I was on the train headed from Toronto to Montreal for our General Conference. To be honest with you I was more excited about the train ride than the Conference. I have nothing against conferences, I have quite a few under my belt and only in one was I really disappointed. But I love trains and this 4 1/2 hour trip would be the longest I had ever taken.
The ride was great, not having to deal with traffic, looking out the window at farmers fields, lakes and rivers and the ability to work online was wonderful. Seeing parts of cities and towns that you never see from the highway was awesome. I was not disappointed. Neither was I disappointed with the conference:) It was great. A combination of inspiration, encouragement and education. It was interesting having the Worship Teams switch back and forth in our both Official Languages (English and French). Having each speaker translated always ends up being a lot of fun:)
On the Wednesday night we had 3 speakers, the first spoke about Urban Ministry, the second about ministry in churches under 100 in attendance which is 67% of our fellowship and the third speaker was Dr. Beth Grant who has spend over 30 years working in the field of social injustice against women. She told a story I would like to share with you.
Beth and her husband were living in India and her daughter had decided to volunteer with the Sisters of Mercy. Beth was not sure how her daughter would handle such an intense ministry. As they talked after her first day, her daughter said she had made a decision. The ladies in the ward are placed on pallets. When she would walk by they would grab her skirt and hold on. At first this had bothered her but eventually she realized this was a moment in which she could show compassion. The next time it happened she stopped and bent down. The dying woman took her hand and put it against her face in an effort of interaction. At this moment, Beth’s daughter made a decision. You see in order to protect herself she was wearing sterile gloves which is quite understandable. But the gloves were stopping her from truly ministering to this lady so she took them off. It was a risk because of the chance of disease or picking up a rash or worse but she felt it was worth it.
How about you? Are there times you have shied away from taking off the gloves because you were not willing to pay the price?
“Taking off the gloves is risky but Jesus called us to it.” (Beth Grant)
As I reflected on the train on the way home from conference I realized that each speaker talked about taking off sterile gloves. Dr. Chris Thomas talked about ministry “being messy”. Pastor Patti Miller talked about a recent Sunday morning where an unstable man was hopping pews during worship. Pastor Kevin Swatsky talked about the stress of church planting when your own church was less than 100 people.
We can have sterile ( failing to produce or incapable of producing offspring) ministry or we can take the gloves off and have risky, messy and sometimes heart breaking ministry. Seems to me that Jesus took the gloves off and we should too.
Jesus got in trouble for taking off the gloves.
- The woman at the well
- Spending time with Zacchaeus
- Spending time with Tax Collectors and Sinners
- Defending the woman caught in adultery
What have you been hesitating to do? In what area do you need to knee down and take off the gloves in order to really minister to someone. Is there a ministry you need to start? Is there a phone call you need to make? Is there an appointment you need to book?
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
In my humble opinion you can’t fulfill this mandate with your gloves on.