In my last post, I confessed that I have very sinful attitudes towards ministry at times, especially when it becomes inconvenient. However, on the flip side, it's important to note that there are some not-sinful reasons for looking for convenient ministries too.
Convenient ministry can be a good thing when:
1. It expresses well the gifts God has given me. I'm not a big fan of "finding your spiritual gifts" - I think most of the time you should just muck in with whatever kingdom work needs doing rather than worrying about whether it fits some spiritual gift inventory you once went through - but it is still true that we are different from each other and have God-given talents in particular areas for the building up of his kingdom. Often a ministry will seem more "convenient" or pleasurable because it is something God's given us a talent for.
2. It allows me to do more ministry. If it can be fitted in well to your daily functioning, it's likely to mean you can do it more often or be freed up to do other things as well.
3. It is convenient because it's about sharing my life. Using your whole life as ministry is great, and if your ministry is convenient because you are seeking to share your everyday life with fellow believers and reach out to outsiders, then that is good ministry. My problem with this has always been that I thought I had to share my life in ways that other people feel comfortable with but that drive me crazy. For example, I think I would find having an "open house" approach to hospitality extremely difficult. I'm not a touchy-feeling-go-with-the-flow kind of person. Some of that is no doubt sinful. But at least for the present time, I'm thinking about ways I can share my life that fit with the flow of my personality, not against it.
4. It means I will do something rather than nothing. If you don't have time to run a 12-week course, do something more convenient. Do something, rather than nothing. I think churches should do "somethings" more often. Little churches burn out their people running weekly or monthly events. Do something more convenient: run a once-a-term women's night. Run a really great youth group night six times a year. Have a one day children's outreach program in the school holidays with everyone in the church helping instead of trying to find volunteers to do it for a whole week.
5. I genuinely want to be there. I've been involved in plenty of ministries that I did grudgingly out of duty. And sometimes you should go out of your comfort zone. And sometimes there are jobs that aren't attractive that we just need to do. And sometimes once you plunge into it, it gets better. But I've tended to see ministry as only happening when I was taking on some kind of burden. And the worst of that is when it has involved caring for people. That's a horrible attitude to take into ministry but I've been pretty fake about "loving" people plenty of times. I need to ask God to change my attitude but perhaps too I need to think better about what kind of task I'm taking on. Maybe I could be reaching out to the other women in my church in a way that I'd genuinely enjoy rather than swallowing it up like a bitter pill.
Last post I told you about my Not-a-Bookclub. It’s been a great way to share with other women without feeling overwhelmed by a constant commitment. But, it hasn’t always gone smoothly. Despite my intention of keeping it a “low-stress” event, it has sometimes gotten trickier than I expected.
One particular time, I remember feeling quite frazzled as phones calls about car-pooling for the discussion night seemed to go on and on. I grumbled away to myself in my kitchen about how unfair it all was that I was suddenly in the middle of coordinating everything when all I wanted was a nice simple book discussion. As I roughly opened and shut drawers, sighed loudly to myself, and generally indulged in a little pity party, it occurred to me that my irritation was a sign that all was not well with my attitude to serving others.
Here’s what I learnt about myself from the huffing and puffing I found myself doing when ministry got just a wee bit inconvenient:
1. I want ministry to be with people I like. Not awkward people who don't think like me.
2. I want ministry to be convenient. I'd like to organize it to give me as little discomfort as possible.
3. I want ministry to go well. I want it to achieve its purpose. I don't want to do ministry that fails. That would feel awful and waste my time.
4. I want other people to agree with my ministry. To see it as valuable and helpful. To approve of me and my wonderful efforts.
5. I want my ministry to be somehow beneficial to me at the same time. I don't want it to be all about someone else.
6. I want ministry to be safe and friendly for me. Definitely not something scary or risky. Something warm and comforting.
7. I want ministry that's interesting. I don't want to be involved in useful but boring jobs. I'd be wasted doing those sort of things. Unless they were easy. And somewhere warm. And didn't take up time that I'd want to use for something better. Then I'd do it. Want me to stuff envelopes in a warm office with a group of like-minded friends over a cup of tea while my husband entertains our children at home? Yep, I'm there! Set up the church hall in the cold with the weird couple who sit two rows up? I'm way too busy with my small children, thanks.
That’s what I realized that I really think about ministry (quite often). I just wouldn’t say it aloud! If truth be told, my heart is quick to set up its own goals and idols even when I aim to be serving God. It’s easy to want to pick only those tasks that suit our own tastes and sentiments. But the call to follow Jesus will at times take us into territory outside our comfort zone. It’s frequently those uncomfortable moments of service that reveal our hearts and cause us to realize afresh our utter dependence on God’s grace.