“ I’m not just sounding off because I’m irritated. This is all written in the scriptural law. Moses wrote, “Don’t muzzle an ox to keep it from eating the grain when it’s threshing.” Do you think Moses’ primary concern was the care of farm animals? Don’t you think his concern extends to us? Of course. Farmers plow and thresh expecting something when the crop comes in. So if we have planted spiritual seed among you, is it out of line to expect a meal or two from you? Others demand plenty from you in these ways. Don’t we who have never demanded deserve even more? But we’re not going to start demanding now what we’ve always had a perfect right to. Our decision all along has been to put up with anything rather than to get in the way or detract from the Message of Christ. All I’m concerned with right now is that you not use our decision to take advantage of others, depriving them of what is rightly theirs. You know, don’t you, that it’s always been taken for granted that those who work in the Temple live off the proceeds of the Temple, and that those who offer sacrifices at the altar eat their meals from what has been sacrificed? Along the same lines, the Master directed that those who spread the Message be supported by those who believe the Message. Still, I want it made clear that I’ve never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I’m not writing now to get something. I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or impugn my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay. But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses!” (1 Corinthians 9:8-18, MSG)
I haven’t said much about what God is dealing with me about both as a person, nor as a leader, for awhile. I have written on revelations and things God has specifically said to me about situations, but not me, personally. It hasn’t been on purpose. I think if I am to be honest, I am rather tired of ministry. I feel like it’s the same stuff all the time and it’s like we aren’t going anywhere. And no, I don’t mean that I don’t have a megachurch, or that I am not headlining a thousand events a year. I’m tired of going over the same things, day in and day out, with the same situations that don’t seem to change. I can tell people what to do, and they don’t do it. It’s fine if it’s once or even twice, but watching people stumble becomes exhausting. I feel like a babysitter, staying on top of things and characteristics I shouldn’t have to by this time. And I can’t figure out what the church’s problem is. We all know we wouldn’t act like this at work, or if we wanted to date someone or impress them, or if we got called by a government official, but we just can’t seem to get it together for God. We say we want ministry, we say we want the Kingdom, but it just seems obvious to me that…we either don’t want it or don’t want it enough. I’m not picking on anyone special, this isn’t about people I cover, it’s about all of us…everyone I am seeing in church and all-too-many in ministry. I can’t hear one more “word” that is supposed to make me “feel” better about myself. I can’t hear one more person encourage me with vague words, telling me not to be discouraged, telling me all the stuff we tell people all the time so they will feel better and they won’t “complain.” I am not discouraged, I am not upset, what I am, if there is a word, is disgusted. Church people are so used to being placated, to being tolerated, to be encouraged to give God anything but their best, they can’t handle leadership that doesn’t tolerate it.
In the midst of my royal disgust, God started dealing with me about the things I say on social media. Now mind you, God had never really done this with me before. He might have convicted me about specific statuses or things that I wanted to say that were a “slug” or otherwise inappropriate, but that was only a handful of times over my social media experience. What God started to reveal to me was the vital importance in what I say and how it is perceived. I didn’t read a lot into it. It didn’t cause me to go running over every status I’ve posted in the past year. It did make me believe, however, that something in my life and ministry was shifting. Disgusted or not, God wanted me to keep it up and under wraps. Feeling taken advantage of, or not, God wanted me to make sure that I was causing people to draw to Him, and not flock to me because of how I was feeling.
God expects me to decide the kind of person I want to be. It is about ministry, but it is also about me. He is teaching me something about me and it’s all because…of…ministry.
In the process, I have watched carefully the vast amount of things others are posting that sound so angry. I am noticing how many people might feel the way that I have been feeling, but instead of dealing with it, they are spreading it around. They feel marginalized and unappreciated, unimportant and burnt out, and instead of finding an option…they are using their pulpits, their pages, their congregations, and their forums to “vent.”
God is not letting me “vent.” Because…of…ministry.
There’s an awful lot I feel like I haven’t been able to do, because…of…ministry. Ministry has effected every relationship I’ve ever had, and it hasn’t always been good. It’s created conflicts that I didn’t put there, that were there because people often want more of us than they can have and that they are threatened by ministry. Ministry has made it so I have pursued this work for years and, whether liking it or not, I have so many years in it, I don’t know what else I would do if I walked away from it all together. I am still a person, I still have feelings that I work out about my life, and no, I am not always in love with the decisions ministry demands that I make. Lee Ann the person would love nothing more than to tell you all how old I am, and do it without a testimony attached (because that is the only time I will even hint at my age). Apostle Marino the minister knows that it isn’t anyone’s business, and that revealing so much about me invites trouble. Lee Ann the person would like to cuss at people who start with her. Apostle Marino the minister knows that God expects me to control myself. Lee Ann the person wants to throw her hands up in the air and walk away from everything, but Apostle Marino knows that God would not be pleased with her about that. There are times when Lee Ann still wants to do one thing, and Apostle Marino knows that something else has to be done. There are reasons why I am so quiet about my personal life, about my opinions on politics or political issues, and why I don’t hand myself over on a silver platter to everyone who asks. It’s not that I have anything to hide, it’s not that I am personally depressed or unhappy, it’s not that I don’t have an opinion. It’s because…of…ministry…and good or bad, I am in this, such as it is. There are so many things that I wish were different about ministry. There are so many things I wish were different about the church, and about church people. I wish that people cared more about their leaders as people and realized the sacrifice that has been made for them to have their leaders there for them. There are so many things that, even in hindsight, I wish were different about my life and path in ministry.
But wishing it were different does not change the realities of it.
I gather from the passage above that the Apostle Paul also wished things were different, too. The passage I started this blog with is one frequently taken out of context, and people take it out of context in just the way he was speaking against. The Apostle Paul knew what his rights were (as I do, as we all do), and he knew that people weren’t doing right by him. I hear his disgust. I hear his thorough boredom with the whole mess. I hear his frustration that he had been dedicated to the ministry, but they didn’t respond in kind. I hear the conflict between Paul the man and Paul the Apostle.
In the end, Paul the Apostle won out and recognized that he had to do what had to do, because…of…ministry. It didn’t mean that the disregard people had for him was acceptable; quite the contrary, at that. It just meant that the Apostle Paul knew who he was and who he was called to be, and he was to rise to the challenge. No matter how hard it might have been, the Apostle Paul had to proclaim the Gospel because whether he liked it or not, he was in ministry, and that changed his life, who he was, and who he wanted to be.
If you are in ministry, there are certain things you have to die to within yourself. That’s what the Apostle Paul told Paul the man. That’s what Apostle Marino tells Lee Ann. Now, that’s what Apostle Marino tells all of you. Consider it a note of personal experience that I am now living because…of…ministry.
(c) 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.