There are lots of cheesy cliches [surely, ‘beautiful metaphors’?] for the growing of faith in people. A cliche is sometimes true. Sometimes it’s made up to make us feel better. A favourite is to talk about ‘planting seeds’, sowing our seed [erm, really?] on rocky or weedy or shallow ground without knowing if the seeds make it through. Very Jesusy. This especially applies to the many occasions when we do services to [surely, ‘for’?] people who don’t have a clue or interest in what we’re talking about. Funerals. Weddings. Baptisms. Assemblies.
Those times that are meant to be a privilege, where we talk about planting seeds, when it actually feels more like a hit and run. Like I gather up all I am, all I am called to be, and all I believe about God, bound up with all my nervousness and stress and self-consciousness and vulnerability of ‘performing’ in front of strangers, and I condense it into 3 minutes, hit people with it and then run away, all of us none-the-wiser about why.
What a waste of time. Hit and run gospel.
Or. Or is it? More and more I realise there is no such thing as a hit and run ministry. Because although each occasion may feel like an isolated incident, each moment is connected to another before. People have many experiences of church, and as a badged representative I am connected to all of them. Whether I see the people again or not, I am part of a story in them. And despite the evangelical in me wanting it to be all about what I say, the words I impart, the importance of people understanding what I am talking about, little of what I say will actually make an impact at the time. What does?
There is no such thing as hit and run ministry because our characters are remembered more than our words. So it is important that I represent Jesus well. So I make an effort in what I say, even though it may not be remembered. I make an effort in the way I say it, even if I’m feeling crap about being there because there’s a million things that need doing instead of talking to a load of people who don’t care, will never care, and are waiting for the after-party once the vicar has finished.
Well, actually I am constantly surprised at how much people take in. When people come back wanting me to take another family funeral or baptism, or the school wants to book me for another term, I recognise that something is going in. That there is (hopefully) a positive impact being made. The lowest bar for me is that I don’t bore or offend people. The highest bar is that through my words and actions – and actually maybe just my presence – Jesus changes lives radically and surprisingly. Because where we are, he is. And he is full of surprises.
I could say something about seeds. But that might sound like a cliche. What I will say is: make an effort, people. We don’t do lazy, hit-and-run ministry. We do whole-life, interconnected, incarnational and life-changing ministry. Just because it doesn’t always feel like it, doesn’t mean it isn’t.
Pop that in your seed tray and smoke it.