In his new book, “Faith,” former President Jimmy Carter includes Millard and Linda Fuller as examples of those whom he’s known and admired. The Fullers founded Habitat for Humanity, an organization that has built or renovated 2 ½ million homes in 70 nations. One of Millard Fuller’s greatest accomplishments was convincing the Carters to partner with Habitat, and the former first family has helped with Habitat builds for the past 35 years.
I was intrigued by a quote Carter included from a Habitat staffer: “Millard has the dreams, and then we inherit the nightmare of fulfilling his vision.”
I suppose every church deals with the “nightmare” of fulfilling vision. We’re committed as disciples of Christ, following him into pockets of need in our communities. But superintending ministries can be difficult for several reasons.
One reason is that ministries are staffed by fallible human beings. Leadership guru John Maxwell often says the joy of ministry is people, and the difficulty of ministry is people! That’s because we all possess two natures: vipers and violets as F.W. Boreham used to say. People can be wonderfully cooperative and generous, and people can be petty and obstructionist. But Christian leaders realize we must work with those we have and develop people into greater Christlikeness.
Another reason ministry is difficult is because of criticism. The old adage is that it doesn’t take much size to criticize, but criticism is part of every ministry I’ve ever known.
The late televangelist Oral Roberts was accosted by a critic who castigated him for a ministry.
“How do you do this work?” Roberts asked.
The man sheepishly admitted he didn’t do this work.
“Sir,” Roberts replied. “I like the way I’m doing this more than the way you’re not doing it!”
Another reason ministry is difficult is because of resource shortages. Churches aren’t to be savings accounts, piling up larges amounts of money for the proverbial “rainy day,” but rather checking accounts, receiving gifts from God’s people and investing these funds in worthwhile endeavors. Even though we know this, most churches still struggle with a lack of resources.
In our church we often say that we could spend ten times our current benevolence budget to help so many people in need around us. But we also have other ministries we’re committed to. Some studies suggest the average Christian gives just over two percent of their income to the church. We can only imagine the ministries we could do if more people moved to the biblical model of the tithe.
Ministry is hard, but we must do it. The Lord of the church insisted, “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).