The text I was given—John 17:11-19—led me back to the one book that has influenced me the most. Not the Sunday School answer of the Bible. That is assumed. The book is Real Christians
Don’t Dance by John Fischer. It’s been out of print for quite a while and it is rare to find a used one for sale on Amazon. Though you can get a Kindle verson for those of you who do that. You can also find the complete book for free here. The Evangelical Christian Library has done the work to make this available.
This one chapter—Magical Ministry Tour—has shaped me immensely. As I celebrate 25 years of Wild Frontier, it must be shared again. This is a major part of my ministry mindset.
“No word is more misused and misinterpreted in popular Christianity than ministry. It is the reason for everything: the justification for a top ten hit and the toleration of a substandard performance. It legitimizes one person’s right to accumulate and hoard money while it supports another’s right to beg for it. It serves simultaneously as an excuse to work or not to work. The word ministry covers so much ground that it no longer carries any significant impact. Instead, it leaves nebulous impressions and feelings.
“The popular understanding of ministering to people is to touch them in some spiritual sense. But in what way–what does it mean for someone to be blessed? Was it an emotional tickle? The twinge of a high note? A warm soothing chord that washed over someone’s trouble and anesthetized his or her reality? Was it a euphoric sense of being a member of a family of fans? The brief escape of identifying oneself with a charismatic personality? Or was it a real experience with God?
“…And the ministers themselves are considered a special breed. More is expected of them because they have been endowed with greater power than the average Christian. They have a higher position, a place of authority, a spiritual aura that sets them apart. It’s as if some supernatural trickle-down theory is in effect and the poor, lonely guy in the fifth row has come hoping some of the blessing will manage to make its way down to him.
“What’s wrong with this picture?
“First, there is no magic to ministry. No aura. No privilege. Ministry is simply service. Jesus Christ set the supreme example by divesting himself of all His privileges as God and humbly taking on the form of a servant. He Himself declared, ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:45). Ministry is what you give, not what you get.
“Second, there is no mystery to ministry. No intangible blessing. No spiritual goo. In fact, the Bible usually refers to ministry in very concrete terms. According to Scriptures, it involves giving a cup of cold water, preaching the Gospel to the poor, visiting those in prison, caring for widows and orphans, and washing one another’s feet. There is nothing in the Bible about singing a moving song to touch the hearts of people.
“Third–and probably most important of all–there is no primacy to ministry. Nothing sets one Christian over another. There should be no sense of spirituality in any ministry, because the Scriptures clearly teach that all of us are ministers. Each of us are responsible for serving according to the gifts that have been given to us. No single ministry is more important than the other.”
“After all, Christ meets each one of us right where we are, in the middle of the daily routine or the stress of indecision, in the pain of mistakes or the contentment of merely being alive, whether on stage or in the audience. Suddenly the Christian life could lose its mystery, become more tangible; and Christian ministry might begin to help people face life honestly rather than escape from it.
“And afterward, people might even walk away more impressed with their own uniqueness and their own possibilities–their own ministry–than they were with the Magical Ministry Tour. And maybe, just maybe, they might walk away feeling bigger, not smaller.” (pp. 37-39)
That is the best definition of ministry I can ever come up with–to make people feel bigger. I feel I have done that with 25 years of Wild Frontier and 34 years of ministry. My wish is for you to know that about me—and who inspired it.
So thank you, John Fischer, for being such a great influence on me for these 25 years. You and Randy Stonehill. I know you two are friends coming out of that California Jesus music scene so many years ago. Pretty cool coincidence.
Clue: The influencers of what’s next for me are Dr. Brene Brown and Dr. Henry Cloud.