Monday, November 21, 2005

Real Life Ministry

In preparation for a recent sermon, I was reminded of the "dirtiness" of ministry. As a pastor, there is very little that is convenient about ministry. There is nothing convenient about packing your bags for a week or two of missions work. There is nothing convenient about making hospital calls in the wake of rush hour traffic. Nor is there anything convenient about selling your house and the majority of your possessions in order to follow God's call upon your life. In a world that prides itself on convenience, these sort of inconveniences can prove to be an insurmountable burden. Fast food restaurants abound because of their convenience - you don't even have to get out of your car. Convenience Stores of all shapes and sizes pride themselves on their ability to deliver fast and convenient service. Yet, ministry offers quite the opposite. If you want to know what convenience is - don't become involved in ministry. It's a dirty business. A messy proposition.

Likewise, ministry is often times unpredictable. In the words of Forest Gump, "you never know what you'll get." While weddings can be planned months or years ahead, funerals aren't all that easy to plan. A recent conversation with a pastor friend revealed this truth just last week as he and his staff prepared for two such funerals in the span of only a couple of days. Hence, ministry is not only dirty and messy, its largely unplannable. In a society where Day Planners and PDA's abound, this can prove to be difficult at best for us to accept. We like to plan - at least some of us do, anyway? While I'm largely the adventurous type, a certain measure of predictability is welcome.

Despite these apparent hang-ups with doing ministry - good news abounds. As Rick Warren so eloquently put it in his bestselling book the Purpose Driven Life, "It's not about us." In other words, and despite how some would have us believe, we weren't put here on earth by God to be comfortable. Don't get me wrong, I love comfort. I love the spaciousness of a mini-van as opposed to the lack thereof in a 4 door sedan. With 4 kids, perhaps its not even a creature comfort but a necessity. On a cold day like today, I like the creature comfort of staying inside and sipping from a warm cup of coffee or Hot Chocolate. Yet, I'm reminded that while I'm doing so, a whole world outside of my plastic bubble is in need of help. Maybe it's a simple phone call to say you care. Maybe its a note that expresses encouragement. Or perhaps it's far more "dirty" than this. Regardless, God has called us all as Christians to be the body of Christ. Yet, how often are we representing the church in such a way? This question is for myself to ponder as well. I'm not always sure that I want to get dirty. I'm not always sure that I want to put up with the frustrations and the unpredictable nature of doing ministry. I want to "stay inside", so to speak, and do my own thing. Nonetheless, God has created us for himself and has gifted each and every one of us with the ability to do some kind of ministry. Yes, it's messy. It's dirty, and downright unpredictable. Yet, if you've ever truly gotten yourself knee deep in mud, you know what its like to reach the shower and wash up. It feels great to get yourself clean. Likewise, when the job is done (for a short while anyway), the washing up brings great fulfillment. You suddenly discover that even though it required you to get dirty, the reward you receive is so worth it. But don't get too clean and comfortable. There's bound to be another mud pit up ahead!