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Ministry Is a Team Sport

Though my instinct is to isolate, I’m learning to let others carry me.

Following Jesus is a team sport, especially if you’re in ministry. It’s a communal practice. A group effort. Our true selves flourish in community because we are created in God’s image and God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is a community.

When my friends and colleagues become paralyzed by doubt or financial pressure or toxic relationships, I am part of the team that loads them onto a mat and carries them to Jesus. When I’ve faced graduate school angst or pastoral transitions, marriage or new motherhood, they have carried me.

For women in ministry in particular, this call to let others carry us is vital. Each Sunday that I wear a dress without pockets and have to figure out how to clip a microphone pack onto it, every time I show up at a pastors’ breakfast and discover I’m the only woman present who isn’t on the catering staff, and all the times I’ve been invited to ministry conferences for “pastors and their wives,” I’m reminded that ministry still is, in some ways, a man’s world. All the more reason for us to reach out as women, bond together, and admit our needs to one another not only as ministry professionals but as those called to serve Jesus with our own unique gifts, needs, and graces. We will all have a turn—or 2, or 12—on that mat.

Jesus looks at this paralyzed man, dusty from his trip down through the roof, years of suffering written in his twisted limbs. Then he looks up to what used to be the ceiling, where now there’s a gaping hole, blue sky, and four earnest faces. He does not ask what they need. It is all too clear.

“My child,” Jesus says tenderly, “your sins are forgiven. Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home.” Just like that, the healing power of God restores the man’s faulty limbs to full function. Where there once was shame, now there is exhilaration. Scripture tells us the man jumps to his feet. N.T. Wright calls this story a reminder not to “stay on the edge of the crowd.” In times when we’re stuck there, mired in sin or shame, isolation or indifference, it’s also a reminder to let others help us to the feet of the one who loves us best.

Courtney Ellis speaks and writes on faith, family and ministry, and serves as Associate Pastor at Presbyterian Church of the Master in California. She loves a park play date and a good 10k race. You can find her at www.courtneybellis.com.

April18, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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