Posted by: Robert A. Holsapple | April 19, 2010

Paradigm shift

Most of the pastors and other ministers I know, from whom I have drawn my impressions, ideas and conceptions about ministry, have been affiliated with churches.  Whether denominationally-based or independent, church-based or free-standing, the model has for the most part been one in which people made appointments to receive services at a scheduled time at a prescribed location where the pastor or minister worked on a regular basis.

Occasionally services would be provided in an alternate location or on the spur of the moment, but this was by far the exception and not the rule.  It is little wonder therefore that my own pattern of practice in the past has followed a similar model.  People would make appointments and would see me at one of my offices on a regularly scheduled basis.

O.K.  You might be wondering here what is unusual about this as many professionals from diverse disciplines conduct business in this manner.  Whether in their own or their clients’ locations, this is the way business is conducted.  You generally agree to meet at a prearranged time at a prearranged location and the rest as they say is history.

But ministry is not a business, at least not as practiced by Jesus Christ upon whose work and teachings I want to model my own.  Neither did Jesus have an office from which he worked, set hours during which he met with those in need, nor what appear to have been pre-arranged appointments during which he would minister.  Yes, some would suggest that all of his appointments were divine and as such pre-ordained but I believe these were appointments of a different kind.

Jesus met with people where they had the need at the time they were most in need and in direct response to that need.  The New Testament tells us of Jesus’ traveling throughout an entire region during his reported three years of ministry, of his meeting with people from all walks of life, from the poorest to the wealthiest, with people of great power and influence to those who were completely marginalized and powerless.

Jesus ministered and taught in the streets, in the countryside, on hillsides and in synagogues.  But always his work was to spread the message of love of others and service to others.  He was intentional in his advocacy for the social justice issues of his day.  Jesus was a radical and both his message and his style of ministry are no less relevant for today than they were two thousand years ago.

For me this means that if I truly want to be like Jesus then I must live, act and love as Jesus did.  For my ministry paradigm this means I need to be willing to take every moment of every day and be intentional about how I use it for the kingdom purposes about which he spoke.  I need to think about others with whom I come into contact and treat them with love and a level of responsiveness that places them above me; that makes me a servant to them rather than my seeing them in service of my own needs.

In short, I need to forget about offices and hours of operation and the like and simply dedicate my time and my energies to being with others in the moment I encounter them.  I need to be willing and open to experience life as it is lived by others where they live.  I need to be willing to learn from those I serve and not cling to an outmoded idea that I have all the teaching to do and none of the learning.  I need to be willing to do more than learn about and practice ministry and theology; I need to be willing to live them one day at a time in authentic relationship with others whom I meet one moment at a time.

Every moment in this paradigm is a ministry moment in which both I and others can experience the presence of the kingdom here on earth.


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