Just Whose Idea Was It?

Will Willimon notes:

Ministry, in any of its forms, is always God’s idea before it is ours. While we may eventually enjoy our clerical vocation, we do it first of all not because it causes us bliss but rather because it is the job to which God has called us. Jesus loves to summon off people to painful, impossible tasks – read the Bible.

I know the truth of this by my own experience. When I was in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Well, maybe not exactly, but I knew it had something to do with the conjunction of physics and astronomy. That’s what interested me the most. But then along came Jesus, messing with my life. He dragged me kicking and screaming into a life of ministry.

Ministry is my also my job, not just my calling. That causes some problems. First, it’s weird taking money for doing things I’d do for free since I believe in them so much. Of course, some of you may have noticed that whatever it is you like to do, and however good that activity might be, the bills keep coming. You need a place to live, food to eat, and a way to get from place to place. And if you have children, they suck money out of you fast than you can make it. We want to do it all for free, but in addition to the message that we shouldn’t seek to improve our financial lot in life (i.e., aspire to pay the bills), we also hear that we ought to provide for our families. That’s not just a modern notion. Even the Bible has strong hints in that direction.

The second problem is that we’ve gotten to the place where we think there are two classes of people in the church: the ministers and the ministered-unto. We assume that these categories much up pretty well with the pastors and the laity. Why is this a problem? We’re living on a distinction that seems more alien than not to the Bible.

If we look at God’s activity throughout the Bible, we see that God has a habit of calling people to join him in what he’s doing. As Willimon says, “Jesus loves to summon odd people to painful, impossible tasks.” And most of these off people don’t ever have anything like a profession we would recognize as pastoral ministry.

So what should we make of it? Whatever your location in the social network we call church, assume that Jesus is calling you. If you’re not hearing the call yet, keep listening. Expect the call to be to something impossible, something beyond your current capacity and ability: something that requires the life of the resurrected Jesus to see to fruition. Don’t let the pastors hog the joy of experiencing the power of Jesus working through a life. Don’t settle for Jesus the shepherd who just exists to pat your hand when you feel down. Settle for nothing less than the Jesus who makes the audacious claim of John 14:12:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.


This entry was posted in Bible, Discipleship, Ministry, United Methodism, Will Willimon. Bookmark the permalink.

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