When Jesus ministered to persons, he did so as a humble servant even while sharing with them God's word. For mainstream American Christians, ministering in ways characterized by Powerlessness and Proclamation can be almost unnatural -- certainly counter cultural. But if we are to join Jesus in ministry in our communities, we must allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to be like Jesus in these ways, too.
As a white, middle class, well-educated American male, I personally struggle the most with powerlessness. It is so easy, so natural culturally to fall into us/them dualistic thinking. We are good and they are bad; we are full and they are wanting; we are rich and they are poor; we are wise and they are foolish; we are educated and they are ignorant; we are important and they are not so; we are powerful and they are weak; we know better and obviously they do not.
What would it be like instead to relate as those who humbly recognize that we are sinners too, who are tempted and stumble and stand in need of grace? What would it be like instead to relate as those who also question and doubt, strike back when hurt, and seek to fill our own emptiness on pig slop (even if on a better brand of swill) instead of on what God planned to meet our needs? What if we recognized that others -- even when they do not recognize it themselves -- are beloved children of God, gifted by God in ways we are not, and no less worthy of honor and respect than are we? What if we sought to listen and learn from others, to be blessed by them as well as to be a blessing to them, to share power with them, to collaborate and partner with them, as much as is possible, as with equals? What if . . . we related to others as Jesus did: without presuming power over them?
It is often much easier for those of us reared in mainstream congregations to offer a helping hand than it is to offer an explanation for why we are doing so. I Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." When was the last time you shared with someone what Jesus means to you and why you are willing to serve others in his name? If we move into the neighborhood and build relational presence as humble servants and disciples of Jesus Christ, sooner or later people are going to want to know who we are and why we are different. While we certainly proclaim the Gospel by who we are and how we relate to others, we must also be prepared to share humbly what God is up to in the world through Jesus Christ, how we are part of this Kingdom movement, and how others are invited to join in the blessings.
Many of us who grew up in mainstream congregations would come closer to talking about our sex lives than our spiritual lives. It seems so private. And we don't want to force our faith on others -- certainly politically incorrect in today's world. And what if we said something wrong? We are so out of practice. When was the last time we were encouraged to share in our small group or at church where we have seen God at work in our lives lately? If we can't even share what Jesus means to us among persons we know and who believe with us, how can we hope to do so confidently with persons who may be exploring our faith?
Those of us who are baptized disciples of Jesus Christ are commissioned to be in ministry to those in our community who do not yet know our Lord. Our ministry with them is to be characterized by Proximity, Presence, Powerlessness and Proclamation. As you hold up these “4 p's” as a standard to evaluate your congregation's ministry -- and your own personal interactions with persons outside your church family -- what does it suggest to you?
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