As I enter this new season of ministry at Church of the Savior, I find myself reflecting on the way my view of ministry has shifted over the past 15+ years and how that shift impacts my new work here.
Perhaps like some of you, I was raised in a Christian tradition that put much emphasis on my part of working out my faith in deeds and service. Although I appreciate the stress this tradition places on being an active participant in our faith, the implicit message I internalized was that ministry was largely up to me and what I was willing to do for God.
Several years ago I began to perceive an imbalance in that framework of ministry as I saw many well meaning people around me burning out and giving up, or stumbling under the heavy weight of responsibility.
What I came to realize was missing from this framework was a robust sense that God is always and already at work in the world. A friend of mine likes to say that burnout is also a theological problem, and I have come to agree. When we lose sight of God’s work in the world as the foundation for our ministry, we become cut off from our true and deepest source of life.
On the other hand, when we do grab a hold of this reality, it is abundantly freeing for ministry. If God is already at work, then my ministry is a response to that work, rather than a work of its own. I see God at work and want to join in. I trust God is at work, and I move forward out of faith and love rather than anxiety or fear.
One of the key elements of my new role at Savior is to come alongside our Ministry Team Leaders. I was humbled to realize that we have over 15 lay leaders who serve to coordinate and lead various ministry teams. As I thought about what I would want to impart as I serve these leaders, I realized that the first and most important thing is this--that God is always and already at work.
This has a couple of concrete applications for ministry. First, if God is already at work then he has given us everything we need to do the work into which he has invited us to participate. That is not always readily obvious, especially when we are in the thick of ministry. But whether it be through helping to recruit volunteers, acting as a sounding board, or troubleshooting logistics, I hope to be a sign of God’s presence as we work together to see the ways he will provide.
Second, if God is already at work then he is not surprised by or anxious about our challenges or difficulties. He cares deeply for us and those with whom we are serving, more than we can ever imagine. This realization has helped me to hold my ministry more lightly as I look to God rather than my own ingenuity or strength to navigate hard situations. And it has helped to build my faith as I realize that all I have to give, my few loaves and fishes, God is faithful and delighted to use no matter the circumstance.
I am blown away by the grace of God who loves us and invites us to join in his love for others. And I am encouraged to have the privilege of working with so many of you in this great work. Paul’s words to the Philippians seem particularly apt:
Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
Philippians 1:3-6, The Message
As we seek to be renewed by his love and to minister that love to others, may we all be continually refreshed by the reality that this is his work and that he who began this good work in us, will be more than faithful to complete it.
--Pastor Sandy Richter