I am not sure what to do with Christiana’s fifth posture for midwifing leadership in the world.

5. Co-labor in the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is gestating and God invites us as partners and co-laborers to faithfully enact our specific gifts to birth magnificent things in the world.

Perhaps there is an age beyond which birthing metaphors no longer work. But I find it hard to picture what “magnificent things” God is inviting me to serve as partner and co-laborer to bring into being. Or, perhaps this is where the difference between being a church planter and a leader in a long-established traditional denominational embodiment of faith makes its presence felt.

The reality is, a lot of ministry, whether for planting a church or ministering in an established institution, is not taken up with birthing “magnificent things in the world.”

I am sure there are times when a midwife does not feel like crawling out of bed and accompanying the arrival of a new little life into the world at 3:00 in the morning. Sometimes midwifing, like ministry, is just about showing up.

I understand that midwifing usually involves staying with a woman through a period of intense pain. I expect midwifing has moments when things are terrifying for the midwife and tragically when things may go terribly wrong.

But the beauty of midwifing is that it usually results in bringing “to birth magnificent things in the world.” And the “things” midwifing brings to birth are most often welcomed and embraced with joy, excitement, and tremendous gratitude.

While I recognize how different the situation is in which I minister today from that in which I started out 35 years ago, the tasks I perform remain basically unchanged.

I pray, plan and conduct worship. I teach, support people in their spiritual journeys, visit the sick, celebrate major life transitions, share in managing a small business, relate to the wider church and the world beyond the church, and endlessly navigate complicated human interactions.

Any ministry, whether in an established church, or an exciting new church plant,  at times demands dull plodding routine. There are times I must get out there and “perform” when I would prefer to curl up alone with a good book. There are times I preach because I am filled with a burning vision of the life to which I believe we are called. There are times I preach because it is 10:00 on a Sunday morning.

If my ministry is driven by a desire to “birth magnificent things in the world,” I am in trouble. Some days there may be “magnificent things.” There have been moments of awe and wonder as I have shared in what seemed to be so clearly the mysterious and beautiful moving of God’s Spirit in peoples’ lives and in the church.

But many days there has only been the routine duties of fulfilling the tasks of the calling I heard all those years ago when I was first filled with burning zeal for the “magnificent things” I believed God was going to “birth” through my ministry.

After the midwifing come long sleepless nights for the parents, endless diapers that need to be changed, faces wiped, crying soothed, meals prepared and fed, and the inevitable tensions and stresses of incorporating a budding new life into existing relationships. There is a great deal of drudgery that follows the midwifing. And it is here, in the ability to stick it out with the routines of life that are frequently unsatisfying, tedious, and at times deeply painful, that ministry is made.

No doubt midwifing is frequently fun and exciting. But in the end, a metaphor that has the power to go the distance in ministry may look more like an aging parent who after years of ups and downs has settled into a place of deep mutual respect, love, and equality with a now grown offspring. This is a model of the faithfulness God extends to us even when “magnificent things” do not seem to be birthing all around. This is the faithfulness that enables me to stay the course in ministry and continue to believe in the possibility that there are still “magnificent things” to assist in birthing.

 

Advertisements