Reach Our World: Members in Ministry
by Al Reimche
We were tired after finishing a full day at the State Fair in Salem. It was time to head home, and the closest way to our car led through the animal barns where we happened upon a section reserved for miniature goats. It was the enclosure that had four or more baby miniature goats and a small straw bale that captured our attention. All of a sudden “tired” disappeared from our thinking as we watched those baby goats play “king of the castle” on the straw bale. One would jump up and strut around like he owned the world until another would sneak up and bounce him off the bale. It must have been over half an hour that we watched and laughed at the silly antics of those babies playing that game of life – who is the tallest, the smartest, the fastest, who climbs the highest ... the list could go on forever. But what does this story have to do with the title, and how could “Members in Ministry” ever be equated with goats?
Answering that question now would be getting ahead of myself. Instead, let’s look at an experience the disciples had with Jesus just prior to the cross. They had been listening to the religious leaders challenge Jesus about a statement He had made concerning the temple. After finding a quiet place away from the arguing and clamoring crowd, they asked the question, “When will these things happen and what will be the sign of Your return?” After talking about all the things that would happen in the world, He stated that the real sign would be that “this gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all the world and then the end would come.” Sometimes we overlook that profound statement as we watch for more dramatic signs like “earthquakes in diverse places.” But then Jesus finished His thoughts by sharing the four preparation parables: the prepared home-owner, the oil-filled lamps, the good stewards, and finally, the judgment of the sheep and the goats.
The last parable reads, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:32-40 NKJV
We know this parable. We’ve heard it told many times, but maybe we have never seen it in context. Jesus was saying, yes, there will be problems in the world you are living in. Yes, there will be disasters happening everywhere. Yes, signs in the sun, moon, and stars will be happening right before your eyes. So instead of fear, be about my mission. Use the talents I have given you. Fill your souls with the holy oil of the Spirit, and be sheep.
What was the difference between the sheep and the goats? I know the obvious answer is that the sheep were involved in ministry and the goats were not. But just for a moment think of what the goats say to Jesus as they find themselves on the wrong side of judgment. When did we see You and not do the right thing? Listen, had we known it was You, we would have done whatever You needed.
I believe the greater difference between these two groups was that the sheep followed the Shepherd’s approach. It wasn’t that they wanted to be noticed or acknowledged, but rather that they shared what God had done for them. They administered God’s grace to others, not even knowing that what they were doing was being done directly to Jesus. The goats wanted to play king of the castle. If we had known it was You … if we had known where that straw pile was, we would have climbed to the top and not let anyone push us off. We would have looked good. We would have been “king of the castle.”
There is a world outside our churches, schools and homes that needs to hear the good news. It is a world that needs to experience the awesome grace of our Savior! It is not for status in God’s eyes that we talk about all members in ministry, rather that we have this privilege to administer God’s grace in all its various forms through our unique spiritual gifts. We don’t become members in ministry so that we will be saved, as the goats thought they were; instead we use our God-given gifts in ministry because we are saved.
Those baby goats were so funny, so human in their game of “king of the castle,” each one attempting to reach the ultimate heights of the straw bale. That’s where the goats reminded me of all of us. It is not all about me, whether reaching the pinnacle of a straw bale, or bragging that I served Christ.
It is about all of us as members reaching out to our world with the good news–experiencing God’s grace and then ministering that grace in its various forms to the world we touch around us.
As you read or hear stories about people being used by God, remember that this is not an attempt to put them on a “straw bale” but rather to show examples of what God is wanting to do in each of our lives to reach our world for Him.