I’m in Italy at the moment, teaching for a week at their brand new Freesports and Youth Culture Discipleship Training School. I’m having an unbelievably great time, spending time with like minded people, investing in some amazing young people and enjoying some well needed time and space to rest, read, think and dream. Due to a few hours of spare time in the afternoons, a nearby internet cafe and the wonders of modern technology, I have been posting some photos of my trip, and a couple of reactions to those photos as well as some conversations throughout the week have made me think about two things.
The first is that being a Christian isn’t supposed to be crap and being in ‘ministry’ (a phrase which I hate and will explain why below) doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live life as some kind of poor, modern day martyr with a victim mentality. When Jesus died on the cross for me he paid for my life. He paid for it in the most excruciatingly painful and awful way anyone can imagine and he did this not so I could survive, but so I could live life to the full. And that’s what I intend on doing. It would make a mockery of the cross to do otherwise. Yes life as a disciple of Jesus involves moments of heartbreaking agony, loneliness, confusion, unanswered questions and huge personal cost – I know there is a balance here and those who know me personally will tell you my life has seen many of those moments. But life with Jesus also contains mountain top, wine drinking, belly laughing moments of inexplicable joy, and something is wrong when we feel we have to justify the existence of the good moments, like we shouldn’t have them or shouldn’t shout about them to everyone we know or celebrate them in any way, whether we do a job in paid ministry or not. When Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light, he probably wasn’t lying.
The second thing I’ve been thinking about is the strange concept of being ‘in ministry’. I’m ‘in ministry’ just as much as anyone else who claims to follow Jesus. Why have we created this weird distinction between those who are in ‘ministry’ and those who apparently are not? That’s not the Jesus way. The Jesus I know involved everyone who claimed to be his disciple and still does. If you were a disciple you were called to make disciples, not only if you were paid to do it. Some people are paid so they can do full time ministry, some people do ministry in an office, a shop or a school playground. But we are all in ministry, paid or not. John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, puts it like this; “everyone gets to play”. Everyone!
Do I feel bad about being in a beautiful country in blazing sunshine, staying in a beachfront property, eating delicious food, drinking wine and getting to know new people? No! It’s part of this beautiful life that Jesus paid for with everything he had, despite the fact I don’t deserve it, will never earn it and can’t even comprehend it.
I want to be the kind of person that’s honest about the rubbish moments, but I won’t ever let anyone make me feel like I have to justify or explain the great moments.
Jesus came so we could have life and life to the full. It’s a free gift that I for one, plan on receiving with open arms.