Acknowledging Good Service

If you don’t get good service, you are often going to do something about it, even if it’s just grumbling to someone else. What happens, however when we benefit from outstanding service?

Authrine and I had the pleasure of her company, recently. It was great spending time with her and hearing how she was doing.

This woman had made a significant contribution to us individually and as a couple. Her greatest contribution has been her example. Never seeking the spotlight and never chasing after positions, she has effortlessly been promoted wherever she has been all because of her incredible heart for service. Sacrificial service, discreet service, the sort that’s done without need for open recognition, but with deep and lasting repercussions of blessings for those in receipt.

There is so much to be learned from her and applied in life about love, faith, practical outworking of spiritual connection and endurance under very trying circumstances.

It’s easy to complain about poor service when we receive it. It should be our delight and joy to acknowledge and celebrate good service when we receive it. Not just celebrate it, but endeavour to let it spur us on to more acts of good service.

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Team: Serving Each Other, Serving Together

One thing that bothers me about ministries named after an individual is the impression it gives that the whole offer of service is based around one person. The concern I have is that it doesn’t reveal something beatuiful about ministry. That beautiful thing is how we can serve together.

We can serve together and serve each other as we serve together too. For example, recently a group of about seven of us were praying together and someone shared an insight. It was a powerful insight about intensity and it left a lot of us duly stimulated and motivated in our ongoing desire to know Jesus. Someone else at the same time got something but were unsure if they wereto share it at that time. That person connected with someone else in the team and got the assurance and encouragement to share what they had. As it transpired that word built on what had been said earlier and blended in beautifully with other words that had been shared in time past. Those words propelled us to greater service and desire to help others discover more of the love of God in the world.

If there was an individual whose name was getting any kudos at all, that individual would have been Jesus Christ. No one else was looking to get credit and acclaim at all because there was a conscious awareness that we’re in this Kingdom endeavour together. That story spurred others on to serve each other as we serve together so that the name can get all the kudos for the life change still being brought about because He is real.

It’s that approach to serving that I find hugely endearing. It’s why I love spending time with these people who intentionally go about developing team ministry. It’s a pattern I know those looking on can learn from and feel more comfortable thinking about terms like ‘ministry’ and ‘service’. It doesn’t have to have the grandiose connotations some attach to it with corresponding heavy burdens. It can be playing their key role in what we’re called to do together.

After all Jesus is expressed in how we do life together.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

In It For The Long Haul

It doesn’t happen overnight.

The thought of it happening quickly or instantly is one that proves to be very alluring indeed. A man is sick, a prayer is made, the man is healed. Job done. Everyone happy, praise God.

That’s not always how God operates. In fact quite often there are things he will say to one generation that’s not realised for another generation. Indeed sometimes something He says to one fella isn’t fulfilled for hundreds of years. In fact part of the reading of the heroes of faith in Hebrews is about how from Abel to the prophets in exile they all looked forward to someone they would never live to see but who was worth far more than instant healing and the like.

Now that He has risen and we’re here waiting for His return we are on a mission to prepare for Him just as the patriarchs of old prepared for His first coming. We prepare by living out His Kingdom come, bearing witness to the risen King, sharing the goodness of the light in a world deluged in darkness. The work is a hard one and not designed for the short game. For every act I read about in the book of Acts, it was never about the victory in itself. It was about what it hinted at, what it indicated and how it motivated a pursuit to keep on going. Until that final day and until then it called for believers to be committed for the long haul.

Committed through misunderstanding. Committed through rejection. Committed through necessary changes. Committed through pain and loneliness. Committed through setbacks.

Committed through victories. Committed through progress. Committed through growth. Committed through celebration of new life, restoration, healing and deliverance.

God help us to be committed for the long haul.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Say What You See: Collaborative Ministry

Life was never to be lived on your own.

It is baffling how individuals are given titles and positions with the thinking that they will do a particular job all on their own. Great expectations are placed on them, they are placed on a pedestal and enormous pressure is placed on them to keep up appearances and tow the line as far as that position is concerned. Behind closed doors they may suffer or get caught up with their own hype. Meanwhile others suffer and what was only ever meant to be accomplished by community is loaded on an individual.

Collaboration is a superb word for a superb concept. As we all get on with serving each other and the community around us we learn to rely on each other and learn from each other and work together to express the coming Kingdom in our living.

That lifestyle puts titles and positions in perspective. There are no longer big chiefs who hog the limelight. Space and time is given in mutual service for Jesus to get the headlines in our promoting of Him.

