Serving in God’s harvest field is a great thing. He has apportioned gifts to his church to prepare for his coming Kingdom. However, as we do so, we must be cognizant of lurking dangers. These are some of the dangers of Christian ministry. As you read through them, do some self-auditing.
Danger One: Participating in ministry but not walking with God.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus describes a future scene on Judgement day. Jesus says:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
This is very scary. These are people who have served in Church and have even had ministry success but were not sealed for salvation. We know they were not saved because Jesus disowns them by saying, “I never knew you.” Jesus is saying, “You were never part of me to start with.” One may ask, “Is it possible to have such ministry success without being born again?” I believe it is. Paul told us in Philippians 1:15 that some people preach Jesus out of envy and rivalry. A good example is the sons of Sceva. After they saw Paul doing extraordinary miracles in the name of Jesus, the Bible says this about them in Acts 19:13-16:
“But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches. Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”
From the passage, we can see that they were exorcists. However their ministry was mere mimicking, not through the power of the Holy Spirit. These are people in the world who love the idea of Christian ministry but are not walking with God. Like the Sons of Sceva, there is a danger of engaging the Spirit world with a carnal nature. Since they were Jewish Exorcists, they must have thought that their titles qualify them for the kind of ministry Paul was doing. Or since their father was a Jewish Chief priest, they must have surely imagined they were qualified. They were wrong. There are people in our churches today who serve in the worship team simply because they have good voices, but they are not born-again. They believe themselves approved by God on account of choir service. After all, people cry when they lead worship. There are people in church who serve because like the Sons of Sceva, their fathers or mothers are clergy. They believe themselves approved by God on account of their spiritual heritage. They are wrong. It is the most scary thought to think yourself saved because of your participation in ministry only to be told by Jesus on judgement day, ‘Depart from me; I never knew you.”
Danger Two: Ministry by presumption
The Bible says in Leviticus 10: 1-3: “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” (NASB)
Like Nadab and Abihu, you can be in ministry and simply serve by presumption. Ministry is an honour and privilege. You are in service of the Creator; we cannot afford to be presumptuous. It is presumptuous to say, “Listen to the words and not the voice” because we haven’t practised. Remember, ultimately, we have an audience of one- God. I believe it is for this reason that the scriptures command us that whether we eat or drink let us do it to the glory of God. Presumption can find root in past ministry successes. Nadab and Abihu must have thought, “We have done this a thousand times!” Interesting to note that the scriptures say God had not commanded them. We are in a time where churches are being started yet God did not command it. Ministries are birthed yet God did not command it. Church projects are initiated yet God did not command it. Be sure not to engage in ministry without the direction of God.
Danger Three: Lack of Compassion
Jonah the prophet lacked compassion. He refused to minister where he was sent because he knew God was forgiving and loving. Listen to what he says in Jonah 4:1-2
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.”
Jonah is basically saying, “You should have crushed them LORD! You should have shown them who is boss!” But the LORD says to us in 2nd Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (NASB) The Lord asked Jonah in verse 4 “Do you have good reason to be angry?” To have compassion we must see people as Christ sees them. We must see their worth, their needs and their potential. To have compassion we must care for people the way Jesus did. We must have thick skin and a tender heart. To show compassion, we must pray for people the way Jesus did. It is difficult to hate whom you pray for. We should not just pray for who we care for. We should also pray those we don’t have compassion for and then our hearts will begin to care for them. People may reject your prayers, your company and your influence but they are helpless against your prayers. We must care for those who are suffering, even if it is carnal suffering as a result of their sin.
Danger Four: Jealousy
This is the most common danger of ministry among Christians. The perfect story is in Numbers 12:1-9
“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) Suddenly the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said,
“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. “Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?”
So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous.
Miriam’ and Aaron’s jealousy was shrouded in talking about Moses’ new wife. At times we shroud gossip in the name of addressing someone’s latest relationship. The issue wasn’t the Cushite wife. It was for the fact that God spoke to Moses and not them. In truth they were jealous of Moses’ ministry. Perhaps only Miriam was struck because she may have started the gossip. Perhaps. We don’t know. Perhaps she wondered to herself, “How comes Moses gets all the attention? How comes Moses gets to do the big miracles? Why Moses?” Beloved, Moses was not perfect, but he was humble- the most humble man in the face of the earth. Humility brings greatness. Humility will always lead to godly ministry success. Miriam and Aaron saw that greatness and envied their brother. They spoke behind his back and the LORD heard. It is dangerous to be on God’s opposing side, Beloved. We’re all capable of harbouring jealousy like Miriam and Aaron.
One characteristic of jealousy is undue criticism. Coaches point mistakes and help you out of it. Critics point mistakes and leave you feeling bad about yourself. Miriam had great qualities. She saved Moses’ life as a child, and she wrote a song of praise Israel used to celebrate the crossing of the Red Sea. But she paid a high price for her jealousy and critical attitude. If you have been jealous of the success of other people, stop criticising, repent and do the work God has called you to do. God gives one talent to one man. To another five. To another ten. Instead of looking at the Moses around you, ask yourself if you are being faithful with your portion.
What are other dangers of Christian ministry that you learn from the scriptures?