Self-Employed in Ministry

“The Holy Spirit manifests God’s gracious action and empowers our grateful response. The Spirit gathers us for worship, enlightens and equips us through the Word, claims and nourishes us through the Sacraments, and sends us out for service. To each member of Christ’s body, the Spirit gives gifts for ministry in the Church and mission in the world.” –Directory of Worship in the Book of Order (W-1.0105)

Any time I read something like this quote from the Book of Order, I think of the bulletins from my childhood church in Minden, Nebraska. They have, and to my knowledge, still place on the front page (I’ll use my name for the pastor):

Pastor: Rev. Scott Phillips

Ministers: All the Members of Our Congregation

Over the years I have noticed other churches place this on newsletters, publications, and bulletins as well. I’ve even (imagine this) made a few jokes about it: “Wow! Do they all get paid time off!?” or “It must be a nightmare having 100 Session Moderators!” Jokes aside, I know the point that this tag is trying to make; but I think it carries two different applications.

First, it names the reality that we often think “Ministry” consists of only a few exact job descriptions…namely, clergy and missionaries. This can lead us to a practice of “outsourcing” our sense of mission to the “experts in the field”; we call a plumber for plumbing, a doctor for medical help, and a minister for ministry. This side-steps the essential place individual gifts and calling have in Church life, personal meaning, and discipleship. Our polity, our theology, and Scripture point to something more than specializing the work of God. The epistle of First Peter reminds us of this call and inspires us to live into our true purpose as disciples: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of God who called you out of the darkness into marvelous light.” (2:9) We are created to use our diverse and individual passions in the service of God and neighbor.

But then that reality leads us further down the road…we are all individually created, called, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to this new life. Our gifts, methods, approaches, and familiarities are not uniquely holy or important. Those we encounter, both familiar and stranger, have be created with a gift and calling to “proclaim the might acts of God.” It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been a member, it doesn’t matter if we’ve never darkened the door of the church…a powerful sense of call leads to a powerful welcome. It is deeper than an obligation or a hobby; it is our deepest hope and purpose. We are all called to reach out, to share and connect in humility, to be ministers who proclaim and share the Gospel of Christ.

Which leaves one question: How can we, the Body of Christ at Northminster, proclaim the mighty acts of God today? The glory and challenge of Church is in trying to help each other answer that question of life and purpose. Together we proclaim that it is a question that must guide us, together, to a God larger than each of us. And when we humbly ask together in mutual love and support…our lives, our community, and the world is transformed through true ministry.

In Christ,