Called Anew leads me to consider relevancy in ministry.  

Even from a distance, I am feeling a sense of the pain for the people of El Paso and Dayton after the violence and death caused by a shooter in their communities this past weekend. My feelings no doubt relate to the October 1st Las Vegas shooting. Right now the pain is more of a numbness.  

This is when, as a church, we need to evaluate our relevancy in ministry. When people cry out that it is hollow to respond — ‘our prayers and thoughts are with you.’ It is hollow because nothing changes — there is a numbness.

Another week, another shooting.

A significant part of our UMC statement of call is, “for the transformation of the world.” I cannot be numb and be about this work of transformation.  I cannot freeze in my tracks in the face of more violence. I cannot announce that someone else needs to fix it, or others are responsible for inspiring the shooters in their acts of hate and death. I must be strong and my compassion must bring me to respond with acts of courage in what I must do and how I am a responsible agent in this world. 

There are many thoughts and questions about whether the church should seek relevancy, or if that means compromising eternal truths. For me, relevancy in ministry means that I strive to meet people where they are struggling and seeking. It also means learning and speaking their “language.”   The effective ministry reaches and connects with people where they are. I think this is a part of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 9 — I have become all things to all people, that I might, by all means, save some. 

I have been taught that when caring for and reaching people I should not get into the pit to save them. Keep enough of an objective distance not to need rescuing myself, yet relate with compassion and empathy. That can work well in a classroom or textbook, but not always in real-life situations. 

Relevancy in ministry declares that we are all in this together. The ministry I engage in must walk in the shadows and not only cry with the hurting, but also somehow connect with those who decide to impact the world through acts of violence.  

My ministry must be relevant to the hurting and to the lost if I want to make a transformative difference — because they are children of God and because from time to time, I am them, too. 

Called anew to follow. 

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Of all the tensions we must hold in personal and political life, perhaps the most fundamental and most challenging is standing and acting with hope in the “tragic gap.” On one side of that gap, we see the hard realities of the world, realities that can crush our spirits and defeat our hopes. On the other side of that gap, we see real-world possibilities, life as we know it could be because we have seen it that way.

Parker Palmer,  “Healing the Heart of Democracy”

  • Name a tragic gap you are standing in.
  • Is your response either to “flip out” into “corrosive cynicism” or “irrelevant idealism?”
  • Where do you find strength and courage to stand in the gap and work to make a difference?  

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