Saturday, September 26, 2009

When the Work of Ministry just isn’t Working

There was a certain time in my life when things were not going well for me in my ministry.

  • It was the time of the tragic Texas A&M bonfire: I had been forced by circumstances to deal with this trauma, to witness the deaths, and to minister to the friends and families of those who had died. I was one of many clergy providing pastoral care; the Catholics were the first to arrive and Sandi Mizirl, our own campus missioner, did a yeoman's work with the families at the hospital. I had stayed on the site to visit, to pray, and to be present with the police, firemen, and other rescuers who were seeking the young people still trapped beneath the fallen stack.

  • It was a time that I was struggling under the weight of my own ministry goals, forgetting for the moment, the lessons I had learned about shared ministry. I was spinning a lot of plates, most of my own creating, and they felt like they were going to fall any minute.

  • It was a time that my relationship was very strained between me, my father, whom I love, and my family.

  • And it was a time that I was in solo flight. I did not have a clergy support group or anyone with whom I felt like I could confide my struggles. My prayer life was in the dumper. Life was hard, and I was making it harder, and I wasn't reaching out for help, though help was all around me.

Eventually, I had no choice but to change a couple of things as a course correction; some changes occurred naturally, some by my invitation. Most of these changes revolved around reaching out to others. I found a counselor to help me better understand myself. I found a clergy group to gain new ministry perspectives. I moved into a relationship with a monastery in order to renew my prayer life. And I got into Al-anon.

This course correction did not have immediate, but rather long term effects.

Coming Up: There's a Reason it's called "Working the Program"

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball