Over the past several weeks as Ruth and I have talked at length about future plans and opportunities, we have had several revelations. These revelations have come about through our regular gameplan talks getting ready for the week’s events (Yes, we do call our talks “gameplans”). Usually we will be discussing a plan we are trying to explore or a person we are trying to minister to, always having some presupposition about why that strategy or approach will not work. After talking through some ideas, we have that proverbial “Ah Ha” moment and lo and behold the Holy Spirit shows us something new. Some revelations have been small and some have been smack you in the face with a two by four; some we have needed to realize more than once. Nevertheless, they have all come because we have stepped out of vocational ministry.
We still haven’t taken advantage of this one yet, but we have actual weekends again–like Saturday and Sunday. Let’s face it. Being a Pastor means that you’re working on Saturday and Sunday, while the majority of people are “off.” Even with taking a Sabbath on a Friday or Monday and getting this one day off once a week, there were still very real challenges. Anyone who works a third shift or also works a Saturday or Sunday can agree that not having a traditional work week shortens your time, or so it feels that way. Whether it was the task of relationship building for ministry or simply visiting family, time was short and most likely they were working. Ruth and I were talking about this new found revelation and realized that we can take weekend trips to see my parents, her siblings, or get away without interrupting the mojo of preparing for Sunday. This new reality brought us excitement! However, that old rhythm of life seems to have kept us from taking advantage of trip taking because the options seem limitless. Thinking about taking a weekend trip or visiting family leads into our second revelation.
I am quicker to empathize than chastise. Personally, now when I show up to a Sunday morning worship service and I’m looking to connect with someone, I’ve realized my first thought is finally reverting back from “Why aren’t they here?” to “I wonder if everything is okay?” When I first began ministry my default setting was focused on the relationship building and gracious side of life when working with volunteers and families. Those two questions may not seem like much, but there is a vast difference of tone in my head. The first is of condemnation to their absence. Think, “why aren’t they here?” out of frustration and disrespect. The second has a tone of concern and empathy. While I may never outwardly become vocal about someones absence, judgment leading to condemnation mentally is still sin. I have had to repent and seek forgiveness. My prayer is that “why aren’t they here?” gives way to “I wonder if everything’s okay.” The revelation in probably the most haunting of my time in ministry. So much cynicism and narcissism is rooted in that first question and having this change of perspective challenges me to evaluate when things began to change. While these thoughts never gave way to bitterness, there is so much more God wants to do in and through a person besides showing up to my program. When I began in ministry the latter question was my only question, but that soon gave way to dissatisfaction to someones absence. Maybe it’s the investment in someones’s life or time spent caring about someone’s best interest, but that seems too rational. Using someones attendance at an event is something that I hope God prunes out of my life. I encourage all church people and current ministers to fight for the latter question, and there may even be better question than that. Nevertheless, don’t give in to condemnation and scrutiny. Choose grace. Choose love. Also, if you don’t see someone you wanted to connect with, reach out and let them know you missed them.
The challenge I’ve ushered to reach out has forced me to realize I have the ability to put my “money” where my mouth was. I have always been attempting to live with passion and mission, but I now have a more full opportunity to live out what I taught and attempted to live out while I was leading a ministry with little objection. Living with intention and acting with love cannot be countered by the reasoning “you’re a pastor and that’s what you’re supposed to do” anymore. The expectation has changed, which allows my true motivations to shine through the facade many people think ministers put up. My hope is that time put into love for God and love for people will not be misconstrued as obligation, rather show what God has done in me is the real reason I advocate a faith-filled passionate life. When it comes to an opportunity to serve in church, will I step up as I challenged so many others to do, or conform to my natural selfishness? Just yesterday my ability to lean into God was put to the test. I was asked to do the welcome at a church service and Ruth was asked to serve in the nursery. This was the first Easter in many years we weren’t going to have to take any responsibility; we could actually kick back and enjoy the program! I hate the reasoning. It’s terrible logic. The church is not a program. The church is a family. The worship service is serving worship to God, not watching performers on a stage, yet that’s what I was looking forward to doing. So, Ruth and I were faced essentially with one choice. Serve, or sit. It is not an easy thing to decide when you know Easter Sunday the worship will sound good, the preacher brings his A game, and the place is packed. Maybe you are faced with this same dilemma every week when you are asked to serve, or even go above and beyond your current role. How do you choose? I won’t tell you what we decided, but putting my “money” where my mouth was prompts that fourth reoccurring revelation.
Regardless of my position, role, or job I’m still in full time gospel ministry. We are all commanded to make disciples. That does not change even when my job does. This commission forces the “great commission” to be replaced with the “everyday commission.” Same text. Matthew 28:19-20. Same logic. As I go into every church, store, job, building, or home make disciples of all people baptizing them, teaching them to obey, remembering Jesus is with me until I die. What does this look like? In a practical sequential sense, it means being a friend of sinners so that they repent and believe, building the believer, equipping the worker, and sending the discipler (for a full definition of these terms I encourage you to read 4 Chair Discipling). My new role and difference of location does not excuse me from the work of ministry. While the venue may change, the method and means do not change. I am excited for how this will take shape outside the context of church ministry and in the context of workplace and neighborhood ministry. My gut feeling is that it will look eerily the same. Doing what Jesus did makes disciples like Jesus commanded us to make.
God continues to show me what this looks like as things change and as new relationships form. Regardless, of your position or role wherever you are, my hope and prayer is that you seek to fulfill the everyday commission out of your love for God and love for people. If you’re not sure what making a disciple looks like in your context, then I suggest finding a few Christians, get on the same page with them, and together have a gameplan.