Ministry is never pretty. More poignantly, life is not pretty. It’s messy. Our idealism will never be met. It’s the simple and brutal truth. The reality: Quest Church is a failure. It sucks. The reality: I am a failure. I suck. But the good news – it’s OK. Everyone just breathe. God is gracious. God’s grace is sufficient. As for Quest: it’s too big, too small, too disorganized, too institutional, too Asian, too White, too educated, too young, too modern, too postmodern, too emerging, too un-emerging, too biblical, too liberal, too conservative, [insert your thoughts here]. After six years, while I can honestly acknowledge that Quest is a failure of sorts and has disappointed many people, I can also rest in knowing that it’s beautiful and has ministered to many people – by the grace of God. I feel so very privileged that God called my wife, Minhee and I, to be the visioneers of this church and hopefully, a movement to come.
So, while there are disappointments and I
might will never please each and every single person, I’ve learned that there’s great value in just showing up. There’s great value in simply DOING ministry, sharing life, and just trying. While the product might not be polished and the process is messy, it’s humbling – even if it’s very rare – to know that redemptive things can and are taking place. Here and there, I’ve wondered to myself if the church, the cafe, the programs, the sermons, the counseling, the Live Music, the community groups, the whatever…does it matter? Now, more than ever before, I’ve realized that being messy is where the gospel is often manifested.
Couple weeks ago, I was so encouraged [I really needed to be reminded…] to receive this email from one of our church pastors who oversees the To The Streets ministry at Quest with about a dozen volunteers.
…I’ve always wondered to myself: what kind of change or transformation does this work bring to people? In fact, more often than not I’m questioned by people in our community about the work we are attempting to do through ‘to the streets’. They are good, valid questions about what kind of ‘real’ impact are we making, what we should expect in people’s lives after a certain point of helping them, etc. These are questions I often ask myself. In the past few months I’ve been reminded of the small steps sometimes it takes to love people. I am reminded of Christ’s ministry and how he pressed forward to care for people regardless of the outcomes, especially those outcomes we can only measure with human eyes.
Then today a man who’d we worked with for the past two years came out to volunteer his time for ‘To the Streets’. Ken is someone who has struggled for years with a variety of layers of homelessness– some of the struggle having to do with chemical dependency, mental health/illness, unemployment and more. He shared how he was clean and sober and has housing in South Seattle and how the people at Quest has impacted his decision to get his life back on track. He proclaimed how he desired to get baptized and become a member of the church and how it was an opportunity for him to give back in some small way. Beyond his words the transformation in his life was so evident and clear and a testimony to all of us of Christ’s work in his life. I am blessed that we had a small impact on this transformative process, but more importantly I am excited to be on the other side with him to celebrate this wonderful work. It is a testimony to me that we just don’t know the work of the Spirit in every human heart. We must be faithful by believing and showing up to extend our lives in service, but not because we’ll have any way to measure the work but in humility as we remember that God’s Spirit is working on a level we can’t sometimes see or understand. The testimony of our friend, “Joe,” is evidence of that work. Who knew that a pair of socks or small tube of toothpaste could be such a window into the larger work of God?
Take heart. Don’t be discouraged. Fight the fight. Run the race. Show up. Keep living out and working out your faith. Keep preaching. Keep loving. Keep on keeping on…
Here’s to messy ministry…and the men, women, and children that live and serve by the grace of God.