Summary: A personal story of my first few years in ministry. I tie it into the fact that when you are doing effective ministry you will have enemies. Just as Christ did.
I was 21 when I first set foot in Connecticut Valley Seventh-Day-Adventist Church. I was nearly a month married, full of enthusiasm and excitement for the adventure of “real” life. Totally unprepared for the reality of it. I was well armed with a bevy of important and well-educated sounding classes… Like, Advanced Biblical Preaching, Issues in Science and Society, Interpersonal Ministry, Biblical Greek, Personal Evangelism…etc. it would appear that I had all the tools I needed to launch into a successful fulfilling pastoral career, binding up hearts for Jesus and changing lives, all while contributing to the support of my family with a modest income and educational subsidy.
Well, its been a few years since the day of innocence. I wish my al ma mader would ask me to come back and teach an undergrad class. I would entitle it “So, you think you want to be a Pastor…” And it would begin with the Statement. “Ministry will break your heart.”
Secure it was not. I was among the class that graduated under the financial crisis of the Florida conference in 2004-2005. The pastors laid off flooded our inexperienced job market and as a female in ministry it took a little bit of a certain kind of church to want me. Long story short I settled for a stipend youth pastor position that made $1000 a month. Dustan was still in school as a student teacher so ends didn’t really meet. We spent the first few months of married life on a blow-up mattress that leaked in the food closet of the church kitchen. With a dog and a cat.
Easy it was not. I had unknowingly taken the job out from the head elders, nephews, cousins, brother…or something like that. At least that was what was decided in the heart and minds of a large contingent of people with very vocal opinions. I couldn’t understand why every idea I had for ministry was so scrutinized and criticized. Sometimes my most well-intentioned ventures were seen as ways for me to try and take control, or disregard important standards, or sometimes even to intentionally lead kids astray. I spent a lot of nights in tears and a lot of days wondering what I was thinking when I decided I wanted to be a pastor. I spent many hours wondering where the class was for dealing with Aunt Berthas opinion on the appropriate way to allow kids to be involved in church work was, or how to recover from a sleepless night spent on a hard gym floor, or break up a fight of a couple of testosterone filled almost men who happened to like the same girl, or how to recover from the heart break of not being able to stop the train of destructive addiction that came in cracks and drained bright sweet minds dry right in front of my eyes. It broke my heart and exposed my flaws.
Ministry is a Liability. If done right. We find Jesus in our text facing this liability. When His brothers question if he will go up to the feasts or not, He makes a statement in regards to the hate the world has for Him. “Jesus said to them, My time has not yet come, but your time is always here, The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil”. After some study of the context of the verse I’m not certain that Jesus wasn’t holding his brothers accountable for their lack of action as well as grieving the heavy understanding, that when you do ministry as it should be done, It takes just everything you have.
When Jesus references that he testifies against the evil of the world…it’s easy to conjure up images of him calling the religious leaders vipers, and rotten tombs…but within the context of Jesus ministry to this point, he hasn’t yet gotten into his strong statements against the religious leaders of the time. He has in fact only done a handful of things, yet he is being targeted by those against Him for annihilation. What has he done that is such a testament to truth that he is such a target of hate? How has he exposed the evil works of the world through his limited reach and mission. What are the common threads?
Although the gospel of John isn’t a comprehensive recording of all that Jesus has down at this point, it gives us a birds eye view. He has made water into wine at a wedding…a frivolous face-saving practical miracle. He has driven out the money-making ventures within the temple and called to a refocus of the simplistic mission of worship. He has interacted with the woman of Samaria at the well, radically breaking racial, gender, and moral barriers of exclusion. He has healed the roman leaders son, an enemy of his people…a heathen, but Jesus ministry reached out beyond the system in which he identified and met the real need of someone who needed it. He had healed the blind man without regards to the sacredness of the sabbath and claimed pardon for sin in an arrogant sacrilegious display. He has fed the five thousand with loaves and fish because when he looked, he saw the people were hungry. And then when the night was dark and the tempest strong, he walked on water to comfort his disciples and grow their faith.