Zombies or Ministers?

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Christ ministering to a man at the Pool of Bethesda

BEWARE: Those who proceed to read this article and it’s content may suffer from a “singeing of the eyebrows,” as so well stated by Elder Holland.

“Because that’s what coaches do when the game is close, and victory means everything.”

And ministering is a call from the Head Coach to step up, to get your head and heart in the game, and to not walk around as zombies; speechless and will-less.

Because ministering isn’t impossible, it’s not something only the prophets do, it doesn’t require money, and yes, you do have the time. So put aside any lame excuses and dead works and get ready to wake up and hit the ground running.

What Went Wrong With Visiting and Home Teaching

In reality, we took the heart out of visiting and home teaching and then wondered why the body was lifeless.  We were, as the saying goes, “beating a dead horse.”

Let me explain. The purpose of Visiting and Home Teaching was “to care for, watch over, remember, and strengthen one another” (Handbook 2, Doctrine and Covenants 20:53).

Or in other words, to give “Christlike care to others” (The First Presidency Letter).

And as far as I know, Christ wasn’t worried about checking boxes or delivering a pre-planned message. He wasn’t worried about the number of people He reached.

So I’m not sure why we are.

I’m not sure why we sign an attendance sheet during our Sunday classes if the people who don’t check in are never contacted during the week.

I’m not sure why we sit around discussing how we will decorate for the next activity when we don’t talk about those people who haven’t been to an activity in months.

And I’m not sure why so many of us worry about all the “Thou Shalt Not” commandments while forgetting that the two first commandments are “Thou Shalt” commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).

Elder Ballard sought to teach us of the heart of Christlike service when he asked, “How precious is one soul?”

To Christ, every soul was so precious that He felt each soul merited the sacrifice of His entire life.

Each of us has chosen to follow Christ and leave behind everything else, to do as He did.

Yet, I fear that we may have become merely “busy in the church” (or busy in checking boxes) rather than active in giving Christlike care to those around us (Bishop Gérald Caussé).

I fear that we may have visited homes in a zombie-like manner to simply “get the job done.”

A Call to Repentance

The ancient Israelites became “busy” in the practices and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. Although the law was meant to point them to Christ, they did not recognize Him when He came because they didn’t understand the purpose.

Christ had come to fulfill that law and bring changes that could help people to not worry so much about the practice but rather the purpose.

Much like them, God knew that we had become busy with the practice of visiting and home teaching and that we’d missed the point entirely. So, through His prophet, He revealed the changes that would help us to “focus on outcomes, not just tasks” (Elder Christofferson, Effective Ministering).

God’s desired outcome  “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” has not changed with the change of programs (Moses 1:39).

Thus in our new efforts to minister, we are asked to turn back to the purpose. And as turning back is the true definition of repentance, that is what God asks of us.

He asks that while there are fewer guidelines, there is no less effort expected. That although there are fewer reports, we are no less accountable.

Christ is our exemplar in practicing with eternal outcomes in mind. Even when He was rejected, or felt that He received no credit or fulfillment, or didn’t see drastic immediate changes, He still did what His Father asked. He understood the purpose and therefore practiced.

And when we chose to take Christ’s name upon us, we took that same call, no matter the cost.

Our purpose in every practice in the Church is to aid the Savior in bringing God’s children home to Him again.

And if you think about it, isn’t that all that really matters in the end?

Then How Do We Minister?

If we truly understand that “ministering is Christlike caring for others and helping meet their spiritual and temporal needs,” then we must recognize that God alone knows the hearts and minds of all His children. He knows what’s best for all of us.

So, if I am looking to save the souls around me, why not seek and heed the words of the Man who knows? If I ask, will He not help me do all that is necessary to achieve it?

In fact, President Nelson urged us “to stretch beyond [our] current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation,” to understand how to minister.

When asked how he ministered, my friend Peter said, “Ministering is just learning to act in the Spirit, and not debate if it is the Spirit. Because anything that is good, comes from the Spirit.”

Ministering isn’t impossible. No, it’s not easy, but it’s not supposed to be. In easiness, that is where the process of zombie-ness occurs. Ministering helps us to grow, stretch, and live to become more like God.

When we live righteously and ask God, He will give us individually tailored revelation for those within our care. And then, “you just do. You follow the thoughts that come to your mind and you just do it.” (My mom told me that. So you know, it’s kind of a big deal. Because it’s Mom.)

Elder Tad R. Callister once said to a group of missionaries in the MTC,

“Sometimes in life we just have to square our shoulders and do it. There is no magic pill that makes us courageous, no passage of time that strengthens us, no memorized approach that emboldens us. We are left only with the compelling counsel of King Benjamin: “And now, if ye believe all these things, see that you do them” (Mosiah 4:19).

Sure, it might be intimidating not to have a set format or style on how to minister, but that is exactly the point! How can we take a leap of faith into the abyss if the steps are right in front of us?

Bringing the Life Back

So going back to the body metaphor… I wasn’t the only one using it. Paul explained that we, as members of the Church, are all part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).

So what happens, when we neglect one part of the body? Or when we care for it, only superficially? Obviously if there are deep enough wounds in one part of the body that are neglected, infections can grow, viruses can spread and ultimately, the body can die.

We let the heart of Visiting and Home Teaching die, leaving the body of Christ lifeless, thus creating a zombie that only followed the mandate to visit homes and check boxes.

Jesus raising a man from the dead.And what is the cost of this? Paul continues, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

In neglecting those to whom we are eternally connected with, we indirectly neglect and hurt ourselves. Because this is what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

So what’s the flip side? When we care for one another, we care for ourselves and we unite as one, bringing the life back to the body of Christ and to ourselves.

Ministering is “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

Ministering as Christ did, through revelation, is how we are perfected and edified. We are lifeless without the essence of Ministering at the heart of our discipleship.

The essence of Ministering is the reviving antidote and unifying bond for the members of the body of Christ.

The Coming Days

The invitation from God to minister has been declared from the mouth of the watchmen on the tower. They are warning us that the “end is nigh” and that if we are not careful, “[our] hearts shall fail [us]” (Jacob 5:71,Doctrine and Covenants 45:26).

So what will the coming days be like for you and me? That all depends…

It depends on if ministering will become a way for us to learn how to be guided directly from heaven.

It depends on if we will unite together as one, on both sides of the veil, while the whole world divides asunder.

And it depends on if we will rise up, upon our feet, to prepare to meet God, at that final day.

President Nelson prophetically warned, “But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”

God is calling us to rise up, to reach out, and to lift those around us for the salvation of all our souls as members of the body of Christ. We can do it. We must do it. God trusts that we will do it.

If you want more information on Ministering, please see the following resources:

Ministering Videos

Ministering.lds.org