ministry formations: first week back

This week’s ministry formation class was again split in two: in the first part (one hour), we worked through some more of the history of biblical theology. This time, we looked at the three major epochs of the old testament: in this case, defined as Adam to Abraham, Abraham to Solomon, and beyond Solomon.

In the second hour, we had a student presentation on the ministry call of the disciples, from the passage in Mark where James and John ask for the highest points of authority (at Jesus’ right and left hand) in the kingdom of heaven.

As a response to that, we were challenged to make a journal entry on one of two things:
– a time when we’ve lusted after a position of power or authority
– or a time when we’ve resented being a servant.
From there, writing privately for our own consumption, we were surprised to find out that we would now be praying through these things in (small) groups – a level of self disclosure that was a bit uncomfortable. I know these other people are also at bible college and all, but in a lot of ways, they’re unfamiliar. There are some things, surely, that you only discuss with people with whom you have established some trust.

This week, probably due to some lingering illness, my ears were a bit blocked, so I found myself avoiding conversation with people more than usual: it’s too hard to talk to people when most of my side of the conversation will be “pardon?”, and so I was already feeling pretty solitary. Imagine my surprise, then, when in trying to finish reading a library book (the God Delusion), people kept interrupting me to talk about the book, or to ask about it. Most had an opinion, but few had read it.

With the book finally read, though, I could concentrate on the third hour of the class, which was back to covering the Henri Nouwen concepts of ministry; in this case, moving from control to surrender. (We’ve already covered from usefulness to intimacy, and from success to service).

Anyway. Back in Mark 3:13-15, when calling disciples, Jesus explains this calling in terms of doing things… yes, to preach, but we often miss “to be with him”. We explored what this might look like in a ministry context.

Ministry, we learned, is not (just) about recruiting people to fill the gaps in the team that you’re putting together, rather it’s working on God’s agenda: helping people to be more human. What is meant by more human? To be human is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Often, putting someone into a gap-filling role will involve hurting them, more than helping them, in this growth.

We returned to John 21 where Jesus is talking (post-resurrection) to a post-denial Peter, in the famous reconciliation. Jesus asks “Do you love me?”. When Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus says “follow me!”, even though the cross awaits. One of the temptations that the devil had for Jesus (Matt 4:8-10) was a shortcut to glory.
He can have the same kind of power and authority that would come from the cross, but without the cost. All he has to do? Worship the devil. Jesus – you won’t be surprised at this – opts for the way of the cross.

So what does “the way of the cross” mean for someone in a ministry leadership role? There’s a great temptation to make the things that you’re working on be “important” things. The language of leadership is full of self-important words: vision, drive, decision making, effective, growth. Following Jesus is about

The lecturer’s church slogan (at the moment) is living proof of a loving God. Something for congregations to aspire to. One idea that was tosed around was giving every bible study group in the church $100, and having them use the money to generate some kind of outreach project – an ongoing bridge-building effort into the community, not just a one-off exercise. An idea so novel, I thought, that it’s worth recording for future reference.

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