Now that I’ve finished coursework, I can recycle my papers as blog posts. I don’t want Aric to have all the fun! First up is my final paper in Theology of Ministry. It is a little rough around the edges but it went over well and led to some good in-class discussion. Like anything I write, it doesn’t look at all finished when I read through it now, but that’s always true for me. So here you go.
Theology is something that happens when you’re elbow-deep in something. When I’m elbow-deep in ministry, these are the kinds of things I’m thinking of as my job. I’m going to organize this paper on my theology of ministry into pairs of functions that I think are central to ministry which are paradoxical, or sometimes complimentary, or both, when juxtaposed. My theology of ministry is going to be all about what I think a minister should do, and the why of it will follow after like a little red wagon. This comes from a combination of study, observation, experience and reflection. I’m not going to spend a lot of time giving justification for what I’m writing, so if you’re looking for footnotes, there aren’t any.
It has to be said first, I think, that ministry is an absurd luxury. It is a privilege, with all of the loaded valence of that term. At the heart of my theology of ministry, there is a strong sense of “holy crap, they’re going to pay me for this?”
Now, I don’t think I’m the rose-tinted sort of person, and I’m a PK, so I have a pretty good idea of how messy, frustrating, discouraging and difficult pastoral ministry is. And, to be frank with you, that’s about 1/2 as messy, frustrating, discouraging and difficult as being an auto technician at a car dealership, or any number of other nasty jobs that people do every day. It’s a “real job”, but it also isn’t. It’s hard, but it is also easy. My yoke is light anyone?
So the very first thing that has to go out the window, as I reflect on ministry, is any sense of entitlement. I’m doing this because I get to do this, and, with any luck, I’ll also be able to pay my bills and eat food and have fun once in a while. That blows my mind.
There should be a strong sense of responsibility in ministry. You get to be a professional meaning-maker, like a Viking skald. While everyone else is out making mead, farming, raising livestock, and risking their lives on north Atlantic raiding parties, you get to compose. You get to come up with things you’re going to say. Then people come back from what they’ve been doing and sit down and give you their attention. And when someone they love gives birth, or dies, or gets married, or needs a rite of passage, or maybe some advice, they come to you and include you in what’s going on. That also blows my mind.
That’s crazy. These people are crazy to let us do this, but I won’t tell them if you won’t. Let’s just keep this between us.