1. Our little grandson entered Vanderbilt Hospital a few days ago with a high fever. I watched from a distance as Christians from my daughter and son-in-law’s congregation, the 4th Avenue Church in Franklin, Tennessee. quickly responded to them. It was a reminder to me of the significance of such a time for a family.
Sometimes we really do underestimate the good that can be done through a simple phone call, text message, or e-mail. Dropping by a hospital and leaving a bag of fresh bagels for a family that has been there through the night can be very meaningful. I realize that in larger churches it is difficult if not impossible, for a minister to be present for every family that has a loved one in a hospital or at every funeral. Very often others within the church have a much stronger tie to that family than the ministers or other church leaders.
Why mention this? I know of some ministers who say that they don’t visit hospitals and don’t go to funerals. Ok, it is true that the most effective ministry at such a time might come from those who are already deeply connected with that family. However, I wonder about the wisdom of a minister declaring that “this is not a part of my ministry.”
2. Years ago, I realized that one of the challenges of ministry is appropriateness. This is especially true when a minister speaks either through preaching/teaching or conversation. Consider for a moment a conversation in which a person talks to me about a particular problem. What is my response to be? So often the issue is not how much one says or doesn’t say in response but the appropriateness and the wisdom of what one says.
There is nothing particularly virtuous about saying whatever thought happens to be in your brain at the moment. Some people will say whatever occurs to them with little or no filter. “I’m just being honest!” Yes, but is this wise, helpful, and appropriate?
3. There is an outstanding essay in the November issue (Nov. 2110, Number 207, pp. 49) of First Things (should be online eventually) by Stanley Hauerwas, entitled Go With God. The essay is a letter to young Christians who are on their way to college. In the essay, Hauerwas speaks of the importance of being the kind of student who makes himself available to be mentored by books, professors, and others. His words are appropriate to anyone who might serve in any kind of ministry role. Note the following lines:
But there is a wider sense of being a theologian, one that simply means thinking about what you are learning in light of Christ. This does not happen by making everything fit into Church doctrine or biblical preaching-that’s theology in the strict, official sense. Instead, to become a Christian scholar is more a matter of intention and desire, of bearing witness to Christ in the contemporary world of science, literature, and so forth.
You can’t do this on your own. You’ll need friends who major in physics and biology as well as in economics, psychology, philosophy, literature, and every other discipline. These friends can be teachers and fellow students, of course, but, for the most part, our intellectual friendships are channeled through books. C.S. Lewis has remained popular with Christian students for many good reasons, not the least of which is that he makes himself available to his readers as a trusted friend in Christ. That’s true for many other authors too. Get to know them.