When Your Ministry and Your Influence are Too Small (or the mystery of the third pie)

It’s so easy to go wrong – well, for me it is anyway.

I’ve been thinking about ambition.

Early in life, I understood from God’s Word that I wasn’t to seek after the things of the world.

What Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” impressed me deeply. And I thought I understood what it meant, but as usual, I only got it partially right.

I knew it meant not to chase after what the world values, to leave ambition for these things on the altar of Christ. I got that.

So, Satan, seeing that I understood that much, switched up his game plan. He pulled out a less obvious temptation. Somewhere along the way, rather than abandon ambition, I simply became ambitious within the kingdom of God.

Easy enough to slip into annexing God’s kingdom with a mini-kingdom of my own, one I can justify because it’s a means of proclaiming His, right? How can I be accused of being worldly when the kingdom I’ve built by my own efforts rejects the world?

And yet, we do it all the time. We’re not even original to it in these times. The disciples argued, before Jesus died, about who among them was the greatest. They get a bad rap for this, but to their credit, I don’t see them arguing like this after they witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection.

I’ve witnessed both and yet, I take my eyes off the cross and lose my way. In proclaiming and building the kingdom of God, I also make a pet of personal ambition, taking a repeated census of the extent of my influence, my impact, my audience, my reach (in His name.) And I count it a sign of blessing when it grows, discipline when it stalls, favor when it surges, famine when it fails.

I’m not alone, I know, but I won’t make confession for you.

It’s as if the world baked a great pie. And there are multitudes vying for a piece. And when Jesus called me, I knew not to develop an appetite for that pie.

So, Satan baked another pie. It seemed humbler, this pie. Holier. And he called it, the ministry pie. And then he whispered a story to those seeking God’s kingdom that the way to build it was by getting a piece of this ministry pie – and of course, wouldn’t bigger be best for the kingdom? That’s not ambition, son, no, not at all, daughter of the Most High God. We won’t call that ambition. That’s holy fire.

But, it’s a strange fire, and not at all holy.

And some of us reached for pieces, and having tasted some, reached for more. And others, seeing their pieces were smaller than others, decided small wasn’t even enough, so they backed off completely while the rest nurtured all kinds of unholy feelings about those with larger slices, and wrestled in the dark with how this could happen when we’d rejected the world’s pie!

But, God sees Satan’s schemes better than we. He cries out from His Word with wisdom that alerts us to the truth. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:16, and “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

And when we quiet ourselves enough to listen, Jesus whispers, “Pssst, there’s a third pie.”

A third pie?

Jesus baked a pie, through His death and resurrection. Even the smallest crumb of this pie contains more life and power than the world has ever imagined. Size doesn’t matter. We know this because of the testimony of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:22-28 (ESV)

“And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” Healed instantly, by this crumb of great faith, this breadcrumb of Christ’s life, this small, small moment with Jesus.

As Christians, it is our calling, to escape every false matrix whether we call it the world, or religion, or ministry. Whatever nurtures in us some idea that we must increase so Christ’s kingdom can increase is a lie and only feeds the ambition of the part of us to which we’re trying to let die.

Instead, the kingdom of God is like this third pie, whereby the smallest crumb contains as much power as the whole, and all that matters is that we belong to Jesus and that He is alive within us.  We should pay more attention to Jesus’ cousin John who we know was called by God to prepare the way for Jesus, just as we have been. John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

So, whether our reach, our influence, is large or small, it matters not. What matters is that Christ’s influence on us increases. That His life expands within us as we and our selfish ambitions decrease.

Feeling small? Seeing others with larger slices?

Stop measuring and start dying again to the self that demands to be fed more and more pie. Instead, make more room in your soul for Jesus’ life to expand and then your life will testify to the truth that size truly doesn’t matter.

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    The Conversation

  1. Doris says:

    Your blogs are so thought provoking. Thank you.

  2. Shared! Thank you for your wisdom, Lori. I agree with you one hundred percent. Blessings!

  3. Marji says:

    “Instead, the kingdom of God is like this third pie, whereby the smallest crumb contains as much power as the whole, and all that matters is that we belong to Jesus and that He is alive within us.” Lori, this is SUCH a powerful statement!! I love your writing, I often grab a nugget that keeps me pondering for days. Thank you!!

  4. Tripp Davis says:

    Wow. Thank you for a great message. I am definitely feeling that in ministry right now. Time to refocus.

  5. Thank you, Lori. MUCH to ponder. May God bless you as you pursue the third pie.

  6. Barbara Flores says:

    I love the way you explain things, and I do find much comfort in what you say about the power of the small crumb. Thank you so much. I do have a question, however. Do you happen to know what is meant by the context that you mentioned, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” ( as if He was considering her daughter as a dog. I have never understood that, because in other passages, it is plain that Christ says that there is no distinction over one, man, women, race, nationality, etc. Do you know how to explain this to me. Thank you again.
    Barb Flores barbjflores@gmail.com

  7. Barb J. Flores says:

    Thanks you so much for this. What a great truth to reflect and act on. This gives me Hope.