Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ministry Beyond "Decorative"

Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God." (I Corinthians 1 - The Message)

So what does "The Preacher" do after watching the construction crew begin demolition at church? Easy - she comes home and rips out the floor of our shower. My wife is a classic "I was just going to clean the grout but I might as well rip the tile out and start over" do-it-yourself-er.

Of course, she has every right to rip out the tile because she's the one who put it down in the first place.

Here's how Rebekah rolls: A few years ago she was picking at a loose tile on the shower wall when she detected moisture underneath - and, of course, some nasty black mold. If it had been me I'd have filled in the gap and left well enough alone.

But nooooooo...., not Rebekah. She went to the garage for - I thought - some putty. Ten minutes later I heard this loud CRASH! Next she came out for goggles and it was game on. By the end of the week the entire bathroom had been reduced to concrete flooring and wall studs. She dragged out sub-standard cabinets, trashed the worn flooring, pulled down all the tile, threw away the corroded fixtures... and the misshapen door... and the stained sinks... and the cracked toilet.

If a job's worth doing.... The only tasks that got subbed out were concrete - a graduated pour for the new walk-in shower pan - and an electrician to wire the can-lights from the attic.

The preacher dry-walled, she laid tile, she installed flooring, sinks and toilet. She did the cabinetry and the finish carpentry. She was the plumber. She put in fixtures. She even learned how to "sweat" pipes. Our son, visiting at the time, ran out to the kitchen with his eyes wide open. "OMG, dad," he exclaimed, "I can't believe you let mama get a blow torch!"

That's right - and I wish I had this photograph - The Preacher was sitting on the floor in front of some exposed plumbing, blow-torch in one hand and cellphone in the other, talking to her brother in Orlando. "Okay, I've got the blow-torch lit and the solder alloy ready to go... what do I do now?"

No mold left behind: Thinking about it, I have to acknowledge the theological and practical truth that Rebekah's approach reveals. The bottom line, for her, is "Deal with it" over "Look good" every time. Never-ever cover up anything that needs fixing, and that applies most especially to the things that grow in dark places.

Rumors, gossip, innuendo, assumptions... rot... mold. The principle remains the same.

The preacher I live with values honesty, and accountability, and at church she cultivates a staff atmosphere that is open and supportive and encouraging. The elders are trained as a ministry team; they love one-another; it's not about them it's about Jesus. We don't patch over problems, but clean things out and start over if that's what it takes.

My preacher spouse doesn't play games, or dress things up to look nice when they're not, or cater to anyone's ego, or do the "politically correct" thing, or hold on to membership numbers because 600 looks better than 500 on the resume....

Sometimes it costs a lot to refuse to play the games.

And that's all right because eventually - if you simply fix the cosmetics on top of the mold - instead of a solid, functional structure/bathroom/church, there's going to be a fragile shell with a lot of nasty gunk underneath. That might look good on the surface, but it's got nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.

And that's not ministry - that's decorating.


  1. LOVE this post! Perfect metaphor! I am totally in awe of the image of Rebecca and her blow torch!