You: “But I Don’t Have Any Skills to be a Minister!”
Clergy: “Well . . . “
by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar
The call echoed repeatedly in the Scriptures, and from Jesus himself, is to each follower to take an active part in God’s work in the universe; to carry a message of reconciliation, of peace, of healing to the world.
· Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15
· Seek first [the reign] of God and God’s righteousness and all things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
· And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
· … in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:4
· Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4: 10
Unfortunately, there is enough language in these quotes with overtones of ‘professional’ ministry that it can discourage followers from engaging in the call. Words like, preach, teach, serve, heal, and others make following Jesus sound like it is reserved for those who have gone to eight years of seminary training; for those who are trained in scriptures, in sacramental theology, and morality.
It is not. In my opinion, such training can impede the natural skills a person has to be empathetic to the human condition and thereby heal it.
Rather, the call to ministry – to serve – begins by recognizing the lively, loving, and universal presence of God within. Once recognized, there is an inner drive to be in communion with God – a relationship of love, of being transformed by love; a relationship of detecting God’s presence everywhere.
The next step in answering a call to serve, I suggest, is to know and list the talents you possess. Thinking outside the walls of a sanctuary, what skills do you have? Are you a good cook? Do you love to create art? Do you like to create order out of disarray? Can you dig ditches? How about athletic prowess, mathematical or scientific abilities? Whatever the skill, at whatever ability you have, these are gifts from God given for the transformation of the world – not just for employment, enjoyment, or hobbies.
Considering the gifts you have been given, St. Paul says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”1 Corinthians 12 By “manifestation of the Spirit,” Paul may be signifying that whatever your talents, they were given to you particularly, so that you will be able to cooperate and co-create God’s reign in a specific way. Even skills some consider less honorable or maybe profane, every gift is useful for helping others, for helping someone who needs you. How would we know that the world needed a person expert at digging ditches unless we were flooded and needed rescue from a deluge? And how could a digger of ditches add to the quality of life in the Reign of God, except to free us from drowning or by channeling poisonous liquid away. Every gift becomes essential.
So, when you hear and acknowledge the call to serve the Reign of God, look first to those things you do well and to those you enjoy. Do not think in terms of “I cannot serve God because I cannot preach the Gospel on Sunday mornings.” Think instead of, “Considering what I love to do, where can I apply them in order to help the Reign of God grow more alive?”
We do not need formal programs to validate our ministry. That’s what happened to us at Baptism. We were initiated into a world of service, not a world of particular beliefs. When talented people find each other, their combined strengths become an ever-greater force for change, for co-creating with God the long-promised Reign.
Ministry finds its apex, its ultimate expression of completion when we gather around the table. There, a minister skilled at leading a group of people in celebration, starts a sort-of party to share the good news of God’s workings among us. A party of bread and wine, of candlelight, sweet music, and blessing.
We’ll see you at St. John’s this weekend:
• Saturday worship at 5 p.m. in the Chapel
• Sunday worship at 8 a.m. (In-person only)
• Sunday worship at 10 a.m. (in-person and ZOOM)
• Godly Play and Nursery at 10 a.m.