As I posted recently, I’ve taken a challenge to bike my town. You can see that post here.
As I bike I run into more and more ways God is speaking to me about my ministry. I am not a pastor. But I definitely feel I am in ministry. So for further reference, let me explain what “ministry” is. It can be a full-time, educated, paid position. But it doesn’t HAVE to be. To do ministry is a day-to-day act of pointing towards Jesus. To make a conscious effort to tell others about Jesus, through your speech, demeanor, love, and wisdom.
I am a pastor’s wife, and I see the full-time, educated, paid ministry on a day-to-day basis. So although I feel God is speaking to me about the ministry my husband and I do, I also feel it can be used in any ministry.
I’m biking in July now. And awesome enough it’s been fairly cool out, so I figured I could get out without being eaten alive by bugs… and as I’m riding through SWARMS of various bugs, I’m reminded of the many “bugs” I’ve encountered in this ministry journey. I am very thankful that I face far more warm-hearted, encouraging, loving people… but unfortunately the bugs seem to stand out.
The weather was great out. There was a cool breeze, not too hot, not too cold. I knew I could get a good ride in before dark so I set out. Without realizing what I was doing I headed for the lake. I paused thinking, Won’t the mosquitos be heavy by the lake? But the wind was pretty steady, so I went for it anyway. As soon as I made it far enough for it to make no sense to turn back I hit the SWARMS of bugs. I think we learned in science last year that they are called “noseeums”. No-SEE- ums. The pastor takes a church based on where they feel called, where the doors open, and how the spirit moves as they “interview” at the church. Of course the bugs don’t come out, they lay low, they are the no see ums. When you move into your new home, and dream of showing Christ to your neighbor you don’t realize just who your neighbors might be. They are the no see ums. The gnatty side doesn’t come out until after the honeymoon phase.
These bugs (people) could care less that you’re soaring along, wind in your hair, feeling ministry is just so easy. They fly right into your eyes. They cloud your vision. Telling you you’re not making changes fast enough, or WAY too fast (for pastors), or they start complaining that your kid left their bike out in the yard. They cause you to squint, glare, and close your eyes. They could care less that you can no longer see where your going. Will you let your vision be clouded?
Just as you pick up speed, a huge moth flies right into your face. You’d think you’d be able to dodge it, but moths look so gentle… until they smack you upside your head! Nothing hurts worse in ministry than those you love, the ones you feel God put in your path to minister to (whether it’s your congregation, the youth, your sunday school class, or your coworkers) would rather smack you around instead of following you. Here you thought white angelic, soft little moth was “cute”. They wreak havoc on your life, and your ministry.
So as you’re pedaling along on the path of this ministry, you hit some hills (be sure to see what I think about these angry hills, by reading my previous post mentioned above), and if you’re like me, you crank up the music and sing along. My feet pedal faster as my spirit lifts higher… so I do the obvious, I open my mouth and sing. I’d bet you can tell where this is going. If you open your mouth, the bugs fly in! You hack, you cough, you spit… but the taste is still there. The bugs in your life, and ultimately in your ministry leave a bad taste in your mouth. 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close. Bugs can leave such a nasty taste in your mouth, that some stop ministering completely.
And right when you learn your lesson, and decide to breath through your nose, you begin to inhale the pesky bugs. Without some type of protection, bugs will take your breath away. I’m not sure that these swarms of bugs set out to make my ride miserable. I’m not sure they had me in mind when they got all buggy, but their actions still affected me. And I realized I needed protection. I need a nice bike helmet with a shield. Like I was a motorcyclist. But what if you’re not on a bike, but just trying to follow what you feel God has called you to do?
Wear protection… maybe I should reword that. Protect yourself and keep ministering.
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world (maybe they are called “noseeums”), against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:11-18) **italicized words were added by me**
The ministry will always have them. But with our full armor, I think we can save our vision, our faces, our breath, and save us from eating bugs!
Oh, and let’s not forget the beginning verse of this passage. Verse 10 says
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Keep biking/ministering… it will make you stronger! Be STRONG in the Lord! His mighty power is worth it!
**Disclosure… We are so very blessed in our current ministry, and I am in no way, shape or form implying that our church is full of bugs. But I also know that as we grow, and continue to teach, our church, as with most churches are not immune from such bugs. I do not have specific names for my bugs, but over the past 15 years, I’ve seen enough to understand the analogy God showed me as I was fighting off the swarms on a July evening bike ride.