Thursday, March 5, 2015

Invited Into our Father's Business

By Randy Bloom, Regional pastor for GCI

Trinitarian theology teaches us that God (Father, Son and Spirit) is “on mission” in the world and we are invited to participate! We participate as we actively engage with Jesus, by the Spirit, in our Lord’s various continuing ministries, which, by grace, extend the life and love of God to all people everywhere. 

Occasionally we wonder if it’s OK to focus on being “effective” in our participation. After all, isn’t Jesus responsible for the effectiveness of his own ministries? It’s good to exercise some caution here—we don’t want to drift
into legalistic thinking regarding “how well we’re doing” which can lead to increasingly frantic activity, discouragement and feelings of guilt over an apparent lack of “results.” So how should we approach the topic of ministry effectiveness? Perhaps an analogy from my own life will help, though analogies are never perfect. 

One day when I was a teen, my Dad informed me that I would be joining him in his house painting business. I knew nothing about painting and had no painting skills. But he took me to work with him anyway and provided resources and taught me basic skills. Dad could have continued to paint houses without me. But he didn’t want to. Among other motives, he wanted me to be with him and be part of what he was doing. I could have been uncooperative (it wouldn’t have been the first time!), but I chose not to be. 

Several positive things took place over time as I participated with him in his enterprise. I learned how to paint houses by listening, observing and applying what Dad was teaching me. I was mentally, physically and emotionally engaged. I developed relationships—making friends with people who worked on Dad’s crew and with his clients. We made homes more beautiful---and I made some money! While I grew in effectiveness as a painter, Dad and I grew closer as father and son. All this was possible because Dad provided the opportunities and resources—he supported me. My “effectiveness” grew as I was fully engaged, learning and applying skills, which took time and practice. I was clumsy and messy at first and early on I didn’t enjoy the process. But that changed over time. With a willingness to learn and a lot of practice I began to enjoy painting houses and even took pride in my work. I’m sure you have had similar life experiences. 

So it is with our participation in ministry with Jesus, who includes us in what he is doing to fulfill the Father’s mission to the world. By uniting us to his Son, the Father has adopted us as his children and included us in the “family business” of reconciling people everywhere, drawing them into his life and love. We grow in effectiveness in that work as we participate actively—physically, mentally and emotionally engaged as individuals and congregations in what Jesus is doing to fulfill the Father’s mission. 

Sometimes that participation is “passive” as we pause to pray, listen and discern. Then there are times when we move forward, actively engaging in what the Lord has called us to do with him (you can’t paint a house just praying about it!). Our participation with Christ is thus both passive and active. Whether or not that participation is “effective,” in the sense of bearing fruit, is God’s responsibility—it’s his doing, but note that he bears fruit through us. He freely chooses to do so because he loves us and wants us to experience his life with him. He wants to see us learn, grow and enjoy being and doing with him. He wants us to share in the joy of touching and transforming the lives of others. Our effectiveness in this comes through his provision—he produces the fruit of changed lives through us. What a privilege we have to be involved in our Dad’s work!

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