon on a couple of people!

After repenting to God for being more concerned about my fame than being faithful with the message that he had entrusted me with for that Sunday, I ended up calling Simon, one of our leaders, to apologize. While it definitely felt awkward to apologize for not preaching and instead schooling him at a game of eight ball, during that call, as I listened to what he was going through, it clicked. That sermon was actually for him.

And that’s when I discovered that ministry to the few is as important as ministry to the many.

From that day forward, I promised myself that I would try to be faithful regardless of the size or perceived impact that any ministry opportunity had. Whether there was one person or ten thousand, I committed to choosing faithfulness and always bringing my A-game.

Instead of seeing every opportunity as a blessing from the Lord for Kingdom impact, I was judging effectiveness by attendance. My metrics were totally off. That experience, as minor as it may seem, was actually foundationally influential in shifting my perspective on success and effectiveness in ministry.

Now when it comes to developing a plan for discipleship and growth in your church, the one is as important as the many. In fact, the only way to see your entire church grow spiritually and numerically is to start by discipling one person at a time.

But how do you know when someone is mature? When someone’s been discipled?

Are there metrics or things that you can do that can predictably influence the formation and maturity of an individual? Actions that balance the tension between faithfulness and fruitfulness? Our work and God’s?

In No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry, I unpack a different metric for maturity—one that’s based on one of the largest research studies done to date on discipleship. Pick up a copy today to learn more.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Im

My name is Daniel Sangi Im and I am the Director of Church Multiplication for LifeWay Christian Resources. I lead NewChurches.com, an online hub for the mission of church multiplication. I am passionate about leadership and the local church. I love being a part of creating the systems, strategies, tools and resources to help new churches get planted, campuses get started, and multiplication to happen. Before coming to LifeWay, I served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, and Edmonton.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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