If I were a betting monk, I’d bet you think you know what kind of ministry we’re about to discuss. Well, you may be surprised.
Consistent with my own upbringing and training, I don’t administer from the viewpoint that “God ordains/raises/calls forth minist-RIES”, but that He calls minist-ERS with a peculiar burden and calling to meet particular needs of people.
Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” [Matthew 9:35-38]
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An ordained minister who joins the Marine Corps, serves for five years with distinction, does two tours of deployment in the Middle East, and returns safely to demobilize. Upon returning home, rejoining family, and attending his old home church, he finds he can no longer connect. In fact, he comes to the conclusion that he has utterly lost his faith, no longer even certain that God exists.
A dedicated Christian who has served as youth minister and now is early in career as an EMT providing ambulance service with a fire department. Seeks supportive prayer after completing a call to a child injured by abuse who suffered for hours, and may not survive her hospital stay.
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EMT’s, Firefighters, Police, Medical Personnel, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Veterans… all are people who are (or who may be) exposed at any time to sights, sounds, smells, and situations that none of us need or want to see. When we, as human beings, spend considerable time in horrific situations, we make adjustments… mental, emotional, even spiritual adjustments to maintain our balance and sense of self control. The fancy word for this is often “dissociate”. We “distance ourselves” from empathy, sympathy, and the personal experience of suffering, pain, or trauma.
Such traumatic environments are sometimes called “soup”… and the sojourner new to such traumatic environments will be told, “You’re in the ‘Soup’ now, bud.” (Of course, if not in mixed or polite company, the word “soup” may be replaced with another, more descriptive, term.) Such sojourners may find the raw reality with which they’ve dealt, difficult to reconcile with the “Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild”, or the community church’s domesticated God. They often find it equally difficult to relate to the general community of relationships, or even their own families or spouse.
There is “texture” to a “community”. A shared background of outlook and experiences. When individuals enter into an “alien” or “unpredictable” community they adjust, sometimes creating permanent change. Many of our neighbors, even (probably) a fair number of our congregants or their family members, may have made such adjustments and changes. Perhaps they have “fallen away” from church attendance.
This isn’t a post about “getting more people into the church pews”. Heaven forbid!
This is a post about making Christ, His living Presence accessible to those who may feel disconnected or numb in their spiritual senses. This isn’t a “How To DIY” program outline. I cannot tell you how to engage those who have “lost their first love” relationship with Jesus, and nurture its transformation into a broader, deeper, richer, more mature relationship. But I CAN share a few ideas, principles, seeds… that you and your brethren may care to consider.
(1) Healing comes through trusting relationship, and those relationships are most easily formed with another, or others, who have been there themselves. If you are a veteran, an emergency services worker, or have been a chaplain, then you may be well suited to this personal ministry. If not, do you have one in your congregation? Or do you know one?
(2) Healing comes through grace touching heart to heart, not professional intervention. There is a right place and time for professional services. When everyday living or commonplace relationships are challenged by emotional dysfunction, expert systems are appropriate. But a supportive, encouraging, accepting environment that welcomes people at large, and peers who’ve “been there, done that” in tough situations, is a terrific medium for nurturing healthy relationships.
(3) Healing comes through context more than content. I’m not proposing an “agenda”, a “program”, or a “treatment protocol” by any means. I pose the possibility that making some form of informal fellowship available for interaction among “Been-There-Done-That” folks. Bowling? Cards? Disaster Relief? BBQ Competition Team? Chili Cook-Off Team? Fishing Group? Who knows? Possibilities limited only by imagination.
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So, am I saying “you need” (or “your church needs”) “to go pursue this ministry”? No, no I’m not.
I am asking if this is a need where you are. If it is, I suggest you and others pray and discuss the possibilities, and let the Lord lead and do, as He ever leads and does. You may want to create this unique form of “Soup Kitchen Ministry”, not to provide soup for those who hunger, but to help wash the feet of those who have been mired “in the soup” itself.
Please share any ideas or comments you may have. Particularly if this is something you’ve taken part in addressing, have any suggestions, and are willing to share.
Grace to you, Gentle Reader!