At the Orange Conference, Reggie Joiner gave a great message about getting messy in ministry. It’s true that “sometimes God’s job for us is messier than we had in mind.” Reggie shared a story of how he helped a man who had soiled himself in the bathroom at the mall. My wife loves telling people about her dedication to me– I once had taken so much valium after a surgery that I soiled myself, and she lovingly cleaned it up. [If pooping in your pants is cool. Consider me Miles Davis?] So, yeah, sometimes love gets messy…
Here are some of Reggie’s main points:
1. There’s no way to do what we do [in ministry] without getting messy.
Whether it’s working with babies (I got bit and peed on in my time in my old church’s preschool ministry), working with middle school (recovering from when a kid passes gas in a small group), or high school (breakups, questions of sexuality, etc.), ministry gets messy!
2. There was no way for Jesus to do what He did without getting messy.
Jesus didn’t live a sinless life so He could be an example; He lived so that He could die. He didn’t die to make us happy; He died so we can be forgiven.
3. Making disciples required getting messy.
Jesus sent the disciples into a “Hunger Games” type environment. These young people who were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and the words of the Gospel were thrust into a world where everyone was watching their every move, hanging on their every word, and planning how they would die. I mean, what were they going to do, though? They saw Jesus’ example. If Jesus did messy, they did messy. And they did. When we are making disciples of Jesus who make disciples, we have to prepare them for a messy world too. The interesting thing is that a lot of ministry-types view increased numbers and convenience of ministry as success– what if success is measured by getting messier?
4. There’s no way to make disciples without them getting messy.
This is really resonating with me. One of the biggest take-homes from the Orange Conference. We’ve got to provide opportunities for our students to do ministry while they are with us. It’s easy to pretend to love God; it’s hard to pretend to love your neighbor. Yeah, we can grow our kids up in “the truth”– but let’s remember that Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and love people. Reggie made this great point, “Don’t minimize what God has maximized.” Wow. We got to empower our students to put love in action.
I don’t know about you, but I’m already wanting to shut down my news feed on Facebook the last couple of weeks. I don’t know how my heart can take all of the negativity, half-truths, and attacks that are going on amongst my friends and family on Facebook daily. It’s probably only going to get worse as we near November. And even then, people will have sour grapes for a long time afterwards. God knows I am so, so tempted to get caught up in the maelstrom of arguments. That’s a different kind of messy than what Reggie is talking about. But Reggie challenged us again in the idea that “Jesus changed hearts; He didn’t establish a kingdom.” Right now, we should probably focus on the Gospel (the story of how people can be made right with God) than the issues. Christians need to unite around the Gospel and spend a little less time arguing about whether Jesus would have worn a red or blue tie.
You know, ultimately, God chose the image of blood and the Cross to remind us of God’s love. Boy, if that’s not messy, I don’t know what is. That night, we celebrated that image by having communion together as a group. That was really powerful. I bet we all believed different things about all kinds of aspects of the Bible and life. But we all united on that evening around the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Somehow that messiness bonded us all together.
My prayer is that I don’t run away from the messiness of real ministry, Jesus-style ministry. Reggie kicked the conference off with an important challenge.
Let’s get messy.