Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Some recent thoughts on ministry

I've been thinking a lot about ministry this week... and how at least in American culture, I think it is a hard thing to stay focused. Even the most well-intentioned leaders and boards and teams can get so distracted by so many things... financial security, social reaction, political correctness, scales, results, measurable goals met, liability, protection, permission, votes, and numbers... so many numbers... so many ways to determine and judge if we are "successful" in our work. Grassroots ministries grow and prosper and get more organized and then more socialized and then more political until they look more like businesses with staffs and balance sheets than anything else.

And this scares and upsets me, because it doesn't look like Jesus. When I study his life, I see that his "big-picture, long-term goal" was to die. And everything leading up to that was simply him offering hope and healing and life and opening people's eyes to the Kingdom. He did a lot of walking, a lot of moving... he didn't have an office that he worked out of or a headquarters where programs happened. He was in homes, by the lake, on a mountain, in boats, under trees, beside pools, and at people's work places.

His "mission statement" was Isaiah 61:1-3, and I can't even imagine how you could measure the results of that or determine when that goal is reached! How many broken hearts did you bind up this year? How many prisoners in darkness have been released? On a scale of 1-10, how much good news has been proclaimed to the poor? That work is not finished yet, and won't be until he returns again! And I think it is an all-encompassing work... not limited to a people group or need or curriculum or social style. It basically was about loving whoever was in front of him at the moment, at any given time.

That challenges me. That has knocked me off my feet, rendered me useless every time I really think about it. Who am I to decide what "my ministry" is, who "my people" are, and when I am finished with the work I start in? It's God's ministry, and I can't tack a name - mine or an organization's or anything else - to it and put it in a mold or frame. God hasn't called me to run a program or lead an event... he's called me to follow him. That is not dependent on money or location or relational status or health... though at times I have tried to make it so. That means I don't actually know from one day to the next what ministry will look like - what He will bring into my life or what He will call me to move into. This is both thrillingly and terrifyingly adventurous, and often gives me heartburn.

He's been shaking things up a lot lately, forcing me out of some sweet and comfortable spots, asking me to do hard things and let go of my own plans. Life looks so different now than it did last year, and infinitely more so than I could have imagined five years ago. How can I formulate a five year plan, or even a six month plan when he is constantly changing and shifting me, my perspective, my work? I'm learning that sometimes I shouldn't fight the shake-ups so much, that more often than not it is just God moving me forward to the next step... because as I refocus and simplify and remind myself to follow him, He takes me deeper, further up and further in to his heart.

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