"Being" in Ministry rather "Doing" Ministry
Colossians 3:23-24 In all the work you are given, work as IF you are working for the Lord, not for any earthly master. Your reward comes from the Lord, yes He is your Real master.
RECLAIM, definition: To bring, to lead, or to leave one course of life and to conduct and adopt a right one. To claim back…
When I looked at the scripture I chose, at first, I was fine with it, of COURSE I do my work for the Lord, after all my friends call me “the church lady”… but as I read it slowly, digested it, prayed over it, suddenly some of the words felt a little squishy --- “earthly master” “where my reward comes from”… hmm… let’s choose another verse. I like Acts 24:16 better, it says- This is why I try to do what I believe is right before God and everyone. Now that’s more like it I only have to TRY and I Have to Believe…. Lots of I’s in there, and only have to try and believe that what I am doing is right… but really, when you come down to it, those of us in ministries with young people, in camping, on campus and in other situations that are with people in the crossroads- the work is endless, open ended, requires time and energy different from many other ministries. I remember as a youth worker between teaching Sunday school and youth group, I did not worship for 4 years. As a camp director, I work 7 days a week for weeks on end and often find times of worship, reflection and small group the perfect time to sneak away and get some work done. Who am I serving? Is this RIGHT before God and Everyone? I realized I spend a lot of time “doing” ministry, pleasing who I consider the stake holders in my ministries, boards, agencies; Conferences who I feel judge the success and hold the future based upon my performance. I have lost sight of BEING in ministry which means serving God, and BEING in a relationship with HIM. I have decided to RECLAIM the EXCELLENCE of a being a Christian in my relationship with God. (Ok this is the point that I did remembered to “SAVE” my work)- and I thought for a moment that I would be like the Dialogue from Forrest Gump on shrimp and would end here with….”and that’s about it.”
Then I “God Googled”( I had been googling for days trying to come up with something around the concept of RECLAIMING, but once the theme of Reclaiming Excellence was on my heart, this popped right up, hence “God Googled”)- a blog- Christianity 9-5. Org . It’s written for Christian business people but it had a blog on Excellence as a Christian Virtue that caught my eye and then made some very good points of what’s keeping me from serving my God, and from BEING real in my relationship and doing what’s right by God and everyone in my ministry.
Michael Zigarelli wrote about this in the context to business both corporate and church but the message had me slapping myself on the forehead. He even referenced some of the verses that I had chosen for this Homily.
He poses the question- What keeps us from claiming Excellence as a Christian virtue?
“We seldom talk about in it Christian circles, but we should: From a Biblical perspective, excellence is a virtue and we should pursue it at all times. Whether we’re washing windows for a living or washing dishes at home, whether we’re running a business or running laps around a track, whether we’re driving a car or an aircraft carrier or a golf ball, we’re called to please God through our efforts.”
Yet, we are afraid to claim Excellence for ourselves in our faith journey…and here are some thoughts of Why…
1) Pride: Some say the right words – “my church (campus ministry, camp, program, high school youth group”¦you name it) will be excellent because it belongs to God” – but the real motive is that the leader is concerned about his or her reputation or even their job. And a tell-tale sign is the leader’s willingness to afflict and browbeat and even steamroll people in the name of “Christian excellence.”
Pride is one downside of excellence. Often it’s a driver of it. So check your motivations. Is it really about God, or is it about you?
2. Burnout: Pushing yourself beyond your limits is exhausting whether it is in our ministry, our relationships, personal achievement, or what we feel we cannot say “no” to. At that point Excellence morphs from a virtue to a vice. You find yourself miserable amongst all you do for “the Glory of God”, with no time for rest, spiritual disciplines, discernment, worship, fellowship and nurturing relationships, running on empty trying to be all things to all people. In claiming Excellence you sometimes need to pull back, let go and say “no”.
He says ‘Excellence needed to be bounded by simplicity, a focus on doing just a few things and doing them exceptionally well.” I know you are thinking I can’t say “no” or give up… yes you can, and don’t you think if you are in discernment with God, He will provide the means and the way to have those conversations and for them to be received in love. I was joking (kind of) at breakfast that there are times when I need to say something difficult or just plain “no” to even the Bishop. People in my office know that when I start my sentence with “With all due respect”… that I am going to speak my heart in truth. I have never lost my job or had repercussions that marred my reputation.
The author states it as: “Indeed, we ought to pursue excellence, but that requires discernment and sometimes, tough choices. Better to do a handful of the right things at 100 percent than many more things at 70 percent. Trying to do the latter at 100 percent quality is not a healthy existence. Neither is it the life God invites us to live. “
3. Excellence is a Direction and Not a Destination: Aristotle put it some 2,300 years ago: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” It’s all about wanting something better, for yourself as a beloved child of God. To be in the place of being rooted in Grace, growing in Faith and reaching in Love within being with, of serving and pleasing God and God alone. Not for any end product. The endeavor remains about Him, rather than about us, so the striving can naturally remain an ongoing, faithful process.
So claim your virtue of Excellence: Be thankful for this time of reflection and discernment to know for whom your work is for. Job 22:3 asks Does your living right benefit HIM? Does GOD all powerful gain anything if you follow Him? Or is Pride, Burnout, Striving in a required Destination or final Product motivate and drive your work, your ministry, and even your faith?
Be thankful for this time you have had here this week to empty yourself so you may fill yourself to serve your God whose reward is much more than the earthly demands we are a slave to. As a lay person, I have no offers or expectation of renewal, respite or retreat. I must claim it for myself so I may reclaim Excellence in my walk with God. I want to be able to know with assurance that as the verse proclaimed- In all my work that I am given – I truly am working for the Lord and NOT any earthly master because my reward comes from the Lord, yes, He is my master. Yes, I will leave this place RECLAIMING excellence in my journey in which I am rooted in Grace, Growing in Faith, Reaching in Love.
I am committed to living the definition of our word for today- for I will Bring myself, let God lead me to leave one course of life and to conduct and adopt a right one. I am reclaiming my life in Christ back…
I pray the same for you….