Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Seeing involves being there

My second post today is another reprint from the ETO blog. My situation has changed somewhat since then. I'm no longer known as I was because I'm in a different place. And it's all new of course, so I'm not known as the local minister quite yet! But having just reposted a piece I wrote about grace, this is a reflection on how deepening my personal understanding of grace has shaped me and my ministry over the years.

I have a confession to make. I am a full-time Christian minister. I am a minister in a mainstream denomination. I am the minister of a local church, in a local community where I am known as the local minister.

Because of this I probably get opportunities to serve my community that other non-mainstream leaders don’t get. I get to interact with members of the community at their most vulnerable moments and at their most important moments. At least sometimes I do.

Occasionally these moments will include weddings, sometimes it’s the celebration of a birth (although they find the whole concept of a dedication rather difficult to grasp). Most often it’s at the other end of life. I don’t do many funerals, but those I do are predominately outside of the church.

Over the years of ministry I’ve gone through different phases when it comes to funerals. At one time they were most definitely an evangelistic opportunity, at others they have simply been an act of service. I guess these days I don’t see them as either/or but simply both. It’s a great opportunity to serve and it’s a great opportunity to point people towards God.

Being outward focused helps me avoid the trap of over preaching and losing the pastor’s heart for people in pain. Remembering the significance of the gospel reminds me that without the cross there is no hope and the message needs to be preached.

Perhaps the “art” of being outward focused is not just seeing the people beyond the walls of the church, but caring enough about them to walk with them through dark days and share with them the simple truth that they need not be alone for God himself knows what it feels like to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and to emerge victorious. And graciously he’s opened the eyes of a few fellow travellers so that they can point the way.

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