iceberg ministry

When I was little I decided that I wanted to be a Baptist Minister. It was a naive wish. It was based on a WYSIWYG assumption – that what you see is what you get as far as Ministers go, and all they do is prepare sermons and services. That sounded like a good life.

Antarctic Iceberg #4When I got bigger that desire did not diminish. Indeed I found that it was something God had placed within me. But I discovered that there is a little bit more to being a Minister than my naive WYSIWYG assumption. Baptist Ministers are like icebergs. No, not hard and cold and immersed in water. Most of what we do is unseen beneath the surface.

When I was employed by the Baptist Union of Great Britain in the Mission Department (before coming to Colchester) I was often asked, “How many people work at Baptist House?”

My cheeky answer was usually, “Most of us.”

I have had a similar facetious response to the question, “What do you do in an average week?”

“If I ever have an average week,” I say, “I’ll let you know.”

But both those answers are inadequate and unfair to the questioner, so here’s an attempt at describing what goes on underneath the surface. All of this is only possible because God is in me.

Leading Sunday services and preaching.

Preparation for services and sermons. (No, even though they may appear to be made up as I go along there is some work that happens beforehand!)

Visiting people – in their homes, hospital, workplace, coffee shops, or meeting them at the church. These sometimes happen by ‘accident’ (or Design?) and sometimes because God has put their name in my mind at the right time, or he has put me in the right place at the right time, or because it felt like it was time I saw them again.

Reading – that is the art of learning and growing through interacting with books, not going to the town in Berkshire.

Praying – sometimes in my study or at the church, often as I walk or drive around and pass someone or something that reminds me of people I know who are in need of prayer as well as using prayer diaries. I also try to have an attitude of gratitude and thank God when things go well.

Meeting people for a purpose – this is a step beyond the pastoral visits and may be a meeting to discuss a specific issue in someone’s life, an aspect of the church’s ministry or mission, meeting other ministers for encouragement, planning events and activities, meeting with committees to oversee the life and mission of the church (relatively few in our church), Church Meetings, preparing people to be baptised, and so on…

Mission – working with local schools in assemblies and having them come to our church as part of their curriculum or for special events, trying to find ways we can be better neighbours in our location, talking with local shopkeepers, meeting Council officials, helping out in Open Door, talking to people about Jesus, trying to be a good free sample of Jesus, building friendships, praying for people, working with others in our church in their mission activities…

Special Privileges – taking (or taking part in) thanksgiving services and funerals, weddings, baptising people, infant presentations…

Anything else God throws my way…

And. oh yes, blogging a bit too – reflecting on what is happening in my life and what God may be saying to me about it.

In September I have the privilege of three months’ sabbatical leave. This is made available to Baptist Ministers every seven years of their Ministry. I intend to explore issues around growing churches and how we plan for growth, given that we are a growing church but have not yet done a lot of planning and preparation for coping with that growth.

During my Sabbatical leave, an average week (if there will be one) is:

Leading Sunday services and preaching.

Preparation for services and sermons.

Visiting people – in their homes, hospital, workplace, coffee shops, or meeting them at the church. These sometimes happen by ‘accident’ (or Design?) and sometimes because God has put their name in my mind at the right time, or he has put me in the right place at the right time, or because it felt like it was time I saw them again.  I hope to visit a number of churches around the country that have been our size and grown to see what we might learn from their experience.

Reading – that is the art of learning and growing through interacting with books, not going to the town in Berkshire. Lots more of this than is possible normally.

Praying – sometimes in my study or at the church, often as I walk or drive around and pass someone or something that reminds me of people I know who are in need of prayer as well as using prayer diaries. I also try to have an attitude of gratitude and thank God when things go well.

