You’re supposed to have dirty hands. You’re supposed to have dirt under your fingernails and have it just caked on your knuckles. That’s the way of things when you’re a Christian. You don’t stand on the sidelines; that’s a good way to get eaten by a lion.
I think I’ve mixed my metaphors.
This summer, a member of the congregation chose to foot the bill to bring in a summer ministry assistant. This young man is a pastor-in-training, and he’s sharp. He knows his stuff. We’ve chosen to focus him on evangelism.
Now, so much of evangelism is based on relationship. This man will only be here for the summer, so how could we use him well?
We’ve asked him to get to know the congregation as well as the neighborhood and offer us creative ways for us to connect the two, so we have the chance to share Jesus with them.
And then this last week, he’s brilliant. He reminds me: To maximize impact… the congregation should be listening to the neighborhood with him. Sure, he can go out on his own and come back and report his findings. But how much better if a member of the congregation goes with him at all times, simply listening, observing what he does? How much better if a congregation member says, “I kept seeing people say this. Can we do something about it?”
In other words… this man wants our congregation to get its hands dirty. And I think it’s brilliant.
Our leadership however…
They’ve been burned on congregational participation before. Of course, they’re looking at a few things that simply didn’t interest the congregation. We tried to get a senior group going… and one person showed up for our organizational meeting. One council member in particular is always looking for more people to take care of the lawn and the building. It generally doesn’t happen. It’s true that our congregation has certain gifts, and they like using them… but in other things? They’re just not interested.
And that’s part of what our summer ministry assistant is going to find out: What are our passions, so we can pursue those things? Why should our congregation be a thing that we’re not?
I have a feeling this is going to ruffle some feathers. It’s going to hurt some pride as members of the congregation discover that, well, no, their ideas won’t work in this place and this time because no one is willing to get their hands dirty in that field. (Though, you know what? Most of those ideas – the people coming up with them will bankroll the idea, but not actually do anything with it beyond that. If you can’t get your own hands dirty, how can you expect anyone to get their hands dirty with you?)
Our ministry assistant will be doing his best to get our hands into the dirt with him. He won’t ask anyone to do anything without him, or to do anything that he’s not already doing.
I’m cheering him on. And don’t worry; my hands are getting dirty in this particular field, too.
We’ll see how much dirt is under our fingernails at the end of the summer. I hope a lot of it.
But those dirty hands count for nothing without beating hearts to motivate. What has Jesus done for us? Do we really see the dust we were? Do we see the dust we will return to? Do we see that in the between, Jesus has chosen us, made us his own, raised us up in him, and called us to produce fruit? Do we get how awesome that is, and nothing could be better?
I don’t. I get stuck in the day-to-day stuff.
But this assistant – as I said, he’s sharp. He’s keeping his eyes on Christ, and helping all of us with that.
Let’s love this neighborhood.
Let’s share Jesus with them.
And let’s figure out the best way to do that.
And how do we do that? We get our hands dirty.