Sunday, 1 January 2012

Back Burner Ministry

Soon after I closed down my last blog to start "Rethinking Faith and Church" in early 2010, I had the honour and privilege to meet several interesting people online. Jeremy Myers is one such person. I have enjoyed following him on social networks and reading his blog, "Till He Comes." 

Recently I asked Jeremy if he might consider being a Guest Blogger on "Rethinking Faith and Church." I am honoured that he said, "Yes." It gives me great pleasure to have him inaugurate this New Year on my blog. 

Please welcome my friend Jeremy.

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Most followers of Jesus eventually feel like they have been "put on the back burner." I suspect Moses felt like this while he was tending sheep for 40 years in the desert. Most of the prophets felt this way when they did their best to speak the Word of God, and only got mocked, jeered, and imprisoned in return. I'm pretty sure Saul (Paul) felt this way also after his conversion when he spent 14 years in Tarsus.

Maybe you are in a similar situation. You are in the boondocks. In the sticks. You feel like you are a nobody.

Sometimes we think this is because God is punishing us, but this is usually not the case. Most often, God puts us in such situations so we can mature and prepare for the next stage of ministry God has for us.

In some ways, I have recently felt "benched." Some of it, I'm certain, is disciplinary. (No, I won't explain why.) But also, I think that this time is also to help me mature and prepare for what God has for me in the future. And I am beginning to discover that on the sidelines is where the greatest mission and discipleship work can be done.

For example, how many pastors, in their quest for the radio spot and the book deal, have neglected ministry to their wife and children? I know I have. And while I'm somewhat a novice at family ministry, I am beginning to find that what I used to view as secondary (or tenth) is actually primary. A friend recently reminded me that family discipleship is God's primary plan for world evangelism. I always knew this cognitively, but I never really practiced it.

And take my job. I'm a prison chaplain. It's not a bad job, but definitely not one which will get me book deals and speaking engagements. Even from a fulfillment perspective, one of the things I enjoy most about following Jesus is studying and teaching Scritpure. Prison chaplaincy provides me little opportunity for either. So for me, Prison chaplaincy seems like back burner ministry.

But in some ways, I am discovering that prison ministry could actually be front line mission work. Prisons have a spiritual dimension, and I am convinced prisons are not only strongholds made of cement and razor wire, but are also strongholds of spiritual darkness. In many ways, Satan loves what goes on in prisons. The way inmates are treated. The way staff are treated. And most of all, the spiritual ignorance and blindness that is prevalent among both groups. And I am right there, at the gates of hell. Close enough to smell the smoke and feel the flames.

Back burner ministry? No. Front line mission.

Besides, in some ways I am beginning to believe that some of the people in prison are the future of Christianity. Most don't think of them in this way, but as Jesus said, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

I believe that a great reversal is coming in the world, and those who are currently on the stages and in the spotlights will soon find themselves in the wings, while those who were turned away at the door will find themselves at the "front and center" of God's eternal plan for this world.

So where do you find yourself on the "stage of Christianity"? Do you feel like you've been benched? Are you sitting in the penalty box with your head hanging low? Are you on the floor, with a dazed expression on your face as the referee counts to ten?

But this is exactly where God wants you, because you are now drawing near to His kind of world, and His kind of ministry.

It is only when you've missed the bus (or got thrown under it), that you look around and see all the other people who are in the same predicament. And wouldn't you know it, Jesus is there too, saying, "Welcome! Your true ministry starts now, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these."


  1. Good stuff. It is hard to get away from the on stage mentality where it is assumed that the guys on stage in the spotlight are the guys God is working through the most.

  2. Thanks for posting this Will. I put up a notice on my blog inviting people to come read it here.

    I'm looking forward to what you write for my blog.

  3. Arthur,
    Sadly, that is so true. I know that was once true of my way of thinking when I was on stage. But I like what Jeremy said: "I believe that a great reversal is coming in the world..."
    Thanks for your comment.

    Thank you too for sharing. I appreciate it. I will have an article for your blog very soon.


  4. Arthur,

    So true. You know, even in "non institutional" church we have stages. Book authors and big-name bloggers and so on. It's hard to escape from.

    I got your post. It looks great! I sent you an email. It should go up this Friday.

  5. Awesome thoughts. A recent post that I've read that goes really well with this.

    Christian Imagination: Living Thy Kingdom Come

    On being "in the spotlight" and/or "on stage..."

    The assumption that pure things become impure by contact with something impure rather than the other way around is called negativity dominance. This is our fallen psychology. Jesus practiced positivity dominance as He got around the impure and rubbed off His purity onto them. We are invited to do the same by replacing our fallen psychology with redeemed psychology. We can only practice this if we are around impure things.

    The rock that Jesus was standing on where He said He would build His church was an impure one. It was a literal rock called the Rock of the Gods. In plain view were the gates of Hades, a river coming out of the hill. Jesus’ point? The church is built upon the impure. Therefore, the church wrongly only plays defense against impure things when it should also play offense.

  6. Reminds me of that old hymn, "Little Is Much When God Is in It," going on to say, "labor not for wealth or fame.." Human nature says big numbers and lights equal success; but looking at the humility of God through the way He revealed Himself in Jesus, describes success in quite different terms.
    I enjoy both your blogs, btw. I don't comment very often these days due to time and computer access, but I'm reading

    1. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the comment. Peace & Blessings.