Saturday, May 29, 2010

117. Apostolic Ministry and Suffering

I can remember the first time I read Kraftchick's chapter Death in Us, Life in You: The Apostolic Medium. The bombs were just going off left and right about the nature of apostolic ministry and how it is intimately linked and patterned after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Ever since then I have had a deep appreciation for people who are going through difficulties related to apostolic ministry. I often wonder about the super apostles of today who have so much glamor and success but have no stories of suffering or hardship. Paul is often mistaken as a masochist of sorts because of his interpretation of authentic apostolic ministry being characterized by suffering. But isn't suffering an inherently foundational element of pioneering work? All pioneers suffer because they move out form under the canopy of the institution and plow new ground. Paul is no masochist. He is what Schon would call a "reflective practitioner." Paul interpreted his experience as an apostle through the pattern and master story of the gospel. I sometimes meet people who I know are in the midst of apostolic types of ministry and they can come off as a bit weird, unsociable, and sometimes a bit needy or insecure. Chalk it up to personality or whatever you like, but I think this is what being on the frontier can do to you. It is a place where your strengths are tested. The challenge of the frontier always transcends the strengths of the apostle. It is no wonder Paul writes so convincingly about weakness. He experienced it and, as he looked out from his experience onto the canvas of the gospel he saw a mirror of his own experience in the narrative themes of the gospel. Suffering and weakness go with the territory of apostolic ministry.

I ran across this diagram today while perusing a used book store in Nashville. Paul talks about suffering and prayer in Romans 8:26. It reminded me of the contextual nature of Paul's discourse in Romans 8. Paul is not just waxing eloquently at the climax of his treatise. He is pouring out some real life experience here. The idea is that at some point the depth of your experience transcends the available language to express it. Paul says that it is at this point in time that the Holy Spirit intercedes for you.

To all of you pioneers out there who are wrestling with the challenges of the frontier, this post is a reminder that the Spirit intercedes for you.

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