Tuesday, December 21, 2010

big M Ministry and little s service

The word ‘ministry’ just means ‘service’.1 It's a fact I already knew, and perhaps one you know too; but earlier this year I came to see its implications.

I was walking along, praying about my Ministry. I was praying for the wisdom to know which Ministry to do, how much energy to put into certain Ministries, and when to stop one Ministry so I would have more energy for other Ministries. Suddenly, like a bolt to my brain from the rather grey sky (it was the fading end of a Melbourne winter), came the word ‘service’.

Ah. Service. It cuts out the middle-man, doesn't it? Instead of Me, Ministry, and You, there's just Me and You—and between us, love—a love which is more interested in your needs than in my grand plans for my Ministry.

When I think in terms of Ministry—with a capital M—here's what happens.

  • I choose certain Ministries because they further my Gifts, my Visions, my Goals, my Passions, and my (although I don't use this word, of course) Ambitions.
  • I choose my church because it fits my Ministry Plans.
  • I regard people as interruptions; after all, I'm reserving my energy for my Ministry and for any Ministry Opportunities I may receive.
  • I plan my Ministry with the precision of an American missile strike, constantly question whether I'm doing the right Ministry, and massage events so I'll be offered the Ministry I deserve want think is best.
  • I worry about my Ministry: how many people are receiving it, whether it's growing, what its future will be, and how I'll cope if things fall apart.
  • I'm filled with enthusiasm for exciting new Ministries—enthusiasm that fades as they become more familiar, more tiring and less interesting.
  • I'm filled with exhaustion when it comes to old Ministries, and do them with dogged, grumbling perseverance (I'm good at dogged, grumbling perseverance) until I burn out and give up.

When I think in terms of service—with a small s—here's what happens.

  • I'm set free from anxiety about my Gifts, my Visions, my Goals, my Passions, and whether I'll ever get a chance to use, pursue, achieve or fulfil them.
  • I'm set free to look around my church and community, see what needs to be done, and do it, even when it doesn't play to my strengths, no-one ever sees me doing it, and I don't want to do it much anyway.
  • I'm set free to serve you in love, right now, according to your needs, even if I'm not gifted to do what you need.
  • I'm set free from worry about numbers, growth, popularity and success, for I remember that even if only two are gathered around God's word, his Spirit is at work in us.
  • I'm set free to hold my plans for the future with an open hand, for it's God's plans which matter, not mine.
  • I'm set free from having to pursue all my interests and use all my abilities (for God is incredibly profligate with his gifts), and can just get on with furthering God's kingdom.
  • I'm set free to rest, for it's God's kingdom that's being built, not mine, and he hasn't advertised recently for another King or Saviour.
  • I'm set free to follow the example of Jesus and pour myself out in loving service during times of hardship, discouragement, and fruitlessness, faithfully serving God in whatever situation he's placed me in.

Perhaps it's time I took a scalpel, cut the word ‘Ministry’ out of my vocabulary, and, instead, talked and thought in terms of the word ‘service’. Perhaps then I'd stop worrying about my Ministry (along with my Vision, Gifts, Goals, Passions and Plans) and just get on with serving God's people, and making Jesus known, whenever and however I can.

1I'm talking about the Greek work diakonia, which is usually translated ‘ministry’ or ‘service’, and which turns up in places like 1 Corinthians 12:5 and Ephesians 4:12.

This post first appeared on Sola Panel yesterday.

images are from Bnet_efekt, Eva the Weaver and Leo Reynolds at flickr


Meredith said...

Thank you Jean. This is very timely as I start to think about what next year will look like. Having these distinctions laid out like that may well change my thinking - and ultimately my doing - and that is a good thing.
Thank you, as always, for sharing.

Jean said...

Thanks, Meredith.

You'll have to email me and tell me how your thinking and doing change after reading this post - I'm very curious! :) But I'm happy if it was helpful.

I've been meaning to write to you - Christmas hecticness and lots of family illnesses have pushed a few things out! I hope everything is going well for you and the family.

Love Jean.

Jean said...

ps. Of course, I'm not suggesting in this post that our gifts and even our passions are irrelevant to our decisions - but I guess you realised that already! - just that, as we think about our plans, it's others' needs that matter more than our ambitions.

Jean said...

and, if we want to think in terms of gifts, it should be in terms of love and how best to serve others in our church and community...

I'll shut up now.

Deb L said...

OH, Jean! How I love you for this post.

Jean said...

And I love you too, dear Deb. :D

Natasha Godfrey said...

Thanks Jean!