Two ministers are about to begin a new work with two different congregations.
Minister 1 is going to a congregation that is large, with ample financial resources and a creative staff. The church is located in a fast growing suburb just outside one of this nation’s incredible cities. This minister’s friends hear about the move and they are delighted for their friend. This seems like a wonderful situation for this minister.
Minister 2 is going to a congregation that is much smaller and has a building that is older and requires much maintenance. The church is located in a dying community in a city where unemployment is very high. This church has a history of problems. Division. Immorality. A nasty lawsuit. Even their assemblies reflect the self-centeredness of these people. Yet, this minister is going to work with them anyway. The minister’s friends hear about this future move and they are concerned. (Actually, they wonder if their friend has lost his mind.)
The truth? Both of these churches may actually be triumphal in God’s eyes. Yet, they may be triumphal for reasons that do not appear to the eye.
(Note 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.)
This is usually not the word that we use today to describe a church that is doing well. We might speak of a successful church or even an awesome congregation. We may talk about the size of the church, the “phenomenal growth,” the number of people in the church, the cutting edge technology, etc. We may speak of a congregation as being one of “our most influential churches.”
The minister/pastor/church leader, on the other hand, may speak of some of the high profile conferences at which he has spoken recently. Some will speak of how the church has grown wherever this person has been. Some will drop names so that everyone realizes this person knows important or visible people.
All of this typically communicates a view of success.
Meanwhile, Paul uses the word “triumphal.”
What is really odd abut this is that he is speaking to the Corinthians. He tells them how God has led them in triumphal procession in Christ. Now I have to tell you, there are some churches that don’t seem very successful to me. In fact, some appear to be one royal mess. If someone were talking to the church at Corinth and considering a ministry with them, I might warn that person: “Don’t go near that church! What a mess!”
Yet, in Christ, God leads us in triumphal procession. The triumph that the church experiences is led by God and is because of Jesus. So where is Paul? Where are the elders? Where are the pastors? Where are the ministers? Where are all of the other church leaders?
They are in the procession. Slaves. Servants. Their weakness is on display not their strength. It is God’s strength that is on display as exhibited in Jesus. It is in the knowledge of Jesus that we become a fragrance. This fragrance is life-giving to those who are being saved. To those who are perishing, it is the smell of death.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
The success, however, is focused on what God has done in Jesus.
Consequently, 21st century ministry …
1. … is based upon God’s leading.
2. … happens as the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus spreads.
3. … finds its power and effectiveness in what God does – not in what we do. We are not equal to such a task.
If we really believe that God in Christ causes us to have an aroma (the aroma of Christ), how might we change the way we minister?