Same Kind of Different As Me
While every ministry is distinct, they all deal with the same issues of the human heart.
This week, the Ministry to State staff is in St. Louis for a yearly denominational gathering called the General Assembly. Last year’s conference was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, so there is much to discuss this year. In addition to the various reports, proposals, debates, and votes, a number of seminars are taking place.
Ministry to State will participate in three of the seminars this year. With over 1,500 pastors and church leaders in attendance from all over the country, this is an excellent opportunity to talk about the unique nature of ministry in Washington and state capitals.
One of our goals is to inform and equip these local church leaders to better disciple their congregation to develop healthy relationships with those serving in government. But also, to know the importance of a biblical worldview which informs their vocation preparedness to serve in government.
In Washington, we minister to people who experience vocational futility and frustration, toxic workplaces, and jobs that can end abruptly. Individuals struggle with marriages that are difficult, the inability to find a spouse for those looking, children that need extra attention, and parental relationships that are disappointing. Not only that, but many also find themselves struggling with “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions and envy,” (Gal 5:20) in addition to all the more notorious sins that are easier to talk about (mostly, because they involve someone else).
However, while the context of our ministry is unique, it really is the same as everyone else’s. As the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Jesus spoke to people living in the first century in and around Jerusalem. Peter, Paul, and John wrote letters to churches and individuals throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Southern Europe (Rev 1-7). These letters are now over 2,000 years old and intended for a cultural and demographic context that, on first blush, bears little resemblance or relevance to our present moment.
And yet, these are the very words of God for us today.
This week’s General Assembly reminds me that every pastor and church leader is dealing with the same issues as Ministry to State as we minister to those serving in government. And even more comforting is knowing all of the pastors and church leaders who are also facing these same issues not just in their congregations but in their own hearts.
I take comfort in the reality that Jesus’s death was just as necessary for me as it for those whom we minister to in Washington and everyone else, regardless of their particular context.
The Apostle Peter writes,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–9)
Take comfort knowing these words are for those serving in Washington, for those who are serving somewhere else, for you, and for me.
Rev. Michael Langer is the Associate Director for the D.C. ministry.