As a young girl, I loved fairy tales. I clung to the sincere hope that a prince would ride in and save the day. As I have got older, my expectation is that Rapunzel and Snow White would save themselves from evil attack, but that is a story for another time. As I have read books about urban ministry, some of the mission and urban theologians liken missions work to a church/prince coming in to save the day and lead us to the conclusion that in most occasions the ministry effort is undermined by the work itself.
Missions and ministry work, even with the best intentions, can hurt those who we are trying to help if we lack understanding of the full gravity of the needs. I have grasped on to the idea that ministry at its best is transformative for all involved. Given that people in the church seem no different than those outside the church (same rate of divorce, addictions, and struggles), then what is it about missions work that is transformative? God’s love, hope and mercy being shared with one another.
This past weekend our church’s activity represented the best of that idea. It was not only the First Baptist Church congregation serving in our “Day of Service” and “Community Cookout” but we served alongside our ministry partners and those who have been ministered through our ministries. We had the leadership team from Step Up Ministry, administrative team and teachers from Bessemer Elementary, friends formed through the Women’s Winter Emergency Center, students from Piedmont International Fellowship, Habitat Build on Faith and even some neighbors of our congregation members. This is how I believe that ministry should be done: alongside one another. New friends were made, not just with those in our partnerships but even within our congregation. Space was given for relationships to be cultivated and nurtured.
In the book Speaking Christianity by Marcus Borg, he helps us to understand how Christian words have evolved over time and become disconnected to their original meaning. One of the words that he redeems is salvation. Today, salvation gets used in a heaven and hell framework, but Borg suggests that we understand salvation to be twofold- transformation of ourselves and the world. That transformation takes place when we come together as learners as opposed to doers. It is valuable to take the time to listen to the needs of those being served and discern together how to move forward.
In each of the ministries that occurred over the weekend, we had the opportunity to get to know who we were serving and those whom we were serving alongside. Stories, hopes, struggles and love were shared amidst chickens being chased, trails being blazed, science projects being created, denim being cut for shoes, meals being packaged, letters being written, flowers being planted and our littlest ones decorating bags. When ministry is done with one another and for one another then meaningful transformation of ourselves and the world happens. So many folks shared that they loved being together, that ministry had more of an affect on them than they believed their ministry effected others. As we approach missions ministry, let’s do it as learners rather than doers and be open to God’s leading.