We all have models of ministry we emulate, ministry leaders we look up to. These are mostly those who model success, who are able to perpetuate good times and positive ministries. But what about when things are hard—really hard?
We often lack for ministry models in those time, in part, I suppose, because we like to talk about our successes far more than our failures. We don't as easily celebrate people for their brokenness and struggle, and yet, in ministry, we all wind up there at one time or another.
At some of the most difficult times in ministry, I found an unlikely ministry model: Frodo Baggins.
Frodo is the main character in J.R.R. Tolkien's book trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. During the toughest times in my ministry I found myself watching the recent movie versions often, not merely for escapism, but because in those times I came to strongly identify with Frodo Baggins.
You'll remember Frodo as the diminutive Hobbit, who is charged with carrying the burdensome ring of Sauron across Middle Earth in order to to destroy it at Mount Doom in the forsaken land of Mordor.
The ring weighs more and more heavily on Frodo throughout the story. The carefree life of his home in the Shire is replaced with a grinding pilgrimmage through unforgiving terrain. He tires and ages before us. The evil influence of the ring threatens to corrupt is kind heart.
Ministry, whether in good times or bad, is about ring-bearing. It is about carrying the burden for your people—for the congregation itself and for the larger church. Always, we hold the hopes and dreams, and aspirations of our people. In difficult circumstances, we also carry their fear and their anxiety. We are often the recipents of criticism and bad behavior. The weight of the task of guiding a congregation through difficult times can take an enormous toll on the ring bearer.
I believe one of the major underlying reasons many congregations and pastors are reluctant to adopt social media for ministry is because historically we have had such low expectations when it comes to ministry leaders and technology.
Think about it.
One of the challenges for churches and ministers working in social media is figuring out how to build meaningful relationships with members, friends, and strangers.
In his book, The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk draws on lessons he's learned from working with customers with his wine business and translates them into some great lessons for life, business, social media - and, as I see it, church and ministry.
Its worth reading in its entirety, but here are four big lessons I took away from it:
“a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” - Psalm 51:17,
Today marks the 66th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. After these many years, it feels as though we are all still catching up to his brilliant theology, his Christian witness, and his deep understanding of discipleship.
On this day, it seems appropriate to reflect upon what Bonhoeffer called the “cost of discipleship” and to ask what it means for us now. In my experience as a parish pastor, I’ve come to see that each of us calculate the cost of discipleship differently. We each give it a different name.
For me, its name is heartbreak.
A Little Coffee Leads to Big Change
About a year ago I started holding office hours in a local coffee shop.
Sometimes people came, sometimes they didn’t, but the experience opened our congregation up to a new way of thinking about our presence in the towns that surround our congregation.
As a result, we have now held events in four towns beyond Woburn.·I believe these too will become stepping stones to something more.
Here are nine reason that going beyond our building has worked for us and may work for you too: