“Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert and river in the dry land.” Isa. 43:19 NCV
It was a joy to gather in person for Annual Conference this past week. Living in the afterglow of having reconnected with colleagues and friends and forging new relationships was a blessing. It’s Monday, again, and I am reminded that we have returned to the ‘reality’ that ministry is forever changed. We are all still trying to figure out how faithful ministry looks amidst ongoing pandemic issues and divisions of various sorts. No doubt, we can debate what faithful ministry is for hours, but in the end, faithful ministry, viewed through biblical witness, has been and always will be about relationships.
Before entering the ministry, I worked in community development for the YMCA. That work taught me about the power of community relations and why ministry with those outside church walls so often struggles. Too often approach ministry as doing for people instead of with people. Why? Perhaps because we engage from the notion of an “us” and “them” divide, and we identify needs based on what we think, instead of building relationships with those in our communities and contexts and letting them tell us what they will partner with us to accomplish. Relationship building is a crucial component of good clergy-laity relationships for impactful leadership. Relationships that shape evangelistic opportunities and inform missional engagement that has a life-changing impact must be grounded in authentic, mutually beneficial relationships. Caring ministry is good, but are we involved in transformational ministry?
On July 1, we prepare to set out in a new appointment season; what if we spent time seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, embracing, and loving our mission field. What would it mean to see our community as our congregation? The streets as our sanctuary. Farmlands as our fields of opportunity. What if the new housing developments rising around us were seen as our narthex through which new life is invited. Maybe if we change our lens to see the world not as ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ but rather as a world that is our parish, the Holy Spirit might inspire us to engage in new and imaginative ways to be the hands and feet of Christ who bear witnesses to the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ.