Pastors love to talk shop. Conversations about church initiatives, structures, programs, and events crank up our adrenaline. Our body heat rises in theological conversations, debates over how to take a pivotal phrase in a verse, or discussions about the latest viral blog post.
I call this phenomenon “ministry talk.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But how do you talk about ministry? The answer to that question reveals if you are hiding behind what looks like a meaningful conversation.
There are those, however, who drop the right names, trends, and book titles in their conversations with other pastors. Do that and anyone can come across like they know how to do ministry. I bet the flies on the walls of pastors’ conferences get a kick out of it.
Here’s the problem. We (or maybe it’s just me?) are prone to use conversations about things ministry to prove to others, and even ourselves, that we really do belong in ministry and that we are competent enough to be successful in it. You can hide behind “ministry talk.” You can conceal your vulnerabilities, insecurities, and temptations behind conversations about the ins and outs of the ministries they are working on.
But imagine if we were real with each other. Imagine if we admitted that figuring out what the heck we were doing is a day-by-day struggle.
What does that look like?
Some examples of not hiding behind “ministry talk”
The next time you share the latest ministry you are rolling out, try conveying your fears that it will fail. (Or are you just trying to look like you are cutting edge?)
The next time you confess that members are causing you the frustration, also mention the idols behind your frustrations that are being exposed. (Or are you just asking for advice on how to deal with them, since you are right and they are wrong?)
The next time you talk about your upcoming sermon series, share how God’s word is revealing sinful desires and attitudes that you didn’t even know you had. (Or are you just talking about the cool biblical theological connections in the book?)
Scared to open up?
It is easy to have a “ministry talk” kind of conversation with other pastors – whether you work with them, or not – and feel like you had a meaningful conversation. You did, after all, talk about things that are important. What’s more important than ministry, right?
But it is easiest to hide behind “ministry talk” around others who are fluent.
You might be thinking about everything you have to lose if you were open up your heart in the midst of ministry conversations. People might think you are less qualified, less gifted, and less holy.
You mean they would learn the truth?! Isn’t it a fact that we are all less qualified, gifted, and holy than we seem?
How the gospel helps you hide less and open up more
But here’s the cool part: God knows all of the reasons we shouldn’t have been called into ministry, but he called us anyway! He didn’t do it because of what we have to offer, he did it to magnify his grace. That’s what ministry is all about anyway, remember?
Jesus magnifies his strength and grace in weak ministers. He empowers us and forgives us and makes up for the skills we don’t have. This allows us to serve – and even converse – with freedom, rather than feeling the need to hide.