Thursday, May 17, 2012

Too many I's in ministry?

Once upon a time, on Facebook and Twitter I threw out this sacramental theology question to pastors:
Who does the baptizing (in your opinion)?  You?  Or the Spirit?
I received a few responses from my little poll:
  • "out ward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. we do the sign, the Spirit does the grace. right?"
  • "The answer is yes! A pastor, as a steward of the mysteries participates and brings the sign-act together, but God does the work."
  • "God is the actor (see Jesus' baptism 'by' John - any gospel version)
  • "Yes to above"
  • "The language is the BOW is 'I baptize you in the name ...' I would say it's both ... a participation in the mystery."

These answers from pastors are all from people that I know and respect, who have all pondered this very question as they've rolled along in ministry.  There were several other enlightened responses from some fun laypeople, but I'll leave those out of this post.

All this leads me to a subject I've been chewing on for a little while: we tend to use a lot of "I" language in ministry.

Have you ever heard somebody (lay or clergy) who works or volunteers at the church refer to a ministry as theirs?  It happens often.  We tend to get very possessive of our ministries.  I personally try to check the I's out of my language when dealing with church matters.  Using an "I" counts out the collaboration that comes as a part of being in ministry ... Collaboration with God, as well as collaboration with the church family (which is also God's).

The big I can creep out in any number of ways.  Just a few examples that I'm sure you've heard:
  • "I'm going off to work with my youth ..."
  • "Well, I gave my money, so I should get ..."
  • "This Sunday, I will be baptizing ..."
It's a fine line in ministry when taking ownership of things.  As a worship leader, I feel that my job is to be a shepherd to the Lord's Day worship.  It's not mine.  The choir is not mine.  The band is not mine.  They belong to Christ.  Although, 'self' often creeps into my heart and mind, I hope that over my lifetime I can say so long to 'self' and be more like Christ.

Does the big I in ministry drive you crazy?  Ever?