Over at Thru a glass darkly Ann is discussing how to remain true to yourself and to God while accomodating ministry to the needs of the recipients. Her post reminded me of what I'm studying on the structure and function of church. I'm in the very early stages of an exegesis of all the "I am your God, you are my people" passages. I started at Genesis 17:1-8, where God makes covenant with Abraham. There were four aspects to the covenant:

God's responsibilities...
  • I am your/their God.
  • I will bless you/them into a people.

...and Abraham's responsibilities.
  • Please me.
  • Trust me (unspoken, but very present).
What does this have to do with remaining true to yourself and to God while accommodating ministry to the needs of the recipients? Everything, I think. In making covenant with Abraham and his offspring, Yahweh created a divine human partnership. In this partnership each party has certain responsibilities. In carrying out these responsibilities there is a synergy. God's actions make a difference--not really a surprise--and Abraham's actions make a difference. That's the surprise. As with God's initial creation of humanity God has decided to do his work with us, not despite us. The people of God are God's partners. So, in ministry there are human considerations: personality, culture, etc. But God remains God. It is his job to be God and to make his people--not ours. Our job is to please him and trust him.

Ministry must accommodate the recipients, but only so far. God has chosen and called certain people, not general people. He has called me as me, not as someone else. Yes, character flaws must be corrected, but who I am is part of my ministry. That is why effective, biblical ministry is always a community affair. Each person brings who they are and the community works together to please and trust God. As we, his people please and trust him, he does his work: he is God with us and he blesses us into a people. He makes us his people. We do not.

If we compromise, if we change who we are or try to do God’s job for him, then the kingdom is not being built and we are not being church. Just as circles, by definition, cannot be squares, the people of God, by definition, cannot do other than please and trust God. How we do what we do is his choice not ours. So, while the personality and culture of the ministry recipients is important, these things do not decide the basic structure and function of ministry. God decides that (see Matthew 28:16-20 for some key features). Personality and culture decide the language we use in ministry, but the content…well, if we claim we are doing God’s work, then the content is a given.


“Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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