About the Character of Ministry (Ministering in Small Churches pt 5)

These are remarks I planned to give at the Consultation on Theological Education in Osijek last April, but was not able to give because of time.  They fit the current theme, Ministry in Small Churches, so I am posting them here.


Like the leaders in business and politics, church and ministry leaders in our region tend to be fragmented and competitive. The term “balkanization” refers to the process of fragmenting a group into smaller groups that are hostile toward, in competition with, or uncooperative with one another. When applied to the church in the Balkans, the term is often apt. Satan’s greatest current successes in our region are the way he keeps evangelical Christians suspicious, fearful, angry, etc., toward both Catholics and toward other evangelicals. He stokes resentments, inflames grudges and jealousies, and puffs up our pride.

I see God moving in this direction already. He is calling leaders to move:

From law to grace.
From shame to honor.
From fear to love.
From individual to community.
From human authority and authoritarianism to spiritual gifts.
From scarcity to abundance.
From jealousy to generosity.
From apprehension to boldness.
From personal kingdoms to the Kingdom of God.
From competition to cooperation.
From transactional leadership (leading by reward and punishment) to servant leadership.
From exclusion to inclusion.
From resignation to expectation.
From harshness to gentleness.
From isolation to accountability.
From hiddenness to transparency.
From closedness to openness.
From self-protection to self-sacrifice.
From short-term thinking to long-term thinking.
From a balkanized mindset to a Body of Christ mindset.

Do you know the difference between a finite game and an infinite game? A “finite game” is a game where the object is for players to defeat their opponents. Finite games have one winner and everyone else is a loser. Finite games are played with a scarcity mindset. The World Cup is an example of a finite game; only one team gets the trophy.

An “infinite game” is a game where the object is for players to cooperate and overcome obstacles together. Everyone who cooperates can win. Infinite games are played with an abundance mindset. A group of mountain climbers is an example of an infinite game; the group is most successful if everyone contributes and summits.

For too long, church leaders in our region have approached Kingdom work from a finite game mindset. When one of us is blessed, we are jealous of the blessed one instead of celebrating with them. When we have honest differences on small matters, things not central to the gospel, we use the differences to exclude and condemn instead of being gracious with each other. When we have a resource that others do not have, we protect and hoard that resource, that advantage, instead of sharing it and blessing others with it.

President Truman once said, “There’s no end to what we can accomplish if we don’t care who gets the credit.” We need to learn to think like that. Or like Paul in Philippians 1: “Whether from good motives or bad, Christ is being preached, so I will rejoice.”

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