Ministry, a place to be "saved"?
March 15, 2006
I asked a psych prof why there are such large classes in Psychology. "One major reason," she said is that "students from dislocated and fractured homes want to understand themselves."
Ah, could it be somewhat like why many of us end up in church and missional ministry? It isn't a surprise that many of us working in the "religious" business are here because we deeply want to find answers to spiritual questions and quite frankly enjoy the spiritual nurture that may accompany such employment.
But here is the danger: when it becomes the means of solving what Towan warns us of. The life of being saved faces us with life, and in the grind and tedium of meeting the needs of human life, discipline helps remove the illusion that in doing ministry we will solve our flaws and reverse our inclinations.
At one point in my ministry life—for about two years—I went through a deep valley of unhappiness in my calling. I knew clearly I was where I was to be. So what was I to do? To leave would have meant running to Tarshish. To stay would load on much disquiet. Friends would ask, "Are you enjoying your work?" To those I could trust I responded, "No, that's the wrong question. Please ask, ‘Are you doing what you are called to do?'"
I found a simple principle: The discipline of obedience mattered more to my maturing than did enjoyment of my work. And I further learned that this discipline produces joy.
Landowner, Manager, The One Who Calls, you didn't call us into your vineyard to solve our inner struggles. We as leaders are here because you want something done—a mission fulfilled, a congregation loved, a school built. Even so, in the middle of leading, we are in need of your salvation. The unresolved errors, a tendency to be complicit with self-interests and gaps in character need your saving grace. I trust you for that today. Amen.
William Towan, in writing on the role of religious leaders, especially those working in a church or parish said, Salvation affects the whole of the psyche; to try to escape boredom, sexual frustration, restlessness, unsatisfied desire by searching for fresh tasks and fresh ideas is to attempt to seal off these areas from grace. Without the humiliating and wholly 'unspiritual' experience of parish-life—the limited routine of trivial tasks, the sheer tedium and loneliness—there would be no way of confronting much of human nature.