They used to say your effectiveness in ministry could be judged by the number of cigarette butts (or BMWs) in your church parking lot. Now it's measured by the number of Simpsons/Matrix/Coldplay references you can include in a single sermon. C'mon. I agree with Dick Staub (www.dickstaub.com) in "The Rise of the Culturally-Connected Christian" by Kirk Noonan (page 24): "We have Christians who have a high cultural literacy. But many are biblically illiterate." I'm impressed that many evangelicals have overcome their fear of society. We've gone from "taking back America" to "engaging culture." Let's not forget, though: We're aliens, holding temporary visas on a planet that's scheduled for major renovations. In the meantime, we contribute to culture, participate in society and confront injustice—until the King returns. (Yes, that was a not-so-subtle cultural reference.)
Open Source Ministry
Recently, I heard Ed Young Jr. (www.fellowshipchurch.com) encourage an audience of pastors to "plagiarize" creative ideas from other pastors. Sure, in the world of journalism and academia this practice is frowned upon. In the church, it shouldn't be. Maybe a safer term could be borrowed from geekdom: "open source." When computer software is "open source," it is made accessible to users for adaptation, modification and improvement—without violating copyright restrictions. Even as I was writing this column, I heard about a church that's offering a complete multimedia VBS curriculum it created—downloadable for free. If you've discovered a creative way of doing ministry, it is unlikely you stumbled upon it by serendipity. If it's a "God idea," it belongs to all of us. Seek. Find. Adapt. Share. Collaborate. As Mark Batterson (www.evotional.com) says, "There are ways of doing ministry that haven't been discovered yet."
Exit Stage Right
Chris Maxwell's (www.chrismaxwellweb.com) article ("Runaway Shepherds?" page 29) on pastors leaving ministry brings up a good question: Is a call to vocational ministry permanent? I've heard the pastoral callings of pedophiles, adulterers and rage-aholics defended from Romans 11:29 ("For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable"). But let's be honest: that passage has absolutely nothing to do with a call to ministry; it's referring to God's eternal choice of Israel as a covenant people. God has called us all to ministry, and some of us get paid for it. Those who have the guts to sense God's direction to leave vocational ministry—and obey it—should be applauded and supported as they take their ministry outside the four walls of the church.