Entry from Sunday, June 8, 2014, Papua New Guinea
There’s a funny little thing about Christianity in modern America. When you’re in involved with the church, and in any level of ministry at all, you can work with kids in church, the homeless population on the street, or the at-risk youth in the local community centers. Countless opportunities are provided to you and, given the technological advancement, some are even done over the phone, all with the touch of a button on a screen. The world is smaller now, and we can digitally connect with almost all of it.
And yet, something isn't right. Christianity has been in between four walls and a mission trip; but, if I am honest with myself, complacency had not only America’s problem.
It was mine.
The following notes are a response to a video service I attended shortly before leaving Papua New Guinea. This sermon, though now unreachable on Youtube, had a tremendous impact on my definition of service. As young girl, (children's) ministry was always a chore. A reason why I had to wake up early on Sunday morning. A reason why I always had to be on my best behavior.
But as a senior in high school, the words struck a chord, and I knew that I had been thinking about ministry in all the wrong ways. What if ministry is more than an event, a moment and an action -- what if it became a mindset? Imagine what would happen if we opened up our hearts, our time and our homes to a world so fooled, defeated and lost. Once we let Him in, God rushes into our lives, overwhelming our time reserved, the spaces in between and the small vulnerable pockets of time we’ve kept hidden away. Imagine a world where serving others finally takes the lead.
What is ministry?
Ministry is a continual action. People on the street. People on the bus. That person sitting next to you – yeah, the one who forgot to put deodorant this morning. That one. We are commanded to serve. Even though Christianity is not a work-based faith, ministry is essential. We are to reflect Christ's character. Take one look at Calvary, and you'll see just what that means.
Ministry is an intentional act of creating a safe space between you and another human being, allowing God to take over, even when His name isn’t explicitly expressed.
This doesn’t mean you never talk about Jesus, rather that it is because Jesus was once a man, the Son understands the human soul. Apart from salvation and purpose, kindness changes the game. The world needs positive and striving intentional people.
What is burn out?
And how do I fix it?
As your day begins with waking up and getting prepared for the events ahead, and as your day ends with your head hitting the pillow, ministry is also a process. You wake. You serve. You sleep. You must also take the time to rest, spiritually and mentally.
When you are empty – because you will be sooner or later – you must find a solitary place with God.
You cannot pour out if you have nothing left inside you. Burning out is not weakness. It is a byproduct of humanity’s finite nature, and it must be addressed. Feelings demand to be felt, no matter how stupid or insignificant they may seem.
Finding solidarity is more than finding a quiet place, and more than a single prayer. Though these are valuable elements to faith and healing, the refilling process that takes place after a burn out is much like taking your car to a gas station. Here, your vehicle is fed the fuel it needs so that it may continue toward a series of Next Destinations. Without gas, the car will stop and you’ll be stuck. The same goes with our hearts. Without intentionally searching for a place of rest and meditation, our ability to rightfully, and dutifully, serve will cease. Stranded in the middle of a desert, pouring sand into a gas tank will do just as much good as believing that you can do all of this on your own.
We were not designed to be little gods governing our own little universes. We cannot do everything at the push of a button or a wave of a finger. And we were certainly not made to work alone. We are relational creatures; therefore, we thrive best in community. Be aware that those in your particular community aren’t God either, so always be wary, but when you allow yourself to be filled, you will find that your ministry becomes most effective.
What about the things I'm good at,
are these my ministry?
In his gospel, Luke explains his vocation as an act of obedience. “I must preach, I was sent,” he says. We often focus on what we want to do with our lives, and even if we are the best at what we enjoy, it doesn't always make it our calling. Take note of the deep understanding Luke exudes as he explains his position, and his calling. He didn’t say “I must preach because this is what I am good at” or “I am preaching because my father was a preacher”. He says that because he was sent to preach, he preaches.
What you love is there for a reason. If it aligns with Biblical standards, I believe that your skill-set was given to you by God on purpose. In fact, so much of effective ministry is full of people who are passionate about what they are doing (street ministry, women’s ministry, alcohol recovery, etc.). But pay close attention to the order of your priorities. Make sure you are not sacrificing your ministry, or your Kingdom-mindset, so that you can have more time devoted to your comfort zone.
Pursue your calling, not your potential.
There are more things in the world that may distract me from what I should do, than fulfilling what God has done for me. They may be perfectly good things, but productivity is very different than fruitfulness. When I stretch myself, I allow God to work through me in a bigger arena.
You can live life in one of four ways.
In Reaction – you have no plan, and you live by the knee-jerk reaction that causes chaos and ineffective ministry.
Through Conformity – you are so busy “catching everyone else’s Frisbees”, you do not give God the space to give you His mission for you.
Through Independence – you are so caught up in your own life, or your own ministry, you burn out without ever allowing yourself to recover.
By Intention – you pour yourself out to those around you, you are intentionally bringing people into your life so that you may love, comfort and speak to them as God so leads. But you also understand your limits. You create recovery time, and you take time to be filled by others.
Don’t make plans on catching a flight to Paris on a paper airplane. Don't step onto a sinking boat, or into a car without gas. Ministry requires preparation, commitment and vulnerability. Allow others to speak truth. Allow them to pour into you as you have poured into others, and how Christ has continually poured into His church. Be attentive. Be discerning. Be filled.