Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Work of the Ministry

In a previous post, “Let MY People Go,” Jamie took exception to the way I seemed to define “the work of the ministry.”

I wrote this:
The 20/80 statistic is even scarier when it is broken down into function. Ushers, greeters, nursery workers, coffee makers, Sunday school teachers (don’t the kids have parents to do this job) etc., etc. Very few of the positions or workers are actually in the ministry component of the church. They are being kept too busy to be equipped or activated for the “work of the ministry.”

Jamie responded:
I'll review this in more depth later. For now, suggesting that the "work of ministry" does not include the roles you, I don't agree. You seem to have applied some intangible rating system to these things. And it may be the same rating system that makes people think that washing toilets is beneath them.

In order to clarify what I was trying to say I realized that I did not have a clear definition of “the work of the ministry”.
I was a little shocked and embarrassed with myself as this term comes out of a passage that I deem key for defining everyone’s purpose within the body of Christ.

Ephe 4:12 (KJS) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

And then it happened for me. I had an epiphany. It wasn’t really something new but it was like I was seeing it through the Spirit for the first time.

What is the “work of the ministry?”
Growing up in our friendship with Jesus and our friendships with each other.

Steve Pye commented in a previous blog (Sermons: A Precious Jewel):
So why are so many pastors and leaders so critical about families that don't come out for a few weeks? One time, I spent a Sunday morning helping a friend move in to town who needed help. That felt like real church to me... serving someone wholeheartedly in their time of need. But on Monday, I heard "missed you at church on Sunday" from a church leader, not because this person actually missed me, but rather because they were trying to encourage me to make sure I'm there next Sunday for the "pep talk". Meanwhile, I was out doing church in the world.

What does it mean to “miss someone on Sunday?”
I’ve seen you for the past 20 years at church but we’ve never even had coffee together. I don’t remember you calling me at home. I certainly don’t remember ever calling you. “Why did you miss me?”

What kind of revolution would take place if everything that we did was examined by the quality of our friendships?


Robin Cecile said...

"What kind of revolution would take place if everything that we did was examined by the quality of our friendships?"


Anonymous said...

Work of the ministry – growing up our friendships. Everything we did examined by the quality of our friendships?

So, I invite that person out to dinner. Sit down. They like Faith Hill. I like Dream Theater. They like to sit on a beach. I like to hike in the mountains. We sit at the meal and stare at each other once the little niceties are finished.

Even if we both have accepted Life offered by Jesus, we have nothing else in common. Should we force friendship just because we share the same faith? Will they “miss” me if I don’t attend one week, 6 months ? Nope. They won’t even notice. Does that make either person’s faith less real? It just means we have only one thing in common - Jesus.

Can we do something together that would make the Father pleased in spite of the lack of friendship? If not, I shouldn’t be here …

David – I doubt you would call me your friend and yet, I feel challenged spiritually by what you write. Should I stop reading your blogs and terminate this interaction because we are not friends? What about that cyber visitor who is friend to neither of us? Shouldn’t they be permitted to be challenged or encouraged by our exchanges? Shouldn’t they be allowed to shake their heads over our ignorances and, perhaps, jump in here to enlighten us?

Should we examine what we did by the quality of the friendship? No, everything we did should be examined by the fruit produced. Maybe what we do is more important than who we do it with.


David Grant said...

Sherry you make some great points. I especially liked this question.
Can we do something together that would make the Father pleased in spite of the lack of friendship?

I think we're doing it right now.

I would only hope that we would hold our friends who are close, closer.

We don't have to be friends to build up one another. Jesus really is the bridge between us. And because of Him I can say let us continue in our journey together.

Thank you so much for adding to my limited epiphany.

Anonymous said...

Hold our friend closer? Yes …. may I add this? Jamie wrote in one of his blogs about the different types of friends.

I have a friend who grew up on the mission field. I grew up the only Christian in my home. We offer insight to each other that we don’t get elsewhere, but as hard as she tries, she doesn’t understand what it feels like to be denied a parent’s love.

I have another friend from childhood whose mutual understanding of our shared pasts, enables us to meet mutual needs others can’t offer. He can connect past and present into a whole picture in a way no one else can.

Then, I have a friend who told me about Jamie’s blog. She lives with a disability as does my daughter. She grew up in a home similar to the one I grew up in. We have other mutual interests and friends. We met online, exchanged email addresses, exchanged phone numbers. As time went on, in spite of our age differences, we took a close friendship and, as you suggest, chose to make it closer. The result – when I faced the possibility of becoming a widow last summer, it was she I called at 2 in the morning in tears. We have allowed ourselves to become so close, that all that transpired during that call was me crying and her saying, “Don’t hold it in. Just let it out honey. I’m here.” When she was in an equally daunting experience this winter, I was able to return the favor one night.

To achieve that level takes lots and lots of time and trust. To attempt to do that with all my friends would be too time consuming, emotionally taxing and just not practical. Not all friendships are meant to be taken to such a level. Jamie was correct in his evaluation that there are different levels of friendships. Although we should attempt to bring all friendships closer, we shouldn’t expect all to reach the level where we can wake the other up in the middle of the night to cry. Instead, we should appreciate each for their own purpose.


David Grant said...

The sad reality in most churches that revolve around a building, a sermon and a pastor is that many people don't have close friendships.

In truth it sounds like I'm speaking greek when I talk about deep friendships. You're right when it can't be many. Jesus had Peter, James and John as his most intimate friends.

I'm not talking about masses of people being close friends with each other. But the local body of Christ of not more than 20 people are to be a witness through their love to one another to their community. They will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. John 13:34,35
Interestingly Jesus said this after Judas Iscariot left.

I think that for many within brick and mortar churches that this kind of love is so unknown that they think it is unknowable.

Jesus didn't make it optional. That doesn't make it easy but it is His desire for us.

Sharing the same doctrinal truths does not make us united in the Body of Christ. Spending our lives on each other in the power of the Holy Spirit is why Jesus died.

If no one notices when you're not there is a tragedy beyond belief. The reality that this is normal only points to how truly blind we are to the gospel.