Minister

My name is Christopher Dryden. I am a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saying that can sound rather conceited in certain religious circles. Calling yourself a minister comes with certain expectations and perceptions derived a great deal from various traditions and cultures. So allow me to be clear in what I mean.

I am a servant of Jesus Christ.

My understanding of what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ is to be His servant. Yeah, you’re His brother. Yeah you’re His friend. But yeah, you’re His servant. That means that I am His servant. I serve at His beck and call. As I said, however, that really should be the case for any follower of Jesus Christ. It’s unfortunate that the term has now been used to distinguish some followers from others almost as though some are servants where others are not. That distinction quite clearly isn’t the case in scripture. Members of the family of God which is the Body of Christ are implicitly called to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. After all, it’s kind of in the term ‘Lord’. If He is the Lord that would suggest He has servants.

The amazing thing about this experience, however, is that our Lord is the Chief Servant. He is not calling us to do anything He Himself hasn’t done. When He tells us to forgive, it’s because He forgives. When He tells us to treat the least as though they are more important than us, it’s because in His ministry – His service – on earth the Creator of the Universe did just that. He tells us to serve only after He showed us what it is to serve. Likewise the point of being a member of the Body of Christ is that as servants of Christ we are called to serve each other. What makes the love we have so outstanding is when its expressed in the delight to serve each other. Then there’s the treasure and wonder that is serving the world around us. All of that serving is what it is to be a minister. There is no difference.

I had the great privilege of seeing the servant heart of being a minister personally in the form of my Dad. I saw this man diligently carry on serving others without looking for any praise or acknowledgement at all – primarily because he knew that in serving others He was serving the Lord and there is great delight in being pleasing to the Lord who did so much in serving you.

There was something that helped me tremendously when I ‘decided to follow Jesus’. The call to serve is not always obvious in certain religious circles especially if you expect to be served. You have turned up to a ‘service’ expecting to be served. You place a tag of ‘minister’ on someone and avoid it yourself and expect that ‘minister’ to serve you. Meanwhile other concepts of ‘minister’ is more like a boss who functions to give instructions to those who for whatever reason they feel should be serving them. It gets messy in a hurry.

This is why the example of our Lord is so inspirational and motivational just when it gets so tough to recognise and live up to that call to be a minister. To know He is not looking sternly over you as though you constantly disappoint Him, but actually is even willing to wash your feet in order to prepare you to run with the gospel that liberates you to serve. It is truly amazing. It in itself makes serving others more rewarding as you do it to Christ.

Unsurprisingly then, it’s one of my greatest delights to come across other followers of Jesus who embrace the call to serve. They don’t wait for ‘permission to serve’ seeing as though it was given at the time they were filled with the Spirit. They are then enabled to serve their family in the faith, their neighbourhood, their workplace, and the world around them in a variety of ways all because of what Jesus has done for them and recognising His Lordship over their lives, they willingbly submit to being His servant for the glory of the Father. I love it. It inspires me and challenges me to keep pursuing this natural flow of what it is to be a member of His family.

My name is Christopher Dryden. I am a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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Member

My name is Christopher Dryden. I am a member of the family of God which is also the Body of Christ.

There was a song we used to sing in the church that spoke of how glad we were to belong to the family of God. It was a beautiful song and would get the sort of camaraderie that would give the impression that what we were singing about was true. Yet for years I never quite experienced that. Sometimes the behaviour was more like a social club where membership in the club gave you insider perks and bonuses which was more about having the inside gossip.

That discrepancy between what we sang and what I experienced only grew when I read in the scripture what it was to be a member of the family of God and the Body of Christ. Thankfully, however, there were also glimpses of what it was like to be a member of the family and the Body.

For example being a member of the family really is a tremendous privilege. Everything flows from that truth. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus did what it took to bring us back to the Father – who I could now refer to just as much as my Father as anyone else’s. That, however, was not about being a part of a closed shop of people from a certain denomination or cultural preference. That was about seeing the heart of Jesus touch the hearts of people crossing denominations and cultures and there is a powerful connection because of Jesus that makes us family.

This is supposed to be the best expression of family because of our Father and our big brother. It is supposed to be, but it is made up of flawed and fallible people only growing to become like their Brother in the image of their Father. Yet there are always glimpses and the foundation of the family always gives hope to what we’re growing into. At its best it is the best family in the world – it is a family of men and women learning to submit to each other, learning to consider the other better than the self, to see the value that Jesus placed on relationships reflecting divine unity and pursuing it.

Being a member of the Body of Christ is likewise an enormous privilege. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus is the single most influential human being ever to walk the planet. His mission, His teaching, His acts, His death, His resurrection, His treatment of friends and enemies alike have profound reverberations that have lasted millennia. His Body that He left on earth have that tremendous privilege of continuing to live His life here and now. Being a member of His Body really does mean joining in with others to see people healed, people follow life-changing teaching by learning to live the life of Him who is life. It is my life to live His life today and I get to do that connected with others who are likewise doing that.

