Ministry and Reality. The What Was, Is, and Should Be
By M. Mooney, Ministry Practitioner
It is my experience that the majority of Christian interactions can be summarized into one of at least three categories: 1) What was; 2) What is (positive); and 3) What should be (normative). Here are three examples:
1) What was: “This is the way the early church did things…”
2) What is: “I am unhappy with the way we conduct our worship service…”
3) What should be: “We should change the order of our service to be more like the early church…”
Christian conversations generally follow at least one of these paths, with the most often course being the “what should be”, and the most often combination being “what should be” –with –“what was”. Whatever the path, what should be is usually combined with 1) what was or 2) what is.
Unfortunately, what is, is the least often considered much less embraced. When what is becomes the subject of conversations it typically follows a negative route of description with a call to change. For example, “Things should not be this way. Here is what we should do to fix it…” The subject of church fits as a regular in this place among people that have been Christians for a number of years. Young Christians are often excited about their churches, but seasoned believers have had time to observe more of the big picture of things –leading to discontentment.
Visions of Change
When believers (more especially ordained ministers) consider the “should be” viewpoints of ministry, notions of change naturally follow. Such has all the potential to become something good or bad –after all there is a time and place for change. However, when ministers begin to define the problems of what is, it naturally follows with the assumption that God’s will is whatever they perceive should be. This of course may or may not be true. After all, there is a natural tendency to assume that our preferences are also God’s –especially in the context of ministry. I call this God’s Preference Theory. It is defined by this rational. When humans do not prefer things it follows that there must be good reasoning behind such positions. Therefore, the next course of action is to make good arguments for these disapprovals. Of course we all want to make the “right choices” in life, and wish to be validated for making them. Noting could be more validating than to believe that God approves or prefers our decisions. Hence, our decisions are what God has led us to embrace. For even scripture says “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psa 37:4) –facetious tone intended here.
Nevertheless, enough pondering of change will many times lead to action. This is where so many ministers make a huge mistake. Too often ministers approach change from the perspective of what should be. In theory this sounds correct, but with humans it is the wrong approach. Herein is the way it is usually approached:
1) Ministers become disgruntled with the status quo.
2) They form this dissatisfaction into a vision for change.