Did you ever find so many things roiling around in your mind that you couldn’t make sense of what was going on? Isn’t being a Lay Servant confusing? That’s my situation right now.
I have this epistle passage, a recent article from the Five Rivers District Lay Servant Ministries newsletter, an old teaching from my first-grade teacher and a story (supposedly) about St. Francis all jumbled up in my mind. And I need to find a way to make sense of it all in some kind of “inspirational message” regarding LSM. So I’m going to try to fight my way out of the jungle and hope that when I’m done, it all makes sense to you.
First the scripture (scripture is primary — right? At least according to us United Methodists): James 1: 21-25. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, He is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for He observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of a man He was. But He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what He does.”
So we can’t just go listen to the Sunday sermon and go home and forget about it then, can we? But then, as Lay Servants, you’ve already figured that out for yourselves.
Next, that first-grade teacher. Back in 1952, Miss Grace Finch kept telling my first-grade class that: “it’s nice to share." She was mostly talking about tangible things, but more than that, human beings can’t take being alone for very long — we need the company of other people. It’s no fun being alone. Or doing something alone — especially if it’s something that is important. So it’s important to “share” God with others.
Then there’s the article Mary Brooks contributed to the Five Rivers August LSM newsletter. Mary pointed out that if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. So if we, as Lay Servants, find ourselves in the position that our faith is sending us out to be doers of the word, and we don’t want to do it alone, and if we don’t reach out to others around us to share in the doing, they will find something else to do -- maybe (even probably) something that isn’t as important.
We’ll wind up “doing” alone. And what is more important than doing what God wants us to be?
The confusing part is how. If you’re going to lead, you first need somewhere to lead to. How do you do that?
So we come to the story that is supposed to be about St. Francis. It goes like this: One day St. Francis was on his way out of the monastery and asked another brother if he’d like to go along to preach in the nearby town. The brother agreed, and they set off. On the way, they came upon a shepherd trying to round up his flock and stopped to help him. Then, as they got to town, they came across a man putting a new roof on his house and stopped to help him. Then they found an old woman struggling to get her week's supplies home from the market and helped her. And so it went all day long. Finally, as the sun began to set, St. Francis said to his companion that is was about time to be getting back to the monastery. “But Brother Francis,” protested the other monk, “weren’t we going to preach to the towns folks?” St. Francis said to him, “What do you think we’ve been doing?”
Lay Servant Ministry is like that. You have to discern what God wants done, you have to share it with those around you, you have to invite them to participate, and then you go out and do.
You have decided that it’s not enough just to sit in the pew on Sunday morning. You have the scripture to show you what needs to be done. You have other people around you to share with, but not unless you ask or invite them. And you can go out and make a difference, God’s difference, in people’s lives without saying a word.
And there is indeed a great blessing, a great satisfaction in that.
Learn more about Lay Servant Ministries in the Great Plains.
This blog was written by David Wasserfallen, Lay Servant Ministries director for the Five Rivers District.