Saturday, February 25, 2012

Life In Ministry: A Very Human Perspective

Probably not your typical entry of this sort. That's a cautionary note I suppose. :) This is not a study-snippett, or nugget of teaching, as is the like by which so many of we "bloggers" bombard you with on a daily basis. I'd dare say ....the only thing possibly more wordy than a preacher with a soapbox is a preacher with an internet connection

I've been in "the ministry" for a while now; vocationally speaking. I've been in youth ministry, music ministry, teaching ministry, pastoral ministry, I've worked in church establishments with hi-tech demands, and in those low-tech, even no-tech. Counciling has been a piece of the ministry shape, as has proclamation, investigation, and instigation when the shoe fits. I've done it with payment, and done it for free. "The ministry" has been, for me, consisting of ups and downs, and then that again ....over and over. To the degree which ministry is something ya' do has been a most difficult load to carry, a blessing, and pure, real, genuine God-sized "joy" ....and all at the same time, at times. I have matured enough to recognize my immaturity. This is humbling ....if a little frustrating.

I have witnessed men, women, youth-aged, and children surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. I have wondered, silently and prayerfully, how many continued in "the way", to even grow in knowledge and wisdom of the way. I have wept for lost-ness. I have also found myself stiff-hearted. I have seen myself become stretched in my own faith times wondering if I would snap, and lose my own way. I've observed my family "stretched", and tested, in their own walk (individually and corporately). This is where "the ministry" really comes into crystal-clear view ...sorta'. At least, this is where the rubber truly meets the road. My family has seen genuineness from my ministry. It has also seen hypocrisy from it. They know me best. As unintentional as I may defend any hypocrisy to be is what it is. I've repented to the point that I have, at times, wondered if I believe me. I find myself doing what I know I shouldn't. Not doing what I know I should. The biblical letter to the Romans is more "real" to me each day. Give chapter 7 a quick read. You'll see a real Christ-follower struggling to follow Christ.

If you've read this far ....surely you're curious as to why I continue to emphasize "the ministry". Is it something we do, or is it who we are? The answer is ...yes, both. By the Holy Spirit's indwelling is fabric of our DNA. Science could never support that, however, and I'm not asking it to. I already have my right answer. No further query required.

In retrospect, I am in awe that God has used me thus far, not discarding me. I "am" that disposable! That isn't a sob-story. We all are. I've observed many failures in ministry ....a many of them my own. I've counted my struggles all joy, as James (Jesus half-brother) stated it .....except for one area; my own household. It is quite easy to count both successes and failures as "joy", when the results do not live in the same house with you. The "weight" of ministry takes on a nearly crushing degree when the trials of faith hit home. I've wept and prayed, and then some more, for my family ....desperate that they continue in Christ' way. I've pushed so hard that I've pushed away, and prayed so long that I've felt physical exhaustion, and expressed, counter-actively, my own anger and frustration when "I" thought the Christ-following life wasn't progressing as "I" thought it should. This is vain folly. No fruit to be born here.

I've strongly considered throwing in the vocational towel, the corporate "practice", if you will, of "the ministry" many, many times. I will likely consider it again, only to clammer back above the water's depths, gasping for air, and re-positioning myself to never give up. It (the ministry) has ALWAYS been a struggle for me. I'm puzzled as to why at times. I've wondered if I'm making it too hard, or not hard enough. Either is likely too much focus on "me" but remember ....this is a very human perspective. I've wondered if I've made my own version of what "it" is. I LOVED seminary! Oh how I enjoyed the process, the life, the stretching of my mind and testing of my faith. This, too, was a struggle. The financial strains still have me short of a degree. To finish well always present on my mind. This, too, is human thinking a degree.

There is one, constant, undeniable reality ....that I came to the faith a little late in the game of life, and surrendered to being a very serious student of the Word even later. This comes with a cost. But there is yet an undeniable reality beyond the hard facts of worldly life ...the faithfulness of God the Father. Scripture indicates, as does the Holy Spirit's presence, that He is faithful and just to forgive our trespasses against Him. While we were still sinners ...Christ "chose" to die for us. He will never leave, nor forsake us. As real as are the pains of ministry ....more "real" is the unfailing, un-ending, love of Christ.

Every "human" has his / her own burden(s) to bear, so mine may seem trivial to you. That is ok. It is human. But as you feel the weight of your own burdens ....consider that everyone of us has ours. It is what keeps us in-step with one another whatever degree we still are. We are "all" in the same boat ...fallen short. It is, in fact, what keeps us dependent upon God. Do not wait. Do not hesitate to genuinely, fully, wholly, without looking back, surrender yourself to God through the already paid for sacrifice of His Begotten. Leap headlong into "the ministry", but realize that the ministry is not a seminary education. It is not merely academic. It is not dependent upon how you feel. It is not even dependent upon "you". Yet it functions through you one way or another. It is not the denomination with which you align. It is not an agenda you define. It is not a series of good programs, nor thwarted by the bad. "It" is all of these things. Your ministry is revealed upon your choice to live it. Don't start late, but if it's already late for you ...don't hesitate to start. "Live"! Live life in the abundance designed for you. If you lose both arms, both legs, your health, your wealth, and even your family .....NEVER GIVE UP! Do not become harsh, and bitter, when you are stripped down as a result of your choosing. If the choice is to follow Christ ....this may be the effectual stripping away of worldliness. This is difficult. This is to be counted as joy ....though you'll act it out with gritted teeth.

When the world wonders if you've lost your mind .....have the mind of Christ. Knowledge and wisdom of such is in His revealed word. You'll need to ardently, prayerfully, sometimes painfully, often joyfully it for yourself. It will NOT be transferred to you by osmosis. It must be wrestled with. It won't grow within you through blogs, devotional readings, nor preaching and proclamation alone. It will not come to you through church related work, good works. These are "parts", good parts, but without the main element of your own indulgence ....your walk will be shallow, stale, and un-real. You need to know how all of these parts fit together to make the machine, organic as it is, that Christianity is.

Find "your" ministry! Fulfill your ministry! Do the work of an evangelist. Do not merely enjoy or appreciate someone else's. The most acclaimed and admired of Christian leaders cannot do it for you. Start right now. Surrender to "the ministry".