Sure this bucks the trend of the cult of personality, but that is the amazing outcome of seeing the King and His Kingdom as He would present it to us.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Family & Community: Ministry Matters

Ministry is an interesting concept in thought and practice.

The model of ‘ministry’ I saw growing up consisted of the main man having to be bi-vocational as there wasn’t enough income to make him a ‘full-time’ minister. So they had the week job, then come church day, they’d have to roll out the main event chiefly being the sermon. On some occasions he’d also teach the bible study.

Just when you thought his plate was already stacked, he might have to do all the visits to brethren. If there was any sick, as the main man he’d have to show his face.

In some instances the main man would have more than one congregation to serve. In some cases this necessitated travelling long distances to do the ‘work of the ministry’ with the congregants hanging onto his leading aa the main man through whom God communicated.

What I never saw was how the main man engaged with his family. It remained somewhat mysterious, though there were significant clues. Clues like his grown children no longer attending church and apparent little interest in such issues. Clues like little in the way of healthy, warm and naturally caring interactions between the main man and his wife.

I hasten to add this wasn’t just something I witnessed with one main man. It appeared to be the norm. These guys seemed to exemplify a fairly basic functional and uninspiring life. All because they were sold out on ‘the ministry’.

It took a few years after I left home for the disconnects in my head about this picture to be addressed. What happened was reading key parts of the NT that did not promote a ‘main man who does the ministry’ model. Rather it talked about each member of the Body functioning, plurality of leaders, every member being a minister, each follower given gifts to operate for Body building, following the leading of the Holy Spirit communally (suggesting the main man wasn’t the only source to hear what the Spirit said to the churches) and the Head/Boss/Leader of the church was Jesus not the main man.

Of course reading it was one thing, witnessing it was not as forthcoming in my experience for a while. What was also missing was that element of how to juggle all that ministry stuff with a job and also the family responsibilities.

What was not helpful was the two extremes that appeared to be the available models. The first already described saw the family sacrificed on the altar of the main man doing his ministry.

The second model saw the private man using church as somewhere he frequented out of religious obligation, but his time and priority was around his work and pressure was on him to prioritise family over everything so that any ‘ministry’ outside his home-life, which remained fiercely private, was minimal.

So it appeared as though the choice was either let the family suffer because I had to do God’s thing, or God’s thing was only to lool after me and my crib. That tension was felt keenly in both extremes especially in the initial years of my marriage, where to be honest I certainly did not get things right and ended up in a mess that threatened my family life and community commitments.

As it sits at the moment, I am keenly aware that God has given me a beautiful family with the intention I invest time and love. After Christ, family is the most important part of ministry. If that is in its proper setting it forms the foundation for healthy engagement in other wider church and social activities.

At the same time, my family are to witness what it is to serve the community and the Body of Christ as Jesus leads. Family life isn’t designed to be so all-consuming that there is no life beyond it – it certainly sends the wrong message to the children following me.

Expressing that in day to day decisions is where godly wisdom truly comes into its own. I trust as my young daughters grow and as my marriage continues to flourish in Christ, I’ll apply that wisdom so that they see how I love them AND how important following Jesus in other areas is.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Just Give Him A Cup Of Soup

Funny how things work out.

Back in the early years of my walk in the Christian pathway, any interest in  doing actual good works of service to people in community was minimal.  By minimal, I’m probably being very kind to myself.  Love was a nice concept in theory, but didn’t need to interfere with the life I was looking to eek out which had little to do with that kinda stuff.

Thank God for the journey that took place that made things rather different.

Recently, it was my honour to be part of a project with some brothers to simply offer free cups of hot soup to people in our community.  The temperatures were still of such that a cup of hot vegetable soup in the evening would really bring welcome relief and warmth to passers-by.

Despite the experience I’ve had in social ministries, I must admit, I had a few concerns.

I was concerned that it would be seen only as an initiative to get bums on seats in the weekly church meetings.  That was a concern as much about our motives as a team doing it, as those getting the soup.  I was concerned that people would shun the effort as being tacky and not meeting a need.  I was concerned that we didn’t know enough about the area to do something like this.  I was concerned that I wouldn’t be brave enough to strike a conversation with the strangers I would meet.

As I said, there were a few concerns.  I can appreciate those who don’t do such things – whether it’s a soup kitchen, prison visit, hospital visit, elderly home visit or the like.  I can appreciate that such concerns and many others can make doing something rather off-putting.

What helped considerably in overcoming the concerns was a simple instruction that I heard Jesus say in my head.

Just give him a cup of soup.

