This post is a result of a conversation I had with a colleague. You see, a few years back he decided to leave the pastorate for what he calls less messy vocation. He offered some of the usual suspects: the people, the extra stuff, the unnecessary fights over nonessentials and the immaterial—for example, the color of the carpet.
I smiled, while saying to myself, “I’ve heard this before.”
But whoever said that ministry was anything else! Yes, ministry by nature is messy. To confirm this, the observer only has to look at the three-and-a-half-year itinerant ministry of Jesus. In fact, the religious leaders of his day thought that Jesus was too messy because he was hanging out with the wrong people–tax collectors, drunkards, gluttons, and sinners. But we are all too familiar with Jesus’ response:
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (Luke 5:31-32 NLT)
In other words, according to Jesus, we are all sick—every last one of us! Christian leaders need to understand this. They need to teach their people this.
Rather than running from the local church because we think it is too messy, we need to understand and embrace ministry there, since there is where the Great Physician has stationed us. It’s our stewardship. In the words of Paul, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).
So is ministry meant to be messy? You better believe it is. The very incarnation, God becoming human, is the ultimate example of this.