With every twist and turn of life, God continues to unsettle my theology by settling me more firmly within Himself.
Everything I once thought ministry was isn’t necessarily ministry at all.
The titles and organizations rise and fall, come and go. Religious institutions are built, then close their doors. Positions are created, then dissolved.
But worship and love remain.
To worship God is ministry.
To love people is an act of worship to Him — sometimes a sacrificial offering, but always a pleasing aroma ascending heavenward. Ministry happens all around. When we take the time to talk with our neighbor, or pick up our sister’s son from school, or take a meal to a friend whose life is especially hectic, or help an elderly woman find a product in the grocery store, or provide care for an aging parent, or lighten a coworker’s load by bearing more responsibility upon our own shoulders…
Opportunities for ministry abound, and most of that ministry takes place outside the walls of a church building by people who do not carry the title of pastor or elder or deacon.
Ministry happens when disciples worship the Master and love each other.
These two words, worship and love, are practically synonymous, or at least function as a dynamic duo within the hearts of believers. Responding to those nudges prompting you to pray for a particular situation without an agenda of your own. Spending time with that person who frustrates you more than refreshes you. Giving without expecting recompense, knowing you may be taken for granted… or even taken advantage of. Being truthful with yourself and loving beyond opportunities for personal gain. Giving worth to others simply because they are created in the image of God. These are all acts of worship and love.
I wish I could say I do these things perfectly, but I fail frequently. On so many levels. With so many people. Mostly, I prefer to be the one on the receiving end of grace, not the extender of it. Mostly, I feign worship when it calls me to walk in hard places. I hesitate to love as quickly or as freely as I should. I prefer to live within my comfort zone instead of stepping beyond what I think I can manage on my own. Because I want to stay safe.
But God continues to call me beyond. To worship in Spirit and in truth where my own rights are overtaken by a higher way.
Real worship is to love with abandon, arms stretched wide. Scary, isn’t it? To position yourself to be vulnerable, unguarded, seemingly defenseless. Open to be hurt, but also open to give and to receive a love that can only be returned when we are exposed. That’s what it takes to create an environment where ministry can happen.
Ministry creates a place where folks feel safe to be themselves. Where trust can be built and stories shared, sometimes page by painful page. Where people are heard. Seen and not overlooked. Accepted, complete with flaws and irritating habits.
When fresh wounds are cared for by those who bear scars of their own.
When we release the rights to our own story and share it in hopes of bringing encouragement or healing to others.
When we embrace the worst of humanity with the best of grace, purposing to move forward into the future without the chains of the past dragging along behind.
This is where we invite ministry in the most precious of ways.
Worshiping in love, and loving to worship.
Whoever we meet.
Wherever we are.
Drawing eyes to Jesus and calling hearts to bow in humble gratefulness.
Together, held by grace.
Together, living in love.
Together, worshiping day by day.
Together, where ministry happens.