On New Year’s Day, I posted this to my Twitter account: “What am I going to do in 2012? I am going to start cooking again. I am going to start blogging again. I am going to start running again… in short, I am going to start again.”
In so many ways, 2011 was a hard year. And although some amazing things happened, an awful lot of stuff went wrong as well. The reason that I have to start out 2012 resolving to pick up those things again is because they stopped, along with in a large part reading the Bible, and talking to God, and that’s a clear sign that something is wrong.
The ironic thing is that they stopped because of work, and I work for a church.
I heard Mark Yaconelli speak a few months back, and he said that “your real ministry comes not from what you believe, but what you know.” You can believe that God is in control, but until you really know that, deeply, then you’re still going to keep living like it all depends on you. You can believe that God is trustworthy with the important decisions in your life, but until you trust Him with them then it will just be theoretical.
I believed that I was living life in step with God when I started out in my current position as a youth worker. But over the course of the past year and a bit, rather than seeing God more visibly in day-to-day life, I’ve ended up encountering Him less and less. Letting how exhausted I am from work define my interactions with others – complaining about how difficult things are or talking strategy rather than just enjoying their company. I have used television as a defence mechanism, using that as a way to disengage as it takes the least energy; I have turned cooking, one of my great joys, from a thing that used to bring me joy to a chore.
What kind of a ministry is that?
I know that this is a common statement among people working for the church, but it’s struck me recently nonetheless. I’ve worked for a church in some capacity for the past two and a half years, and for much of that time I’ve been miserable. My relationships with others have been strained, or fallen apart, and I have struggled to find God in those times. And of course ministry is hard, and it’s naturally going to be a fight, but at times I wonder if the problem might actually be me.
It seems like if ministry is making you a person less aware of God, less engaged with His world and His word, and less joyful and less conscious of what He is capable of – and if that happens for a sustained period of time – that may not be what God intended for His people. That might not really constitute ‘doing ministry’ at all, because all that you are ministering out of is your own strength, which is effectively ministering yourself.
I’ve talked to a number of people about this and received a number of opinions on what it means.
I still don’t know what I think, but I am very aware that some things have to change in the next year, one way or another. And I’m interested in your opinion too. Should ministry be a fight – a joy that is born out of pain and struggle and hardship? Or does God have different plans for the people that He calls to serve His church?