I hope your December has gone well! I hope that you got to spend time with your family, and it was relaxing and restful. I hope you were able to reflect on the wonder and absurdity that God became flesh and dwelt among us, and I hope that the beginning of your new year is full of excitement and possibilities!
I explained in my last blog that December is a little slower for us, so I've had plenty of time to sit and think. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the year and my ministry:
This December I feel like I've just been rethinking what it means to do ministry. This year I've had the privilege to do a bookclub that Brandon leads with the first and second year staff. I've been able to read some very challenging and, at times, emotionally jarring material. Recently we just finished a book called Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crabb. The premise of the book is that real change happens when we look on the inside and really allow God to take control of the deepest parts of ourselves. Sounds simple, but it really isn't. I think I've begun to learn recently just how much I hold back from God. I keep my inner desires and ways of thinking about my peer team girls and how I minister as well as everything in between in some way or fashion from God. As I've noticed that tendency in myself, I've also begun to notice it in those around me, especially my peer team girls. The more I see, the more I criticize, and I'm once again shown how I try to take control from God. If God is in control, I think my response would be one more of grace and compassion, not cold calculation. So yes, these discoveries leave me with the question, what is real ministry? Is it constantly trying to better yourself? To become a good person? Is it trying to make others good people? To better them? Does ministry become a set of rules and regulations to teach? Writing it out like that it's easy to see that those things are absurd! From reading the gospel, I believe that Jesus came for much different reasons than those, and I think his ministry reflects that. He came for relationship. Ministry is not a bunch of axioms to teach or a self help book, a lesson on how to pick ourselves up from our boot straps. I'm not saying those things are bad; I'm saying those things are not central. This revelation, or conviction, then begs the question, then why do I try to reverse those things? Relationships are messy. and I find that I don't often see a clear, solid progression towards whatever goal I may have. If I don't see movement forward, then I feel as if my time, as well as the person I'm trying to 'minister' to, has been wasted. That ideology seems backwards when reading Luke 10: 38-42. In this passage we see a screenshot of two options I think we're faced with constantly. Martha has opened her home to Jesus, and she's busy bustling around trying to do things for him and his disciples. She get's lost in her preparations and begins to feel injustice at the fact that her sister, Mary, isn't helping her; instead she's sitting idly at the feet of Jesus and his disciples. Martha goes up to Jesus and asks him "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" Jesus' response is kind, yet piercing. He says "Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Mary chose relationship, and Jesus would not let that be taken away from her. I don't think I'm anywhere near answering the question "what does it mean to do real ministry," but I think I'm beginning to start asking the right questions.
I wanted to wrap up now with a story from one of our students.
I would be remiss to not share this with you guys. I think hearing from people on how God has and is changing their lives is what keeps us all going forward on this incredibly difficult walk towards Christ.
"Before College, I spend a vast majority of my time at church, from volunteering to mission trips. After graduating, I was nervous about what Christian community would look like now that I had to find it for myself. I prayed for a group of friends who cared about me. I was at the gym six weeks into my freshman year and while I was working out on the treadmill, something made me turn around (while running 80% speed) and I saw a banner for FOCUS. I visited that Friday night and stayed because people sought out His Word, ways to practice His teachings and made Christ-likeness a lifestyle-specifically, Autumn Priestly, a senior at the time I joined FOCUS. I constantly asked myself "why would someone who's about to leave college want to spend time with me"? She spent time with me because of the lessons she learned through FOCUS. As I make my transition into the "real world" and become a teacher, I will remember to seek to understand then be understood when working with students, parents, and other teachers. I will look at my students and love them. I will consider their needs and provide for them, whether that means that I attend their sporting events or support them through tough times. I will show them who Jesus is through my teaching, patience, and discipline on and off the podium. It's because of my involvement in FOCUS that I am about to know what it looks like to be a disciple in the "real world."
Chiazo Akagha (Senior, University of North Texas, Choral Music Education)
Thanks for all you do! Your support and prayers really are life changing!