There’s always this battle going on inside me. One part wants silence and simplicity, the unadorned and straightforward nature of Quaker, Amish and Mennonite worship services. The other wants full-on Anglicanism, liturgy and stained glass and choirs. My understanding of Scripture leads me to believe that these parts will not be fully fused and satisfied until Eternity, when, somehow, being with God will be simultaneously simple and full of awe-inspiring grandeur.
Because He’s cool like that.
I didn’t grow up in a denomination and the idea of joining one took some time for me to wrap my head around. That part of me that likes the simple doesn’t always understand the need for things like creeds and manuals and ordination processes. The Apostles didn’t need any of that to do the work Christ gave them. That other part, though, the formal side, is pretty into structure and order and sacred tradition.
The Church of the Nazarene (my denomination) requires men and women who want to serve in full-time ministry to go through a rigorous, years-long process. There’s schooling and licensure and meetings and mentoring. Some parts of it make sense, some parts of it make me roll my eyes. In the end I’d rather caution than foolishness; anyone who dares take on the mantle of leadership should know exactly what they’re getting into and take that very seriously. It’s no light thing to stand before a congregation and preach the Word of God.
When all the hoops are jumped through and all the tests passed, then the ordination ceremony. A solemn occasion. All the candidates stand in front of the church members gathered for district assembly (basically all the churches in a certain area get together for a several-days-long business meeting, but with worship and cool workshops). There’s a whole lot of prayer. No rushing through allowed. It’s pretty awesome to watch.
I have zero desire to be a pastor. Oh, preparing sermons each week would be super-fun, and I could probably muster up the courage to stand behind a pulpit and preach, but the other stuff…the having to listen to people complain about stupid things and keep from smacking them…yeah, I’m not so good at that. (Thank you to the men and women who are. Thank you for not smacking me when I complain about stupid things).
But I am in ministry.
Stupidly, I didn’t realize this until recently.
I’m not ordained.
I’m definitely not paid. (Starving artist status, for the win).
But every time I open my laptop and start typing, I am engaged in ministry. I am teaching. I am leading.
Yes, I have known for a long time that my spiritual gift is teaching. I can’t help but tell anyone who will listen (and some who won’t) about the things I’m learning. It just happens. I have known since I was a child that I have the ability to write. But ministry? That’s for the people “up there.” That’s not me.
I wonder how differently we might see ourselves and our work if we lived in the light of two words: holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).
What does it mean to be the elect of God? Quite simply, the elect of God identify with the vocation of Christ and are a holy people who manifest God’s glory in the world. As Christ bore the rejection of humanity, so will his followers. Yet as Christ fulfilled his calling as the Elect of God and was honored, so it will be for his followers. God’s elect people identify with God’s elect Son and assume his vocation in the world.
For this very reason, Peter concludes this section by ascribing to Christians the titles of honor enjoyed by Israel (2:9-10). Like the redeemed of old, those who have been redeemed through Christ are God’s chosen, holy people who make known the wonderful deeds of God in the world. As the elect people of God they are the unique people through whose Christlike conduct God reveals his mercy and power to the world.
– Asbury Bible Commentary, emphasis mine
The purpose of ministry is to “make known the wonderful deeds of God in the world.” This can and should be done by those who have heeded the call of the Lord and given themselves over to this work in a formal, full-time way. This also can and should be done by those who have heeded the call of the Lord and given themselves over to this work in an informal, but no less full-time, way.
We’re all called. Anyone who belongs to Christ has been enabled to do whatever it is He has called her to do – from bringing truth and light to the corporate world, to patiently changing another diaper while singing “Jesus Loves Me,” to submitting to the process that results in a pastoral position. It’s all ministry.
And there it is, that blending of simplicity and formality. A glimpse into the mind of God, who brings the low and the high together in order to create something entirely unique, something that cannot be copied by mere human effort.
Minister wherever you are, however you can. Each day is filled with opportunities to make God known. There’s always someone who needs to hear His truth and feel His love. You and I are the vessels by and through which His presence and salvation are declared.
Let’s not forget or waste that knowledge. Let’s learn to see folding laundry and filing reports and sitting at bedsides and everything we do as holy work – chances to pray and speak and be the hands and feet of Christ. There is no sacred/secular split for us.
For if we are in Him, then this is all about Him.