Meeting people for a purpose – this is a step beyond the pastoral visits and may be a meeting to discuss a specific issue in someone’s life, an aspect of the church’s ministry or mission, meeting other ministers for encouragement, planning events and activities, meeting with committees to oversee the life and mission of the church (relatively few in our church), Church Meetings, preparing people to be baptised, and so on…

Mission – working with local schools in assemblies and having them come to our church as part of their curriculum or for special events, trying to find ways we can be better neighbours in our location, talking with local shopkeepers, meeting Council officials, helping out in Open Door, talking to people about Jesus, trying to be a good free sample of Jesus, building friendships, praying for people…

Special Privileges – taking (or taking part in) thanksgiving services and funerals, weddings, baptising people, infant presentations…

And. oh yes, blogging a bit too – reflecting on what is happening in my life and what God may be saying to me about it. I am not sure whether the bloggages will continue during my sabbatical leave… that may depend on how the mood takes me!

Space to think, reflect, pause, plan…

Go on a retreat.

Anything else God throws my way…

Come back  even more refreshed than I feel now.

So, that may help you understand a bit more about what a Minister does. It also helps me realise how much I need the support, wisdom and understanding of my family and friends!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A world-renowned preacher, evangelist and entrepreneur for God (one person, not three) had the ability to speak for ages at a time in a sermon and hold the congregation enthralled. However on one occasion he seemed to have lost the attention of one person at the back who raised one arm and pointed at the watch on it to indicate that it was time for the preacher to stop.

“Praise the Lord!” shouted the preacher when he saw this. “That man at the back is giving his watch to support global mission!”

coincidentally God is at work

Colchester General Hospital

Yesterday I had a wonderfully strange experience. I had not planned to visit the hospital, but had been told that one of our members had been admitted, so I went over to see how she was (doing ok). As I stood at the nurses’ station, trying to find the lady I had come to visit, I heard my name being called. It took me by surprise, and I turned around to see a friend standing there (from nearby, but not from our church).

He had been admitted unexpectedly and had strolled up to the nurses’ station at just that moment to ask a question. What a coincidence! Or was I being gently nudged to be in the right place at the right time so I could chat with him and pray with him as well?

Sometimes people call these events ‘divine appointments’. I usually find myself chuckling gently when I think about them (they happen relatively often) because I imagine God whispering subliminal messages to me about when to go where without me knowing why. If that is the case, and I have no reason to suspect that it is, then it seems that by surrendering my will to God I am also surrendering control of my diary. Not a bad practice, I reckon, and if he wants to create an extra day in the diary for me at the same time, even better! Perhaps he is motivating me in response to prayers of others. Perhaps he is nudging me in a similar way to the way that he spoke to Old Testament prophets and told them to go to particular places.

But what if it’s not like that? What if it’s not super-spiritual? What if it is ‘just’ coincidence? Well, then the onus is on me to make the most of the opportunities that come along and be the best free sample of Jesus I can be in those circumstances. Either way, the outcome is hopefully that people are blessed and encouraged. How it happens is secondary. In fact I don’t see either explanation as less God-inspired. Either he is inspiring events, which is brilliant, or he is using coincidences, which is astonishing.

Be blessed, be a blessing (wittingly or unwittingly)

This joke requires little knowledge of American culture and business names…

Four expectant fathers were in Minneapolis hospital waiting room, while their wives were in labor. The nurse arrived and announced to the first man, “Congratulations sir, You’re the father of twins.”

“What a coincidence” the man said with some obvious pride. “I work for the Minnesota Twins baseball team.”

The nurse returned in a little while and turned to the second man, “You sir, are the father of triplets.”

“Wow, That’s really an incredible coincidence ” he answered.

“I work for the 3M Corporation.” My buddies at work will never let me live this one down.

An hour later, while the other two men were passing cigars around, the nurse came back, this time she turn to the 3rd man – who had been quiet in the corner. She announced that his wife had just given birth to quadruplets.

Stunned, he barely could reply. “Don’t tell me another coincidence?” asked the nurse. After finally regaining his composure, he said “I don’t believe it, I work for the Four Seasons Hotel.”

After hearing this, everybody’s attention turned to the 4th guy, who had just fainted, flat out on the floor. The nurse rushed to his side and after some time, he slowly gained back his consiousness.

When he was finally able to speak, you could hear him whispering repeatedly the same phrase over and over again.

“I should have never taken that job at 7-Up

“I should have never taken that job at 7-Up

“I should have never taken that job at 7-Up…