Hello Boys and Girls.
During a recent conversation with a high school educator concerning teaching methods, the following statement was made.
"We spend years giving our students tests with choices A,B,C or D, and then send them into the world expecting them to succeed when there are seldom answers to life's questions that are that simple. Most of the challenges they face will require answers that are somewhere in the middle, or not on the page at all, and they don't know how to adapt"
A very true observation and a reality. Although multiple choice tests are challenging, they don't hold a candle to the intimidation of the dreaded essay. We tend to like choices don't we. At least we have a fighting chance with choices. Even if it means we choose the lesser of two evils, its one or the other. We are conditioned to believe the answer is either one or the other. With an essay comes questions. What if the instructor doesn't agree with my opinion, or the path I take to the final point? What if we disagree about what is acceptable and what isn't. After all, the answer to an essay question is subjective right?
Modern Christians have become all about the multiple choice church when it comes to styles and beliefs. We even categorize them like answers on a test, but which to choose? Traditional, Contemporary, Evangelical, Conservative, Reformed, are just a few that come to mind. We have styles and choices to fit anyone. The problem is that people and their lives are not that clear cut. Often times people have conflicting preferences within the confines of their own heart and mind. In other words, our lives in reality are messy. When the body of Christ chooses to focus ministry on people with little or no exposure to God or church culture, our ministry becomes messy. There will be very few aspects of ministry that will fall cleanly inside the lines or choices time and tradition have carved out.
The truth of the gospel of Christ will remain the same, always. That said, how the gospel is offered may look very different. Kindness, compassion, a receptive heart and lots of grace should forever be front and center of any ministry. The expectations of acceptable behavior and conduct should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the body of Christ, not on those we claim to "welcome" into our midst.
Ministry, like our lives, reads much more like an essay answer than multiple choice. Everyone's journey to Christ is different. Hopefully, we all reach the same destination, a real relationship with Jesus. How we offer that relationship to others is not always the same. Almost every single account we have in scripture of Christ interacting with those who knew little to nothing about Him shows Him ministering to people whose lives were messy. They rarely fit into a specific category. His love for them was always visible in the words, actions, and reactions He chose to use in each individual situation. He did things very differently, not only in situations, but inside the culture.
Ministry is not multiple choice. Ministry is an essay, and as such, though messy, has much more potential to take individuals as God created them and lead them to the one and only answer, Jesus Christ. Let's lead them through a love and grace that can only come from God himself.
There is an essay to be written, so sharpen your pencils, buckle up, and let's get to writing.
Occasionally I hear a phrase that catches my ear. For some reason I hear it in one context and the next thing I know I have been chewing on it for an hour. Ever happen to you? Happened to me last week. I was watching "The Voice" and one of the judges made the comment that this artist and her music would make a difference. His exact words were "you won't just be stocking shelves with more of the same, what you do will make a difference".
I thought about that for a while. As more birthdays come and go, I become more concerned with the things I spend time on truly making a difference. I want to make a difference in the lives of family, friends, and my attempts at serving Christ. So this phrase became an earworm to me for the next several days. Applying the words "stocking shelves" to a lot of areas in my life, I found some surprising answers, some that I liked and some, well..... not so much.
Bearing this in mind, let's ask the PHBC body and our friends in ministry the same question. Brother Clayton asked us this week, "you mad Bro?". Great question isn't it? Are we mad or concerned enough about the people in our lives and our ministry in this community to go the extra step? Are we willing to ask God to use us in a way He may not be calling other churches at this point? We could show up on Sunday, sing some songs, pray for the sick, listen to a message and justify that we have met our spiritual obligation as a church. Those actions would fulfill most of the activities expected of a local body. Some would say we were doing what everyone else is doing, and have been doing.
The bigger question is would it fulfill God's expectation of what He has called us to do as this body? Are we ready and willing to accept people of different shades on the color palette, backgrounds, or (heaven forbid) ideology?
If in fact we are ready to be that church, don't you feel this would be a biblical way of living out the example Christ gave to us as He walked the earth. Loving and accepting people in this manner would honor Him. In doing this, God could use this body to reach people others may not feel called to reach at this point. Evidence shows He has absolutely equipped us for this kind of ministry. Wait, that sounds challenging doesn't it? If we do this I may have to do something out of my comfort zone. I may need to give up some time I have set aside to satisfy my own wants and desires. Why would I do that? Probably easier just to go back to stocking shelves....right?
You mad Bro?