Friday, October 24, 2014

The Heart of Ministry

Over the last few months, there have been a couple of leadership issues in the church that have been very painful for me.  During that same period, as part of a Bible study with a young man I've been discipling, I worked on memorizing 2 Corinthians chapters 2-6.   At one point a few weeks ago, I perceived a real connection between those two things - those leadership issues and that Biblical text.  So, in order to work it out in my mind, I tried my hand at writing a section of Paul's letter from my perspective.  I took the text of 2 Corinthians 6:1-18 and re-wrote it, from my own vantage point and out of our experience in ministry among the Makua-Metto.

As one fellow slave of God to another, I'm begging you not to throw away the generous gift of grace that God has entrusted to you.  As God has said, "When the time was right and you needed it most, I answered the call to save you."  Let me tell you that now is the time - today is that day - the day of salvation.

We've worked hard to not put any barriers up for anyone, conscientious and careful so that this work will not be disqualified in God's eyes or your own.  As good slaves we've tried every approach, every angle to reach you.  In doing so we've had to put up with a number of challenges.  We've struggled to learn your language and culture.  We were falsely accused by human authorities and lived in exile for over a year.   We've endured sickness and sunburn, malaria and dysentery.  And all of it has been for you.

We've been robbed and held at gunpoint.  We've endured scorn and been looked down on by fellow church leaders.  We've had to leave behind family and friends.  Fellow missionaries have abandoned us and trusted colleagues have fallen into sin.  We've worked hard and done our best to bless you.  All of it has been for you.

Although we have been misunderstood and mistreated, through it all God has been faithful.  He has provided for us, fully equipped and sustained us, even in our weakness and imperfection.  By his grace, we have stuck it out.  All of it endured because of you.

And now we are speaking freely and openly with you - don't shut us out.  As a parent might reach out to a child, I implore you, keep your hearts open and soft to us.  Don't abandon this path and join up with Satan.  We are confident in making this request of you because of our firm belief that the life God has to offer is infinitely better and richer. Please, whatever you do, hold on to what is true and real!
For many years, this passage from 2 Corinthians has been a sustaining and life-giving text for me.  I memorized it as part of a Bible study back in college.  And at that time, the testimony of Paul about his ministry gave me a perspective to strive for.  Reading it now, though, after spending over a decade working with our friends here in Mozambique, I resonate more with Paul's desperation and deep longing that the believers he is writing to will hold firmly to what is true.

In this text, I am reminded that the story of one's ministry reveals the heart of one's ministry.  Knowing and claiming that story is a powerful tool in both sustaining oneself as well as uncovering the credibility we possess to minister to the ones that we are called to serve.  

Thanks for reading - I hope this text is a blessing to you, too.

Grace and Peace,

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