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Click here to read Acts 11 on BibleGateway.com

work-togetherMinistry can be difficult.  Look at poor Peter in today’s reading. He goes out to evangelize, has a eye-opening spiritual experience, witnesses to a completely unreached people group, sees a wonderful revival service, and then gets back home only to have his home church kick him in the spiritual cajones for “eating with uncircumcised men.” What a joyous homecoming. At least he didn’t get stoned.


The problem is that often the challenges to ministry do not come from those outside the church, but from those who are supposed to be on our side. In nearly all surveys of missionary personnel, the number one issue that missionaries deal with is other missionaries.  Many pastors state their biggest difficulty is working with other pastors.  Why is that? The truth is, this should really not be that surprising to us. There are several issues that play into this.

1) We are strongly motivated in ministry because the issues we deal with are eternal. For example, in a business, if somebody rejects your idea, you may lose a promotion or you may lose a client. For those in ministry, it could mean hundreds spend eternity in hell. (That may not be true, but that’s how it feels). In this case, the Jewish leaders believe Peter is defiling himself and throwing the gospel pearl before swine.  Peter justifies his actions by referring to a spiritual experience they all had (the Holy Spirit).

2) Ministry is intensely personal. It encompasses our whole being, our emotions, our thoughts, our actions; everything that makes us “us”. So when somebody challenges that, it can feel like a personal attack.  Notice how Peter responds when the leaders attack him; he simply relates what happened and explains his actions without focusing on defending himself.

3) Our relationship with God is truth, at least for us. In other words, we believe God has spoken to me thusly, therefore this is how God speaks to everyone. It is very difficult to accept that God speaks to people differently, and maybe the ministry that God is calling you too is not the ministry He is calling your fellow workers to. Notice that later on in this chapter, there are some groups of believers that go strictly to the Jews, and some that go to the Greeks (Gentiles). Is it so bad to accept that maybe our passion is not the passion God put into everybody else? It’s surprisingly difficult.


4) Finally, we fear other people’s calling. This is probably the harshest reality, but one that must be addressed. We are all insecure, and those in ministry seem particularly susceptible. We want God to use us, partly because we want to be used, and partly because we want to be recognized for being used. Jack Hayford once said that all pastors struggle with the giftings of those under them; the successful pastors have learned to embrace and celebrate others (especially those under them) in spite of the struggle. In this passage, the “mature” believers, the Jews, have a problem with the idea “new” believers, Gentiles, being called into the family of God. The only answer to that is time; eventually the Church accepted the Gentiles, but it was not an overnight process. We should expect to struggle with this in ministry, but also expect to overcome it.

In short, the struggle of Peter and the Jews in Acts is the same struggle we deal with today. What do we do when God uses others? Can we accept that? Can we encourage and celebrate their gifts and talents? Or will we hold them down and exalt our own ideas about how God should work? Can we work together even when our visions are different?

Are you willing to allow God to use others?

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