Partners in Ministry
Several years ago my youngest sister came to live with us for a few months after graduating from college. She was in the Army Reserves because she had a heart to serve and, I suspect, it was a way to address her student loans. She needed some time to learn this new rhythm of life. While with us she joined a local fitness gym to help stay in shape. She had shared with them the unpredictability of her current situation and they assured her that was fine. Shortly after that, she was called to active duty and was eventually stationed in Kuwait. She called the gym to inform them. They refused to work out a way for her to close her contract. Because she had used our address, I know they sent collection letters to her for years. Imagine my surprise when I heard someone comparing joining a congregation to joining a fitness club. They asked, “Why would anyone ever do that [join a church]? I can’t imagine how hard it must be to get out of that!”
We have spent the last few weeks looking at faith questions you have asked. Many of you shared that you no longer felt welcome in a congregation for simply asking questions or the answers you were given seemed shallow and irrelevant to your life. Some of you shared you were directly asked to leave when your choices or faith journey were in conflict with other member’s choices or beliefs. You may have “joined” that congregation only to find they seemed more interested in your membership than your spiritual growth and service. I pray we are never that congregation.
One pastor shared with me that the aversion to joining today is so strong in the congregation they serve that they no longer talk about joining. They talk about making a commitment to be partners in ministry. They leave “joining” to clubs, restaurants, civic organizations and fitness centers. They choose to pledge to work side by side in love and support of each other through prayer, attendance, support, service and interactions.
Not everyone in a congregation will agree on every matter. Hopefully, each person will find 10-12 people they feel close to, are comfortable sharing with, and can recall some significant details about. I remember reading some place that most people can only maintain that level of relationship with a small number of people. We can learn the name and a few details about 100-200 people and recognize the face of up to about 500. Of course, those numbers could vary greatly. The point is, that everyone has different types of relationships with a great number of people. To judge anyone else and their place in different relationships is fraught with difficulty and may say more about us than the person we seek to judge. Yet, we can all be partners in ministry and pray, worship, support, serve and share together.
Like my sister’s relationship with the gym, congregational relationships change and adjust with life situations and circumstances. We must work at staying connected and nurturing relationships as they move from one level to another. It is even possible to maintain a loving and supportive relationship when we move. One of the ways we do that is by praying, attending, supporting, serving and sharing together regularly and in different ways.
Between worship services, Sunday, September 17, you will have an opportunity to mingle and mix your small or medium size group with a larger gathering. You will be invited to learn a few details about each other and place some familiar faces with names. New connections will be established between groups and individuals. Those who may not have a small group where they can feel comfortable and safe sharing their faith journey may find new partners in ministry. They may find that their faith journey can become intertwined with those around them. They may walk together for a season or a lifetime.
See you Sunday,