Shipwreck, chapter Six

What ministry or outreach might be open to you now?

Though I have hinted at possibilities before, let’s take it a little further.

            There has been a time or two when people acquainted with my failures/struggles have shown up at the church I pastor to see if there may not be hope for them also. They feel secure with the thought they will not be rejected or ignored. In the most recent event of this nature the person did not announce himself, describe his situation, whine, blame, or complain but simply got involved a little at a time. In time we talked, and I found out all I needed to know.

            That last sentence is somewhat important. I do not need to know the details, and I do not ask for them. If the details emerge, all right, but it is not necessary. I find it helpful to avoid my natural curiosity or prurient interest in how or “who done it.” Yes, I am concerned to protect the congregation from anything of a predatory nature, and if information is revealed in the person’s past history, then I want to discuss this, but in a manner that is not a deal breaker for the person’s recovery.

            Let me simply say that I have likely heard it all, or close to it. A reader might suppose I am looking for sexual stuff, affairs, homosexuality, child molestation, rape, and so on. And these are indeed serious and must be dealt with at some point before any kind of ministry opens up. I heard someone say decades ago, “Truth is communicated across a bridge of love.” This form of love, this agape love, is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 13. It, as the old Jesus People chorus has it, is to “save each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.”

            Dignity can be so thoroughly trashed that chronic depression sets in and never or nearly ever goes away. Dignity is that sense of ourselves that we are loved by God and, though erring, are yet in the Family of God and cherished. Pride, not the selfish sort of thing where we think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but that sense of ourselves as worthy in Christ and not in ourselves, is where we can go. Dignity and pride: these are both worth preserving and building upon, as they are crucial elements in recovery from serious failure.

            Now then, some thoughts on how to go about taking the risk of serving the Lord once again in an active and public manner despite failure. First of all, this is approached a little at a time, taking baby steps, rebuilding confidence slowly over a period of time.

            In the context of an actual congregation, I find that the choir is great for this, maybe a praise band, or something akin. Ushering, perhaps clean-up, set-up, take-down, practical things that are relatively safe to do. By safe I mean that there are fewer chances for criticism due to inconsistency, absence, or getting things confused. With support and instruction, a former preacher/teacher can be re-introduced to these, but here the possibility for a failure grows exponentially. When one stands before the congregation as a worship leader, Scripture reader, Bible teacher, or Gospel preacher, much more is expected even demanded. Here now is when the mentor, even if considerably younger than the mentee, plays a large role but one I cannot spell out here.

            Outside a congregational setting the possibilities are many and varied. There is blogging, podcasting, and various social media platforms to utilize, but these do not provide the person-to-person contact that many hope for. That aside, it may be a place to start. In the community there are hospitals, hospices, retirement communities, and a myriad of other volunteer opportunities. There are para-church ministries, rescue missions, evangelistic outreaches, prison ministries, and the list goes on. Google searches can open up a world unknown.

            Let me re-emphasize; before we start anew, we must be careful to be sure we have recovered sufficiently to trust ourselves and not betray the trust of others. Here we must be honest with ourselves. And there should obviously be at least one other person who knows who we are and to whom we can be accountable.

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