Friday, June 11, 2010

On Christian Ministry

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 8 June 2010
"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? " (1 Peter 3:13)

I'm in Boston this week to fulfill my final residency for my doctoral program. I look forward to meeting my fellow students, many of whom are in Christian ministries in various places throughout North America. Our time together has been filled with much fun and camaraderie. My initial plan was to arrive before the weekend, so that I can at least a full day's rest, and a day of sightseeing before a week of intensive training. Due to some administrative oversight, I was held up at the immigration at the US border. I had all my papers ready. Unfortunately, some information in their computers were not updated. I can only wait, pray, and hope that they sort out the situation soon. I have followed all the necessary procedures, filled up the necessary forms, but that is as much as I can do. It is not within my control.  The episode ended with a moment of relief when I was finally cleared and allowed to enter the US. This was followed by some sense of helplessness, when I was informed that my plane had left without me! Actually, the immigration cleared me just 10 minutes after the plane left.

A strange thing happened. Instead of getting upset over the immigration situation, I find myself preserving my composure and to appreciate the border officials for doing their job. I give thanks that the country is safer as they maintain a vigilant watch. Though things could be improved, at least administrative wise by various parties, by and large, the officers are courteous and professional. As I rebook my flight, I give thanks as I watch the airline people scrambling to get me a connecting flight to Boston via Phoenix. It was my first time after so many years, that I am flying US Airways. I must say their service is warm and extremely customer-centric. I remember telling the lady working on my flight details that I appreciate the way she is handling my case. She said: "This is my job."

Wow. That is taking responsibility in action. It makes passengers like me feel glad that the airline is taking responsibility to do something for my missed flight. I could have ranted at them for not waiting a few more minutes for me. I could blown my top. I could have insisted on my rights. However, I feel that being thankful is a better and more constructive way to channel my energies. It works not only for my soul, but helps others do their job better. In some way, I am 'doing ministry' for Christ.

Ministering for Christ

Christian ministry is about influencing lives for Christ, not about proselytizing and making people think or feel the way I do. It is about pointing people who need hope that there is Someone who can give eternal Hope. It is about showing the way of Christ, as people fumble or stumble in the ways of the world. It is about demonstrating the humility of Christ in our own lives. It is a lifestyle of faith in Jesus, instead of an infatuation with  money, sex and power. It is about learning to remind people that it is not about me or you. It is not even about us. It is about God.

One of the things I have learned at Regent-College is from the wisdom of Dr James Houston. He has retired officially, but still influences many students. Always open. Always generous with his time, he is a spiritual mentor for many. With a keen desire to develop Christian thinkers, Dr Houston keeps reminding us that theological education is not to train us to make a 'career of the Crucified Christ.' How often those of us who are more theologically astute need to hear that. We cannot make a career out of a crucified Christ. We cannot think that being in ministry for Christ gives us any special privileges. We do not serve simply  because we have nothing else better to do. We serve because Christ first loved us, and gave us all we need. In fact, by suffering for us at the cross, He has given us what is most precious: Himself. What more do we need?

Sometimes, many of us look for the title or label behind our namecards or our name tags before saying we are in Christian ministry. No. That should not be the case. In fact, the words 'ministry' can often be a misnomer. More accurately, 'Ministry' is more a 'privilege to serve' rather than a 'right to minister.' The former seeks to serve God, while the latter seeks more to serve oneself. Having a privilege to serve reminds us that we do not have any rights, only duty.  The key is in knowing who we are serving. It is to know how the first Minister, Servant believed, behaved and belonged to God the Father.

As I arrive in Boston, I give thanks for a safe journey made. A thankful heart despite the worst circumstances is one way of Christian ministry in action. May I encourage you to do the same. After all, who is going to fault us for doing good? Who will prevent us from serving people humbly in faith, hope and love? No one. That is Christian ministry, and all of us in Christ can do the same. Keep up a cheerful disposition for we are not serving ourselves, or mere people. We serve the God of the Universe!
"It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look." (Francis of Assissi)


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