The courage just to be there…

It has been good to be back from parish ministry  and to take stock.  I find that God has been bringing about certain freedoms. I am very grateful for my evangelical and charismatic beliefs, and actually for me there is not a valid alternative that would work for me, though I certainly seek to learn from those from other stables.  I have to say that I have found that “evangelicalism” and “charismaticism” can have their unattractive and unhelpful aspects too. Often evangelicalism can become a sort of Phariseeism. The Pharisees’ main  problem was not, as is sometimes portrayed, legalism or a belief in salvation by works, but more basically they suffered and made others suffer from their self-assured pronouncement of who was part of the people of God, the saved, and who was not. Evangelicalism can become like that sadly, insisting on a certain formulaic approach to salvation, at the very least suspicious of any salvation outside a true blue conservative evangelical church or ministry. Charismaticism on the other hand can often seem to be a very competitive world, where people feel the need to make great and exaggerated claims for their ministries and all that can be done through the gifts of the Spirit. There can be a unintended dishonesty about it all and a damaging of people who are promised much when actually very little of what is promised is delivered.

With regard to the latter, I just have to say it is fact that there are some human situations which do not yield entirely to the operation of the gifts of the Spirit during a ministry time at a conference or on  Sunday, valuable and much needed as such times may be. The reason is very simple: sometimes every part of a person’s humanness needs to grow into freedom through choices and growing trust and faith; sometimes there needs to be a deep work which because of the nature of it can best happen between God and a person in private. God is interested in the whole person and affords each person dignity and indeed times of privacy and the gift of the passing of time when that is required. Let’s not stake out too much ground and claim it for the gifts of the Spirit  mentioned in 1st. Corinthians and a few other places as though that is the only sort of ministry the Holy Spirit is capable of doing.

One of the deepest forms of ministry is when you can do nothing for a person other than be with them, giving an assurance  that you will stay with them come what may, and offering them not trite but quiet and real hope for their future in some sense just by a faithful non-afraid presence in the face of what for them seems too overwhelming.

Over the years a few people have asked me and indeed Morag too “Do you think I will get better, will I manage, will I be ok?.” Where that question is asked, I personally see it as  a hopeful and positive sign spiritually speaking, and more often than not, I have felt liberty to say, “Well, yes, I believe so actually, but I don’t know what God will do or how He will do it. Don’t be afraid.” Words, pictures, the laying on of hands and any gifts of healing that may be around may have blessed these people to a degree, but to limit the ministry of the Holy Spirit to a few charismatic gifts and procedures is almost blasphemous, certainly presumptuous, and to exhibit an ignorance as to  what it means to  regard someone as a person, a human being whom God made, loves and desires to save and help.

The ministry of “being-there-knowing-you-have-done-all-you-know-how” and beyond that cannot do anything other than stay with someone, is not a ministry for quick “laying-on-of-hands-grab-a-word-of-knowledge-shake-them-shout-at-them” type of anxious cavorting around. It is not a ministry for bluffers or “have-a-goers-and-hope-to land-somewhere-vaguely-near-the-territory” approach. It is one of the deepest forms of ministry I know and not for the fainthearted. It may never get applause on a conference stage. I have been on the receiving end of that in the past and each time it was genuinely given and awkwardly received, but there are some things too deep, too holy for that, where we need to just take our shoes of our feet, stand or sit and wait on holy ground with a person and say very little. It is the sort of ministry each one of us will appreciate at some point in our life, even if it is not until our last moment that we treasure and value it. This is ministry that takes us to Calvary. It is the sort of ministry that Jesus sought from the disciples but was denied by them in Gethsemane. They could heal and cast out demons (well, most demons, as they still had some things to learn) but they could not at that point offer what they had first been called to by Jesus,  namely “to be with Him.” Thankfully that ministry was offered to Him on the cross by some. Many were hiding in fear but standing at the cross there were a few who could do nothing for Jesus  other than have love enough and courage enough to stay with Him whatever else they might have longed to be able to do for Him, but couldn’t. The next move was God’s alone to make… and make it He most certainly did! Hallelujah!

God bless


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