when candy isn’t enough . . .

People.

It all comes back around to people, at least it should. When we speak of ministry outreach and harvesting the fields, we’re talking about people—men, women, and children created in the image of God and deserving of the good news of the kingdom. When we put our focus elsewhere . . . on growing our numbers, our influence, and our bank accounts, then we’ve missed the mark.

Yes, we need the bean counters and the fiscally gifted to take us forward in our efforts to fulfill our responsibilities to the kingdom of God, but without a vision to anchor our well-intentioned purposes, people perish. They die never knowing that they could have had a share in the kingdom inheritance . . . that eternal peace, certain hope, good grace, and unconditional love were meant for them.

We are the bringers of God’s eternity to this world, the carriers of an extraordinary kingdom. Because of Jesus Christ, we are his righteous reconcilers, the blood-bought bounty of Calvary. Accordingly, we cannot allow the vision to perish. We must press on and push forward with the message of priceless redemption. Without the message, then all of our efforts at reaching the lost vanish; they remain hidden and buried beneath the left-over scraps of a really good program or a well-planned event.

I don’t want God’s message to be lost on the people who gather around me; I want the message to be evident within me. I don’t want to get so tangled up in the planning and the particulars of ministry that I miss the pulse of Jesus pounding loudly through his people. If I cannot see him there, in their faces and through their eyes, then I’ve missed an eternal opportunity. I leave the fields empty-handed with nothing more to show for a day’s hard laboring than a pocket full of lint and a head full of confusion.

How could it have been more? Why doesn’t good programming always result in great ministry? How do we bridge the gap, sew it altogether so that one leads to the other . . . so that both—good programming and great ministry—are the norm, not the exception?

This is where I am today after a wonderfully, successful, on-paper ministry event that took place at our church this past weekend. By all accounts, it was a win. Everyone had fun, and everyone went home with enough candy to last until Valentine’s Day. And while there is some satisfaction in my spirit for a job well-done, there is also an ache that cannot be tempered by chocolate or left-over cupcakes.

There is pain inside of me that wells over into tears. They drop into my lap, because I don’t know if it was enough, this sharing of candy and cupcakes. Yes, I am certain that seeds were planted and that I’m not always given the benefit of holding fruitfulness first-hand; time will bear out the witness of this ministry event, and I am certain there is more to the story than meets the eye.

But in this moment, I feel the heaviness of the greater good and of wanting to do more for Jesus. I want to love more and extend the reach of eternity to the hearts of the people I meet. No more games; no more fluff; no more pretending it’s all enough. My all will never be enough if it stops short of realizing that people are not the means to an end but, rather, that they are the end. People are the final product and sum total of God’s creative genius, and he never intended for them to miss out on his eternity.

Today, I pray that God will awaken all of us from our spiritual slumber, burn his message of redemption into our awareness, and enflame our spirits for the greater, most excellent work of kingdom building. It begins and ends with people. They are his agenda for us.

Look around you, friends. Who’s near? Who’s close? Who’s waiting for the reach of grace? Reach forward, reach further, reach always in the mighty name and love of Jesus Christ. It’s the best you can do. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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13 Responses to when candy isn’t enough . . .

  1. Oh my goodness, Elaine…you have NO idea how very much I needed this message this afternoon! Jesus just spoke very powerfully to me through this beautifully written and heart-felt post. Thank you so much!
    Blessings to you,
    Susan

  2. Come Holy Spirit dark is the hour
    We need Your filling
    Your love and Your mighty power
    Move now among us stir us we pray
    Come Holy Spirit revive the church today
    (From John Peterson’s “Come Holy Spirit”)

    Stir ME, Holy Spirit!

  3. Elaine, suh a good reminder to keep our focus on people. As you well know, we never know who we might be drawing towards Jesus. Like you said, though, events like this leave us wondering if we did enough, said the right things, etc. I remind myself and others — when we feel like we don’t know if what we’re doing is making a difference — that it can take many positive touches/interactions/experiences before someone comes to know Jesus. It’s encouraging to know that we are providing one of those positive touches. I bet we’ll hear about some of them in heaven some day, too. What a blessing that will be!

  4. It is so stirring to hear you talk like this…I know you haven’t’ had the energy in a while to go there. It makes me want to jump up and down for joy. But I’m not missing what you are saying here. But you know what, Elaine? In the end, we can never do enough, can we? We plant the seeds and trust Him to make them grow. You plant such a good crop, my friend. Oh, my, how you do.

  5. I, too, want to be sure I live out the message of Jesus so the world circling around me knows my Savior. However, that looks, whatever means He allows me to use, I want to be found faithful in sharing Him.

  6. This resonates with me. We have events at church that are focused on bringing lost souls into our church that do not offer an official opportunity to accept Christ into their hearts. They are fun events that take a lot of effort. I have tried to help with the events, but have left empty and wondering the point of it all. Finally, coming to the Lord and understanding that this is not my ministry and that is okay. What a relief. So, sometimes I attend those events, but mostly I focus now on that which God has called me to. Praying that those lost souls sensed something different… and return to visit and have the opportunity to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    Thank you for sharing your heart. And sharing my heart, too.

  7. You did it again, my Friend; or perhaps He did and you got to be His confirming Instrument again.

    Coming home just now from the Post Office, I was praying about people and thinking about all the plans and work to supposedly get the GOOD NEWS to people and how miserably I have failed at it and so my prayer was no more ‘plans of people’ to connect with people — I want YOUR Plan, DADDY GOD, Your Plan and eyes to see it as You reveal it to me. And by Your Grace and strength, I will join You, ABBA.

    And then I read this post. HE is so AWESOME! And you, my Friend, are pretty grand!

  8. “No more games; no more fluff; no more pretending it’s all enough. My all will never be enough if it stops short of realizing that people are not the means to an end but, rather, that they are the end.”
    (Really…every word of the 3rd to last paragraph!)
    Amen!

  9. “But in this moment, I feel the heaviness of the greater good and of wanting to do more for Jesus. I want to love more and extend the reach of eternity to the hearts of the people I meet. No more games; no more fluff; no more pretending it’s all enough. My all will never be enough if it stops short of realizing that people are not the means to an end but, rather, that they are the end. People are the final product and sum total of God’s creative genius, and he never intended for them to miss out on his eternity.”

    Doing more to win more to Jesus…it’s the beat of my heart.

    Awesome post, sweet friend. I love you.

  10. Well said Elaine! I hear you loud and clear. I believe there are so many opportunities around us that we often miss because we’re too busy in ministry. Sometimes it’s good to step back and look around us at our neighbors, co-workers and people we come into contact with often but don’t really know. Do they see anything different in us? Can we share why we believe what we believe without becoming defensive and arrogant? These are questions I ask myself.

    Blessings and love,
    Debbie

  11. My sister & I spend every Wednesday afternoon praying along these same lines. Specifically we ask the Lord to open our eyes to the needs & opportunities right in front of us; to make us His hand & feet; and to have it “cost” something.

    Great wisdom here, Elaine. Has anyone ever told you that you have the heart of an evangelist? I love it!