The deal of being light in the world is about offering love – offering it with no strings attached, offering it, because love isn’t love until it’s given away. (Thanks to Commissioned for that lyric!)

What made other social ministries so enjoyable in the past, was the joy of simply giving.  It was about giving time, giving space, giving resources if required, but especially about giving love in not imposing, but inviting an experience of the loving kind.  Just giving that could muster the range of reactions, but as it was love-propelled there was enough of a cushion for consolation at set-backs and disappointments.

Here, then, was another chance to simply give.  Of course there’s the wisdom and discernment to develop something more if the opportunity comes, but even if that doesn’t arise, just giving was sufficient.

The soup-giving deal wasn’t just about giving to the poor, destitute and homeless.  It was about giving soup to anyone who wanted a cup of soup.  Yet it was of no surprise that a large number of people who accepted the soup happened to be people who appeared poor and destitute.

It was not just about people coming to our soup pot to get some of the good stuff.  A highlight for me was going to a spot where I knew some of those who like to while their time away on cider would congregate.  Sure enough there were a few nursing their cans carefully and ruminating on their issues.  On offering them some soup, some said yes but didn’t want to go around the corner to get it.  I was happy to go get it for them.  As I returned, the few had grown in number.  Some of the additions were people who had already accepted some soup on their way up.  When I handed over the cups to those who asked and made my way I overheard a comment of how there were some good people in the world.

That comment didn’t make me feel good about myself.  It made me feel good that a glimpse of the light, life and love of Christ had shined for those in need to recognise it.  It wasn’t people falling down and crying they yielded to the Risen Lamb, but it was love in action.  The hope and desire is that over time people will know our presence as just looking to meet needs however we can as an expression of the love of Jesus who met all our needs at Calvary.

All because we don’t allow the concerns to overwhelm us, but just give him a cup of soup.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Building Worship or Worshipping Buildings

He was talking about what they did with the facility.

As we sat and heard him talk, it highlighted just how much work needed to be done to help him and others have a different perspective.

There was an almost fatalistic view of the facility as solely for the purpose of ‘worship services’.  As a result that meant that for the best part of half the week, a structure that had cost a significant amount for such a small group of people, and that cost a considerable amount to maintain, would lie dormant.

It would just be a structure standing in the middle of such a diverse community, but offering so little to them, and what was offered would not cater to the vast majority of them.

That just did not make any kind of sense to me.

Imagine buying, at great cost for purchase and maintenance, something designed for a particular use.  Imagine after that not even utilising it to 30% of its usefulness and value.  People would suggest that this is a waste of a resource.  Yet this was exactly what was taking place with this facility and justified under the shroud of keeping the sanctuary ‘holy’.

Don’t get me wrong.  When it comes to buildings for ‘worship’, I have grown somewhat wary of them.  Wary in the sense that it can garner quite a large amount of fuss and resources.  In a number of cases, these could be better invested in the people who gather as well as the surrounding community.

I have witnessed so much hassle placed on desiring to own property as if God desired to be worshipped in houses made of hands.  As if His highest aim for humanity was archietectural. (It is, but the architecture is with people as the bricks.)

Even with that wariness, however, I don’t dispute the value that buildings have on people’s corporate worship experience.  The concern for me is when such is the focus on the structure that it’s almost a fetish.

We spend more time and money on it, than on building a people who know what it is to worship in spirit and truth.  We maintain the brick and mortar, but don’t nurture the heart and soul to see Christ beyond that.

We cage people to conceive of worship experiences as that which happens at a given time in THAT particular place.  We do that and surprised when people don’t join us in the cage, and even more when people in the cage don’t appear to grow in their knowledge of Jesus.

Something to help that is a view of a facility – if one is genuinely needed – as a Jesus Centred Community Hub.  The facility is used to benefit the immediate community whether believer or not.  It reflects the values of a Kingdom People who know they are commissioned to show mercy, be compassionate, make peace, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, look after the orphan, widow and the stranger.

Such a perspective on the physical facility sees the sanctuary as a genuine place of refuge for all.  It is a place where God can do His business in the lives of others through a variety of means from an English as a Second Language class, to dance therapy, to choir practice, to a nursery, to a luncheon club for the elderly, to a place of prayer.  Ensuring the location is fully utilised as a proper resource in enabliing others to build their idea of worship as much around serving others as serving the Lord.

It is not about having a building-centred approach to faith and worship.  It is ensuring that if you do have a building, or even if you rent it, it’s as much a service centre as one for your concept of worship.

It thus builds worshippers equipped to serve – beyond those four walls as well as in it.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden