Monday, September 13, 2010

Part 3: My Whacked out Idea of ministry

This post is part  of the series My whacked out idea of church.
Go to Part 2
Our Sowetan friend, Devon, and Alak, from Thailand, have booming churches. But their ministry models are so simple, so non-existing. It is here where my American friend with the mega church, with a weekly attendance of 14 000, took me by surprise. The big question in ministry is, "How do we demonstrate our faith in the community?"

What do we call ministry?
When I think of ministry, I think of groups of people coming together to talk about vision and plans; about meetings where we evaluate what we are achieving. Then we mobilise a group of people to go and accomplish this ministry.
Most of the time, the leaders or visionaries act as managers: people who organise and encourage. If they are lucky, they can say at the end of the month, "What a wonderful experience! I had the chance to go out there and get my hands dirty." We start official ministries, and then task them to organise and promote these very same ministries. Our model – the early church, that chose deacons to look after the orphans and widows.

Devon laughs: this is a luxury of rich congregations that function around buildings and structure; congregations that have need to control what is going on. Part of this control is to make sure that everyone says exactly what the denomination is saying. Alak adds that such a model communicates that if you are not officially linked to the ministry, you can’t be busy with ministry. Shane, the pastor from the mega church agrees; this realisation was the turning point in their ministry.

How do we as leaders demonstrate this ministry?

Ministry is understood as people living in the world making a difference where they are. Leaders use every possible situation to affirm people in their ministries, by listening to what they do in their lives, and then helping them to understand that they are already busy with their ministry. Leaders are encouraged to share their stories of living, and how they experience God’s calling in their lives. These callings are not “official congregation ministries,” but life, happening. Leaders do not function as managers or organisers, but as living examples! People are encouraged to leave the safety of the church structure, and to be church in the world.

How do we help our people to be “not relevant?”

By actively promoting an organised ministry, as if such a ministry can only be accomplished by being part of the official structure. We try to get all the committed people to invest all their free time, energy, and recourses in OUR ministry. We are busy with structures that the example we live is structures, and therefore, there is no real example of leaders living a life of ministry.

What can we do to make a difference?

Help people to realise everyone is already living ministry. Help them identify what they are already doing, encourage them, and learn from them. Accept that the Holy Spirit is working in and through people, even though you are not aware of how. We should have less official ministries, and teach people that we are not supposed the choose one ministry, but that we are all supposed to live all ministries!


  1. I guess the crucial questions are: Are we following God into this ministry or are we driven by the urge to succeed at something or to feel good about ourselves. And also: Do we rely on God's presence and activity for the success of the ministry or on our own devices? Pat Keiffert calls the tendency for people in ministry to become self-referential and self-reliant "practical atheism." Ouch! Breda

  2. Breda, it is time for you to come back to South Africa. We really mis you. Hawkings and Mlodinow was discussing the principals of the Universe and then Hawkings said that Atheist believing in the principals of the Universe usually live with more respect towards the universe than the self centered followers of religion.