Being a Minister and 'Doing Stuff'
Is the role of a minister simply about 'doing stuff' - or is it something else entirely? By Joe Haward
There is a lot of discussion around at the moment, our own Baptist denomination, about the role of a church minister.
Some people are saying that the future of ministry is bi-vocational. In other words ministers now should either be paid part-time by the church and work part-time in a secular job or work full time in a secular job and in their spare time lead a church.
I did three years of bi-vocational ministry. I worked part time for my dad oyster fishing and part time for the church.
There are a number of reasons people are arguing for this;
1. Money - Churches are struggling to pay their ministers full time stipends, so it makes sense for ministers to look for other ways to pay themselves.
2. Community Involvement - Ministers need to be in their community, so working in the community in a 'normal' job helps this to happen.
3. Working Hard - The people in our churches do full time jobs and help in church. Why should the minister be paid for doing what our members do for free?
4. Leadership - Why should someone be a church leader? Everyone is an equal so there shouldn't be one person who decides what happens.
5. Leadership 2 - We need a leader to lead us, so they need to be in the real world in a normal job doing what the rest of the church does.
I have summarised greatly and probably missed out other reasons, but I think these are the main thrust of the argument.
And we have a problem.
'Doing stuff' is the problem.
People are wrongly assuming the being a Minister is about 'doing stuff'. Once again we are allowing the world to tell us what is primarily a theological and therefore church defining topic. Being a minister is not about 'doing stuff'. We live in a world where we do stuff all the time. Our jobs in all their variety call us to do lots of different things, and quite rightly, in the doing of those things we are displaying skills, craft and working to make a living. Some jobs are more rewarding than others. Some love and some hate their jobs. Some find it easy to see God at work in their job and some find it extremely hard to see how God is at work in their job.
And then there is church. We do lots of things in church. Lots of activities, clubs and groups. And these are run by the people who are also doing a job. So they give a lot of time working and then helping at church.
People are doing a lot of stuff.
So what does the minister do then? Well many think that the minister is also doing stuff, yet all his/her stuff is to do with church. So why are we paying a minister to do the stuff we do for free?
Being a minister is not about doing stuff. Being a minister is something different.
God has called some woman and men to serve Him within the life of the local church in a way that is distinct and different. Some have been called by God to primarily be a person of prayer.
A minister's first calling is to be a person of prayer.
So the minister is set apart and called by God to pray. To pray for her community, to pray for her church, to pray for those that cannot or do not want to pray. It is a calling to be a living sacrament, a means of grace within the community, revealing the Risen Christ to those whom she meets. She is set apart to pray and devote to prayer. Out of such prayer the church will see lives transformed and communities changed.
It is out of this place of prayer that God's people, the Church, can flourish and grow in their relationship with God. The minister helps people, by the power of the Spirit, to know God. It is out of this place of prayer that the church grows. It is out of this place of prayer that communities are changed.
Just doing stuff won't.
People have neglected, rejected and forgotten this though because we have become obsessed with doing stuff. We think if we work harder God will reward us more. We think if we do more God will do more. And yet God calls his people to pray first. And there are some who are set apart to do this on behalf of the people.
This is an honour, privilege and extremely high calling. It is not something to entered into lightly or carelessly.
It is out of this place of prayer where real worship takes place. Worship expressed in mission as the minister spends time in the heart of the community, sharing lives with others and leading people to Christ. Worship expressed in servant-hood as the minister prays for others, serves others, listens, loves and gives up their lives for others. Worship expressed in devotion to God by reading and responding to Scripture, observing the Sacraments and spending time in contemplation. Worship expressed in finding the heartbeat of a community, where the Spirit of God is already at work and joining with Him in what He is doing.
A minister is not a leader in the worldly sense. They do not manipulate, dictate, lord over or control others. They are to follow Jesus, the Crucified God. We are servants who wash the feet of others and are willing to die for God.
Ministry is not about doing stuff. 'Doing stuff' does not require us to follow God. If a minister's role is about doing stuff then they can go through the week without even needing to pray. The stuff we do can be dressed up in religious language, but it does not require the existence of God. Ministry is a call to pray.
Don't hear me wrong, I believe God is at work in the nitty gritty everyday reality of our lives, whether that is oyster fishing, working in Sainsbury's or whatever. I believe we all have a ministry in our workplaces, revealing the love of God to the people we come into contact with. Our lives are all called to be lives of prayer and worship, wherever that might be. As an oyster fisherman I was called to serve God and honour Him in that. And whatever we do God calls us to love and serve Him in and through that.
And there are some who are called by God to serve Him by serving God's people, the Church.
This is a distinct calling that some are called to do. It is not a matter of authority, power or rank, quite the opposite. And this requires those called to gives their lives over and commit in prayer and worship on behalf of those they serve so that those they serve will grow and flourish in their relationship with God.
This is something of what a minister is called into...