“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18: 19,20)
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21)
This week, I had another one of ‘those’ conversations with a colleague. You know ‘those’ conversations; the ones where they say that they’re trying to encourage and support you but it feels a little more like you’re being run over by a steam roller? This conversation was about choices I have made in ministry.
Or maybe the lack of choices? I can’t really tell.
But here’s what I can tell you.
Sometimes the right thing is not to aspire to bigger and greater. Sometimes Bigger isn’t Better. Sometimes smaller is better; in fact, sometimes smaller is best.
Since I began my Student Supply call as a fledgling ministry candidate, I have always loved small and rural church ministry. I love that I know by name everyone who sits in the pews on Sunday morning and I love that I know why there are people missing from the pews. I love that I can get teased or joked with in the middle of worship, and that I know who will be the ones who will tease me and who will be the ones sitting back and egging their friend on. I love that Bible Study can turn into fodder for my sermon writing and my blog, and that the Bible Study crew like that they influence my thinking. I love that my diet needs are taken into account at all church events, without me even asking. I love that my days can be as complicated as visiting people in the hospital at the end of their lives, or as simple as calling Calvin or David up to get rid of the dead mice in the traps. I love that some of you call me ‘Rev.’, some of you call me ‘Lynne’, and some of you just say ‘hey’. I love that my family sings in the choir when they’re around, and are welcomed as if they’re long-time members of the congregation.
I love that this is my life, and that you are all my community.
But, my contentment and joy in all of this is a bit counter-cultural. At least in Western Christianity where clergy are expected to see smaller church ministry as a ‘stepping stone’ into big, cathedral, urban ministries. And, those who attend church are looking for a church that has ‘programs that meet their needs’ – and things like climbing walls in the Sunday School gym (um…..the kids are welcome to climb the fence between the shed and the Coutts field, as long as someone is around to pull the splinters out of their hands), and a multi-voice choir of 90 people and a praise band that sounds a little like Cold Play (although Hugh, Carol and Heather really can rock out if they’re left to their own devices).
Bethel is all about – well – each other. Family. Community. People come to church because they love God and love being with each other – and if I’m doing well, then they hear a reasonably good sermon too. We won’t win the popularity sweepstakes, and certainly won’t win the attendance prize, but that’s probably a good thing because our sanctuary is a little to small to safely accommodate the hordes of people that we’re told we should have, if….
Well…..if, according to the colleague I was talking to, I was actually effective in ministry.
And so, my friends – here I am. Not what many would consider effective. Not what many would consider ‘good’. But…..exactly what God has called me to be.
And I love it.
I love every minute of it.
And, frankly, I think that as a community of faith, we’re thriving. We’re thriving because we love each other. And I really believe that God is in the middle of our relationships. And for this reason alone, I think that when I see God face-to-face, I will here the words “well-done, good and faithful servant”.
Blessings today, and remember you are Loved (by God, by me, and by each other).