I read a blog recently on the importance of modeling ministry. The article shared the benefits for both the pastor and the community when the role of the pastor is redefined to share the responsibilities and gifts of ministry with the members of the congregation.
This isn't a new discussion by any means... the "priesthood of all believers" has been an important doctrine of the Reformed Tradition. We believe that the pastor is no closer to God than other members of the community, that one need not "go through" the pastor to confess or communicate with God. Nor does one need always to be ministered to by the pastor. Sometimes ministry is more effective coming from those other than the pastor.
Probably the best example of how they share ministry with me is through their involvement in the sermon. Each week this community EXPECTS the preacher to pose a question where they can engage and respond. I've been blown away by how the Holy Spirit moves through their experience and opinions to bring about profound and rich meaning in the text. As they share their interpretation of the scripture passage or their experience of God, we all gain greater insight to how God is alive and at work in each others' lives.
Not only do they participate in the sermon weekly, but a few of the leaders in our church have led the sermon themselves. This has been a gift to me. Writing and giving sermons each week is exhausting work! Their preaching has given me a break to breathe and cultivate my love for scripture again. It's also been a gift to the community. Each preacher uses a different lens (historical, medical, pedagogical) and allows us to see scripture in different ways. Some of the most meaningful conversations for me have been with these preachers about their process of sermon writing/giving. This opportunity to preach has given them space and permission (maybe even prodding) to study the text, wrestle with it, reflect on our context (our community, our city, our world) and shape a word that is both authentic to them and to the text. I've enjoyed listening to them, learning from them, and growing closer to God and scripture through them!
Though I think this church is doing a great job participating in ministry, I want to challenge myself to do more. To encourage new preachers and students of the Word. I want to model how to take a step out of our comfort zones to particpate in worship, outreach, justice, and fellowhsip in ways that are new and scary for us.
Equally important for me, I want to model how to say "no" when our plates are too full. I want to model how to honor the sabbath and keep it holy...whatever day that is for us. I want to model how to seek wholesome balances in the time we devote to our relationship with God, to the church, to our families, to work, and to our own self care. This is a challenge for me because there is a never ending list of ways the church can be more engaged with itself and with the community. The temptation is to always want more of each other in ministry. To expect more. Yet, we have to look for sustainable ways to be engaged. We have to pay attention to our individual needs as well.
What are your thoughts? How is your congregation participating in ministry with you?