I was surprised again in church this morning. I say again because it happens regularly when I'm open to it and listening. I've written posted before about how every time I hear a sermon or discussion of "discipleship" and "following Jesus," I usually connect it to the work of the church. Many times that's because the sermon seems to do that. But after having served in the church as a pastor for 30 years, it seems to always be what we talk about. Discipleship, service, following Jesus- isn't it about church?
As a result I've probably struggled more than I should have, or needed to, with the idea of call to "secular ministry". I've always defined that as doing the work of Jesus in ways absolutely not connected in any way shape or form to the work of the church. I've even said that five years ago or so I finally heard God's call to me to do "ministry" outside the church. As a result I have had absolutely no disagreement about doing "ministry" as a CD counselor in non-church agencies and organizations.
I've also come to new understandings for myself of what church is, why it is, and, overall, what ministry means. I'm still not ready to put that down here in pixel format, but it's kind of been rumbling around.
It must be sinking in. I think I'm actually accepting it.
At one point in her sermon this morning, Pastor-Wife said something like:
sometimes you have to give up your dreams to follow Jesus.Surprisingly I didn't take that as a call back into the church, giving up my dreams as a CD counselor and so on to go back and do some of the things I've often dreamed of doing in the church, such as church planting.
No, this time I realized that the church-based dreams are the ones that are now past. I am not called into church-based ministry any more than any other member of the church is. I am called to "secular ministry". I wish I could come up with a better term for that. Ministry, in any form or place, is by its very nature
- set apart.
I think -- no, I'm sure -- that the work of God in Jesus Christ is just as real and just as important even when done outside the walls of the church or the institutional and denominational borders we put up around it. Maybe even more critical at times since the church isn't there.
That's why I was surprised this morning. It truly was the first time I'd heard that in my applying the words of a sermon. I've always said I'm slow when it comes to hearing God's word and calls. I tend to follow before I am actually sure I've heard it. (Or the opposite- not at all.) Today I am grateful that my call to my non-church-based ministry felt reaffirmed.
Considering that my 36th ordination anniversary is coming up in 10 days, I will now have something new to ponder on, pray about, and seek to follow more fully in the coming year.