As part of my Doctor of Ministry program, I have been engaging in ministry coaching. This coaching involves periodic meetings with a certified ministry coach to discuss my calling, my ministry setting, and my goals for the program and for my eventual DMin project. This process also involves a good deal of reading about ministry.
In my reading, I am beginning to see some recurring themes about calling and ministry I had failed to fully comprehend before. Here are a few that I think are applicable whether one is a vocational minister or a layperson – a follower of Christ, ministering to those around them through the good work of the church:
- Consumerism – A rampant part of our culture, this idea of buy and sell, packaged “goods,” and the church as shop keeper has long influenced the way we do ministry. We must ask if the witness of scripture and the life of Christ also reflect this way of doing Christian ministry. Did Christ call us to brand ourselves to appeal to people’s desires – or were we called to something deeper, like the transformation of lives leading to service to God and neighbor?
- Success & Failure – Oftentimes the church is deeply afraid of failure. But how do we define “failure”? Too often, I think we define it as low numbers at programs or a lack of giving to the budget. Sure, these things may be lamented now and again as disappointments, but where are we seeing success despite low numbers? Did the two children in attendance meet God? Did someone’s life turn around to service and away from destructive behavior? Was someone loved as God loved us first? Perhaps we are more successful than we think.
- Church for Saints – We are in a season recognizing the lives of those saints among us who have died. We celebrate the good work of the saints, but I think that can lead us to forget the true nature of the church (all of us, “saints” included). We are a broken people in a broken world. From those who doubt, to those who cannot break free from the chains of sinful behavior, to those who in saintly manner forgive all and give mercy and grace – we are all part of this journey together. The church is not only for the saints, but for the tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, poor, indigent, addicted, lonely, hopeful, sad, grieving, and many, many others. Our mission is to go into all the world, and Christ’s banquet is open to all (Luke 14:15-24).
As I pause to consider these ideas in my own ministry, I realize that we as Christians are all called to be disciples – to learn together, to grow together, to become the hands and feet of Christ together. Perhaps this means rethinking our preconceived notions about what ministry and church ought to be.
Let us ponder how we can remember who we are, what we are about, and how we can go about serving one another and the Kingdom of God in our community of faith.