I’ve Discovered I Was Wrong

Lately I’ve been pondering what ministry actually is. 

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve had it wrong for many, many years. Ministry has evolved in my mind from something you do at a specific location, to a way of living life. A little less than a decade ago, we ministered to college age students in a downstairs basement room of our church for a few hours on Tuesday nights. We soon became threadbare as we attempted to balance home, work and church obligations.

We sought everywhere for the answer to our primary burning question: how do you balance it all?

These last couple of years we weren’t in a formal ministry position, but we were ministering.

Lunch on a Sunday afternoon for the college students; we bribed them to hang out with us. I miss cramming 25 people into my tiny living room for yet another pasta dish {because pasta’s cheap, right?}. We caught up on their week, listened to their plans, and laughed as they played with our kids.

Conversations on a patio, escaping the heat of our homes for the cool breeze of a So Cal night. Children playing {fighting} together and parents gossiping about marriage, parenting, ministry and futures. You can be a mentor {and be mentored} if you just take the time to be with other people.

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, texts, email and more. Seeing people’s needs and meeting them where they’re at. Offering prayers, advice, support, encouragement and assistance.

Jesus came to earth to live among us. He understands our pain, joys, frustrations, temptations and needs because He is fully human. Breaking bread with fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors…the broken, sick, and lost.

After His death and resurrection, His disciples formed a community of individuals who lived life in common, viewing the needs of others as above their own.

This is the type of ministry I dream of…

Today I’m also posting over at Everyday Testimony…I’d love for you to join me there as I share how God has blessed me lately, and you can add your own testimony in the comments!

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30 thoughts on “I’ve Discovered I Was Wrong

  1. Hope it will be okay to comment here! :) I think you have hit on one of the whole messes that the church faces: ministry is done by certain individuals on certain days. “it’s the pastor’s job. Let him do it.” “I’m not paid to do that.” Ministry, like worship, is 24/7, and should involve every aspect of our life. I love that you allowed God to use your little apartment and cheap pasta to give college age kids a place to hang. That is what ministry is all about. Good thought here Melissa.

    • I read a book a few months ago that was discussing this very thing. How a pastor’s job is to facilitate the congregation as they minister to one another’s needs. That it should grow organically as the congregation builds community with one another. I think part of the problem is that so often people come to church on Sunday, arriving just in time (or late) for the start of service and leave immediately after the service. There’s no opportunity for relationships to grow and develop. Josh and I have recently been going over the values we have as we do ministry, and we found that the main value is core development of a community over crowd growth.

  2. This post is a great inspiration to me. Ever since my daughter was born (which coincided with the end of our church plant experience and my non-profit job), I’ve been so inward-focused. Or, you know, selfish. I truly desire to live in ministry like you describe here. Thank you for putting it into words and reminding me of that!

    • I found out that I was pregnant with my oldest a few months after Josh and I took our first ministry leadership position. In the mentality of ministry being position or location based, it was difficult because I felt like the needs of my newborn child outweighed the needs of the group. When we can view ministry as just a part of our life, it then becomes a lot less difficult to keep it in balance. I think having four children has been a huge catalyst for this change in my perspective. It becomes impossible to keep an overlap from happening at that point. Of course, the new difficulty introduced is burn-out. We have had to be intentional about keeping at least one consistent day a week set aside for just our family, or the special nights we have with the kids. They need to know that they do have that time alone with us where our focus is on them. :)

  3. OOh, I dig this. I find that today too many Christians desire a platform to feel like they can influence. The Bible doesn’t tell me that you have to have a “title” or a microphone, or even a pulpit to do ministry. Ministry is inspiring, discipling 1 or more people. Be it at home, school, work, public transportation. Those are the life-changing moments that I find in my life. Go out there and do ministry Melissa. You don’t need a platform, you are it!

    • I don’t think it’s restricted to Christians, this desire for a platform. That’s why Twitter, Facebook and all are so popular. People want followers, and want to know that their voice and actions matter to others. Although the popular line might be, “Make a difference to one,” no one is satisfied with miniscule encounters. If a author had a book signing and only one person showed up, they’d be disappointed and embarrassed. We say that small changes make big impacts, but the culture we live in values numbers. It’s yet another instance of what the Bible calls us to being in opposition to what our humanity desires.

  4. Our parallel journies are getting creepy. I have been having very similar thoughts about ministry ruminating in my brain over the past year. I want to decompartmentalize my faith and get out and live it! It doesn’t belong in the pew, inside the four walls of the church, in a ministry vaccuum. NO! It belongs wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, whoever I’m with-it is all ministry! Trouble is, this isn’t the way mainstream {Christian} American thinks, so it can be a lot of work to go against the flow. It’s a huge challenge for sure, because it’s anti-American in general-this putting the needs of others before myself at all times, this sacrificing my temporal happiness to further the Kingdom. But, God didn’t wait for me to come and find Him. He seeks me, He pursues me. He is knocking at my door. Why would I try to live my faith contrary to the ways He has shown me His love? I want to be where He is moving, out and about in the real world, seeking to meet the needs of those who need Him, being the hands and feet of Jesus. I want to be a part of THAT, not stuck in a basement Sunday school room. {obviously this is something I feel really strongly about}

    • This makes me even more excited to meet up with you tonight!!!!

