Models of Ministry part 3: circus performer, rabbi, imam, guru.

10 May 2017

In my more relaxed moments I consider models of ministry from outside the church.

I sometimes think of the Church as a circus and I am one of the performers.

When all is going well I might consider the role of ring master, a sort of compere, acting as the one who steps in between acts to keep the show on the road.

Occasionally I feel as if I am walking a tightrope with the audience waiting for me to lose my balance.

At a difficult Church Council I might consider the role of lion tamer.

Sometimes I feel as if I am the clown – trying to put on a brave face when behind the mask all I want to do is cry.

And then there are other models that come from faiths different to my own.

Through my close contact with rabbis I have come to see the importance of teaching, of opening up scripture no matter how difficult or obscure the text.

When I worked with Kosovan Albanian refugees 20 years ago the local Muslim community were an important part of the support network. I started getting telephone calls from members of that community about all sorts of things, including a teenage boy whose mother had told him to ring me because he wanted to find a local football team to play for. I came to discover that in some Islamic cultures the imam is the one to whom members of the community turn if they need something to be fixed, or a contact to be made. The imam is the one who knows a man who can.

And there is one more model that I have more recently come to reflect upon, that is the guru.

Now if I were to advise Methodist ministers to become gurus I guess we would have an interesting reaction.

Today we use the term in all sorts of ways.

There might be a career guru – an expert who offers advice on career paths.

There might be a health guru – an expert in wellbeing.

Of course we are more likely to think of the Guru as an enlightened being.

The thought of being an enlightened being as a model of ministry might turn us off.

But I have discovered that the term is made up of two words from an ancient Asian language.  Gu and ru. Gu means dark, ru means light.

A guru is one who takes a journey from darkness to light; and who guides others on this journey of transformation.

I don’t think that’s a bad model for ministry; and it’s one we can all adopt as we sit with those whose past diminishes their present or with those who fear the future.

As we minister to one another, as we ponder what may be done with what is left of what was once attractive, thriving and glorious we can take the journey from dark to light, from night to dawn, from despair to hope, from death even to life.

In recent weeks a number of people have asked me about the future of the church. The future is playing on people’s minds.

In some cases I have nearly been in tears as those who have given their life to their local church lament the burden of maintaining the premises. They desperately try different things to attract others to what they feel is an absolutely vital aspect of their life. Then they are unable to understand the reluctance or even indifference of their neighbours.

The fear of closure and death is very real; not just the existential fact but of society too and the church’s role within it.

In our lifetime we are experiencing changes that previously would have taken generations to evolve.

At a time when we have better communications at our disposal, loneliness is as great as it has ever been.

At a time when we can see before our eyes the consequences of hostility we threaten war on an unprecedented scale.

At a time when we witness at first hand the stories of survivors we somehow grow deaf to their cries.

If we were to sit back and either fall for prejudice or to allow it to fester we would be failing our calling.

Or if we offer a lazy rejection to challenge and the possibility of change by claiming to draw on traditional belief this would be no way to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The journey from darkness to light includes showing interest in the one who is different.

The journey includes revisiting our beliefs and practices.

The journey includes providing hospitality to the stranger fleeing their home.

The journey includes ending the madness of inequality.

To take this journey will to us appear to be a small act of kindness, generosity or resistance on our part.  But to take the journey together, joining hands with those whom we have never travelled before, will change for the better not only us as individuals but our communities and world.

Yes we need to be gurus alright.

We need to take the journey.

And this is the supreme model of ministry found in Jesus.





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