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Is your ministry manipulative?

"I'M A COW... COME PLAY WITH ME... HUG ME." Kids toys have this strange way of sounding both patronising and terribly needy and (after a while) annoying. Though kids love them the rest of us can only live with them in short bursts....

No gospel minister would want to be so soul-destroying? When Paul is reminding the Galatians (Galatians 4:8-5:1) of the contrast between his ministry and that of the incoming Slave Teachers he follows a long theological argument with one drawn from their experience.

The slave teachers come in to "make much of you" - which is ok (genuine encouragement and affirmation are vital), but they only do it so that "you'll make much of them". I'll love you if you'll love me back. That's to say - they're manipulative ministers. At first everyone likes to be made much of but after a while this power play gets tiresome. Paul observes it has drained away the Galatians joy, it has cast aside "the blessing they felt" when they first received the gospel. It's ugly.

It's filled with false teaching but it's form is problematic too. Indeed it's form is shaped by it's theology. The Slave Teachers enslave people to rules and religion and systems and behaviour. They are their own god. And people don't make very good gods. We're too power hungry and insecure.
And so I-am-god (aka I'm-a-cow) ministry loves to micro-manage people and situations...
...trying to pull all the strings, every decision needing to be supervised and run past such a minister.
...seeking the last word in everything, whether to affirm or caveat or just to HAVE MY SAY.
...trying to keep everything looking "perfect" with all the right labels and big names and associated nonsense so that the right people will think the right things about me and my miinistry.
Looked at that way, I think you can make a case for micro-management being heretical - or at least that it's one of the fruits of effectively believing a false gospel. 

In the end it turns to being mocking ministry, which is what it was all along. Paul knew persecution inside-out, he used to be a persecutor. And slaves manipulate and mock the free... and that carries on until Christ is revealed and then everything changes.

Paul's Christian ministry by contrast is motherly. He is anguished and perplexed. He doesn't seek their fan-mail. He doesn't want them to turn to him for everything, but rather to see "Christ formed in you". Not Paul's plan, not Paul's ideas - good as they might have been - but Christ in you. A Christian knows God, and is known by God. Blessed because the cursed is turned onto Christ. Joined into Christ's death and resurrection, and with the Spirit of the Son living within. Motherly ministry hurts the heart and hurts the head but it's fruit is incredibly sweet when Christ is formed in people. 

Paul is free to do one thing only: free to preach Christ to them. His ministry is about Jesus and people. And it will refresh people, it will enlarge their freedom, it will renew their joy, it'll restore their sense of God's blessing upon them in the gospel . Such gospel ministry isn't about driving people or giving them every last detail and plan, it's about casting a vision, capturing their imagination and their heart, trusting the Spirit to change people. Such gospel people are refreshing company, and theirs is the kind of ministry you can never have enough of.


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