For almost fifteen years, my wife and I have hosted a weekly “M.E.A.T. Night,” a small gathering of local missionaries. It’s changed locations and names a couple of times, but for the bulk of that time, it’s been at our house. M.E.A.T. Night is an acronym for Missionaries Eating And Talking. We eat, and we talk. That’s about it. No prayer time, no worship, no bible study. Sometimes there are only about ten people, sometimes forty. We talk…and we eat. It’s my favorite night of the week, and not just because it usually involves carbs and bacon. I think it’s some of the best “ministry” that happens in our community.
The town we live in here in Mexico is unique. Although it’s fairly small, about three thousand people nestled into a small valley near the coast, there are numerous ministries. There are two orphanages, a no-charge daycare, a huge free medical clinic, a couple of re-hab style centers, a dozen or so churches, a couple of great private schools for little or no cost, a horse therapy center, a career training center, the list goes on. Having a large number of ministries in one area is not that unique; what makes our town different is all of the ministries play together. We’re not in competition, and we don’t attack each other, we actually work together and rejoice in each other’s success.
Our natural inclination is to build our own ministry, to establish ourselves, to mark our territory. The problem is, our natural inclination is not what is best for the Kingdom or for us. It’s not “our” ministry, it’s God’s. But that tension between what we want, versus what God wants, has been going on since that first bite of the apple. Is our ministry about our glory? Or is it about giving glory and honor to God? If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not always black and white, many of us live in the grey area.
Shortly after moving to Mexico to help run an orphanage, we started hosting short-term mission groups. A lot of them. It quickly got to the point that we couldn’t use everyone who wanted to come down. You can only paint a wall so often, and our kids can reach a limit on piñatas and crafts.
We decided to start sending short-term mission teams to other orphanages who didn’t have as many groups. Oddly, this confused a lot of people. The other orphanages were more than a little suspicious. What were our ulterior motives? What were we up to? The groups wanted to know why we didn’t want them. Did they do something wrong? It was a little odd. Sending groups away to other ministries is like a pastor getting up one Sunday and saying, “Hey, we’re a little crowded, why don’t half of you go visit another church next Sunday.”
Did we “lose” a few groups and donations to other orphanages? Absolutely. Did we suffer because of this? No, not really. People saw that we just wanted to help where it was needed, and they liked that. Over time donations went up, we hosted more groups, and the cycle continued.
Several years ago, a ministry called Strong Tower came alongside our home to build a new, desperately needed nursery building. They didn’t just come down for a week, they invaded. They spent almost three years working to build a really incredible facility. When it came time for the ribbon-cutting the leaders hid. It wasn’t about them, and they wanted no recognition. Strong Tower Ministries is unique. They, until very recently, didn’t have their own building or property, they don’t have regular meetings, they only exist to help other ministries. They exist to “Back the Heroes.” They find OTHER ministries and give them what they need to further the Kingdom. I was so amazed by this concept that I joined their team. Working together to build up other ministries is what we are called to do. Why is it so rare?
How many towns have multiple churches across the street from each other who never talk? How many ministries within the same church can’t get along? When people are focused on building their own kingdom, instead of THE Kingdom, everyone is a threat, everyone is in competition, and no one rises. When each ministry stands alone, no one wins, there is no body of Christ, just individuals seeking there own territory.
The ministries and people in our town continue to draw together. There is now a men’s bible study and a women’s bible study made up of just local missionaries supporting each other. Are the ministries or people in our town perfect? Absolutely not. Do I still stumble daily in who I want to give the glory to? Oh yeah. But I and the others in our area have a goal to do better, and we’re getting there.
If you’re in ministry, ask yourself a question and try to be honest: “Is this ministry about me? Or is this about the Kingdom and serving those around me?” Respond accordingly.
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For more information on partnering with Strong Tower Ministries click here: Strong Tower Ministries