Sometimes Ministry Smells

I feel like I’m still in my early 20’s. I’ve matured some. Added a few pounds. The gray is starting to show. The kids are growing up way too fast. Our 25th anniversary is around the corner and our wedding feels like it was just yesterday.

As for ministry? I’ve been a youth ministry worker. I’ve done weddings, baptized babies, and have done some funerals for some amazing people. I’ve been called to the ER in the middle of the night and during the day. I’ve sat with folks receiving chemo treatments and have sat with folks in court as their loved ones were being sentenced. I feel like a social worker sometimes and other times a chaplain. I was even a church custodian for a period of time when I was in my late teens and early 20’s. I’ve done lots of stuff in the church.

There’s something new that I can add to my list of things I’ve done as a church pastor. I can officially say I’ve cleaned up poop and not the doggie kind. It didn’t happen just once on the church campus. It happened a few times. The first couple of times it happened, I used a water hose and some bleach. It worked, but I bleached my pants while doing it, which sorta looks kind of cool. When it happened again I decided that I’d go to home depot and purchase a pressure washer. God bless the person who invented the pressure washer. I won’t bore you with the smelly details. As for the couple of people who also helped clean it too? Thank you!

What happens when we encounter those moments in our lives where we have to actually do what the gospel says? What would the larger church look like if we actually practiced what we preached when it came to living as Jesus lived and loving as Jesus loved? Was I frustrated when I had to clean it again? Most definitely. I even expressed my anger to a few guys in the community who are experiencing homelessness that the pastor was livid and tired of cleaning it. I think I would have laughed at me if I were them because for a moment I was human and wasn’t afraid of anything.

What’s the silver lining in this? I know a whole lot more names now and they know who the pastor is. One guy has actually shared with me some of his own story about his life. The church is at its best when it works at trying to fill in the gaps that we sometimes forget to fill. Learning people’s stories is one of those gaps we can do better at and should do better at. No matter who it is.

Yes. Ministry sometimes smells. No matter who you are and what you do in the world as a Christ follower, you’ll experience times in your calling where stuff just happens. You’ll encounter different kinds of people and there will be times, you’ll have to sit with them in their joys and in their not so joyful moments. You’ll encounter people that will make you feel uncomfortable and people who will make you smile. No matter what it is that you do in your calling, you’re bound to meet someone that simply doesn’t look, sound, or think or act like you.

The gospel sometimes is uncomfortable. It sometimes smells. That’s the hard part. We just need to decide how we’re going to respond in those moments when it starts to smell.

Baby steps. It takes time.

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