Friday, July 1, 2016

Your ministry is valuable

Here, Sam Alberry an evangelical minister in England observes that the phrase "strategic ministry" makes him uncomfortable because it privileges one group of people in God's schemes over another. This is the danger of using the pragmatism of business and politics in ministry; successful ministry to the urban elite becomes more valuable than struggling regional ministry. It shouldn't be like this, the beautiful egalitarianism of gospel truth, is like good philosophy, accessible to everyone. Everyone who trusts Jesus is a character in the divine narrative. You also run the risk down-playing God's providence, over-emphasising the importantance of your own schemes within the bigger picture. The other danger of top down ministry is that it can reinforce class systems that benefit the wealthy.

There is however a flip-side that Sam misses. Everyone is strategic, even those studiously attempting not to be strategic, are making a strategic decision not to be strategic! In reality the Lord's prayer values both the top down and the bottom up approach. We prayerfully connect the grand schemes of God, "thy kingdom come" with our life "here on earth." We also prayerfully connect our parking spaces and drinking water back up into God's larger plans, "give us today our daily bread." It's good that some people are theoretical physicists and it's good others are happy with a cup of tea. I preach to my congregation and I write this blog because I believe my ideas (if they correspond with God's bigger narrative) have value and might go a small way towards influencing people towards Heaven.

So the solution for evangelical ministry is a mixed economy. Small self-sustaining congregations alongside large booming congregations. Niche ministries with obscure goals alongside ministries with plans for wholesale cultural change. Amidst this all needs to be the acceptance and delight in a mixed economy of ministry with a robust sharing of ideas but not the imposition of particular models as normative or necessary. So for example Presbyterian theology with it's careful emphasis on the doctrines of grace contributes to the larger Australian Evangelical world. Therefore ever major town needs a self-sustaining Presbyterian church but they don't each have to be large or influential.