When You’re Ministry Is Outside of the Local Church By Crystal Schmalz
I moved to St. Louis, MO about six years ago when God called me to attend Urshan Graduate School of Theology. Up to this point, all of the ministry God had called me to was in the local church. I taught Bible studies, taught Sunday school, and did a lot of activities to help out around the church. When I moved to St. Louis I felt a little lost, because it was the first time I could “attend” church. I was always doing something in church, whether it was counting the offering, leading worship, doing an opener, teaching Sunday school, or greeting guests. It was unsettling to sit in a service and actually be able to hear all of the preaching, and participate in the whole service. This was a season God had prepared for me, a season I like to call “The Waiting and Learning Season.” God was calling me to be still, and to learn how to allow the Holy Spirit to fill my cup up. I had to learn how to “be” instead of relying on “doing” ministry.
While I attended seminary, I was actively involved in school, and the majority of the ministry God had me doing was study and preparation. I interned at New Life Center, but for the most part I had limited involvement. I also was the student body president at UGST, and helped in the chapel services by organizing some of the musical portion of the worship service. Most of the “work” and ministry I did was outside of the local congregation. I was involved in the UGST community, and God did a lot of construction work to my foundation during these years. Many of my theologies were deconstructed, and built back up to give me a greater understanding and deeper strength in God. It was during these years I felt the most unsettled, but also the closest to God. It was during these years God allowed me to grow in understanding and knowledge. It was during these years God took me to places I never dreamed, and gave me many visions for the future, all which are ahead and some yet to be fulfilled.
Now, six years later I still find myself working outside of the Church walls. I minister as a hospital chaplain full time. I sit with people, listen to them, pray with them, and help them as they travel through some of their most challenging and difficult times. Doing this everyday for forty hours a week takes a lot of energy. Some weeks I attend multiple deaths and work with several families in moments of crisis and uncertainty. While God fills up my cup on a daily basis, it is tiring and exhausting work. I see a lot of suffering and am around a lot of tears. I have to constantly be going back to my source, the Holy Spirit. I cannot function without the Holy Spirit. It is only by God’s strength I survive, and am able to minister.
One thing I have struggled with is the “feeling” I “need” to be “doing” more in the local church. Honestly, this comes from a background of works-based theology. For a long time I thought I could work my way into heaven. I was always worried about being “good enough,” and was always scared about losing my salvation. It was in seminary I had a realization of grace, and realized I could never work my way into the Kingdom. Yes, as leaders we must work, but it is more about relationship with God than work. There are many who work for God, but God does not Know them. It is this tension of “works” versus “grace,” which often plagues many who “work outside of the local church.”
While in seminary, I read a book, which talked about the order of the worship service, and how there are four steps which normally occur. There is the Invitation, the Word, Communion, and then the Sending. In each worship service we are invited into the presence of God. God’s presence is already in the building before we arrive, and God has already been working on the hearts and minds of people before they enter the service. We may sing some songs to glorify God, but it is God who invites us into his presence. Then we hear the Word through scripture reading and the preaching of a sermon. The Word begins to change and transform us, and calls us to the part of the service where the response occurs. A response can be done through prayer, and typically in a Pentecostal service we call this the altar call. In other traditions, this is where the service usually has communion. The point of this step is to respond to the transformation and change God is calling us toward. The fourth step of the service is the call to sending. This is where we go from the building, and are sent into the community to live and be the Christians God has called us to be. God sends people differently, but all are sent to be witnesses and disciples of Jesus in their homes, neighborhoods, communities, cities, and world. The part I struggle with, and the part I think other leaders may struggle with is the sending. In Pentecost there is a focus on the corporate worship service, and this emphasis is good. We do need to gather together to praise God and be fed, but we sometimes miss the “sending” part. We overemphasize playing roles and parts in the local congregation, and under emphasize sometimes those who are working outside of the local context.
God wants us as leaders to work in both the local church setting and outside of the church walls. If God has called you to a ministry outside of the local church, be confident and know God is working in and through you everyday. A pulpit comes in many forms. It might be a one on one conversation, a job working in education, or a ministry which takes you into other areas of the community you never dreamed. If 90% of your ministry happens during the week, you have it right! You have been sent, and are fulfilling your mission. The Church was never meant to be within the walls of a building. The Church is all around us. The Kingdom of God is everywhere, and we are the workers. Be encouraged. Stay strong, and continually be filled with the Holy Spirit in your leadership and ministry.
Copyright 2015 Crystal Schmalz Ministries