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We Are the First Responders

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None of us who watched in horror as the events of 9/11 unfolded will ever forget the first responders. Of the 2,977 victims who died that fateful day, more than 412 were emergency workers who showed up to help. This graphic memory is a picture of what it means to be called to ministry.

We aren’t just Bible teachers.
We’re more than event planners.
We aren’t simply leaders.

We are first responders.

For Those of Us Called to Ministry, Our Mission Is Triage

We’re all prone to mission drift. It’s so easy to forget why we’re serving in the first place. That’s why I’m so grateful Jesus delivered such a succinct mission statement:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20).

This is our two-fold mission, delivered right before Christ’s ascension. (We call it “The Great Commission” because we are on co-mission with Him in redeeming the world.)

Turn non-disciples into disciples.
Teach God’s Word to disciples.
No matter how you serve specifically, this is the mission. Make disciples. Teach God’s Word. Rinse and repeat until Christ returns.

But if we walk through the halls of our churches often, we can forget how absolutely necessary this is. People who don’t know Jesus are rightly described as “lost” (Luke 19:10). Like victims of a disaster, left dazed and confused by their trauma, women who don’t know Jesus are wandering in the darkness of their sin. They are the walking wounded, hemorrhaging because of sin and death. Without Jesus, they will bleed out.

The Church is God’s Plan A to deliver the gospel message to the world. There is no Plan B. May we never become so “saved,” that we forget what it means to be lost.

When we plan our events so that only church ladies come . . .
When we host “closed groups” that prioritize inclusion over outreach . . .
When we don’t prioritize reaching women who are different, disillusioned, and seeking . . .

We forget we are the first responders. Our primary mission is to rush toward those who are dead in their sins and trespasses.

Running Toward the Church

There is another way ministry leaders are called to be first responders—in the way we serve the saints.

Unfortunately, being in Christ doesn’t mean we are without needs. Take a quick scan of the pews on Sunday morning and you will find:

Marriages in crisis
Parents with prodigals
Crippling medical diagnoses
Gut-wrenching grief
Devastating depression
Deep longings

The Church does not hurt without hope, but the Church still hurts. If you have the high honor of serving on leadership in your church, you know the hurt well. The constant drip of suffering in the Body can cause us to want to look away, become calloused, or throw up our hands in overwhelmed defeat. Let’s not. Instead, let’s be the first responders.

Let us run toward the suffering we see in the Body, holding high the banner of hope found in God’s Word.
Let’s call the hurting. Let’s sit with the suffering. Let’s pray like it’s our job. (Because, friends, it is.)
As walls come crumbling down in the lives of the saints, let’s rush in with the unfailing Truth that Christ is sufficient and He will not fail us.

I am not saying it’s our job to run into every crisis, thinking we can fix things. We are too weak and needy for that. The responsibility to save women from the sorrows of this world does not fall on our shoulders. But we have been called to the ministry of comfort (2 Cor. 1:3–5).

That will mean constantly changing our to-do lists to prioritize people over projects. It will mean a ministry flow marked by inconvenience. (Suffering never happens on our schedule.) It will mean asking the Lord for a soft heart instead of one calloused by constant exposure to hurt. Soft hearts hurt more, but they also respond with more grace.

Yet, Christ is worthy—and so is His Bride. When the going gets tough, may we continue to get going toward it.

Let’s huddle up and talk about it: how would it shift your role if you saw yourself as a first responder?

This article originally appeared here.