20/20: Lesson #3: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry

“Grace wins every time.” Matthew West’s song has been running through my head lately (I’ve posted the video below).  It captures something central to my faith and ministry: I believe it’s only as we operate with a “grace wins every time” attitude that people can begin to experience all that Jesus has for them.

Today I’m posting my third of 20 lessons learned from my 20 years in vocational ministry.

So far, this is what we’ve got:

As you can imagine, I’ve now experienced more than a few difficult situations. As I’ve agonized over dangerous decisions and ached over lost opportunities, I’ve struggled with the urge to give up on people and stop believing in new creation potential. We probably all have.

But the fact is, grace really does win. And I’ve seen how, time and time again, I need to choose to live grace, holding out Jesus’ love and invitation even when it isn’t accepted.

Which leads me to today’s lesson: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry. What does that mean? It means that grace is the very philosophy I need to live, defining how I need to think, pray and work with people. Grace is the lens I need to look through, the method I need to employ, the choice I need to make. And whenever I’ve forgotten this, I’ve gotten lost.

One of my foundational ministry verses is “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you” (Romans 15:7). Acceptance in Christ is the very bedrock of our life together, defining how we interact. Because of what Jesus did, grace must be the filter, the atmosphere, the very modus operandi of our life and ministry.

It is by grace we have been saved, and it is by grace that we must live out this salvation. Grace must be the way I approach people, the way I connect with outsiders, the way I read Scripture, the way I think of others, the way I pray, the way I follow Jesus.

In my teenage years, a loyal friend pushed back hard against my creeping self-righteousness, shaking me awake to how cold and harsh I was becoming. From that day forward, I’ve prayed for Jesus to fill me with his grace for others. It’s been a work on progress (as I am a work in progress!), but I can see how grace makes all the difference.

GraceIn the trench of ministry, when pressure is on and lives are at stake, when poor decisions are being made and people are being hurt, it’s easy to move into fight mode. To forget the bigger picture. To get judgmental or harsh, to begin pushing or prodding or manipulating. To get impatient and frustrated. I feel all those temptations, at times giving in to discouragement.

But that is not the way of Jesus, nor it is helpful in practice. Operating by the grace of God is the only way we can be the people of God for each other and for the world. Grace wins every time.

Why is it easy for us to forget to offer the grace we’ve been shown?
Practically speaking, how can we accept one another as Christ accepted us?

Today’s lesson leads naturally into the next. Coming up: Lesson #4: People Do Change (Though Often Slowly).  


And for your listening pleasure, here is Grace Wins. Turn it up!

9 thoughts on “20/20: Lesson #3: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry”

  1. Thank you for sharing your Lessons. They’re very thought-provoking and inspiring.
    I’m not sure I fully understand the word ‘Grace’. How is Grace different from Love?

    1. Great question: grace is very similar to love. In fact, I’d say that grace is an expression of love — God is love at his very essence, and he expresses that by showing us grace. Grace has often been defined as “unmerited favour”, that God’s shows us his love and acceptance and favour, even though we don’t deserve it and didn’t do anything to earn it. Grace, then, is an gift from God because he loves us! As far as how that helps me, perhaps it’s a way of thinking how I apply love to difficult situations or trying people — that I show God’s love and acceptance in how I live graciously, grace-fully, even when it’s tough.

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