The Central Task of Ministry

On page 99 of a book called The Hopeful Imagination, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann claims: “The central task of ministry is the formation of a community with an alternative, liberated imagination that has the courage and the freedom to act in a different vision and a different perception of reality.”

I love that quote, not only because it gives shape to my own ministry, but because it reminds me so much of Jesus’ ministry.  Do you remember how he started?  He called some disciples, or, in other words, he formed a community.  And then he started teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven, saying, “the Kingdom is like a mustard seed, a treasure, a pearl.”  He did his best to inspire in them an alternative, liberated imagination.  And then, through his own example, he showed them the courage and freedom to act–to preach the Gospel, to heal the sick, even to turn over tables in the Temple.  He did it to bring in the Kingdom, because when he looked at the world around him he saw not only what was but what could be.  He had a different vision, and a different perception, of reality.

When his disciples said, “Teach us to pray,” he taught them something that sounds very much like the kind of prayer a soldier might pray before going onto the battlefield, or maybe it’s what a disciple prays before going onto the mission field: “Thy kingdom come!” it says.  “Thy will be done!” it says.  But then (don’t miss this part) it says, “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

To put it simply, I think Jesus wanted his disciples to bring heaven to earth.  I think that’s why he spent his time forming a community with an alternative, liberated imagination that had the courage and freedom to act in a different vision and a different perception of reality.  I think he still wants his disciples to bring heaven to earth, and the question is, “How do we do it?”

It’s not so hard.  You look at the world through his eyes.  You look for anything that doesn’t look like heaven…yet.  And then you roll up your sleeves, and go to work.