Jonathan David Faulkner
I think it was about 3AM sometime last year. I was lying awake because my dorm room was way too hot for early-november in New England and I had fallen asleep way too early because my allergies had been really bad that day. I had missed dinner and was hungry but knew that getting up and eating was probably a bad idea. All I could do was lay there and sweat and wonder if I was going to get back to sleep.
Of course, God had other plans for that moment, he usually does, a thing I quite enjoy about Him.
The day before I had met with the assistant pastor at the church I had begun attending (the same one my older sister is a member at) about fulfilling the Mentored Ministry requirement for my degree at that church. I had some concerns about stepping into a ministry role where I was there to learn more about doing practical ministry rather than to just do ministry. I had served as a pastor for the previous year, managed 10:31 for five years and was concerned that my own ego would get in the way of me actually learning. I was stressing about this, I did not want to let those things that once got in the way of doing ministry well, I wanted to minister.
There in my bed I asked God what I needed to do…the answer… ”Just do it.”
“Excuse me Lord?”
“Just do it”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t just talk about it and do it…do ministry…trust in me…and do ministry.”
“You know what, that makes sense.”
Not that talking about ministry is a bad thing, it certainly is not, and it certain is necessary that Christian Leaders talk about ministry. But all too often Christians become very good at talking about doing things and then never actually do them. It sounds great to say something like: “We’re gonna make this a great Christian Community.” And then converse about creating this great Christian community to the point where we have convinced ourselves we have actually created that community even though we have not enacted those practices we talked about doing. Or we can latch onto an idea, such as Servant Leadership and preach about doing it but not actually be servant leaders ourselves.
A more popular example would be the idea of “Doing Life.” Think about it, how many times have heard the phrase “Doing life together” or the word “Intentional?” Sure, it’s great to say “Be Intentional” and it’s nice to talk about “Doing Life” but as a kid in a satire piece by The Babylon Bee so puts it “Everyone’s talking about doing life, all the time, but I have no idea what that means, to be honest, no one’s explained it to me.”
We talk about it, and we’re really good at it, but it is never demonstrated to us, in talk we leave out practicality, people grow wary of us and instead of actually doing life together, we become separate from one another. And of course, we are humans, we are fallen creatures, broken and messed up. We get frustrated with each other and hurt one another’s feelings. The reality then being the times we are actually doing life or being intentional are when there needs to be some healing work in a friendship or relationship.
Ministry falls into the same issue when we sit in planning meetings and talk about what we should do and then do not act on what we know we should do. I have even heard pastors go so far as to say: “If we want this done, we will have to spur others to do it.” Which is true, but if a pastor is not doing something himself, leading by example, how can the church really be intentional in ministry and actually do it. Programs sound great on paper, but if they are enacted out of some misinformed obligation or done half-heartedly by people who are there because they felt coerced into it then they will be ineffective. One of the things I appreciate most about the church I attend here in Hamilton is how they care of us as a church…all of us…
Why is that? Because our pastors, all of them, lead us by example, not through mere words or grand prose, but by loving us and being supportive of us as a body of Christ. All while maintaining Orthodoxy within the Reformed Tradition.
The truth is without practical practice of what we say we are going to do our words fall on deaf ears. And truly healthy relationship can operate on words alone It is easy for the Christian to talk about loving ones enemies, but when was the last time we actually did it? Even amongst believers, when disagreements arise we would rather run to our own ideological camps for protection. They will say things like: “We need to fix this” but nothing is ever done. It sounds good, but when no action is taken, it is not good.
Practical practices must be the result of prayer and seeking God in ministry. “Doing Life together” is a very “Intentional” thing when done this way. When we talk and then act the church and those who see us acting are edified instead of torn down. It also shows to them grace and the effects of the Gospel in our own lives. When love truly does spur us to good works people really will have no complaint against the body doing those works. And who knows, the Lord may add to our numbers more so than He currently is.
Jesus words were always backed by his actions. He did not merely love Lazarus, he wept over his death, he did not merely preach a message to the woman at the well, he treated her with dignity and kindness as he shared the Gospel. Even his words and actions towards the Pharisees may be construed as loving when you consider what Christ accomplished. Paul also backed up his words by his actions and the Gospel spread throughout the land.
So let’s stop talking about doing life together and actually do them for the glory of God. So that others might hear and see the good news and live.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry