In this season right after the elections, I think that most of us are tired of the constant barrage of campaign ads trying to make the right candidate look like a saint while picturing their opponent as the “creature from the black lagoon” who will leave its murky environs to menace all if elected to public office. Yes, America has election fatigue. It’s even nauseating to watch candidates that I would vote for saying all of the right catch phrases in the right order for maximum effect. They have all of the right persons fawning over them as they wave to a throng of half crazed supporters (who gets this excited in every day real life?) with every motion and word carefully scripted. Even though running for office of necessity is a popularity contest, it causes me to pause about my personal life and how I relate to other people as someone interested in impacting culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Should I try to gain as many Facebook friends as I can or should I try to become a YouTube channel titan who boasts a multi-million subscriber list? Should I try and say all the right catch phrases in order to endear myself to as many people as possible? I believe that Christian ministries oftentimes measure their success by how much attention they can garner for their pet project or ministry. In this election season, this causes me to see a contrast between election politics and successful ministry. If you truly want to make an impact in the world around you, it’s mainly about impacting one person at a time.
A number of years back, I was involved with a team of law enforcement officers (C.O.P.S.) who came alongside grieving families during National Police Week (NPW). Every May, families, friends, and co-workers descend upon Washington, D.C. to commemorate their fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their communities. During NPW this particular year, I was tasked to be with a particular family who had travelled to D.C. In addition to this duty, I had also auditioned to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the main memorial service. As a vocalist, it would really be great exposure and an honor to be able to sing at the main memorial service where there would be thousands of people and dignitaries present. The president traditionally is in attendance as well and normally speaks to the assembled there and consoles the grieving families too.
However, I did not get the nod to sing at the service that year and concentrated solely on serving the family. I did attend the memorial service though and was able to help a large man in a wheel chair go from the street all the way up to the top of Capitol Hill. This ended up being quite a workout in the warm May weather (dressed in a suit and tie). Reflecting on my time during NPW that year, it hit me that aiding the family and the large man in the wheel chair was much more important than gaining some sort of acclaim for myself. As I look back at it, I believe that I made a greater impact by helping the large gentlemen in the wheel chair grieve his fallen loved one. In retrospect, I actually believe that I was meant to go to D.C. to have the honor of pushing that man up Capitol Hill.
In reflecting upon intentionally ministering to one or just a few people at a time, it is clear that Jesus and his disciples were not in ministry for the notoriety. It is true, of course, that at points they ministered to throngs of people. However, they often were interested in merely serving just one person at a time. I think of Jesus and how he interceded on behalf of the man born blind and gave vision back to him (John ch. 9). I think of how even in the middle of a large crowd, He felt healing virtue go out of Himself for just one person (Mark 5:27-34). I think of Jesus discussing a reborn spiritual life with Nicodemus (John ch. 3). Another obvious example of Jesus’s heart toward just one person is His parable of the lost sheep where the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that is lost (Luke 15:4-7). There are many more examples of how Jesus, God Incarnate, would minister to just one or a few persons.
In addition to Jesus, the disciples also modeled intentionally ministering to one person with great effect. I Think of Phillip ministering to the Ethiopian Eunuch. How he spent his time explaining the book of Isaiah to the eunuch, leading him on to a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and then on to baptism. I think of Paul’s labor on behalf of the slave Onesimus as he tried to convince Philemon to free him. I think of Peter who travelled a far distance at the behest of God to speak with the Roman centurion, Cornelius (Acts ch. 10). In the New Testament, we see that God is, in fact, interested in “just one.”
There are some who do have a gift of public speaking and can naturally connect with a large audience at once. However, the truth is that most of us just do not have a natural charisma that can hold the attention of large groups of people. The truth is that Christians can be most effective in ministering to people where they connect with one person in an authentic way. Where we treat another person as an end in themselves rather than a means to obtaining something else. If you really want to be used for good in the life of someone else, the first thing to do is to commit to do it and ask God for opportunities to do it. Even in doing small acts of service for a person in need, God can use you to impact the life of someone else for good. I urge you to commit to being used by God in whatever setting that you find yourself in and pray to the same end. When committing and preparing yourself to be used, I believe that God will use you in His ministry of helping the needy of society and also in going after the “one lost sheep.”