cross_sunset.4.lrOn Sunday I celebrate fifteen years of leading Servants of Grace, by God’s grace. I wish I could say that this journey has been easy, but I’d be lying. Anyone who has been in ministry, for any length of time, knows that the work is hard, often intense, and demanding. As I’ve reflected on my experience in ministry over the past few weeks, one main truth keeps coming up—relationships are the currency of ministry.

Jesus had twelve disciples whom He called and spent three years with. In those three years, Jesus poured into their lives truths that would help launch the Church and form biblical orthodoxy as we now know it. Even among the Twelve there were three—Peter, James, and John—who were considered Jesus’ closest friends. Among the three closest disciples of Jesus, there was one singled out among them—John—who was called the Beloved disciple. Jesus knew the value of relationships, which is why He called men (a pattern established in the creation mandate, and in the Old Testament) to positions of great leadership and responsibility, as pillars of the church under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Over the past few years, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of the value of relationships as the currency of ministry. As my understanding of this truth has expanded, so has my appreciation for my mentors—both past and present—and my friends. There have been many men and women who have helped me to get to where I am in my Christian life now. What follows is not an exhaustive list, by any stretch of the imagination, but is a simple reflection of my deep appreciation for these people. There was a youth pastor and youth elder in high school who loved me enough to speak the truth in love, and be there for me, through thick and thin, through one of the roughest parts of my life. There have been many friends like Aaron Armstrong, Dan Darling, Brian Cosby, Mike Boling, Jason Garwood, Chris Poblete, Paul Emery, and Craig Hurst (to name only a few), who have listened, prayed for, cared for, and shown me the love of Christ, through tough times. There have been local friends, including Fred Genther, a faithful Sunday school teacher for almost twenty years at my local church.

Then there is Pastor Mike Beaudin (the associate pastor) and Pastor Greg Reider, the senior pastor at the church my wife and I are members of. Along with Fred, Pastor Mike and Pastor Greg have made a big difference in my life. Both Pastor Greg and Pastor Mike would shy away from public notoriety, acknowledging (as I did) their previous mentors, which were many, but in my mind they are a living embodiment of the principle that relationships are the currency of ministry. They continue to demonstrate through their teaching, encouragement, prayers, and care of me over the past three years, the love of Jesus in word and deed. Let me assure you that it has not gone unnoticed or underappreciated. I thank them at every opportunity and honor them as men worthy of respect and imitation for the Christian life and ministry.

Lastly, not lacking in significance to this, is my wife Sarah. There have been many, many times where I have wanted to fold it all up and call it a day. There has been many days where, thankfully by God’s grace, I have not quit ministry work. A huge reason has been God’s grace working through my wife. As someone who gets discouraged and sometimes battles depression, my wife is a constant source of amazing encouragement to me. I have said—and will say again till my dying breath—that without the love of Jesus displayed through my wife, I would not be the man I am today. Her editing has helped make me a better writer, not to mention helping me graduate from seminary with high grades. I love you sweetheart, and am deeply thankful to Jesus for you.

Relationships can be difficult. I’ve learned that dealing with difficult people is not easy—it requires patience, but more than that it requires the gospel. Speaking the truth in love is difficult, especially when people don’t want to hear the truth about how they are living contrary to the gospel. It requires wisdom and grace to speak on volatile issues like abortion, homosexuality, sexual addiction, mental illness, etc.

Over the years, I’ve made so many mistakes and there are so many reasons why I should have probably hung it up and called it a day, except for the grace of God. As I write those words it strikes me as ironic. I sit here before a computer and type out this message, but these are words I’ve uttered, not only on the internet, but also in person to many people over the years. It’s been amazing to see Servants of Grace grow over the years, and continue to grow through our various ministries. I’ve been deeply humbled by the opportunity to write for dozens of Christian ministries, and even to speak for six years on a Christian radio station, reaching into heavily populated Muslim countries.

Through it all there has been heaps of God’s amazing grace, mixed with tons of godly people who have prayed, invested in me, and who (most importantly) have believed in me. Today I stand on the grace of God, and on the shoulders of my mentors—both past and present. My future is in God’s hands, along with all of my life. I’m looking more than I ever have to the hope I have in the grace of God; so thankful that God has seen me through this far, and will bring to completion His work in and through me.

With a few days left remaining before Servants of Grace—and by extension me being in ministry—reaches the fifteen year milestone, I’ve often found myself reflecting (as I do often) on the amazing grace of God that has sustained me thus far in my Christian life. After almost thirty years of following Jesus through the heights and the valleys, I’m still amazed by God’s grace. I’m fired up about the future, and trusting the Lord who promises to never leave us nor forsake us, to do what He says He will do: to save the lost, make disciples, and built His church for His glory.

As this article comes to a close, let me encourage you, friend. Your labor for the Lord is not in vain. You will never know the full impact on this side of eternity that your ministry has had on people. This is why you should consider every relationship that you have as an opportunity to display God’s love and grace to people. As my pastor would say, “Befriend people and impart truth to them.” This, my friends, is at the heart of the ministry Jesus has called us to—to speak the truth in love, seasoned with grace, so that people’s eyes and ears may be opened by God’s grace to the person and Excellency of Jesus Christ. So, friends, let’s stand by God’s grace in who we are in Him, all the while declaring that our great God and King is soon returning. After all, Jesus alone is mighty to save, sanctify, and glorify a people for His own possession, for His own glory. Let’s know the good news so well that other people can see it radiating out of our lives to the glory of the Risen Christ.