By Javier Soegaard
After editing two lengthy discourses on the heart of ministerial spirituality I thought it would be helpful to respond to myself with a carefully-thought-out take on the First Principles of Ministry:
I thank you for your attempt to unveil some of the spiritual and theological ground that underlies ministry. Prayer is indeed very important. However, I think your approach might be too divorced from the real, practical world. Here are some principles that might precede your “praying with” and “praying for” criteria:
THE FOUR FIRST PRINCIPLES OF MINISTRY
Number 1 – Don’t Waste People’s Time: Simon Peter famously said to Jesus, “You have the words of everlasting life.” He did not say, “You have the sermons of everlasting length.” People will rightly disregard our thoughts about the Economy of Salvation unless we ministers employ a proper economy of language. This does not mean our talks, conversations, and homilies must all be cut after 5 minutes. It does mean, however, we need to be more conscious of our audience when we prepare. A particular Sunday’s readings only require one homily, not five. Keep it simple and your language will be far more Spirit-filled.
Number 2 – Be Kind, Excited and Thankful: This doesn’t mean you need to have experience captaining a cheerleading squad. Bubbliness can be an effective personality trait for ministers, but it is certainly not a requirement. Hospitality is. People aren’t forced to come to Church anymore by societal norms; when they do, they do so of their own free choice. Acknowledge that, sincerely. Take a genuine interest in the people that walk in your door and remember that God is working some serious grace in their hearts.
Number 3 – Make Sunday Restful: Recent history indicates that people find activities like yoga, jogging, and brunch to be a very tranquil and refreshing way to spend their day off. In short, they’re actually looking for and finding a Sabbath. When pray and preach publicly, ask yourself, “Am I helping them rest in God?” Your heart is restless, so is theirs. Use your gifts to bring them God’s peace.
Number 4 (And this may very well be the most important) – Keep Extra Deodorant in Your Desk: Just because the grunge-life worked for John the Baptist, St. Anthony, and Eddie Vedder doesn’t mean it will work for you. No one wants to interact with a smelly minister. This life requires long hours and a decent bit of heavy lifting (physical and spiritual), so keep an anti-gross stick on hand. You won’t regret it…unless it’s a different kind than you used in the morning…then it will burn…but it will still behoove the People of God…so suck it up.
Once you have taken these Four Principles to heart, perhaps then you can begin praying with and praying for the people God has entrusted to you. Why? Because it means you understand something about them and that you care about their well-being.