Why Your Ministry Needs More Grit (and How to Get It)
by Greg Stier
True grit is more than a great movie. It’s what Jesus calls us to in the world of professional ministry.
Jesus set the pace for all of us with his own brand of hands-on earthly outreach. He got up close and personal with sinners so that he could transform them into saints. As a result, he got dirtier than a cowboy on a cattle drive during his three and a half year stint of earthly ministry. If touching contagious lepers, casting out pesky demons, and scrubbing the crud encased feet of his sweaty disciples don’t count as gritty, I don’t know what does. Suffice it to say that the only thing lacking in the ministry of Jesus was a great big bottle of Purel.
What does all of this have to do with you and your ministry? More than you might think!
Too many times in our sanitized ministry world of clean carpets, crisp outlines, and cool glasses, we miss the messiness of what it means to be a follower of Christ. To be a follower of Christ means that we follow him anywhere and everywhere to reach anyone and everyone. It means we follow him into the barrios and alleyways to preach the gospel to the poor and the downtrodden. It means we wash feet, cast out demons, reach prostitutes, and advance the kingdom of God in the trenches and stenches of humanity.
But it’s hard to pick up your cross if you’re busy developing programs and having endless meetings all while manicuring a soul patch. In far too many churches, the demands of the professional ministry world have replaced the call of Christ to get gritty with trying to make our ministries more pretty.
But the ministry of Jesus was far from pretty. As a matter of fact, it was pretty ugly. He ministered primarily to the blue collar and poor. Why? Because he knew they were a more receptive and, therefore, more strategic audience for the advancement of the gospel!
In his sermon, Preaching for the Poor, Charles Spurgeon made the case that preaching to the poor is a very strategic ministry move. He said, “If we would fire a building, it is best to light it at the basement; so our Savior, when he would save a world, and convert men of all classes, and all ranks, begins at the lowest rank, that the fire may burn upwards, knowing right well that what was received by the poor, will ultimately by his grace be received by the rich also.”
Buildings burn from the bottom up. Revivals start in the same way.
This was true in the Reformation as well. Martin Luther set out to translate the Latin Vulgate into the language of the common German people and succeeded. Cochlaeus, one of Luther’s most bitter opponents, said: “Even shoemakers and women become so absorbed in the study of Luther’s German New Testament that they are able to carry on discussions with doctors of theology.” The spark of the Reformation started in the basement and soon caught everything (and everyone) else on fire.
The prissy ministry professionals of the late 18th century wouldn’t let John Wesley and George Whitefield proclaim the gospel from their handcarved pulpits. So John and George took it to the streets. They did open air preaching to the working class in America and England, and God sparked The Great Awakening from the bottom up.
What was true in the Gospels with Jesus was true of the disciples in Acts was true of the Reformation with Luther was true of The Great Awakening with John and George…revivals start in the grit and grime. Transformation begins when leaders are willing to get out of their professional working environments and reach the lost at any cost.
So how can you get more grit in your ministry? Here are three ideas to transform your ministry from pretty to gritty:
1. Get out of your office regularly and engage in the grit.
Maybe this means that you go serve at a local rescue mission. Maybe it means you go share the gospel on the streets in the bad part of town (yes, I know this is “old school”…it’s 2,000-years-old “old school”). Perhaps it means you minister at a hospice in your community and pray with people as they live their last days on earth. Whatever it means for you in your context, do it. Pick up your cross and get in the grit.
2. Train the Christians under your leadership to share the gospel.
Do the believers at your church who follow your lead know how to share the gospel? Do you? Before you knee jerk a “yes,” stop and think about it. My experience has been that most Christians don’t know how to reach out with the good news in a clear and compelling way.
As the leader of a ministry called Dare 2 Share (we equip Christian teens to share their faith without being obnoxious), I decided to do an evangelism training series for our staff. I didn’t want to assume that just because a person works at Dare 2 Share they actually are daring to share the gospel on a regular basis. You can watch the video podcasts of these training sessions here and download the PDF outlines to equip your people to share their faith effectively.
3. Share stories weekly and create a culture of praise and prayer.
As you push out into your community, reach others with the gospel, and train your people to do the same, you are going to begin to build a catalogue of stories. Share them. Take a few minutes out of your weekly program and staff meetings for storytelling.
We call it “Taking 5 for THE Cause.” In our weekly at the D2S chapel services, we allow two or three of our staff members to share stories of people they engaged with the gospel that week. This keeps the gritty work of personal evangelism as a top priority with our staff. This also keeps prayer and praise a natural part of our office culture. We are praying for the lost and praising God for the amazing stories of transformation that are unfolding in our midst on a regular basis.
I end with the amazing words of Hebrews 13:11-13, “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”
Let’s go outside the camp. Let’s get in the grit.