The Ministry of “Me”
I have a personal quam with a particular grammatical phrase that is used often in churches. Many of you have heard it and I’ll venture to assume that many have yourselves said it. It’s the two words “my ministry.” For example, you’ll heard a phrase similar to “my ministry is worship leading.” Another similar usage is something along the lines of, “When God gave me my ministry.” While on one hand I run the risk of getting into a mundane grammatical debate a la Dan Quale, I strongly believe that the words we use to define thing can either shed a light on our inward views of it or [more dangerously] can begin to shape our sentiments on it. Regardless of how insignificant we may define words to be, the reality is that they carry a great weight.
So… “your ministry” hugh? Let’s unpack the literal implications of this usage. The immediate and gravest one is that it automatically takes God out of the equation. While inevitably you would eventually need to answer to the logical questions of God in regards to religion, consistently defining it as “my ministry” or “our ministry” gives an autonomy to the daily role and work that one is performing/doing.
This is the biggest concern for me. We live in a generation that is enamored with the perpetual sense of individuality. The last thing we need to do is to further cater to the subtle belittling of God’s role in our daily lives and what He has called us to.
This is one of the things I was wrestling with when sitting in on a student’s presentation on The Perplexity of the Minister. During his presentation, Chris Choi, a senior at Nyack College, used Karl Barth’s theology as a backdrop to his talk. While I audibly recorded his talk and could probably transcribe it, I won’t. I want to grab one particular aspect of Barth’s theology that Chris shed some light on. In particular, it was on the role of the minister.
Barth’s stance is that the role of the minister is not to hand out grace freely such as the Catholics do with a weekly Eucharist, nor is the role of the ministry to give the word. Follow with me. Barth states that the role of the minister is to offer the service of Grace. Grace is not the minister’s to give, so he cannot give it. He only serves it. Likewise, he cannot really give the word of God. It’s not the minister’s word to give. Instead, the minister serves God’s word.
You might be sitting there reading this thinking, “Really, that’s what this is all about?” Yes. That is what this is all about. It’s about, even with the language we use, us placing ourselves in a lessened position so that God is constantly exalted above us.
1 Corinthians reads, “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed” (1 Corinthians 4:1). Paul clarifies to the church in Corinth what the true nature of the Apostle really is. Servants, entrusted with the God revealed. God reveals. It’s His word. He leads, while we are only servants.
This is more than a grammar thing. The grammar only exposes the potential heart thing that’s there. Let’s ask God to examine our hearts and see what’s really there. Let’s bring God back to the focus of what we do. It’s not our ministry. It’s God’s ministry. We partner with what He is doing; not the other way around. It’s His call on our lives. He called us; not the other way around. Let us not forget that.