Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ministry: "Explain it to me like I'm your Grandmother"

Still feeling the effects of my cold, I marched to church with an intrepid spirit on Sunday morning. Equipped with an ample supply of lozenges and tissues, I was determined to grind it out & feed my church family this past Lord's Day. However, after a full hour of Bible Study & a sermon, I was starting to cough an inordinate amount & my voice was beginning to crack and fail. I realized that I wasn't going to be able to preach Sunday night, so I tagged our church's de-facto youth minister & he was it. I'm so blessed to have a ready & able, and most importantly willing, fill-in whenever I require it.

It's not often that I get to go to church to just listen, so I figured it'd be a good opportunity. Instead, he began with a line of questioning so profound that I could barely hold my attention on his presentation -- my mind was swirling with the implications. Here's the question:

"Who is God?"

He was asking us to think of how we would explain God to someone who had never heard of Him before. I like the way Denzel Washington puts it in the movie "Philadelphia" when he asks people to, "Explain it to me like I'm your grandmother," or, "Explain it to me like I'm a 3rd grader." You're having a conversation with a totally unchurched unbeliever & you're going to explain the subject in the most simple terms imaginable -- how do you explain the concept of God?

My mind immediately goes either to attributes or to metaphors. I can explain God by addressing his exclusive attributes: being omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Or I could explain God by appealing to metaphors: God is like a King; God is like a Father; God is like a Shepherd; etc.

And then he continued, "But do we ever BEGIN with God is love?" I'm unsure if I ever have. And so our fill-in preacher continued through the evening addressing how "God is love" should be primary in our thoughts about God, and thus in our conversations about Him as well.

I began to think of the implications for ministry. In terms of how I think about God and how long it takes me to get to "love," how does that affect how I dispense the grace I've been given? When I think about myself doing the work of an evangelist & fulfilling the role of a minister (2nd Tim. 4:5), what do I think of? Well, true to form, I either think of attributes or metaphors. I'll explain what I do: preaching & teaching, having Bible studies, serving, visiting, etc. Or I'll appeal to metaphors: minister as pastor; minister as shepherd; minister as CEO; minister as point man; etc.

But do I ever think of myself, the minister, as "Lover in Chief?" I'm unsure if I've ever really, consciously conceptualized my daily vocation in that way. In fact, in view of Eph. 6:12, I've always thought of myself as more of a fighter than a lover. But perhaps a reordering is due in light of this reimagining.

What do I do for a living? I get paid to love on people in the name of God.

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