When I think of people being sent to speak the heart of God to the world and share the good news whilst nurturing people and helping them learn about what the fullness of life looks life – wow, it’s brilliant. It doesn’t always feel brilliant. It doesn’t always feel like it is a Body, or if it is it’s comatose or paralysed or simply asleep. But it is a Body and because of the Christ we love and adore, this is His Body and one that He knows is vibrant and thriving all over the world despite the challenges it faces. Sometimes reading about what He has to say to the 7 churches in Revelation, it feels like little has actually changed about the nature of the Body. Yet this work in progress is making progress. Lives are being touched every day.

I have been guilty of criticising and feeling very sceptical about family and the Body. Yet in a real way it is self-harm. If a positive difference can be made my contributions about things going on in the Body then that is good. anything else – murmuring and complaining about how things are, proves to be counterproductive. I am a member – it’s my family and if the Body hurts, I hurt, I am a part of the Body. Any pain felt should have me seeking for the cure, for the right remedy. I feel very strongly about the family aspect of the things. It’s such an important element to express properly and I am grateful for the glimpses I see and I experience – genuinely seeing people from various cultures treating each other as brothers and sisters cherishing the unity of the Spirit.

My name is Christopher Dryden. I am a member of the family of God which is also the Body of Christ.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Pouring Out …

I love small gatherings of believers. Sure large gatherings have their place and I am sure people enjoy that. I love small gatherings.

Among the many things I love is how those gatherings can be prime ground for relationships to blossom simply by giving space for people to pour into each other. We respect each other and honour each other by giving space for each other to pour into each other. That does not always happen in small gathering. It’s not always typical, but it’s something that I have experienced and benefitted significantly from.

Broken people opening up on their brokenness and not finding people preaching at them or quietly dismissing them. Older people submitting to listening to younger people and vice-versa in a setting of honesty and grace. It’s brilliant. There is no main speaker. There is no star of the show. There is no one looking to be the centre of attention, because there’s an understanding that people will pay attention right where you are, even if you are on the margins.

All of those things I have had the honour to experience in those settings. That degree of looking to be a blessing by being yourself as you discover that with Jesus is such a beautiful thing.

Pouring into others for their healing, for their development, for letting out what’s been bubbling in, for the chance for others to have something to pour into someone else for their healing and development.

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Totally

We were returning from a good night out with the brothers. I turned to my dear friend and said something about how precious and important that time was. He looked knowingly at me and mentioned something about Total Church.

The phrase echoed in my mind. My good friend could say that phrase because we share a love for Jesus as well as a great interest in football. There was a style of football popularised by the Ajax football team of the late 60’s and especially early 70’s. That style was referred to as Total Football. Whereas the game was used to being played with set players in certain positions, Total Football embraced a style where all players would be comfortable interchanging with others to create a flexibility and adaptability that provided options far greater than the more regimented system allowed. Players understood the need to cover areas and attack others in a disciplined way, but there was dynamism in the play and at its best it was a delight to see the expression of football that had no problems seeing defenders in attack and attackers covering in deeper positions.

A good question at this juncture, would be what on earth does that have to do with church?

Distinction and definition is important. I wholeheartedly agree with that. Lacking in distinction and definition can lead to confusion. I don’t like confusion at all. It is good when you know what’s what at any given time.

What tends to happen, however, is that the distinction we place narrow things considerably from how they were meant to be. For example, when Jesus came to give us life in its fullness. That suggests that for whatever reason we were not living it to the full and in some cases it could be successfully argued that we’re barely living at all. That was because we had placed distinction that limited a lot more more than was created and actually fell far short of what life had been made for. Life was to be lived totally as Jesus displayed in a life of total service to the glory of God.

That meant the parameters we put on things don’t always match with the Father. Hence the whole total church thing is about life as family that is not limited to parameters that we might set up. Parameters like locations and times. Parameters like titles and positions. Parameters like culture and traditions. Parameters like what’s going on inside and what’s influencing from beyond. Some of these parameters were useful for a season, but not meant to be the permanent fixtures of what life is about.

Indeed the journey to life in all of its fullness may lead us beyond the parameters to discover a fullness of life lived totally for Him. This goes beyond where we were to see how much more there is to life lived totally.

Imagine the possibilities and then consider the invitation not to total church or total kingdom but to total life.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Keeping a Brother

Cain was expected to look after his brother and killed him. Killed him out of anger, killed him out of jealousy, killed him through ignoring the call of God to deal with his own issues rather than taking it out on his brother.

