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  • Ministry & The Self

    Jim Wallace

    We began this series with an observation: ‘Ministry’ is a word we commonly use in Christian circles. Like most words, however, it can have a variety of meanings. Our uses of the word can subtly slip to different meanings without full awareness.

    Cognizant of that, we want to highlight portions of our institute’s statements that have negative connotations:

    “We don’t use people to get ministry done…”

    “We reject using people to complete (self-directed & self-serving) ministry labors.”

    Martin Luther once said something like this: ‘Sin is the self, curved in on itself.’ The nature of sin is an inward turn, contrasted with a spiritual outward turn. The inward is blindness. The outward, a beholding of God and others in love. We’ll begin to describe the inward turn with two phrases: self-directed and self-serving.

    Self-directed. ‘Orientation’ is an important word in contemporary culture. What is your default orientation? At home, at work, in friendships? For some, daily actions reflect an orientation toward external counsel. Others tend to operate out of privately-designed plans, with little concern of others.

    Do others ‘feel heard’ by you — or merely directed in your agenda?

    Self-serving. ‘Consumption.’ Some might argue that the health of our American economic system is dependent on ever-increasing consumption. That’s a debate for another time. One thing’s clear: many restaurants work on a ‘self-service’ model catering to individual, heavy consumption. 

    Do others ‘feel felt’ and empowered by you — or consumed like a well-done steak in your teeth-grinding efforts?


    Reflective exercises to consider:

    Describe your ‘orientation’ in decision-making, especially related to the Bible, prayer and counsel.

    Describe your patterns of ‘consumption,’ especially related to relationships, food and entertainment.

    Suggestion: If it shows up in private/at home/in body… it probably pops up in public/at work/in heart.