All These Things: A Note on Participation

April 27, 2015

The end of the semester is around the corner.  I look forward to celebrating commencement with the students and families of Sioux Falls Seminary.  As we conclude our discussion on participation in God’s mission, I’m challenging our graduates to step out and boldly follow God into mission and to consider their work in light of what God is doing in the world.

1 Corinthians 9:23 NET, “I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it” reminds us that servants of Christ should do ministry for the sake of the gospel.  Paul uses the language of partnership or participation throughout the New Testament.  He sees his work within the context of the work God is doing.  In this passage, we see Paul continue to use this language.

As members of God’s church, we are all workers in the vineyard.  In addition, graduates of Sioux Falls Seminary have committed themselves to a process of personal development.  They have all said, “Lord, here I am, send me.”

The challenge, though, is to keep from thinking that ministry is about what we are doing!

Theological education is not about getting a degree so that we can go and plant the perfect church.  It’s not about becoming the best scholar or theologian the world has ever known.  It’s not about righting all the wrongs of the institutional church.  This portion of one’s journey of discipleship is about gaining a better understanding of God’s call and discerning what God is already doing.

We say, “Lord, here I am, send me” because we understand the realities of God’s kingdom and want to be actively engaged in God’s redemptive work.  We do this for the sake of the gospel.

As hard as our students work to earn their degrees, it isn’t about them.  It is about being set on a course of serving others.

Likewise, ministry is not about our unique skill sets. It is not about how well we proclaim the gospel or how perfectly we perform the tasks of ministry.  Yes, God deserves our best work, and we should commit ourselves to growing in our abilities and understanding.  However, at the end of the day, we must remember that our mandate is to participate in the work of the gospel.

For this year’s graduates and for future graduates of Sioux Falls Seminary, as you venture into the next chapter of your story, remember that God is the author.  Rather than writing a story based on what you think ministry should be and do, I invite you to consider how you might be a participant in the work God is doing in the communities in which he has placed you so that you might serve others for the sake of the gospel.

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