As I watch my friends in ministry, I note an odd inconsistency: Most of them ardently believe in what they're doing, yet many are utterly discouraged. They find themselves much too busy, and, what may be worse, their busyness seems barren. Hence their disillusionment.
One of the problems is that our training (if we received any} may not have fully prepared us for the work to which we've been called. We've acquired a few tools and some skill to proceed with our task, but, when we get around to working with people, we sometimes find ourselves laboring on without some of the basic stuff of which the work is made, trying to make bricks without straw.
Getting the basics down, as any coach will tell you, is the name of the game. Yet we don't think much about the fundamentals because we're either too busy to think about them, or we assume we know what they are-an error akin to the old fallacy of believing you know the answer to a question before it's asked. The truth is that few ever ask about the fundamentals.
So we soldier on-getting busier, running in our own version of the fast lane, increasing our pace and our blood pressure, rushing to our own destruction like the Gadarene swine. Our densely-packed lives lead us to respond like the Mad Hatter, who, when he was told that the inhabitants of Alice's world had to run very fast to get anywhere, replied, "A very odd world. Here one must run very fast to stay in the same place." Equally apropos is the sentiment on a plaque that used to hang over my mother's desk: "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." In the end, despite our zeal, we wear down, our expectations fade, and we consider bailing out. Nothing quite dispels the myth of ministry like being in it.
And so, as I think of my work and ponder ways to help others with theirs, my question has become one of basics: What are the parameters-the fixed reference points? What are the principles that apply everywhere, regardless of time and place? All too often, what works in one situation won't work in another, and if we try to force-fit an inappropriate solution, we can do a lot of harm.
Programs and procedures vary from place to place, but principles remain constant. They can be transferred from one situation to another. Hence my search for the fundamentals. I know they must come from God rather than from my own background and tradition because often my own experience doesn't apply. The safest course is to find a pattern in the Word. As George MacDonald said, "The design of God is always other and better than the designs of man." It's my hope that these essays reflect something of that Grand Design.
If there's any wisdom in my ministry, it comes from many sources, but mostly from my companion and co-laborer, Carolyn, who for the past thirty-four years has shared my life and work and helped me sort out truth from error. She is one of God's faithful servants now the Minister of Women's Ministries at Cole Community Church-and one of my mentors; she is my Deborah, under whose palm tree and at whose feet I sit. The words in these writings may be mine, but the best ideas are hers.
What I offer are mere thoughts-ideas about serving others, in no particular order, most of which were originally written for workers that I know. This is not a how-to-do-ministry book. It's rather a set of musings about some things I'm learning after thirty years of ministry. Some of the essays are short simply because I had nothing more to say at the time. Others are longer; none are finished. In a year or two I'll probably want to rethink them, polish them up, fill them out. But for now I leave them as they are-an interim effort forced out of me by what I see around me in the church.
It is my hope that together we will learn and find rest in our labor. For, as our Lord assured us, His yoke was meant to be easy and His burden light.
A Burden Shared
Copyright © 1991 by David Roper
Discovery House Publishers,
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