Ministry or ministers
A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend about his decision to move to an inner city neighbourhood. At first he had grand plans to start all kinds of ministries when God stopped him. My friend heard God tell him the neighbourhood doesn’t need another ministry. It needs another minister. As that thought has been rolling around my head it has come to be very profound for me. It articulates something I’ve been working through especially with my house church experiments.
Most ministry that occurs in a church is through a church program. In most church programs a few individuals conduct ministry (usually teaching or preaching) to a large group of people. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. However when almost all ministry follows this pattern we have a problem. We become insulated from each other. Even as someone who has taught and preached I can tell you it is a lot easier to preach to crowd than it is to get in to the nitty gritty details of someone’s life. It is also much easier to sit in a crowd and listen to someone talk than it is to open your life up to others.
I think this is the essential difference between simple churches and regular churches. They shift the emphasis away from centralized ministry and become ministers. They open up their lives, their homes and even their fridges to the purposes of God. There is a huge cost to this.
The cost of being a minister of the gospel is too high. It means we have to deal with our own emotional issues and become vulnerable enough to open ourselves to healing. It means forgiving those who have wronged us. It means loving people who might reject us or return our love with contempt. It means becoming people of integrity who honestly address the hidden sin in their lives.
I think this is why we have so many ministries and not enough ministers. One can teach or preach to a faceless crowd and not have to deal with their personal issues or sin.
Church is the way it is because it is the way we want it. Deep down inside at a semi-conscious level we decided the cost of being a minister, the cost of being a disciple is too much and we stick with the status quo. We may recognize their are problems. We tinker with programs and convince ourselves that there really is a legitimate chance this going to make a difference. Nowadays people innovate by adding in couches or video projectors or art installations. In the end the more things change the more they remain the same.