Ministry is Messy

There is a lot of construction going on in our neighborhood and so there are several port-a-potties scattered throughout. One morning last week as I was turning into our subdivision, there was a large truck parked against the curb. It was from the company that maintained the port-a-potties. The truck had a huge vacuum device on the bed hooked up to a massive hose. One look and it was obvious that the truck was a traveling poop sucker. Probably not the industry term, but I’m a layman, so that’s what I’ll call it, ‘cause that’s what it does. To remove all doubt, strapped onto the rear of the vehicle were two brand new port-a-potties, going to some lucky neighborhood in our area.

What made this truck so unique and worthy of my weekly writing focus was what was emblazoned across the top portion of the windshield. All the way across from left side to right side, it said in large block letters: “SOMEBODY’S GOT TO DO IT!”

Now, you could take this sentiment as the company, or maybe just that driver, trying to be funny, or sarcastic, possibly even a little bitter. After all, how many people drive by every day and glance at him, with a look that says, “Really? You suck out poop from plastic containers for a living?” To which, he proudly proclaims, “Well, somebody’s got to do it!” . . . And you know what? Somebody does have to do it.

So, is the job of poop sucking truck driver a steppingstone to some other job? Or is it a son wanting to inherit the old man’s business? Or do those guys get paid a mint to make it worth their while? Maybe they have us all fooled and they’re laughing all the way to the bank, as they say?

Well, let’s apply this lovely story to our own lives. There are most certainly countless times that I have taken on a task, either on-going or one time, and have had the attitude of “Somebody’s got to do it.” There have been times that I didn’t mind at all. I just knew it had to be done. And then also times that I did it out of sheer obedience and/or need, kicking and screaming, so to speak.

In ministering to people, in particular our Christian brothers, there will be some glory jobs to do. Some high-five moments. Some “I can’t believe we got to experience this” times. But there are also some “hook up the stinkin’ hose” moments too. Like answering your cell at 3:00 in the morning, out of a sound sleep. Texting to check on a brother to remind him that staying faithful will be the best thing. Sitting knee to knee listening to a rant of why life isn’t fair when you could be at home with your family or going on about your own life to someone.

A phrase that my wife and I coined several years ago is “Ministry is messy.” It can often feel like you’re driving a poop sucking truck. But, just like the driver of that truck, the “why” is bigger than the “what,” so we drive it anyway. We take the call, make the visit, text the verse, send the email, listen again . . . and again, pray, and be obedient to what the Father asks us to do.

If you know it’s time for you to jump into the trenches and help your brothers with life, then jump into the “mud” with them. It will stink, but it will be worth it. Won’t always feel like it, but in the end, it will be.

If you’ve been in the trenches so long that you don’t recall life out of the trench, maybe it’s time to crawl out, take a rest, and let someone else grab the hose, drive that truck for a while, so you can just rest. Get the stench out of your nose.

If you’re simply weary from the mess of ministry, be encouraged. Know that you are about the business of the Kingdom, the inheritance of your Father, the salvation and sanctification of your brothers. Yes, this is a messy business that few choose to do on a regular basis, but last I looked, it is the only earthly activity that counts in Heaven—that which is done only in and for the name of Jesus.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man of action. —James 1:22-25 MSG

In the movie The Guardian with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher, Costner plays a seasoned veteran Coast Guard rescuer and Kutcher plays the young, arrogant trainee, Jay. Throughout the movie, the recruits have tried to find out the Senior’s “number,” meaning the number of people he had rescued in his career. There were only rumors of how high his number was because he would never tell anyone. Near the end of the movie, Kutcher’s character asks his trainer (Costner) before he leaves to retire, “Senior, before you go, I gotta know one thing. What’s your real number?” Costner hesitates and then says, “22.” Kutcher looks surprised and disappointed, then says, “22. That’s not bad. It’s not 200, but …” Costner interrupts, “22’s the number of people I lost, Jay. It’s the only number I kept track of.”

Why would someone drive a poop sucking truck? Why would someone jump into ice-cold raging water to save someone who willingly got themselves into a life-threatening situation? Why would someone spend hours with a brother who may or may not turn from his sin? . . . “Somebody’s got to do it.” . . . Aren’t we glad Jesus did?


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