Darryl is the Mission Coach for Alpine Presbytery and Minister of Kiwi Church, a new-ish congregation in Christchurch
It’s time to change our language folks.
I started my ministry when I was 7 or 8 years old.
‘That’s cute’ I hear you say, while thinking ‘but you didn’t start real ministry until you were ordained.’ Some may say, ‘you didn’t start real ministry until the church employed you.’ Maybe more gracious people would suggest I started ministry when I started volunteering in the church, maybe did a course or something and discovered what I could ‘do’ in the church service, like welcome people. And so we end up with varying levels of ‘ministry’ from ‘sort of’ real ministry to ‘real’ ministry (like preaching – you’ve really ‘made it’ in ministry when you get to do that). Too cynical?
Sometimes we put ‘the’ in front of it and it feels even more special – When did you enter ‘the ministry?’ It really is a sacred cow we need to bar-b-q, as it undermines our ability to be healthy in our church expression together. We have ended up with people who feel like second class Christians as they struggle to find ‘their ministry’ (side note – even the word ‘my’ in front of ministry is problematic – who said it was ‘my’ ministry anyway?) They watch the experts and professionals, and get the signals that mature spirituality results in being able to do that kind of thing, yet in their home, or office, or classroom, or smoko room, they struggle to see how this relationship with God can be relevant.
Didn’t I start in ministry when I discovered a God who loved me, and invited me to join in reconciling all things to God, to be part of making all things as intended in the beginning? For me that was at Camp Iona in North Otago, some time ago now. Maybe it was when I realised that an invitation into that relationship meant a life of meaning, purpose, and part of something much bigger than myself, or my comfort? Maybe something like what Jesus described as a life to the full?
So what do we say instead? How about, ‘when I sensed Gods call to local church ‘leadership’ (I know, I know, leadership has its issues for some people as well – humour me), or ‘I sensed God suggestion to start my own business, serve of the Board of Trustees, volunteer in the community, etc.’ We’re all in ministry, all invited to participate in what God is doing. Using the word only in ecclesiastical situations creates an ‘in’ and ‘out’ crowd, which is opposite to what Jesus was on about, wasn’t it? And it is not ‘my’ ministry anyway, as much as sometimes I don’t like to admit it, it’s not about me – it’s God’s ministry!