Claiming the Mission: Or, What I Learned at the Dentist’s Office


by Fletcher Lowe

As I sat in the dentist’s chair somewhat anxious (isn’t that what most of us feel!) awaiting the dentist, I began a conversation with the hygienist.  She spoke about how much she loved what she did, how fulfilling it was.  I said, “Sounds like you have a real ministry here.”  She paused and said, “I never thought of it as a ministry.”  I then pressed it a bit as to her strong commitment in using her God-given skills to help others, and she then reflected, “Well, perhaps it is a ministry…. Yes, I think it is.”

Last Sunday after a church service when I was talking with a newcomer, I asked what she did professionally.  She said she worked in a Social Service office.  I commented what a gift she must be to the people with whom she worked.  She responded by saying how much she did like what she did and, for the most part, she enjoyed the clients with whom she worked.  I said, “That is a real ministry.” To which she replied, “I never thought of it in that way. But maybe it is.”

These conversations reflect a couple of things to me:

  1. How isolated the word “ministry” is in many church-going people’s minds – limited to those who are professional “ministers.”
  2. How that isolation reflects on the opportunity the Church has – to acknowledge that chasm by helping people name the name, recognizing that what they are doing with their God-given time and ability is really a God-given ministry.

Christians are engaged in ministry every day in their daily lives, be it at work or in the community or at home.  We just need to help them name it.  In doing so we empower people to see that what they are doing is an expression of what God has called them to do and be.

img_1386J. Fletcher Lowe, Jr. is the convener of Episcopalians on Baptismal Mission, a group of lay persons, priests, and bishops committed to promoting the ministry of all the baptized in their daily lives. Rector emeritus of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, Fletcher is the author of Baptism: the Event and the Adventure, co-editor of Ministry in Daily Life, and co-author of Radical Sending. 

In the above image by Verda Parker, Lynn McDonald, registered dental hygienist at the Naval Branch Medical Clinic’s Dental facility, gives a visiting student a ride in the dental chair. 

Reprinted from Living God’s Mission

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