“Why would anyone want to go into ministry today?” I overheard this question recently, but I did not respond because I was not the person being addressed. As I thought about the question, however, I quickly decided that this may be one of the most exciting and challenging times to be involved in ministry. In fact, I am a bit jealous of those just beginning their journeys in Christian ministry.
My feeling is based on a perception that this is one of those turning points in history that can move the church in a new direction. Some will see this as a crisis time while others will see it as an opportunity. What drives this kairos moment? Several things come to mind.
First, especially in the United States, we are experiencing a demographic “makeover.” In a few years, there will be no predominant ethnic or racial majority in the country. No particular group will be able to dominate politics, culture, or religion. We are also seeing slow and steady progress of women and people of color into places of leadership in every part of society, including the church.
Second, economic stresses encourage us to be smarter in the way that we use financial resources. We can no longer spend more and hope that this will turn the tide. This stewardship challenge will cause churches to reconsider the great investments they have made in buildings and personnel.
Third, theological questions are prompting intense dialogue among believers. As “first world” people flirt with some version of universalism and discuss postmodernism, “third world” theologians bring perspectives based on liberation, economic concerns, and human need to the table.
Fourth, each of us is called to rethink where we stand and how we will act on social issues—right to life, gay and lesbian rights, bioethics (including aging and extension of life), and changing concepts about marriage. These issues are not going away and others will follow.
All of this provides a dynamic and challenging environment that calls for spiritual discernment, creative thinking, and risk-taking among those practicing ministry. To fall back on the familiar will only lead to disappointment, failure and irrelevancy. Although much of the old system was effective in its day, much of it was based on triumphalism, inequality, and indifference. We can do better. God always has something better for us if we will seek it.
Few of us readily embrace change, but it is a part of our lives, and change provides the opportunity to do things in a different way, to put off the old and discover something that reflects a fresh movement of the Spirit of God. We need to ponder Mordecai’s question to young Queen Esther: “Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b, The Message)