Discomfort leads to good ministry

By the Rev. Elizabeth Murray

Have you ever been in a space where you were not familiar with the traditions, customs, or language? What were the emotions you felt—anxious, stressed, uncomfortable?

I am new to ministry, but I have quickly learned that many people don’t like change. Many times, the fear of the unknown gives me anxiety. Who likes being uncomfortable? Not me. Staying inside of our comfort zone is human nature.

Christ calls us to be uncomfortable. Luke 18:18-25 reads, “A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments…. He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’”

In the Parable of the Rich Ruler, when the ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven, Jesus told him, and it made him uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable, he told Jesus that he did not want to do what he said and that he was as Christian as he wanted to be.

As reflect on Hispanic/Latino ministry, I keep coming back to this idea of Christ calling us to be uncomfortable. A church or individuals engaging in Hispanic/Latino ministry is something unfamiliar for many of us. We are scared of language barriers, cultural differences, immigration politics, worship styles, the fear of failure or the fear of being successful. We let our fear of the unknown halt us from doing the work of God’s Kingdom. All aspects of ministry should make us uncomfortable. To be comfortable is to be complacent in our churches, ministries and neighborhoods.

How can disciples be made to transform the world when we are constantly at ease in our situations?

As Christians, we are called by God to welcome the immigrant, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, stand on the side of justice for all people and love our neighbor as ourselves. All of these commandments require that we step out of our comfort zone so that we can be the church in the world. When we engage with the community around us, we not only have the ability to transform lives, but we also have the opportunity to be transformed.

What would it look like if we worshipped with a congregation that did not look like we do? How can we establish relationships with the housing development across the street? Where are opportunities to feed the homeless? What unjust policies do we have the power to fight against and change? How can God use these uncomfortable moments as opportunities for transformation?

Let us be Christ’s hands and feet in the world, so that holy moments may occur. I know that God will continue to use the churches in this conference and all over the world to God’s glory—if we just take the first step outside of our comfort zone.

Murray is three-quarters-time Director of Hispanic Ministries at Mount Hebron UMC, West Columbia, and one-quarter-time doing Hispanic ministries for Conference Congregational Development.

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