It wasn’t quite a UPS Monday but some of the signs were there. When the inbox is full and it’s not even 0900 you can read the signs! UPS Monday is what a good ministry friend of mine calls the day after church when all you can dream about is being a UPS driver. What could be more enjoyable than a job where there are no major decisions to be made about where to go and what to do, where the people you serve are genuinely pleased to see you, where you get to give long awaited gifts and where you don’t even have to make decisions about what to wear! Bliss. On UPS Monday. Even Church leaders think about job satisfaction. And so there are time in ministry when I feel the lure of the greener grass! The truth is that it still needs mowing but all I can think about is its lushness!
In one such moment, I came across this article by sheer fluke. [Not a phrase you often here on the lips of a five point Calvinist, I know. But I think you know what I mean]. The Lord sovereignly guided me towards it as I was searching through my old copies of EN for something else. It’s a great article. Ken Brownell, an American Baptist Minister heading up East London Tabernacle, analyses why British gospel ministers ‘feel the call’ to serve in the US. Not an especially tough call we might assume! I’ve often felt called to Australia but it appears that the Lord doesn’t share my calling.
It made me try and identify what I find attractive about other places. This is where I got to.
1. Lots of opportunities and resources for ministry
As Ken Brownell says, ‘there are great opportunities for ministry there that are hardly possible here. Anyone who has visited a large city centre or suburban American church will know something of the physical facilities, financial resources and sheer numbers of people that afford ministry opportunities only dreamt of in the UK’. Not having to cut costs, recruit giving and having all the resources we need for our next gospel initiative would be nice. But perhaps I wouldn’t pray as much. And perhaps I wouldn’t credit God as much as I should if these things were so easy to come by!
2. A positive vibe in the culture
I love a positive vibe. Ministry is so much more pleasurable in an environment people are in general optimistic and not pessimistic. It can suck the life out of you to be in a context where people have an unerring capacity to locate the dark cloud when they’re staring at a silver lining. Give me positivity over negativity any time! ‘Can do’ rather than ‘won’t do’ is attractive but sometimes the ‘won’t do’ have a point. I take it that the Lord has given them to me to keep me from unwise proactivity. I take it that I’ve been given to them to prevent sinful inactivity.
3. A practical ‘can-do’ mentality
I’m drawn to people who are prepared to ‘give it a go’ rather than point out the inadequacies of my plans! Aren’t we all? I’d far rather run a team of people who are willing to try things out rather than willing to rubbish my ill conceived ideas. But they’re useful. They keep me in check. And if an idea has got legs then it’ll run. Experimenting can be fun but, as I remember, the best experiments in school chemistry were the ones without the danger element. Pausing for thought rather than racing ahead isn’t always a bad thing!
4. Respect and appreciation
It would be fair to say that I get less respect from your average bloke on the street now that I’m a pastor than I did as a Royal Naval Officer! I never quite got the appreciation I thought that I deserved for deterring the would be aggressors against this great nation. But perhaps people realised that I wasn’t a huge contributory factor! But social status and the affirmation that goes with it can be an idol. Jesus didn’t get a lot of credit for his life and ministry. He doesn’t get that much more now. So we’re in good company.
5. Cost free ministry
Yep! Christianity without sacrifice is very attractive. A lifestyle with no cost and lots of comfort is what I’m after. And one day I’ll get it. Jesus said so. But just not here; I have to wait till the New Creation for that rest. He’s left me here to do a job. Like him I need to give of myself in sacrifice for the sake of the salvation of others. It’s not easy, it’s painful but it’s godly.
I should point out to any congregational members at CCB that I’m not perusing the back pages of the Church Times in search of greener pastures. Let’s be honest, most of the churches wouldn’t touch me with a barge pole anyway!