Misconceptions and Myths of Ministry?
While the above definition is helpful, we soon realized that the "M word" carried misconceptions, myths and baggage. To shine a light on these misconceptions this tongue in cheek four minute video was developed.
A few of the common myths are explored below.
Essential -- Not Optional
In the eyes of too many of us, ministry is a nice extra – a good thing to do – if we have time. In the words of Larry Jenney in a 1989 article on OCA.org: “Ministry is a duty. Not a suggestion or even a recommendation but a commandment - a shared responsibility. We serve Christ by serving others."
As Denise Jillions notes in a 1982 article ‘An Orthodox Vision of Lay Ministry’, "The job of the priest is to lead, to present Christ, to keep reminding his flock of the Christian vision of life and death and to guide them to see Christ working in their daily lives. Just as it is not (only) the priest’s job to visit the sick or shut-ins, most forms of ministry can and should be done by the laity. This is how we live out the liturgy –the work of the people. At our last judgment it just won’t do to tell Christ that we sent the priest to visit Mrs. Jones when she was sick in bed.”
Another misconception is that ministry is something that we need to do far away. A foreign land or a rarely visited urban location away from our often safe neighborhoods. While those locations, of course, afford excellent ministry opportunities, there are many more accessible ministry opportunities. Look inside the church to be a ministry of presence to those sick or lonely. One contributor saw ministry as an opportunity to teach others, by your actions, “to love the church.” Think of your workplace as an opportunity to use deeds, hospitality and good cheer to shine forth the light of Christ.
Often we hear of a parish’s desire to undertake ministry with the motive of attracting new members. A growth program. While growth is often a very real by-product of ministry, we do this, as stated above, not to grow or to make us feel good, but to share God’s love with others.
An Uncomfortable Task
While doing ministry helps to pull us out of our comfort zones – to stretch our lives as Christians, it need not be uncomfortable. Good ministry starts with our own gifts, talents and interests -- the things we like to do and are good at to connect with others. Sharing your faith with others is an important ministry but not all of us are gifted in a way that we can feel comfortable with this. Build toward this but don’t let current limitations stand in the way of finding comfortable outlets for your current skills.
Father Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory describes the Mission of the Church as being twofold:
“The first mission of the church is to ascend into the heavenly holy of holies, to worship the Almighty God, and to receive the eternal life and light from him,
And the second mission of the Church is to be sent back into this world as witnesses of the light and the life we have received, and to communicate that to the world. Let us go forth in peace; in the Name of the Lord.
This twofold mission of the church constitutes the rhythm of our whole life in which we go up and in, and then out to bear witness.”