Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nothing Better

Ministry is hard work. This is no surprise. In fact, I remember learning in seminary (and frankly, observing every pastor that I've ever had) that it is important to have good boundaries because ministry will take up every spare moment and even your-not-spare-moments with something crucial. There are meetings, worship services, books, blogs, phone calls, emails, etc., that will necessitate attention and time. And then there are people. People will always need you. Sometimes these feeling of being needed, being able to fix someone's situation, being the superstar, can start to become the driving force instead of living out the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And then comes burnout, poor boundaries, and inflated egos. So yes, ministry, true ministry...the kind where the Gospel is lived out and you become Jesus' hands and feet as you are inhabited by the Holy Spirit, is hard work. The hardest part of the work has actually already been done by Christ--who broke the chains of sin, but we as God's ministers (both lay and clergy) must do the hard work of laying down our lives, picking up our crosses and following Christ. We must allow God's Spirit to transform our lives, letting our earthly desires pass away so that we might be transformed by God's grace.

When the work of ministry seems hard, it is so important to remember the fruits of the ministry. For me, that means I take a look at the lives of people that God has transformed that I have been blessed to know. I met Nicole her junior year of college, when I was brand new at Southwestern College. I was immediately drawn to her, as she has a great sense of humor and high level of responsibility. She also seemed that she had been pretty disappointed in her life and was reluctant to trust people easily, even though she had that look in her eye that said she wanted to be able to trust them. She gradually began to open up to me and I told her that while I might disappoint her at some point, I was willing to allow God to use me in her life, if that was okay with her. Over the two years of her time in college, she really opened up to me and began to trust me. One of the things that she talked to me about was her love for all things African. I was so excited, then, when she shared with me about the opportunity that she had to go on a mission trip to Kenya a year after she graduated from college. She had an incredible experience on her first trip and soon after she returned began planning a second trip to Tanzania and Kenya for this past summer. Through a crazy series of events that Nicole tells about, she is now working with an organization of the General Board of Discipleship called Pray With Africa.

Watching Nicole grow in God's grace and follow God's will into her current ministry reminds me that there is truly nothing better in ministry than seeing people that you have invested in mature in faith. The meetings, the programs, the worship services, the phone calls and emails, they certainly are the preparing, tilling, planting, watering, weeding, and tending parts of growing fruit. But when the fruit peeks through and then begins planting her own seeds, there is nothing better.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taking a Look Around

I tend to be one of those people who stays busy. If I'm truly honest, I really like it that way best, I suppose. I do recognize, however, that there are times in the year that I'm too busy. These last 6 weeks definitely fit that scenario. School starting involves all of the excitement, emotion, and stress of setting an inert machine into motion. The potential for great power is there, but so is the potential for numerous malfunctions. But by now, we are up and moving. The rust has worn off, the new pieces have been broken in, and we're moving.

And so, I stop. Yes, I stop and take a look around. I look back to these last 40 days and see that lots of great things have happened:
  • I participated in a prayer effort that started on August 10 and finishes up tomorrow (Friday, September 25) that intentionally lifted United Methodist Campus Ministries in prayer. There were days when I felt like I was a hamster running on a wheel and when I prayed these prayers, I sensed camraderie, understanding, and provision in a significant way. There were some days when these prayers were the substance of my static prayer time, but even in those days, I was surrounded by prayers.
  • We've initiated a new group of leaders for campus ministry at Southwestern. Both the Shepherd Team of Discipleship (affectionately known as the Disciple-Sheep) and the leaders for our Campus Ministries are leading others in ministry! There truly is nothing more exciting than when students that you love are ministering to others! Love it!
  • Chapel at SC. Wow! I have been blown away by the chapel services this year so far! Each preacher (all from within the SC community so far--and I'm counting Steve Rankin as still being from within the SC community) has spoken words of challenge, comfort, and truth to our campus. The worship teams are learning what it means to lead their peers, and the support ministries are creatively engaging the community in worship. I can hardly wait to get to chapel each week.
  • I've had a couple of conversations with current students and alumni this fall that have been incredibly affirming...not necessarily of me, but of what I sense that God is doing and wants to do in our midst. Many seeds have been planted in years past here at SC and things are coming together for fruit to be borne. It's exciting.

From reading this little glance around, it would seem that Southwestern is heaven on earth. Well, it is pretty great, but we have our own struggles, too. But through it all, we know that God's presence is guiding, sustaining, and empowering us to meet those challenges. As I look around, I see places where God is asking me to trust and keep going, places where I need to ask forgiveness, and even places where I may need to just stop what we've been doing. So whether we move forward, or stop, we trust all of it for God's glory alone! And that's actually the best place of all to be.