Under the Unpredictable Tree – assumptions of minsitry

Our Jubilee interns are reading Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant over the summer.  Reading the book has caused me to pause and think about several of the assumptions I carry with me into college ministry.  After reading the first chapter, here they are:

Assumption 1: ‘ The Call’ is Universal.
God is calling out to each of us to do Kingdom-building work. I hope we’re not just doing a ‘job’, we’re not just building a cool club where we try and get as many people as we can to show up so we feel good about ourselves – we’re trying to engage in Kingdom work. (And for me what I mean by that is that we’re trying to sync-up our lives with the global redemption story that God is currently telling – to step into that story as individuals and as a community and to be changed and shaped by it…not to take all our marbles and start our own game and make up our own rules of how we play, who wins, who loses, but to try and listen and watch and learn what game God has been playing since the beginning of creation, and then to put all our marbles into that game.)

Assumption 2: We’re Human Becomings, Not Human Beings.
College ministry should be a place where we leaders develop and grow and mature as people and as Christ-followers…and out of that maturation process, others mature as well. In some ways leadership seems to be like life as a parent – your kids become a bizarro-version of yourself – not the self that you wish you were and hope to be, but they reflect all the oddities and sayings and eccentricities back to you…but also all the faith, the humility, the earnestness, the vulnerability of who you actually are. The goal isn’t to develop a great program that stands alone in a vacuum, it is to be changed ourselves as we attempt to live a holy and faithful life, and to share the inner-workings of our heart with others. Peterson writes…”but it is also the place in which we develop virtue, learn to love, advance in hope – become what we preach. At the same time we proclaim a holy gospel, we develop a holy life. We dare not separate what we do from who we are” (p. 21)

Assumption 3: You can’t out run your own shadow
We’re broken people attempting to lead a community of broken people. It can and will be frustrating (and if it’s never frustrating, then we probably need to examine what we’re doing wrong!) , but it is the truth that the wounds we carry with us don’t magically heal when we step in the door to lead.

Eugene Peterson seems to call out those of us seek out an attractive and sterile community…those who try and find a way to hide away all of our baggage in the closet or think we can sweep it all up under the rug so we can finally be done dealing with it. He says, “they abhor the scandal of both the cross and the church. They will have nothing to do with a congregation in Nineveh. They are going to sail to Tarshis and start fresh, clean, and gloriously. But it is the very nature of pastoral work to embrace this scandal, accept this humiliation, and daily work in it. Not despising the shame, and not denying it either’.
Let us be honest and acknowledge the temptation to run from ourselves, and from tough ministerial opportunities towards something that is easier and flashier. If the call is universal, and God is marching unceasingly towards the reconciliation of all things – to a new heaven and new earth – then let us look to water planting Kingdom seeds in our community – with all our own junk and baggage, and the uncommitted and flaky people, and ego-centric people, and soft-spoken and timid people…this is the soil that needs to be tilled. The goal isn’t to stumble upon a garden someone else has already worked, tilled, planted, watered, and harvested so all we have to do is show up and hand out food and accept compliments, maybe the goal is to find a rough patch of ground and begin patiently turning over the soil, trusting in the promise of God sun and water and creative life to do the rest.

Do you have any ministry assumptions?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

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