In the same week, I mourned alongside a couple whose twins had died and rejoiced with a couple who found out they’re expecting twins. In the same week, I celebrated a young couple’s marriage and listened to the fallout of a messy divorce. In the same week, I saw people in the church come together in sacrificial service and sensitivity and watched people nearly tear each other apart with harsh judgments, accusations, and assumptions.
It’s all in a week of ministry.
Ministry is a theme-park ride of experiences and the emotions that come along with them. Those who are in ministry, whether paid or volunteer, in a formal or untitled position, regularly climb aboard what seems to be a Wild Teacup ride. They sit with others— because God insists we do life in relationships— unsure of what’s about to happen. As the ride begins, the teacup gently twirls, and those aboard try to get into the rhythm in hopes that adopting the rhythm will make the ride seem smoother. It’s not long before the ride takes on a life of its own. While some people in the teacup impact the movement by spinning the wheel or holding it as still as possible, the teacup’s speed and spinning continues on its own despite attempts for control. Some people are thrilled; others are sick. Some enjoy the speed; others want to sit still. Some squeal with delight; others scream in fear. Every now and then, the people in the teacup agree on the preferred speed and spinning. They fully enjoy the ride together. Most of the time, however, different opinions clash or tolerate one another.
It’s all in a week of ministry.
We don’t have control over every detail in a week of ministry, but we certainly control our own responses. To cry “victim” with every bend and twist of ministry is immature and unreasonable. To respond with full contentment, indifferent affect, or unconditional acceptance is inauthentic. So, how should we respond as we spin in disorienting circles?
Help others. It seems obvious. Of course, we should help others. Isn’t that the point of ministry? But are we really helping others with the ways we’re responding, or are we just helping people feel better or doing what we think is best without actually checking with God to hear how he’s guiding us? Even when our intentions are admirable, if we affirm someone when he or she needs to be confronted and held accountable, or if we try to teach a harsh life lesson when he or she actually needs practical support, we’re likely not responding in God’s way and timing. Only he knows the details of the situation well enough to know what to say and do and when to say or do it. We need to let God define what is helpful. It won’t look the same for every person in every situation, but it will always be consistent with God’s character, including his love, mercy, and discipline.
Consider yourself. If we’re not spiritually healthy, we’re not able to help others be spiritually healthy. While ministry isn’t self-centered, it doesn’t discount the involvement of self. Self is essential to ministry. To ignore personality, baggage, and moods distorts the reality of ministry. Ministry involves ourselves, others, and God. God created each of us, so he knows the intimate details of our personalities, baggage, and moods much more than we will ever know about ourselves. When ministry is God-centered, we let him guide and provide, weaving our lives with others. Authenticity through ministry is essential. It’s not sharing everything with everyone. Authenticity is being exactly and actually who we claim to be, and if we’re claiming to be followers of Jesus, we look to God to cast his revealing light on who we are as well as the situation and the people we’re serving alongside.
Know God. It’s easy to encourage others to trust God. It’s a bit more difficult to actually trust God in everyday life. We can struggle with yielding to God, accessing his strength, and accepting his will regardless of where we are along our faith journey. God doesn’t intend for us to get stuck in rigid application of his guidelines and provisions. When we focus on who he is and actively develop our relationship with him, the application of yielding, accessing, and accepting flow out of the relationship. We don’t have to figure out what is real and what is distorted; as we continually seek him, God reveals himself, equipping us to discern what is of him and what isn’t.
The teacup ride of ministry can be exhausting, exhilarating, and exasperating. It’s also temporary. If you’re on the teacup ride right now, you can be certain you’ll get a break to walk around at some point. If you’re not on the teacup ride right now, you can be certain it won’t be long before you step onto it again. Sometimes it seems you hardly get a break between rides, and other times, the break is long enough that you become accustomed to it and avoid remembering past rides or preparing for future rides. God has purpose and provision regardless of where you are in the process of faith. He’s working in your life every day of the week.
All that is in your week of ministry is his.