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.

One thought on “The Central Task of Ministry

  1. Hi Jim-

    Glad to see you here on wordpress. I hope to keep my eye out for your blogs. I’m particularly drawn to your focus on “bringing the Kingdom of God” to this earth. I think that vision has largely been missed in the last few generations but seems to be making a comeback.

    One of my long time favorite books by John Bright, written in 1953, has been a precious gift over the years-and it is a gift that just keeps on giving. “What then is the Church?”, he asks near the end of the book. “The N.T. understood her simply as the true Israel, God’s covenant and servant people, called to exhibit the righteousness of his Kingdom before the world, charged with proclaiming that Kingdom in the world and summoning men to its covenant fellowship”. I am a member of FBC Richmond, Kentucky and I have a book telling the story of your church in its first 150 years-1780-1955. They are well into the next 150 years, and I pray that under the leadership of the Head of the Church, you will be given an even greater vision of what this church must do to be a faithful covenant community.

    I am your co-laborer for Jesus sake and the Kingdom.
    John Paul Todd

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