The Greatest Ministry You Or I Will Ever Do Is…

I’ve been in ministry for over a decade a now, and I’ve seen quite a bit; From border-crashing in Central Asia to performing with a live band in front of 40,000 as a missionary, from seminary studies in the edenic Vancouver to monastic living among the quiet woods & mountains of the Pacific NW, from pastoral ministry amongst the suburban poor, to the glamors of church planting amongst “postmodern” trendsetters in hipster cafes, I have repeatedly found the greatest ministry I will ever do is amongst those who will give me no accolades, will not “grow” my church as the formula goes, will not advance my scheme, my agenda or my empire, and yet will give me Everything in return:

I facilitated what I consider “art therapy” (I’m not professionally licensed) among the handicapped / autistic community of my church. I focused on colors with warmth, to get us in touch with the nurturing dimensions, even capturing some of that “placenta” affect;

The response? Great success! There was good engagement and the tactile learning experience of pushing paint around on a canvas was placating, and I will even go so far as to say, a “spiritual experience” for all of us. Perhaps I will post the finished product soon, which I hope to display prominently at church…

So, in light of these thoughts, I’m re-posting the following which was written several years ago – thoughts on the same theme of what is “true ministry”:

One thing that always makes me smile is when I hear church planters talk of what kind of people they will gather together in their new churches. “We plan on gathering the hip, urban trendsters who have turned their back on the church”. One proposal I read listed Subaru owners and indie rockers. I can’t help but smirk because I relate to this. You want to gather the “cool” folk. It’s so what we want and it’s actually so off-target. Reminds me of a line from one of my fav movies, Tombstone:

Doc: What did you want?

Wyatt: Just to live a normal life.

Doc: There’s no normal life, Wyatt. There’s just life.

Likewise we hope to gather the “normal” people without issues, dirt under the fingernails, psychological problems, you know, normal, hip, young trendsters like us. But there are no “normal” people. And for that matter, there are no “cool” people. There’s just people. Somehow in our desire to go to the poor we look for the exotic, when in fact there’s a need to pastor such common folk right in front of us. Like:

trailer owners

Wal Mart shoppers

middle America

Nascar fans

country folk

rural dwellers

the elderly

So oft missed is this last demographic. The post modern pastor almost never looks @ the elderly or the shut-ins probably because they have nothign to give back to us, can’t contribute to the growth of the church, or for that matter to the offering. But that is why they are so necessary. Because no one visits them in this age of retirement and disability homes. We commit them, the white coats take care of them and we wipe our hands clean. There’s something anti-church in that. So thank you to Pastor Jay in the pic above for pushing me into the door of the local Rehab facility. The smells, and the undecipherable speech, and the oddities eventually won me ever. Some of the most precious ministry happens at the retirement center.

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

12 thoughts on “The Greatest Ministry You Or I Will Ever Do Is…

  1. Wow. I hope that not all the hipster “postmodern” (I wonder if they really are, but anyway) pastors are that superficial. I remember back in the 90s being part of a church that used that same lingo, but their “group” was the “baby boomers” and my thinking was the same then: How convenient. We are focusing on all the people who are like us. I think a good start is to forget about demographics and just attend to the people who come in contact with and the needs you hear about.

  2. True Wayne, we rarely see the elderly as a an esential population to either minister to or have in our congregation. You involvement is so crucial and rad too. True statements about the “hipsters” too–I know what you’ve been reading;)

    Also, I’ll be your Huckleberry.

  3. Thanks for posting this. My parents are in a nursing home and Dad considers the church folks who come to do Bible Study each week and a service for them on Sundays to be an amazing gift of grace in their lives. It has brought them healing in areas that are important, encouragement at a time that can be incredibly encouraging, and comes at a time that’s pretty teachable-you have lots of time to consider your need for God’s grace and how your life has gone when you have nothing but time….It may not grow someone’s church statistics, but it is an incredible gift to go to where they live.

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