Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ministry and Ambiguity

So, February thus far has been entirely given over to Free, the Oxford University mission. The week had ups and downs, great bits and not-so-great bits, hallelujahs and how-do-i-get-through-to-yous. There were a great many people involved, and the nature of the Uni meant that they were operating in 30 linked but basically separate mission fields. Some people had better weeks than others.

I came out of the week thinking: this is all so ambiguous. How do I know whether I did anything of eternal value? Was anything achieved? I think we understand that this question stands over the people who struggled to have a single gospel conversation. What strikes me is that it stands equally over the people who prayed with a dozen folk to receive Christ (if there were such people). Will they be standing on the final day? Was their profession genuine?

I guess most of the Christian life takes place under a cloud of ambiguity. The deepest experience of the Spirit could be explained in purely psychological terms. The greatest answers to prayer could be bizarre coincidences. Conversions could be just people getting caught up in the moment. Sermons could just be rhetorically powerful. It's all very muddled. Ambiguous.

Much like the pre-resurrection life of Jesus Christ. Muddled. Ambiguous. Transfigured, but also mocked. Loved, but also crucified. Healing, but also crushed.

The resurrection puts the life of Christ beyond ambiguity. It will only be my resurrection that brings the same clarity to my own life. Until then: lift your eyes and see what is unseen; believe, rejoice, follow; trust.


  1. Hi Daniel,
    Been pondering this a bit myself. Do you think that wanting to reduce the ambiguity - to be in a position to say, 'Look, here is the kingdom, there it is' - leads us towards actions (and particularly big events) that take a lot of work, look impressive and so make us feel like we've done something?
    Is there a danger we over-prioritise meetings and events (both in pastoral ministry and evangelism) because we can look back at the end of the week and feel we have something concrete to point to? Is this search for a measure of success a covert form of self-justification?

  2. Matt,
    Yes, I think that's exactly how it works. We want concrete, visible evidence that God is working, because that would count as concrete, visible evidence that God is for us... Implicitly, we're looking for something to supplement the cross. Boo to us.