By the Rev. Lakeya Stewart
A few weeks ago I talked about “Pure Religion.” This week, let’s talk about “Pure Ministry.”
True story: I recently met up with a friend whom I worked with a few years back. He was a minister and a former teacher. He shared with me his story. Life has a way of knocking us down at times—but is it always a bad thing? This minister and teacher spoke to me about how he ended up serving as a housekeeper in a local hospital. What he described to me was “pure ministry.”
What is “pure ministry?” I am glad that you asked. “Pure ministry” is ministry done with a pure heart. It is one that is done out of true compassion, it seeks no recognition and this cup of ministry is full to the brim with love and gracious humility. Now, let me make this clear. Those of us called to preach and teach God’s Word in front of congregations are doing ministry, but my focus in this article is primarily on those who assume the beautiful non-traditional roles of ministry… that is, those that do ministry off camera, out of the public eye; and even some more discreetly than this, which could be needed to maintain the public dignity of the person being helped. So, let’s listen to what Jesus in Matthew 6:2 says about it:
“Therefore when thou doest alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say into you, they have their reward.”
Like many of you, I have seen ministers who even view their reward, after delivering a sermon, as the number of people who come to the altar at the conclusion of the sermon. Or, those church members alike who must tell the world that they give all of their year-old clothes to those in need. These types of people often receive praise and words of affirmation for “doing the right thing.” But, just for a moment let’s turn our attention to those individuals who minister privately and in some of the most unlikely places …. without requesting to be known by their official titles.
One story that my minister friend shared was when he was mopping the floor of a patient’s room and he noticed the Bible in her hand. Because he was not allowed to blatantly speak of religion given his role as housekeeper, he said, “Hey, you actually read that book?” The patient was so perturbed by the question that she shouted indignantly, “I happen to read THIS book EVERY morning!” My friend then responded, “Well, I read this book TWICE a day!” The shocked patient was eager to hear more from him, and that she indeed heard! This minister/housekeeper did not enter this patient’s room with a Bible in hand, with a fancy robe on his back, or with a bishop’s ring on his finger, but often entered into the rooms of patients with just a mop and a bucket. He did not allow his titles to dictate or even limit his ability to do “pure ministry.” This initial interaction between the housekeeper and the patient began an interesting conversation about faith and the patient’s relationship with God. It was an interaction with another person without the use of a formal ministerial title that led to a deepening of one’s relationship with God; but, this requires humility on the part of the minister. Let’s talk about humility.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:6-7 to “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” Many of us today are wondering when are “due time” is. Yes, we’ve been waiting on God to move in our circumstances but, God simply desires us to be and remain humble. But, practically speaking: How do we do that?
Humility can be a tough concept to really grasp. Many people believe they are humble but display signs of arrogance and feelings of superiority above others. See, I used to believe that because I wasn’t ashamed to shop at secondhand stores that I was humble. It was as if because I didn’t care that people saw me shop there or wear clothes from there that I was humble.
Having humility is a matter of the heart. This mindset says that “I am because, He is.” It also says, “I have, because He supplies.” Humility always goes back to the believer recognizing what James 1:17 means when it says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” It is a believer’s constant state of reminder that we have not been so holy, and lived so righteous, but it is Jesus’ death on the cross that renders us able to do and be lights in this dark and dying world.
So, this week, as we go about our lives, let us ask ourselves the question, “As a minister or a church member: Am I REALLY humble enough to do pure ministry?” Be blessed.
For questions or further correspondence concerning future topics or speaking engagements, please email at RevStewartSpeaks@outlook.com.
The Rev. Dr. Lakeya Stewart, M.Div., D.Min., ABD attended Berea College and the Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and earned a double major B.A. degree in Sociology and in African & African American Studies as well as the Master of Divinity Degree. Rev. Stewart is currently writing a dissertation on Toxic Leadership and Spiritual Abuse through Regent University.