Friday, January 15, 2010

This sickness unto death

Ministry is not for the faint of heart. When I first began pursuing the religious vocation to serve the church, I was under the impression that the louder I preached, the more the Holy Spirit's anointing was over me. For many, the "loud-mouthed preacher" archetype still represents authority. I have found that the full power of words becomes manifest in what is said softly.

All people who work directly with people in a church should have a call to do the work of the people. OK, anyone reading this who has ever worked in a church realizes how easily this statement can be romanticized. See, we encourage people to cast their burdens unto Jesus and so forth. That can also be a problem. For clergy who are not individuated selves, this call to worship becomes our career's benediction: ministerial suicide--especially since our ecclesiasiology tells us that we become the hands and feet of Christ.

Doing the work of the church (or God's work) is really difficult when the demands of the outside world pull on the hearts of the faithful all week long, then are brought into the church and displaced onto those who work in the church. The frustrations of marriage, unfair circumstances at work and financial woes all come to church with the people who attend church. When they are not voiced in Joys and Sorrows but are instead cast upon those who work in church--in blame or anger--then the price of the call to ministry increases dramatically.

While I would love to say, "Depart from me, you evildoer," the words of Jesus, "Pick up your mat and walk," are the only words worthy of this situation. The goal of ministry is to care for people, yes, and that care must help people pick themselves up. That can be accomplished by setting clear boundaries, modeling integrity and helping people find spiritual renewal.

I have no sagacious words to share here other than a call to love thy neighbor--even thy enemy. Unfortunately, not all members of the church will appreciate the church worker's self-sacrifice in order to remain in ministry. It is the task of the minister to find edification and reinforcement elsewhere. However we feel about those to whom we minister, church worker must respond with an empathetic ear, the love of the crucified God, and when all else fails, a stiff drink.

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