“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” ~John 10:14-15
Ministry is a communal experience. And it’s a mutual experience. And this becomes much more clear to me the more I try to model what I do after what Jesus did/does. As a preachers and ministers or elders and shepherds, we are not spiritual professionals who know the problems of our clients or constituents and take care of them with great efficiency. We are vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved. It’s mutual. It works both ways. It has to.
Some have told me that I’m going to get burned. Some have said I can’t let people get too close. I can’t let people in. I can’t share my inner thoughts and feelings—the things of which I’m proud or the things of which I’m ashamed—because it’ll come back to bite me. I’ve been told that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we’re called to lead. Just look at doctors and psychiatry and social work.
We’re not doctors or psychiatrists or social workers. We’re ministers and shepherds, called by our Father to share his love with the world. Doctors and psychiatrists and social workers provide one-way services. Someone serves, someone else is being served, and the roles are never mixed up or reversed. But if I’m ministering like Jesus…
How do I lay my life down for people I won’t get close to?
There’s something powerful, I think, about being open and honest, hiding nothing, totally trusting God and his people.
Henri Nouwen addresses this in his In the Name of Jesus.
“Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life. We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.
Therefore, true ministry must be mutual. When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits. The world in which we live—a world of efficiency and control—has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd.”
It was pointed out to me by a friend about two hours before tip-off last night that the Bible actually had something to say about the national championship game. Hosea 9:6 clearly states, “Memphis will bury them.” I told this friend (her initials are Paula Byrnes) that that prophesy had already been fulfilled.
I didn’t realize until last night that of the 341 Division I college basketball teams in the country, Memphis ranked 339th in free throw percentage. 59%. And Memphis was up by nine last night with two minutes to play. But they missed four of their last five free throws down the stretch, allowing Mario Chalmers to sink the buzzer-beating off-balance three that tied it up and sent it to overtime. Kansas won it going away in the extra period. Great game. Back and forth. Frantic at times. Lot of fun.
The Tigers’ choke job kept Whitney and me in a tie in our family basketball pool. And since the final score added up to 143 points, she takes the contest by virtue of the 130 she had in the tiebreaker to my 125. If Kansas had won in regulation, I would still be in possession of my basketball bracket crown at Stanglin Manor. But today the king is dead. Whitney holds the crown. The extra points in the overtime did me in.
It was a bitter-sweet victory for Whit. She was glad for the overall win in the bracket. But it was weird in that the team she’s been cheering for the past month lost. Congratulations, Whitney. And congrats to Geoff. Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk. Whatever that means.