Not in Vain
On Sunday night, I locked the doors of our small church plant in Toronto. I held hands with my wife and walked five minutes to our condo, and reflected on the weekend: two family events, one large multi-church Good Friday service, one semi-successful Easter egg hunt for children in the neighborhood, and an encouraging but small Easter service.
As we walked home, I felt a mix of emotions. I felt privileged to be a church planter. I felt immensely grateful for the people who had served that day: the couple that handed out invitations in the freezing rain earlier in the week, the man who moved the outdoor rat trap out of the way for the Easter egg hunt. “You didn’t sign up for this,” I said. “I signed up,” he replied. “I’m ready for anything.” I felt grateful for the worship leaders who led us, and for the new people who’d come out to our service.
At the same time, I was aware that we were doing small things. I thought of Zack Eswine’s words that I’d read on Good Friday. “We are tempted to do large things famously and fast,” he writes, “but…we are vigorously pursing what it means to do small mostly overlooked things over a long period of time.”
I am learning the beauty of the type of ministry that Eswine describes. There’s nothing big, fast, or successful about church planting, at least the way we’re doing it. It’s messy, exciting, stressful, slow, fast, frustrating, and fulfilling all at the same time. But it’s beautiful.
As I reflected on our ministry the next day, I thought of what Paul wrote to a messy church as he reflected on the resurrection. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Paul said to people like me: be all in. Be firm, immovable, and wholehearted in ministry. Hold nothing back. And know that, in light of the resurrection of Jesus, that our ministries matter. Take the resurrection out of the picture, and our ministries add up to nothing. But the resurrection changes the math. Our ministries matter more than we could know, even if they’re small, overlooked, and slow. They matter, even though they seem insignificant.
Small and seemingly insignificant ministries are needed. Not only are they needed, but they count, at least when the resurrection is factored in.