By M. Joel Zentkovich
I just recently wrote an article about a box. In that box are all the ideas, resources, etc. that you always wanted to have. The problem is becoming so enamored with what is inside the box we fail at the reason why it even exists: to help with the world outside the box. After getting some feedback, it seems that some misunderstood my point and that I was just saying “We need to think outside of the box” such as creating new concepts like some sort of Christian/missionary entrepreneur. There’s a place for that type of creativity, but let me define my idea a little more by posing a question: Do you have your eyes open to the world around you?
That may seem like an odd question, but it is one that you must ask yourself as a minister of the gospel. Many times we get so caught up in our methods and Christian sub-culture that, when we think about it, we do have a certain blindness to what is going on in the community around us.
Some of us find ourselves carrying out ministry in a box of prepackaged methods and borrowed ideas from those we see as successful. Now, although we can learn many things and be motivated to new heights through those things in the box...are we looking outside the box to see who this is being applied to? The two most popular ways that I see prohibitive “in the box thinking” emerge is “that is how we have always done it” and “that is how (insert famous pastor) does it”.
Based on those two ways of thinking, I have a few considerations for you. First, you live and work in a community that is alive and changing...culture/subculture is always changing and adjusting...it is alive. Second, If you are simply doing what another minister is doing somewhere else in the world, how do you know if it will work in the context that you are in? Example: something that a pastor does in the subculture of suburban Seattle is not necessarily applicable to urban Atlanta or rural Nebraska. Third, we must remember that point of ministry is not to carry on in a way that is comfortable or popular...but that we are being who God called us to be in the community that he called us to.
So what is my purpose in writing this? My purpose is to remind us as ministers of the gospel to keep our eyes open to who is around us and based on what we see, ask God how we should respond. When we look at the ministry of Jesus and His followers, we see that they were ministering in a way that would be understood in a certain cultural context. Jesus communicated through word and action to a certain people in a certain place the truths about who he was in a way that was clearly understood. The early ministers of gospel followed in Jesus footsteps by observing the culture of the communities in which they were called and communicating through word and action in a way that could be understood.
re you ministering to the community around you in a way that is understood? Or are you in “the box” doing ministry that is possibly in the context of another time or place. I encourage you, go into your community and observe where God has placed you. As you are observing, ask God how you are to respond. Then be who God has called you to be in the community that he has called you to, and communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that can be understood clearly.
Think about it:
How are we naturally defining our “culture” and “community?” Is it some sort of outside, objective concept or are we placing ourselves within it? (i.e. our neighborhood, our city, our workplace, etc.)
Talk about it:
Share some observations that you’ve made about your “Circle of Accountability”--aka, the immediate world around you within which you live, work, and play. By sharing our findings with each other, we force ourselves to think about it and even see how every subculture is unique.
Here’s a simple challenge: Ask God to show you how to learn and adapt your ministry to where He has placed you. Put your spiritual ear to the ground and listen to the daily rhythms of life within your circle of accountability.