by Aaron Earls
Not long ago, my youngest son came up to me with a puzzled look on his face. “Daddy, what’s a phonebook?” he asked.
I had to laugh. The idea of a phonebook, that was so common to me, is completely foreign to him.
What was once an essential part of life is now a forgotten part of the past. Can the same be said of the way we do ministry? Are you doing phonebook ministry?
Phonebook ministry would be any type of tool or methodology once considered vital to your ministry context, but no longer effective in your culture.
It could be a method that worked great 20 years ago, but has faded in usefulness. It could be a new tool that’s effective in a certain context, but doesn’t translate well into other areas.
Everyone can easily see the phonebook speck in our brother’s eye, but have we stopped to see the phonebook log in our own?
Ministry tools, be they traditional or modern, classic or cutting edge, are just that—tools. They are not the ministry itself. They are certainly not the gospel. They should simply be ways to accomplish the ministry and communicate the gospel.
Tools and methodology will continually change. Don’t become too attached to what’s worked in the past or you may lose sight of the purpose of the ministry itself.
How can you tell if your ministry tools have the potential to become a phonebook ministry for you? Here are five thoughts that may indicate you have over-elevated a ministry tool.
- If this way of doing things were changed in my church, I would be angry.
- Most of my thoughts center around this idea, and not Christ.
- I spend more time working to tweak this tool than I do in prayer.
- I judge others’ ministry by my methodology more than by Scripture.
- If I see someone doing a great work for God, but they use different methods, I have a mixed reaction.
This is a never-ending process of evaluation for Christians. The tools you use for ministry may have previously been state-of-the-art and, perhaps, extremely effective. That’s not the point. Phonebooks used to be important, too.
Twice a year, the telephone companies still drop off their product at my door. The same thing happens every time. I look at it, shake my head and then put it in our recycling container. Hopefully, something good can come out of what was essentially a waste of paper.
Maybe it’s time to check your ministry tools. Do any of them belong in the recycling bin with the phonebooks?
What new tools and methods can you use that would work better for your ministry today? Be biblical and creative. Seek God’s wisdom on it. Don’t be hindered by piles of phonebook ministries.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.