Thursday, October 1, 2009

Your Ministry…

It’s not every day you see a minister being held upside down while drinking directly from a keg. In fact, I’ve only seen it once myself, but it made a strong impression.

It happened one night during college (of course), and just so there’s no confusion, understand that the keg in question was full of root beer. The college church group I attended threw a “Root Beer Keg Party,” and like other keg parties on campus, spirits and energy levels were high. We danced, told jokes, and at one point in the evening, held our minister, Mark, aloft while counting how many seconds he could drink root beer continuously. Poor Mark. All he wanted was to talk with us about Jesus’ love, and that’s the goofy stuff we put him through. He’ll get to skip up a few places in the line for Heaven, I believe. But strange as it sounds, that night’s events taught me important stuff.

True confession- The Root Beer Keg Party was my idea. I was on the college ministry’s Leadership Team, and had half-jokingly suggested this, as a way to engage our context with a bit of humor. Mark, rather than shoot me down, said, “Let’s explore the idea.” And then he put me in charge of making it happen. This taught me two important rules: 1) Always encourage people to do ministry they feel passionate about (and not just what you’re comfortable with), and 2) The Good News of Jesus Christ can speak in more ways than any of us can imagine. I’m glad Mark taught these lessons. Church would be much duller if every act of ministry was a recycling of earlier ideas. And I doubt it would reach people. Sure, the Kingdom won’t come because a church serves locally brewed root beer. But it didn’t hurt, and maybe even did some good.

That story reminds me of my favorite parts of Sunday morning at Plymouth Creek. Two things pop out. One, the list of worship participants is loooong. Indeed, it’s longer than most churches of a comparable size. Second, number one on that list is always the same, “All Members…Ministers.” Two different things, but a similar point- Plymouth Creek supports shared ministry. Whether it’s how we self-describe, or the many folk who put in time every Sunday, our church hopes that everyone shares the church’s work, and that no one member (or staff person) feel overly responsible for the ministry we do. Everyone is a minister at Plymouth Creek. Everyone can serve, in her or his own way, at the table.

And that means that everyone must be open to activities that seem atypical, or that even feel uncomfortable.

I led a workshop the other week about the many different forms of ministry during Christian History. Some folk, of course, preached and taught. Some were bishops or regional leaders who held oversight responsibility for numerous Christian communities. Most Christians, though, ministered through service. They served meals during worship, or to a sick neighbor. They served the community member who’d recently had a child, or whose spouse passed away. Because time passed, and needs changed as people changed, folk translated Jesus’ Good News into new cultural contexts. And the ministry Christians performed changed one generation to the next. Still, what remained was service- i.e. compassion for one’s neighbor- and so Christian ministry continued.

So I’ve wondered since that workshop, “What are the unique ministries of service our church members perform?” Or maybe the question is better put- What’s your ministry? After all, all Plymouth Creekers are ministers. Some recently organized a game night. Others inspired a CROP Walk. Some painted. Others brought ‘seniors’ together for lunch. A couple folded this newsletter. The list goes on, but it’s never complete. There are more needs in our community than one person or church could meet, and that means we must open our eyes, hearts and hands in service. Maybe root beer doesn’t excite you, but gardening or scrapbooking does. Or something. Whatever it is, let me know, however unique. I’m anxious to serve more and more with you. Plymouth, and the world, needs it. In all things,

Grace and Peace,