Do You Feel Like Your Ministry is Against the Tide? That’s not always bad…
Devotional Thought for these seemingly broken days:
20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” 22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:20-22 (NLT)
255 Don’t expect people’s applause for your work. What is more, sometimes you mustn’t even expect other people and institutions, who like you are working for Christ, to understand you. Seek only the glory of God and, while loving everyone, don’t worry if there are some who don’t understand you.
“Sometimes, “the pastor writes, and my heart and mind want to say, “all the time.” Because there are times I am sure that my peers in ministry don’t quite understand me. Or if they do, they think I am slightly unhinged, or out of contact with reality.
An example. a few years ago in a group of pastors being taught and mentored by some experienced leaders, we were working on the “Mission Statements” for our churches. The process they were taking us through was similar to work I did a decade before, and my church had just developed its Mission Statement, the description of who we are, and what God does through us. “Concordia is the place where people find healing in Jesus, while helping others heal”. It didn’t meet the standards of a normal mission statement, a standard brought over from the world of management.
While I stood firm, for this was who we were, who we wanted to be, and the standard to judge what we do, it bothered me for a while that our mentors didn’t see it…. appropriate as a Vision or Mission Statement.
So do I chuck it, and start the process over, limiting myself to the standards of good management theory (that I learned in management at Pepperdine, and in my undergrad work) or should I do what I did? Part of me wonders if this is a product of some quirky tendencies of someone with Asperger’s, or is this description (originally noted by one of our 85+-year-old saints) God’s vocation for this church. It seems like it is what the church should do, who it should be, and yet, if it is, why don’t more people understand?
Again, this is just an example to work with, not one I am currently questioning.
“Sometimes”, St. Josemaria said, “sometimes.” So I need to consider the potential of whether any present scenario is simply my own concoction, or do I?
Peter wondered about John’s role as an apostle in the quote above. If Peter is the leader of the apostles, John is often considered the #2 man, even despite his age. Jesus is told, “don’t worry about him, you follow me.” Similar to St Josemaria’s advice, to seek God’s glory (not mine, not yours) and to love people.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to criticism, (whether constructive or not – sometimes the not is more beneficial!) That criticism is often that which will sharpen our words, out thoughts, and stop us from diving off a cliff. We should hear them, especially when they are showing us from scripture, and from the lives and words of those who’ve gone before, when we are sliding away from God’s truth.
There have always been those that God used, who weren’t mainstream, who were misunderstood, who didn’t quite fit the norm. Francis of Assisi, St John of the Cross, Martin Luther, and yes Josemaria Escriva, missionaries like Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Eric Liddell come to mind. But there are millions of others who likewise were put in a place, and in a time, where God needed them, with a vision that glorified God as the love of Christ was revealed.
That is the bottom line, hear them, listen, pray. Consider deeply what you are doing, is it revealing Christ crucified, the hope of glory? Is it truly loving others? Is it consistent with scripture,? With those who have depended on GOd in their lives before?
Then be faithful, be involved, and walk, depending on God. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1068-1073). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.