I first heard these words in Dallas, Texas, while I was attending Bible college when one of my favorite professors, the former Dr. Eric Belcher, sounded this advice to his students. Over the years I’ve come to realize that these words were and remain to be some of the best words of advice that I’ve ever heard.
I’ve been in the ministry now for some 21 years, which has included full-time, part-time, and volunteer work and my ministry has covered everything from children and youth to adults, both Christian and Jewish people. During this time, at the expense of almost losing those closest to me—my wife and children; my marriage—I kept from seeing the greatness of these words. Pastoral ministry remains to be one of the most physical, mental, and emotional professions I’ve ever experienced. However, it also has its rewards, gleaned from both having successful and unsuccessful happenstances in the ministry. Any pastor reading this can understand the sincerity of these words, but the reality remains: Regardless of the joys and sorrows of pastoral ministry, we are, indeed, in the people business because, and here’s the cliffhanger, God is in the people business.
Therefore, what does this mean? In a world of “me, me, me” Christendom we find many ministers who appear to be all about themselves. I, too, can appear to fall into this category having the name of my ministry titled, Adrian Bernal Ministries. However, I can assure you that the ministry I am personally involved in is not about me but about people, both Jewish and non-Jewish people, for whom Yeshua died. I serve as a co-pastor, worship leader, traveling speaker, and biblical counselor, for which I receive minimal reimbursement or adequate compensation for the amount of work and education that I have; yet, this doesn’t seem to bother me as much as my monthly bills. (A slight approach at humor.) Other ministers, however, that I’ve had the warm privilege of knowing who hold similar degrees and are well educated, rarely speak for nothing or labor in the Messiah without adequate compensation. Curious. Interesting, to say the least.
Sure, I’m not some super-Christian, Revivalist, well-known theologian, or scholar, but has our faith become the work of only those whom hold such positions? Are people only willing to listen to the super, well-known speakers that ride the circuits for ministry opportunities? Not that I haven’t had the privilege of speaking before hundreds of people and leading many to the gracious freedoms found in the Messiah, but what causes us to want to employ and listen only to the heroes of our time? Yes, success has its merits, and we are drawn to those who succeed in all walks of life, so I’m sure that even I, your humble believer, would rather listen to someone like Dr. Michael Brown expound on the intricacies of the Jewishness of New Testament theology than the pastor down the street who ministers to a church of 20 people. Yet, the richness of the knowledge of those whom have labored in the Messiah for countless of years in small congregations, for minimal pay, oftentimes being blamed for all sorts of things by church-hoppers, do they have anything less to offer than the super heroes of our times?
The admiration of bi-vocational pastors and ministers and their long-time dedication to the Body of Messiah without a retirement, without their due respect—oftentimes being told by their own parishioners, “I like the sermons of . . .” or “I listen to . . .” or “I watch so and so all the time,” and are never given a gift or recognition during pastor appreciation month—and without their name being known is something to stand back and take note. They truly know the meaning of, “we’re in the people business.” They understand the heartaches, the in-your-face failures for which the whole community takes note, and the countless of hours counseling couples that have already made up their minds to divorce. Yes, all of these things and more are experienced by mega-church pastors and large ministries as well, so I’m not disowning those or making light of them while I exalt smaller ministries, but can anyone say that smaller ministries and ministers offer anything less than those well-known ministries and ministers? Perhaps.
People are messy and so are small ministries, but the greatness of the rewards for never losing focus and keeping the faith while ministering to, at times, the ugliness of people’s actions is a stark reminder that those whom are not well known may be the very heroes in our society that we lack and that we need to listen to. This does not mean, however, that they are suffering for Jesus, if indeed they are making horrendous mistakes in ministry and becoming self-martyrs for the sake of the ministry—even smaller congregations can experience the joy of multi-leadership (5-fold) ministry. So, the “woe-is-me-mentality” is not what I’m praising, but, rather, the pastors and ministers who labor and serve the Messiah all because they understand that they are, indeed, in the people business because God is in the people business. To you we raise our hearts in thankfulness to Yeshua, and to you we say, fight the good fight and keep the faith because you are in the greatest enterprise the world has ever known . . . the people business.
Shalom and blessings,
Dr. Adrian A. Bernal
By Adrian A. Bernal © 2014, All Rights Reserved