The “both/and” of ministry
I had the privilege this week to present to a group of leaders of a campus ministry. The room was full of up-and-coming talented leaders in their 20’s and 30’s. There were a few of us in our 40’s and 50’s.
The room was full of amazing stories of people who’ve been radically changed by Jesus and who are passionate about using their talents to reach others. I was humbled.
My assignment was to speak about how we manage our “self” in ministry. I covered a variety of issues, ranging from what makes a “self” and how our sense of self impacts others. I explored the importance of learning to recognize and work with the “stuff” of our lives that often surfaces and complicates how our “self” interacts with other “selves” when doing this thing called “ministry.”
I invited these leaders to consider the areas of their lives that might hamstring their ministries. I wasn’t speaking about obvious sin.
My experience teaches me that what most often snags us are those events in life that give us negative, false messages that become our definitions of self. Family of origin patterns, trauma, disappointments and failures carry with them messages that determine what we believe to be true about us. We then live and minister out of those assumptions.
Baxter Kruger calls these beliefs the “I am nots.” They include:
- I’m not good enough.
- I’m not worthy.
- I’m not adequate.
- I’m not loved.
- I’m not loveable.
- I’m not safe or secure.
These beliefs penetrate and season all aspects of life. Our task is to acknowledge their presence and recognize how they influence the way we relate to others. Failing to do so creates problematic and self-defeating patterns in our ministry.
Unhealed wounds tend to wound others.
While inviting Jesus to work in these areas brings change and hope, I pointed out that some of these beliefs can stick around and challenge us throughout our lifetime. Some of the 20-somethings found this a bit disturbing.
Doesn’t Jesus deliver us from all these self-limiting issues?
Won’t their continued presence keep us from being able to minister effectively?
Paul’s experience indicates that the answer to both questions is “no.”
Like so many areas of life, it’s not an “either/or” proposition, but a “both/and.”
Here’s what Paul says about doing ministry with our weaknesses:
“Even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God . . . to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)