I am discontent with ministry. I was recently asked, “How many ministers do you have Christ Church?” My snarky, mean side forced out a snide response, “About 3000.”
After a second or two of letting that hang between us, I smiled. I apologized. And explained, “I know you meant how many clergy we have on staff, but I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to impress that EVERY Christian is a minister, and our church has about 3000 Christians in it.”
I think this simple point is often deeply overlooked in the church. We have grown accustomed to outsourcing everything in our life—from our food preparation, to lawn service, to auto repair, to childcare, to education, to character development, to our spiritual development…even to the mission of the church—we have hired (what I call) professional Christians to seek and save the lost and make disciples for Jesus Christ…for the church.
The Walking the Path assessment Christ Church is asking all its ministers to participate in has taken quite a spin when I, one of the “professional” Christians (I hope you can hear my eyes roll when I say that) in the church, completed the section on service. What I discovered both amazed me and encouraged me. But it also made me wonder…
The first part of the assessment on service asked to rate ourselves on a scale of 1 to 5 on series of statements about how I use my talents, my spiritual gifts, and how I live out the teachings to love my neighbor as myself. It was a very difficult survey to fill out because I did not want “to think more highly of myself than I ought.” But I tried to be honest and fair to myself, hoping the Spirit would reveal something new to me.
Then, the second part of the assessment asked me to find someone who knows me well to fill out the same survey about me! This assessment would act like a mirror, and give me a view of myself that I project out into the world—to those who know me best. Nervously, I asked my wife. I was apprehensive because this survey would bypass my self-bias and my personal motivations in my own survey, and get to the real heart of it all. Do my actions truly reflect my love for God and for my neighbor?
I was amazed!
On nearly every point, my wife rated me exactly as I rated myself! There were no huge discrepancies. I was encouraged that those who know me best see my actions and motivations the way I do—as one that wants people to know that I am a Christian by the way I love.
However, it also made me wonder. I wonder what this survey would be like if I were not a “professional” Christian. I wonder if there would be a distinction between my job (as a church minister) and my vocation (as a Christian minister). I wonder if because my job is in a church, am I, in effect, being paid to love my neighbor as myself. Is my life of service simply my job or is it really my lifestyle?
There is no way to know. There is no assessment that can get at that.
This wondering is a bit discouraging, but I am also thankful for the realization. Because of that realization, I am truly humbled and amazed by the thousands of people who are NOT professional Christians who steward so much of their time every day and every week to serve others by reading to underprivileged kids at schools, by mentoring high-risk high schoolers, by getting involved in issues of injustice, by gathering and separating clothes, by using vacation time to go on mission trips, by mowing an elderly neighbor’s lawn, by bringing food to shut-ins, by having meals with people in nursing homes, by serving food at soup kitchens weekly, by visiting the prisons, by sending letters of hope to service men and women, by leading a weekday Bible Study downtown, by driving a shuttle bus so that there is more available parking for visitors at the church. This is living proof to me that the Holy Spirit is real and is at work to transform this world!
My prayer is one of gratitude. I am grateful that God knows me well enough to call me into professional ministry around such people who help to shape me “toward an attitude of service with my whole life.”
Would you care enough to post additional ways you see people loving their neighbor in tangible, specific ways like in the paragraph above? I think the sheer variety and volume would be incredible evidence of the power and work of the Holy Spirit!