This new season asks all to contribute what they have
By Steve Schroeder
I was working in our garden when I heard a familiar voice—the still, small voice of Jesus. He was talking with me about two words: doing and bringing. I’ve never thought of contrasting those words, but that’s what I was hearing. In his own gentle way, Jesus was inviting me to think about these words as representing two ways of approaching ministry.
I felt like he was saying that “doing” represented an old paradigm for ministry in our districts and in our U.S. Conference. The “doing” model is very clear-cut. We have bylaws and job descriptions that define who does what. It is a very focused and efficient system. Businesses thrive with this model. It’s tidy, neat and measurable.
In a “who does what” system we each know our job, and we can do our job. We know what’s on our job description and what’s not. “Doing” draws lines and sets limits. In this model we can calculate costs and report progress.
“Doing” rarely requires that we seek the assistance of others. When we do ask, it can actually come across as though we’re not capable of doing what we’ve been asked to do. In fact, when “doing” is our focus, there is no inherent need for God or others. Some people and churches can “do their ministry” quite well without either.
What I heard that day in my garden is that God is calling us into a new season—a season of “bringing.” Now instead of asking, “Who does what?” we each ask, “What can I bring?”
A “bringing” model of ministry is much different than a “doing” model. A “bringing” model assumes that each party can contribute something. It doesn’t matter how large or how small. We bring to the table what we can, not what we can’t. We come to the table as partners and collaborators. We come with a sense of anticipation, not always knowing ahead of time what the outcome will be.
If “doing” sets a closed circle for ministries, “bringing” is more like opening a gate. It invites us to lift our eyes to new horizons. If “doing” requires figuring most things out ahead of time, “bringing” only requires a spirit of generosity and faith. If “doing” is predictable, “bringing” is an adventure filled with expectancy.
One day in Jesus’ ministry the people had listened to him teach for hours. It was getting late, and they were far from home. A young boy offered his lunch. It wasn’t much, but that’s what he had to bring. Jesus loves to take our small “lunches” and use them to meet the needs of many.
Approaching ministry from a “bringing” paradigm is messy. It’s not easy to predict, and it’s harder to track. But it drives us to seek God in every venture. And it implies that we can never do ministry alone.
Think of a potluck meal. No two potlucks are the same, but there’s usually plenty of food. When you and a few friends decide after church on Sunday to meet at the park and have a potluck, you each quickly offer to bring what you can, and soon you have a full meal.
If I’m hearing from Jesus correctly, “bringing” will be our new paradigm for ministry. As an example, what if, when it comes to our commitment to making disciples, MB Mission comes offering some tested training methods and MB Foundation brings a scholarship to the table, while a small church in Missouri offers a retreat center and a pastor in Kingsburg offers some time for regular phone conversations?
As we dream together about the future God is leading us into, let’s do it with a potluck mindset asking, “What do I have to bring?”
Steve Schroeder, pastor of Parkview MB Church in Hillsboro, Kan., has completed his second term as chair of the USMB Leadership Board.