Question d - Fulfilling Ministry
Is it me?
W-4.0404 d.—Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?
Presbyterian churches across the country include in their worship materials or print in church directories and on their signs: “Ministers: All members of the church.” If one were to pause and think about its meaning, it would pose a challenge to the understanding of call for each person sitting in worship—whether they are sitting among the congregation or in the chancel area. From the congregation, worshippers often see themselves as passively engaged in the “action” during the service. From the chancel, leaders often seem to embrace a hierarchy of religious importance.
Our theological confessions challenge this division: “In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit, we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives, even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth, praying, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’” (BOC, A Brief Statement of Faith, 11.4, Lines 72–76). It is important to note that the writers of A Brief Statement of Faith, approved at the reunion of the northern and southern streams of the Presbyterian church, intentionally said, “we,” without distinguishing between role and responsibilities within the church. Too often the pastor of a congregation is seen as the only one who has a ministry. They’ve been educated at a seminary, taken the necessary exams, and passed through the oversight of a presbytery committee to be ordained. They’ve made service to the church a professional vocation. Many who have not gone through this process see it as a higher calling to which they, themselves, cannot commit.
It is important to remember that all people
are called to be a part of the body of Christ, serving as valued members of the
whole with the gifts and talents bestowed by God. We believe that each member is
necessary to the body; we simply cannot function without each part working together,
no matter the supposed hierarchical value that is placed on one’s contributions.
With this in mind, what would it look like to focus time with church leaders on deepening one’s own spiritual journey and continued discernment of call: a focus on the journey thus far? How might this kind of reflection allow ruling elders and deacons to think about their whole life as a journey, bringing them to this place and time to serve the congregation and communities around them? Would this reflection encourage continued, individual growth as they fulfill their vocation?
Discernment is a lifelong process, one that is often illuminated through hindsight and reflection on what has been, in order to see where God has called us in the present as well as where we might be heading in the future. Training congregational leaders in discernment allows them to hone in on the gifts and experiences God has bestowed, and will bestow, to make them the servants that God calls them to be. An investment in leadership allows deacons and elders to see their work as ministry, first and foremost.
For Reflection and Discussion:
In what ways have you engaged in practices of discernment; listening for the ways in which God is calling you? How might your community of faith assist you in beginning or continuing this practice?
What are some ways that your session of board of deacons can engage together in strengthening your spiritual lives together as you serve?