As I write this, it is the eve of a new ministry launch. My team of co-leaders includes a gifted teacher, a sparkly-eyed new ministry coordinator, a hospitality guru, and her emerging protege. Many hours of administrative detail, planning, and prayer have gone into this endeavor. And in 2 short conversations, we have seen discouragement and confusion threaten to ruin tomorrow’s outlook.
Am I surprised?
Hardly. Any worthy endeavor encounters opposition.
But in the midst of praying over the significant details, the Holy Spirit brought to mind one of my favorite ministry stories. It’s found in John 6 and Matthew 14.
On the heels of great grief as Jesus has learned of his cousin John the Baptist’s death, he withdraws by boat to solitude. But the crowds seek him out. He looks upon them with great compassion and heals their sick.
And then evening, the supper hour, draws near.
The people have come with both spiritual hunger and physical need. The disciples’ response is priceless: Send them away. Tell them to go home.
The disciples are no doubt overwhelmed with need and fatigued themselves. Exhaustion fuels their natural response to isolate and shut down. “Send the people away. We can’t help them.”
But the opportunity for ministry is right in front of them. Jesus responds with crystal clarity: You give them something to eat. They do not need to go away.
And as only He can, the Messiah takes an opportunity to teach his followers that He is their provider. He is the means by which ministry takes place. He is the One who heals our diseases and satisfies our desires with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagles (Psalm 103:3-5).
A careful inventory reveals that 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish are what is offered. It’s all they’ve got. You can see the skepticism in Philip and Andrew’s eyes, hear it in their words. Is it going to be enough?
How often as ministry leaders do we brim with those same questions? How often do we groan with “Why did I even consider doing this in the first place?!”
I only have this, God. I can only serve here. I can be here then. I can’t commit all year. Is it enough? Am I enough? What if it fails? What if we walk away hungry? Can I bear the pain?
Tenderly and with compassion, Jesus takes what is offered. He gives thanks. He distributes the offering, using the disciples to pass out the elements to the gathered crowd.
No one goes away hungry. Everyone is satisfied. Even the disciples. Not only satisfied, but with leftover grace to take home. One for each. Each disciple carries home from that day of ministry a basket full of pieces from their offering, a tangible reminder of God’s mercy and provision not just for the crowd. But for them.
I’ve already prayed for our little band of disciples tomorrow that God provides and sends us all home satisfied and filled with His grace.
Ministry isn’t about being enough. It’s about offering what you have to the One who is enough.