I was pretty stoked about Saturday's Show Me the Way devotion, because it clearly proved a point about ministry that I was trying to make with a couple friends a few weeks ago. The question was, "What is the purpose of ministry?" To me, it was to involve people in the life of the church: others offered it was to bring people to Christ. Let's go to Nouwen (p. 23):
A "The whole purpose of Jesus' ministry is to bring us to the house of the father." (The house of the father is the church, right?)
B "Our lives are destined to become like the life of Jesus."
C Therefore, the whole purpose of our ministry is to bring us to the house of the father.
Life of the Church. Christ. Semantics? No? I came to understand that for some people, church doesn't always mean the same thing as it does to me. Don't get me wrong: I've been disappointed in the church before. As the bride of Christ, I have questioned her vows. As an organization, I have personally contributed to its inefficiency and ineffectiveness. As a clearing house of charity, I have questioned its motives. But I have always embraced the church as our best hope for "living in loving community with God."
One has to be cautious, however, when attempting to develop arguments using the transitive property in such settings. Things are rarely quite as clear cut in matters of faith as they are in math.
The second half of today's devotion offers more insight. "Being in the world without being of the world"( p.24). Right. I get it: don't withdraw from things, people and events around you--be with them--but try to always let your good influence their bad. Watch out or else their bad might to start looking kind of good...yeah, that's not really it, is it?
For the short time I have been in professional ministry, I have come to understand that to be in the ministry, you have to be of the ministry. I thought for a while that being in the ministry was about directing, and managing, and coordinating, and controlling, and supporting, and even sometimes leading the ministry. Be careful: you might get some on you.
I realize now that being in the ministry is about listening to and experiencing things, people, and events "as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us":
The life of the church.