During our last Annual Conference I could not get over feeling as though ministry had emerged over time to mean going to meetings to talk about the need to do ministry – or something like that. Over six decades of life I will admit that sometime ago I came to the conclusion that those who are on the front line, in the streets and incarnate should have the loudest voice if not the only voice when it comes to decisions about ministry. I’m not saying that there is not value in observation from a distance for it is difficult to see the forest when we are deep into the woods. My concern is that to follow Jesus is to take risks, trusting that the One who calls us to do so has our back at all times. Anything that inhibits such risk taking may be rooted in the enemy rather than holy discernment.
For some reason this leads me also to think about rules that are enforced by persons at a distance from where ministry is taking place. First, I understand the importance of agreement on basic rules. In a conversation about the danger of driving in our neighborhood where someone running through a red light or stop sign is commonplace we noted that such blatant infractions are selfish. The reality is that as more drivers ignore the basic rules of the road there are more accidents and we are all punished with higher insurance premiums, in a neighborhood where most cannot afford insurance. On the other hand, rules that inhibit called disciples from following Jesus are unhelpful.
Mira Conklin* reflecting on Jesus’ advice at a dinner party writes that: “Proper channels can obstruct kingdom work. While they can provide the needed skeleton for ministry development, they can also be a spiderweb of hierarchical committees that drain the passion from those who felt the initial call to action. In churches whose identity is defined by how closely disciples follow the proper channels, those who jump right into action are scolded” (Luke 14:7-14). Mira’s words reminded me of how often I observe well meaning leaders inhibiting others from taking risks. Honestly, I lean more towards the idea that those unwilling to show up and participate should keep silent at the foot of the table, allowing those who are giving of themselves the places of honor, at least for that particular discussion.
The Upper Room Disciplines 2016 – A Book of Daily Devotions. Rita Collett, Ed., Upper Room Books, 2015.