Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Life is Ministry, Ministry is Life

 Our community has an annual event; a downtown festival of sorts  that they dub 'The Scarecrow Stroll.  When it began  it was truly a community endeavor in which families would  build a scarecrow and display it in the local downtown area for several days, culminating in 'the Stroll'.  We built a scarecrow every year for years and used it as platform to get the gospel out.  As of late though, the Stroll has turned into a promotional event; a Halloween festival with local businesses and politicians throwing together some half-hearted scarecrow and handing out candy to kids in costumes.
  I’m opposed to Halloween, but I can’t rally a consistent argument against free candy, so my wife takes the kids down there with gym bags and we load up, sans costumes.  Later on, I extract a small portion of the proceeds that my children call ‘the chocolate tax’.
  The way this particular day worked was that I went street preaching, and then met my wife downtown. We walked around, looked at scarecrows, talked to our neighbors and scarfed up free candy. But I was unsettled the whole time. Maybe it’s because I was still in ‘street mode’ or whatever, but I looked at this crowd of  easily over a thousand people, including church folks , and realized that, other than me getting rid of  20 or 30 tracts, there was no visible gospel witness at this event. Nobody was preaching, nobody was handing out tracts, nothing.
  I’m not advocating a church get a booth down there as that would be inappropriate. Besides most church booths are, in my opinion, horribly ineffective and come across as a plea of  ‘Please like us! We’re nice!’. For example,  if the early church had opened up a booth at the Jupiter festival in  pagan Rome and made balloon animals, I hope we can agree that would have been a little bit 'off-mission'.
 I freely admit to you, dear readers, that I  don’t know what I think should be done.  I think the church has an obligation to distance itself from some aspects of the culture, and to purposefully visibly abstain from some of the more questionable cultural practices.  I think you can be present at an event without being part of it. You do what you're supposed to do and people will understand that you aren't with them in their revelry. You wont even have to tell them.
  What is our obligation, as the church, and as individuals, to the community at events like this? I think it’s clear; the people in our towns need to be confronted with the gospel at every opportunity.    That usually means they will hate you, and  most professing Christians will be annoyed with you. That’s my little red wagon to pull, and I pull it with gusto.
  I also freely admit to being a workaholic in the ministry. I see every public gathering as an chance to present the gospel. If it's within 100 miles of my house and I can make it there, I try.  I preach at street corners and football games and parades and festivals. I preach on vacation. I preach when I'm sick. I've preached in every weather condition except snow. I relish in buying tracts and putting gas in the car to drive hither and yon preaching.  Jesus Christ took the handwriting of ordinances that was against me and took them out of the way, nailing them to His cross. I owe Him my life. I owe Him my time. I owe my fellow man the chance to hear what God has done for them and what He will do to them in they persist in their rebellion.
  But I also have a family, and  I also have a wife that sometimes just wants to walk around and look at scarecrows and scarf up free candy without me being 'that guy' that disrupts everybodys good time.  She wants to be, for lack of a better word,'normal'. I do have obligations to her. I have an obligation to not make her life any harder than it has to be.  But I also am under orders from the King.
  This tug of war takes up a significant portion of my thoughts.

 I left the Stroll, as I  leave many public gatherings, thinking about the people there. I thought about what I have and what they need and how to balance  family life and ministry life.  I thought about how they ought not be separate things, but sometimes they are. 

 I'm only one guy who has been given the biggest job ever. How do I do it? And how do I get the gospel to them next year?

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