We just returned from a hectic week of ministry in Sarawak. One special joy was ministering together as husband and wife! A highlight of the time there was this part from a note we received:
. . . really, really grateful for the both of you. More than the teaching . . . the way you both interacted with other people, strangers like myself, I am very, very thankful and grateful for you both.
I was grateful for this note because it underlined one of our key ministry values — that we want to befriend the people we have the privilege to minister to. As much as I enjoy speaking to larger groups, these groups will remain a collection of faces in a crowd until I have the opportunity to interact personally with some of them. I hope I don’t come across as too intrusive, but I want to focus on individuals, ask them about their life journeys, get some idea of their joys and struggles, know a bit of what makes them who they are. Slowly, as I listen, they turn from two-dimensional to three-dimensional people.
This approach to ministry takes time and we can’t even begin to get to know but a fraction of the people that make up the groups we minister to, especially if it is the first time we are with them. Having meals with small groups help in that we have more extensive conversations with a number of folks at the same time. Spiritual friendship is the main focus of our ministry, Graceworks, but it is also a value that we hold dear and that we are committed to practicing.
That means, when invited to minister with a group, we don’t see ourselves coming as service providers, there just to teach and train, but we come as friends hoping to make new friends. In many ways this was a climax of Jesus’ ministry when He called His disciples friends (John 15:9–17). He expected His disciples to love each other as He had loved them. They were also to be friends of each other. Jesus also defined friendship for us — it is a commitment to be willing to lay down our lives for our friends, something that He Himself modelled.
Graceworks also does publishing and we ty to bring this commitment to friendship into our publishing ministry as well. We seek to get to know our authors personally so that we can better understand and support their publishing concerns. Our authors are not just our clients. They are our brothers and sisters. And we hope we can be friends.
Publishing is a complicated process with many steps and therefore a lot of potential for misunderstandings and things that could go wrong. Sometimes the mistake is on our side. Sometimes it is not anybody’s fault. Sometimes it is the fault of our clients. But we are friends, or at least we seek to be. So, when things go wrong, whosever fault it may be, we go all out to rectify them so that the publication can meet its deadline and fulfil its purpose. There are times when I see Bernice working late into the night, sometimes many nights in a row, so that our friend can get his or her book out on time. We could be cold and legalistic about such matters especially if the mistakes are done by our clients, but one doesn’t treat a friend in this way. Of course there are things which may not be rectified in time no matter how hard we try, but we will try. We don’t want to let our friends down even if they don’t understand how hard we are trying. We want to help our friends succeed.
Why do we do what we do in the way we do it? Because the greatest need of a lonely world is authentic, God-centred friendship. It’s what Jesus offers us. We are just trying to imitate Him.
Photo from Wokandapix by Pixabay