Whatever you think of the historicity of the episode in scripture, there was something essential to human relations to learn from this. Something essential about whether or not we are our brother’s keeper. Something essential about how we can see the best of humanity rather than just kill it.

Recently I was challenged about being a brother. My friend was caught up in an issue of his own making. Being the church type, this was our opportunity to see if we would bear with him and help restore him. In considering the issue, some talked about the need for my friend to step down from responsibilities because of the disgrace he brought to the church. While they were hammering this point home, it felt like rather than building a brother who had already been knocked down by sin, they were burying him even further. I endeavour not to get angry often, it’s not really in fitting with how I operate anyway, but on this occasion teeth were gritted and fists were clenched with only the thought of Jesus preventing me from saying words that would not necessarily fit in with the encouragement to let brotherly love continue.

The point remained that this was a time to keep a brother, not kill him.

When I reflected on how other ‘older’ brothers were killing younger brothers with wild accusations, derogatory comments, offensive statements and the like, it told me again and rebuked me never to find myself in that position. As someone who has a brother that has stood by me at my worst, never condemning me, but encouraging me in repentance, I know just how serious and crucial it is to be a brother’s keeper.

God help me to look out for my brothers.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Herbs and Spices: Enhancing the Flavour

The rice was plain. The chicken was plain. The vegetables were plain. That was what they were used to. Other than a bit of salt, they didn’t want their meal any other way, because they never had their meal any other way.

That changed when they were invited to taste a meal at their new neighbour’s home. Even before the food arrived they were pleasantly enticed by the smells. The aroma was rich and multi-faceted, it had an effect on their taste buds that they had not experienced before. The connection between smell and taste was more potent than they had known it before.

Then the food came out. They were told it was rice, but it certainly wasn’t plain. Overcoming initial scepticism at this different way of preparing and presenting rice they tried some. Then tried some more, and some more. They were amazed at what they were enjoying, so rich and filling in and of itself. The way the vegetables appeared was so different to what they had eaten before, but the rice had given them the courage to give the new setup a try. The wide eyes and broad smiles of delight were all that was needed to show their full acceptance of the vegetables. Someone mentioned that vegetables had always been something they avoided because it didn’t taste that appealing, but now they had to change their approach – this made vegetables all the more appealing without the use of anything artificial and unhealthy.

As they mixed some of the rice with some of the vegetables, they were all crowing about how gorgeous the smell, the look and the taste of this delicious meal was. That was before the chicken was unveiled.

By the time they had tucked away all that food and discovered how herbs and spices played a crucial role in the experience, they couldn’t hide their excitement and desire to know how they could bring this diversity into the mix of their own concoctions.

They were surprised to discover that which was new to them had been practised for longer than their plain old approach and it was about making the most of all that was given to them to create mouthwatering and belly-filling experiences like these.

That’s how they enhanced the flavour.

(Photos: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Does That Suit You?

A friend of mine was concerned.

He was asked to facilitate a session standing in for someone else. My friend’s concern was how to facilitate the session in the typical way that the absent facilitator would do it. The concern was understandable, after all, my friend didn’t want to upset a routine that people got accustomed to and he certainly didn’t want to draw attention to himself by veering off script.

However, as we conversed, it became clear that the worst thing he could do would be to facilitate it just like the other guy. It just wouldn’t suit him at all. Thankfully, as it transpired, my friend was able to be both considerate to the needs of those attending the session and still be himself in his delivery.

Despite his best intentions to just go unnoticed in carrying out the task and not draw attention to himself, his confidence, competence and comfort in delivering in a way that suited him left a great impression on those who took part. Such was the positive response that the original facilitator invited him to take more sessions.

There are a lot of outstanding things that people are doing in their own way and because it’s so effective, others look to turn one person’s style into a system and format and expect folks to fit that particular style. It’s evident in schools, it’s evident in offices, it’s evident in hospitals and it is evident in churches.

It can, however, be suffocating as people mistake a decent method for one person at one time, as a universal approach for all places at all times.

It is delightful when we recognise people for how God has specifically equipped them to function and rather than expecting them to fit our mould, we give them the space and the platform to serve in that specific way God has given.

This is why we celebrate a diverse group of people in scripture who displayed the brilliance of God in different settings that still expressed their God-given character and personality functioning in their unique calling as God directed. It would be a shame if we acknowledged that in the life of the called by God only to hinder that in the various formats and systems we put together.

This is not an invitation for selfish and self-gratifying pursuits where we can do whatever we like whether people like it or not. This is the pursuit of what God has specifically called us to be in service to Him for the benefit and blessing of others. He who made the best clothing for our parents, knows how best we can be clothed to be effective in what we do.

That’s why from time to time it’s good to look at what we are putting on ourselves and carefully consider – does that really suit you?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden