By Matthew B. Harper, a resident in a Virginia prison. Reprinted from Living God’s Mission.
“What is your ministry?”
As I have worked my way through the church’s discernment process, I have struggled when someone asks me this. And it gets asked a lot.
It is a good question because it seeks to understand my role in community, and how I view my relationship with others and my calling from God. But it is also a terrible question, because it is asking me to take the calling of my heart and distill it into something that can fit on a resume.
Isn’t it enough of an answer just to say, “I’m a Christian”?
A simple statement of identity should ground all of us as ministers of the gospel. As Christians we all HAVE a ministry. Some people are very deliberate in what they do, and some lucky few make a living doing it, but each and every one of us is a minister making their way in the world. As such, everything we do IS our ministry. Maybe it’s a big, loud, front-and-center ministry, and maybe it’s a quiet and diligent ministry. Maybe we are preaching to a congregation or leading a huge public charity, and maybe we are just being kind, honest, and decent to the people we see every day. Maybe we teach children or we sell cars, but even if we can’t talk about God to others, we are loving them through our words and actions.
Whatever it looks like, it’s kingdom work.
Preaching, teaching, leading music in worship, these things are easy to identify as my “ministry.” But when I hug and encourage Chris in the chow hall, or help Kenny find a book in the library, when I show Charles how to do something in class, or spend a recreation period walking, talking, and listening to Brad – these things are also ministry. I don’t plan them, or categorize them; I am just trying to do the right things, the Christian things, in each situation. These are concrete actions where the gospel of grace is being manifest through my life.
Sometimes those momentary opportunities have spawned plans and actions still going strong years later, other times it’s just a hug and a smile and we all keep moving. All of them matter.
Trying to keep track of them as if to check boxes on my “Christian resumé” somehow cheapens them. And whatever happened to the right hand not letting the left hand in on the secret?
I am a Christian, nothing more or less (and not always a great one), trying hard to live in grace in this place, at this moment, open to the leading of the spirit.
If I put that on my resume it’s going to be a short document, but it will still say a lot. Maybe that’s enough?