Thursday, June 10, 2010

"The Ministry Among Us" (Tony's response regarding Scott's Open Worship post)

I wonder how many pastoral ministers would make the same confession I did on Scott’s recent post about open worship – there have been times in my ministry when I have given a message when I have not received one because it was expected of me ( part of what I’m supposed to do as a released Friend for pastoral ministry). The sad part is after awhile you can do it without anybody even noticing. In fact, in my own experience, most of the same folks will say “good message today” on their way out the door. If I said I don’t have a message today, people would wonder what I’d been doing all week that I didn’t get around to what they see as my major responsibility, and maybe even start to question whether they should be looking for another minister.

But I look back at dear old George who on more than one occasion when invited to speak at a particular time and place showed up but never opened his mouth because God did not give him anything to speak for that place and time. And if it happened to someone as deeply spiritual and as in tune with God as George Fox, it’s bound to happen to someone like me. So it troubles me that we’ve somehow gotten the ministry into a place where it’s not ok to say that. What does it say about our belief that all are ministers and have an equal responsibility to listen for God’s message? And even if no one offers vocal ministry in the meeting, does that diminish our worship experience?

Maybe what I should say is sometimes I have a message, or a part of a message, but I don’t have THE message this week. I remember the days in my home meeting before I was a recorded minister when messages came to me during open worship, those times when your heart starts pounding and you get all shaky and your knees feel weak, but no matter how hard you fight it you have no choice but to stand and deliver that which you have received.
That still happens to me, sometimes during sermon preparation and sometimes even during delivery, but I get excited seeing it happen to someone else during our open worship time because it’s a visual reminder that the risen Christ is among us. It’s also to me much more of an affirmation of a real worship service than the comments made on the way out the door. More and more I’m coming to see my role as a worship facilitator, creating an environment and space where the Spirit of Christ and the gathered body can interact. I guess the reason I’m actually in the ministry is because I love the idea that God can use my feeble attempts to be faithful to Him as a springboard to propel others into His presence.

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