How do we join in ministry?

Joining in ministry and “going to church” are not necessarily the same.  Joining in ministry is a deep form of practiced, lived faith, one shared by clergy and laity. As such, it raises the “bar” so to speak.  And as I write, I have to smile, because I think a certain part of us – admittedly buried deep – wants that bar raised!

Ministry, if it is to take on the import intended, needs to cast aside the often meaningless shlock that passes for a life of faith.  It is, in a word, “More.”  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted, “the essential divine worship in heaven does not consist in going to church regularly and listening to sermons but of a life of love, thoughtfulness, and faith in keeping with doctrine.  Sermons in church serve only as means of instruction in terms of how to live…. All the doctrines that govern preaching focus on life as their end, not of faith apart from life.” (Heaven and Hell, pp. 199, 201)  A pretty strong argument for relevance, for a call to the “More”!  Sunday worship then informs and inspires ministry; worship as a supporting means to an end but not the whole game.

I love the words of  Walter Brueggemann in this regard.  He spoke to four key elements of prophetic ministry.  Read these words and hear them as spoken to you about your “ministry.”

  1. The task  of prophetic ministry is to evoke an alternative community that knows it is about different things in different ways.
  2. The practice of prophetic ministry is not some special things two days a week.  Rather it is done with, in, and under all the acts of ministry – as much in counseling as in preaching, as much in liturgy as in education.
  3. Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate the numbness in order to face the body of death in which we are caught.
  4. Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate the despair so that new new features can be believed in and embraced by us.

Ministry then is about a dismantling and an energizing, in grieving a loss as well as living in a hope.  It pierces numbness and despair, calling us to imagine a future of the Kingdom on earth and heaven and then forward that imagination into the very living of our lives.  Now there is a real call.  This is not about pressing ministry into set political agendas. Christ was way beyond that, preferring the “Third Way” to easy political divides.  It is about raising the bar.  About “More.”

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