Helping others is good. There’s no doubt about that! Whether it is by providing a friendly ear, or hosting a small group, providing tea, leading heretics away from coffee – it is always a positive action.

Repeating these actions with the same people is a way to foster a community, but also to respond to a local need – spiritual or physical. In such cases, structure and regularity is not only good, it is also necessary: it is only in such a way that the people you serve (and those you’re serving with) can build a pattern, and in turn, trust.

Even when the promise of regularity is not explicit, it is there. Even when you warn people it isn’t going to be regular, one repeat occurrence is enough to make that promise on your behalf. For instance, I gave my students the opportunity to improve their grade by completing their test at home on two occasions; and ever since, they have been expecting this second chance at every occasion – despite my initial warnings that it wouldn’t happen!

People come to depend on you and on your action. Which means that, if you stop doing it, you might make things worse for some.


Photo by Edward Betts, in the public domain

In the case of Christian ministry, this is hugely important on two accounts:

1. The need you’re filling is potentially the most important need to fill. We’re not talking about a small monetary income, about a chocolate fix, or even about a tea fix (although the latter is extremely important, too). We tend to be talking about one or more of three vital things:

  • love for the unloved
  • food for the hungry
  • good news for those who haven’t received them

Imagine being on the receiving end of the ministry you’re involved in; and to find that, this week, you won’t get the opportunity to be fed – spiritually, physically, or affectionately. Or at least, not in the safe environment you’ve grown used to, and where you feel you can be yourself, warts and all. You probably wouldn’t have the strength to search elsewhere for a while – and your need would go unmet.

2. When you’re not reliable in your actions, you’re pointing to a God who can’t be relied upon. (tweet this) This is visibly the case if you’re involved in an evangelistic action. But in non-evangelistic actions, it is the case too, as long as people know you as a Christian, and thereby as someone who should imitate Christ.

So reliability is key. Which means that before going for a large undertaking, you should be sure you can keep it up – or that others will be ready to jump in to do so; and that you definitely should think twice before messing with your schedule.