Years ago, I attended a church where the children’s ministry leader gave us prizes. They came in the form of cute, little badges to wear on our lanyards. I adore awards. They combine two of my love languages, words of affirmation and gifts. I displayed mine proudly.
The week before one of these award ceremonies, I switched ministry teams. At the event, I earned a couple of badges. But then one was awarded to each member of my old team; the one I’d left only a week prior. I was vexed. There was a woman on that team getting my badge! I was the one who’d done all the work that term. She’d slipped in the week before. She hadn’t done anything to earn that prize.
I’m ashamed to admit I was that cheap and petty. But I was. I even complained to a friend that I’d been cheated. Truth is, I’d forgotten the point of ministry. It’s laid out in the last part of Philippians 2:2:
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
What does it mean to have one mind and purpose? Churches are filled with all kinds of ministries. They all have different jobs. Churches are also filled with all kinds of people. They all have different personalities. Wouldn’t that mean that every ministry and every person have a different purpose? Actually, no. As believers, we all have one purpose. At least, we should. Jesus states it clearly in Matthew 28:19,20:
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
The purpose of all Christians is to further the Kingdom of God. In a church setting, that means all members of that body are working toward that goal. The cleaning team, the children’s ministry, and deacons all have the same motivation, but only differ based on the type of ministry and people involved. When each ministry pursues the kingdom, every member of the congregation benefits.
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16
Properly functioning ministries help other ministries grow. As all ministries grow, the entire church matures and becomes fit to aid the outside community. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. When a ministry falls to infighting, the focus turns from Christ to ourselves. Much like mine did with the badges. Worse, that dysfunctional ministry affects other ministries in the church. Unfettered, this kind of dissension drags the whole congregation away from outreach.
This is why cooperation is so important, but it’s easier said than done because it requires putting our own desires aside for the sake of Christ. As John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” Most disagreements within committees come from clashes over preferences. When that happens, we should set down what we want for the sake of the group and the Kingdom. Was I really only working hard in children’s ministry to earn badges? Of course, not. But I forgot that for a moment.
Philippians 2:2 lays out a pretty tough challenge for us imperfect believers. But we can achieve what it calls for if we intentionally pursue peace, place other’s needs ahead of our own, and cooperate for the cause of Christ.