Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mulling About Ministry and Stuff

Quiet Corner

Grateful for the sliver of quiet before joining the fray again.

Sometimes, the Christian life seems to be lived from one crisis to another, from one ministry programme to another ministry event, so the in-between times are interesting.

< mull >
What constitutes the appropriate use of time, effort, money, skills/gifts? For we know all things are His and we are only stewards.

We know that post-Fall, God's mission is the redemption of the world and all peoples, and we are called to be his people, his family, his ambassadors, his workers in this broken world. Does this mean that all time, effort, money, skills/gifts (barring those absolutely needed for survival) must only be used for directly gospel purposes?

We know that all things have been created by God and that all good things come from him. So like the psalmist, we can praise God when we are moved to tears by a beautiful piece of music executed flawlessly by talented musicians, or when we gaze upon the majestic beauty of the Alps and marvel at the way our snowboard cuts through the powder, or when our science or mathematics reveals the intricate elegance of "natural" things. For Romans 1 tells us that these things were created to reveal the nature of God. Does this mean that we can spend time, effort, money, and hone skills/gifts not for a specific ministry purpose but for the mere acquisition of aesthetics or beauty; to purchase an Eames arm rocker for the contour of its shell and its delicate base, a watch for the prettiness of its innards; to learn a musical instrument or to paint for the mere aesthetics of it, though such enjoyment is, in our hearts and minds, attributed to the goodness of God?

Then what about pure frivolities like time spent watching America's Next Top Model for the laugh out loud silliness of it, or splashing out for karaoke sessions whereat we affect empty emo-ness to Mambo Jambo playlists for the entertainment of all present, or frittering away leftover energy playing Facebook games in an effort to beat our friend's ridiculously high score on Bejeweled or Typing Mania?

And what about the money earned that is more than is strictly needed for survival, decent clothes and a non-leaky roof over our heads? What should be done with the excess? If all money is God's then we can't compartmentalise money into "ours" and "His", so how much should we save, invest, spend on hobbies or luxury items, and how much should be ploughed into gospel work and social work because of the gospel - supporting ministries, missionaries, churches, feeding the poor and hungry and buying medication for the sick?

Those of us from non-Christian homes know that the piano and violin, and speech and drama classes we were sent to as children now help us serve the church body in music or in preaching or teaching, even though our parents never meant for this. This has surely been God working all things for the good of his people and his church. But what of we as Christian parents now? Do we need to send our children for these things hoping that perhaps Chinese tuition will one day equip our Anglophilic child to mission in China rather than just for the purpose of getting him to pass a school exam? Can we encourage their interests in Lego construction for the sheer joy of it though not necessarily with the view of him gaining entry to creative access countries by his bridge-building abilities (though even in Lego construction we can point out the wonderful design of God's creation)?

What is the nexus of God's sovereignty and human responsibility? If all is God's work, how much do we/should we plan ministries and evangelistic outreaches and following up with people? When we find our plans hindered, how will we know if the obstacles are of the Devil (so we should persevere against all odds) or are from God (so we should seek alternative routes. See eg. Acts 16 where Paul & Co. are forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia and prevented by the Spirit of Jesus to go into Bithynia, and so go to Philippi were converts are won)?

Can we jetset for holidays for the fun of it or must travel only be for Mission? (Although, of course, we don't take off the Christian hat when on vacation but always have a ready answer for the hope that we have and an eye out for the furtherance of his kingdom.)

< /mull >

Perhaps it is the non-legalistic anti-pharisaical nature of Christian living that makes it so interesting and refreshing. According to the different backgrounds, personalities, circumstances which God has given to us and put us in, we are free - free to live for him as our consciences, informed by the Bible, guide us to live.

(There was also some discussion about heavenly occupations/preoccupations, election, friendship, marriage and the biblical theology of marriage. But that's a whole other post. Maybe.)


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