Ministry

You know, I’m beginning to dislike the word “ministry.”

I just finished a conversation with a fellow student in my Greek class, and she said to me,

> “You know, I think the Lord is calling me to minister to Koreans.”
“Well,” I said, “There certainly are a lot of Koreans in the area.”
“Do you know xxxx in our class, he’s Korean, and we’ve been driving to class together. Well he ministers at a Korean church.” (I nodded. There *are* a lot of Koreans in the area.) “And the other day I saw the movie [Seoul Train](http://www.seoultrain.com/), and it really touched my heart. And *then*, the school where I work told me they had someone to tutor who is Korean and doesn’t speak a word of English. So I’m thinking, Lord, what are you doing here? Eh?”

Of course, the amazing thing was that she managed to convey all this information, I think, in a single breath. But it’s the word “minister” that get’s to me sometimes. The word *used* to be pretty much synonymous with “servant,” and carried with it the idea that the minister was inferior to the ministee. Or, at the very least, the minister, places herself at an inferior position to the one she ministers to. “A servant is not greater than his master.” I would say that I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ because I come as a servant, and not as a king. Or perhaps, because it is the gospel which orders me about and not the other way around.

Perhaps it’s a bit of my ambivalence toward missions speaking out, but it seems to me that the way we use the word now, “minister” has this vague imperial overtones, like the lady from the cleaning service who delights in coming to a house to clean because “Look at this mess! these people don’t have a clue about housekeeping!” And suddenly, the servant is greater than the master.

Look, we carry tresures in earthen vessels. Everywhere I go, and no matter what kind of “minstry” I do, my hope is that I provide some kind of useful service where there isn’t somebody else already there doing what I do. What would be the point in serving in a way that wasn’t needed? I think this partly why Paul felt that he was called to bring the gospel to places where a foundation had not already been laid. Why serve if it provides no useful service? But at the same time, I want to distinguish between the treasure of what I bring, and the clay pot which brings it.

I think the first time I started getting a little antsy about that distinction was at MorningStar. Here I was at a ministry training school that had managed to attract a very impressive group of talented would-be ministers, and it was the nature of the training there that it was more of an emphasis on improving the servicability of the pot than the value of the treasure stored within it. The result was that I started noticing very quickly that there were a lot of people who were a lot better “ministers” than me. That is to say that their skill in conveying the treasure that they had was truly a glorious sight to behold. But generally speaking, nobody had any greater treasure than anybody else.

Looking for a place to serve, I made a few attemts to help with the youth group, but quickly ran away in frustration. The “youth” in the youth group were made up almost entirely of the children of students in the school, or even students themselves. I had personal knowledge that these were great, well-raised kids, generally with a very strong Christian background. The “youth leaders” in the group were also students in the ministry school. There was very little discernable difference in maturity or knowledge and understanding between the leaders and the led. But there was a great deal of difference in areas like skill in public speaking and music.

Yet, every time I came, what I kept hearing was about how this group was going to be great because of this incredible impartation they were going to bring about. But as far as I could tell, there was nothing there to impart. The ministers had raised themselves above those they were ministering to, but as far as I could tell, they had nothing to give which their recipients didn’t already have!

Part of the reason now that I’m in seminary is that I’m so aware that I am an earthen vessel. God has called me out from before the foundation of the world, and He has shaped me my whole life for His service, and He’s given me any number of talents, but I’m still made of clay. I chip, I crack, I become mishapen. So whatever I offer that is truly an impartation of the great glory of God, *it cannot be me that I offer*. I’ve come here to acquire treasure, so that when I try offer people something they truly do not have, I will have something truly valuable to give them: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the mean time, I’m trying to stay away from that M- word. So far at our new church (we settled on [Pigeon Cove Chapel](http://pigeoncovechapel.org/), by the way), I’ve signed up to help with the music, and with the Sunday school, and I have some plans to do some work with their website, and maybe introduce some extra-curricular activities for the youth in the church, if time allows. It’s a very small church, and so there’s a lot of room for service. Nevertheless, I’m very reticent to go around saying things like “the Lord has called me to minister to the youth,” or, “I”m part of our church’s music ministry,” or “the church website is *my* ministry.” It may be a petty thing, but it feels too lofty. Let other people be ministers, with whatever inherent glory that may entail, and I’ll abide with whatever service the Lord may bring.

One thought on “Ministry”

  1. One of the last times I had opportunity to hear Gary McIntosh speak he began with: The only title I want is “child of God” and the only position I’m interested in is “at His feet”. I always thought those were good goals to aim for.

    Like

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