Someone has to change nasty diapers and clean up vomit. When our children were younger, we had our share of handling both eruptions. My wife is a supermom (and an early childhood education specialist) who loves preschool children and probably knows as much about them as anyone. Even so, for some reason, vomit was her Kryptonite. She changed thousands of diapers, but when one of our children heaved, she vacated the premises and sent me in as the hazmat crew. We were a compatible cleanup couple, it turns out, since the diapers were worse to me. So we made a deal. Ann would take care of most of the diapers if I handled the stomach projectiles. Too much information? Maybe, but that’s real life. Someone in every family, and every church or ministry, does the dirty work.

Someone provides child care, fills up the baptistery, mows the lawn, takes out the trash, folds bulletins, enters financial information, keeps attendance records, cooks meals, buses tables, patrols the parking lot, drives the church van, counsels at youth camp, and sorts out fights on the preschool playground. As described in the last chapter, some shadow Christians take on leadership or service roles, which show up on an org chart. But even deeper in the shadows are believers who do these dirty jobs. They are the foot soldiers, the boots on the ground, that make hands-on ministry actually happen. They fix the messes, solve the problems, and take care of the details no one else notices.

These servants specialize in meeting ministry needs others either fail to notice or allow to fall through the cracks. They aren’t looking for jobs others consider important. They prefer doing things no one else wants to do, often in out-of-the-way places without fanfare. They take on important tasks others overlook, no matter how insignificant they may seem.

When coaching Little Leaguers, I would ask them, “What’s the most important position on the team?” They would usually reply pitcher, catcher, or shortstop. The right answer was, “The position you’re playing.” A team depends on every person doing their job, in the moment they are involved in a play, to be successful. Churches and ministry organizations are the same. On Sunday morning the senior pastor matters, but so do parking lot greeters and childcare providers. Each person must fulfill their role for ministry efforts to succeed. Every job matters, including those considered menial or tedious and done behind the scenes by unnamed believers.

Shadow Christians do the dirty work.

Providing Hospitality

She was sick, bedridden with a high fever, too ill to meet Jesus when he arrived in her hometown. Her son-in-law (Peter) was one of Jesus’ followers, a rising leader in his kingdom movement, so Jesus stayed at Peter’s house. When Jesus arrived and found Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed, “he touched her hand, and the fever left her” (Matt. 8:15a). What a great moment that must have been! It deserved a big celebration, but that’s not what happened.

Peter’s mother-in-law, known in history by her family title but not her name, “got up and began to serve him [Jesus]” (Matt. 8:15).

The details of her service aren’t included in the story, but a phrase in the narrative hints at what it might have been. After staying at Peter’s house throughout the day, “when evening came” (Matt. 8:16) Jesus continued his ministry by performing exorcisms and healings. The demands of his evening ministry suggest Peter’s mother-in-law served Jesus by providing meals and a place for rest during the day. Her hospitality helped prepare him for a long night of ministry encounters. This unnamed woman got up from her sickbed to serve Jesus. She made sure he had food to eat, something to drink, and a comfortable place to rest. After being healed, she didn’t go on the speaking circuit describing her miraculous recovery. She went to the kitchen.

Inez was in her seventies when she and her husband, Glenn, learned about a church being planted in their area. They were old-school Baptists; hymns and the King James Version were their staples. Yet they also had a Baptist heart for reaching people with the gospel. Inez told me, “We want to help build a church to reach young families.” They joined our contemporary church to serve, not to be served. During worship services, they would stand silently when everyone else sang worship songs. They weren’t protesting; they just didn’t know the newer songs. But Inez had a skill set and passion every generation appreciates. She knew how to cook, how to organize events that included meals, and how to make sure everyone had a good time. For several years, until she couldn’t physically do it any longer, she coordinated the hospitality ministry of our growing church. Younger women eventually took over her role but only after learning from Inez’s example of the importance of hospitality.

Shadow Christians set up the tables, install the décor, prepare the food, serve the meals, wash the dishes, mop the floor, and haul out the trash. The rest of us enjoy the benefits of their hard work making hospitality events happen, like Peter’s mother-in-law and a shadow Christian named Inez.

Iorg, Jeff. 2020. Shadow Christians: Making an Impact When No One Knows Your Name. Nashville, TN: B&H Books.


We have just completed a study of Jeff Iorg’s book, Shadow Christians. It is available on Amazon as well as part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.