      One of the issues that I feel churches need to battle is the “draw them in” mentality. We create programs, and try to make ourselves as attractive as possible to non-Christians so that they will come on their own to church. Or, we ask our congregants to bring their neighbors, co-workers, strangers on the street to church and hope that a free coffee cup or a welcome bag will be enough incentive to keep them there. It’s been the way church has worked my entire life, but I think now it’s time to work on building relationships with those outside the church and to take ourselves out of our four walls to see how we can truly impact our community. That might mean getting involved in a program that’s already up and running, instead of creating a competing program because we want our church’s name on it. Or, allowing the youth pastor/college age pastor to visit at the local schools during the week instead of spending 20-30 hours sitting in his office. Jesus didn’t have an office or a church, He just walked around encountering people and ministering to them where they were.

    • Totally! The scary reality is that (and lets face the truth of the statement) living as a Christian by “sacrificing” our time for church organized events might be selfless, but it is also risk-free. As you pointed out, Christ didn’t have “kingdom HQ” set up in Heaven and wait for all of the people to come check it out. Instead, he moved into the neighborhood. It’s riskier to follow Christ’s lead and move my whole life toward the cross, and yet he promises to be with me always, that my Father in Heaven knows all my needs, and that he has overcome the world.

      Great insights, Keri!

  5. This was my big “ah ha!” of ’06-’08. Of course, I knew it all in theory. If asked, I would have been readily able to tell you that ministry goes far beyond the wall of a church or the role of “pastor” and that every Christian is a “minister of reconciliation.” BUT, I was stuck. I knew God had called me to ministry, to give my whole life in serving Him and loving and serving others; I knew that I had been called to start and finish Bible College – so, logically, I “knew” that I was destined for “vocational ministry” (side note, I believe that the term vocational ministry is still true of what I am called [vocation] to – but I use it here in the commonly narrow interpretation of church staff pastor). It was a very long road God led me down to show me that His plans for me were both bigger and simpler than I had imagined.

    Your road may take you into church staff positions, but this does not change the simple truth that our relationship with God is lived out as ministry to others. Whatever our sacred calling may be, plumber or pastor, we cannot have a relationship with God that does not involve the people around us – He simply won’t allow it. And our ministry must be defined as the way we break bread with our friends, the way we raise our children, the way we relate to the grocery store clerk as much as the way we lead our brothers and sisters in prayer on a Sunday morning.

    When I was slogging through Bible College and “only” volunteering in church ministry, I used to dream of the day that I would be in “full-time ministry” and able to devote myself wholly to God’s work. Only when I was on staff at a church did I finally have the revelation you just described and then was able to see clearly how much ministry God had been doing through our lives as volunteers.

    Sorry for the super long comment, but this is a subject about which I am very passionate. As you pointed out, Melissa, the Incarnation of the Relational God is our example of the ministry of reconciliation being worked out in our midst. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is coming to redefine my entire understanding of what it means to be a Christ follower and what it means to be give my life to “feed (His) sheep.”

    • I think one of the main problems we bible college people encounter is that we’re taught that we need to get out and get a full-time ministry position or else we’ve failed. I know that there have been many times where I’ve looked at people I went to school with and felt bad for them that they weren’t working at a church and able to fulfill their calling. The truth is that not everyone who graduates from bible college (or any college) will go into full-time ministry at a church, but we’re all called to full-time ministry where we’re planted.

      When Josh was working at Life we came to see that he was still doing college age ministry, it just wasn’t with the formal title of college age pastor. Our experience has been very similar to yours! I like that you’re passionate about this topic, it will be fun to talk about when you guys come visit!! :)

      • So Soon!!!
        I cannot count the times where someone would share some statistic of how few Bible College grads were actually in “the ministry.” It was always clearly a message of failure and “the narrow path” that most would be too worldly to walk. I never heard a message that said, “here’s a shocker, you might go through all of this formal ministry preparation and education and end up in financial planning – it’s preparation for a life of ministry not a job of ministry.”

    • I’m sure this is a topic that you know a lot about, Jason. :) Do you find that this is something your congregation takes a hold of easily?

      • Well, they certainly hear about it a lot! But it is a difficult one to grasp and maintain. The secular/sacred divide has been in place for a very long time and it definitely seems to be growing in our culture. Only Jesus and the Holy Spirit can break us out of it! My prayer is we’re all growing in the revelation of this.

  6. I believe the greatest ministry happening out there right now is all of the mom’s and dad’s who are investing in their kids. It is THE hardest job in the world. The teachers who take it upon themselves to educate kids beyond just what the books say. I so admire folks who have this in them to give…

    Ministry happens when you are doing life, not when you are trying to set up a program, or a group, or a church. Those are avenues for ministry to happen, but if you don’t have a ministry-mindset already… it won’t work. Great post!!

    • My mother in law just shared this quote with me, and I think it’s so applicable to what God’s revealing: ‎”The real call of God is not to a certain place or career, but to everyday obedience. Then, as we follow his everyday call, he opens doors to where he wants us to go, and closes doors to where he does not want us to go. That way, faithfulness to God’s calling is within our reach every day.” – Brother Andrew

  7. Melissa… we sure do miss you guys and miss cramming “25” people into your apartment! You and Josh are amazing people! Thanks for sharing your family with me! We miss you, I miss you guys but we are excited all at the same time! Reading your postings is like a piece of the home that I found at Downtown Chapel is back again! Love you guys!

    • Oh man! This made me a little misty. :) We LOVED our Sunday lunches with you all. Any chance everyone would want to come up to WA for lunch one weekend? You definitely need to let us know when you’re in town!

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