You can’t do real ministry for long without it changing you.
I’m not talking about the career pastor who sets up a building and attracts people just like them who believe like him and want what he wants. There may be moments of doing real ministry when someone is in crisis, or passes away and people need comforting, but in general that’s a job. A great job for many, but not the kind of ministry I’m talking about.
The kind of ministry I’m talking about is the kind that gets you out with a diverse group of people really working alongside others to bring about Kingdom living here on Earth.
Just to give a way of distinguishing: Career Pastors preach the Sunday after a hurricane that it was punishment from God for some group of people doing something they don’t like. People in ministry are out pulling people from cars and homes and setting up shelters to house them until they can figure out a way to go home or move forward.
With that line drawn I want to talk about the difference between something being available and something being accessible.
A very concrete and understandable example would be a public library where anyone and everyone is welcome but there is no handicap ramp for the person in a wheelchair. The library is available to them — but it is not accessible.
If you’ve ever wondered what people mean when they talk about a movement being “intersectional” this is what they mean. Intersectional addresses the reality that it is not enough for something to be available to everyone. It also must be accessible.
Intersectionality pushes you to ask the question, “Do I just want this for me? People like me? Everyone?” And different people have different answers.
Let’s consider the issue of feminism for a moment.
There are some women who want to get ahead and they consider their own self promotion to be the marker of their feminist efforts. The further they are promoted within their corporate structure the more they see success for the feminist cause.
These type of women exist in the church too. They are the women in Fundamentalist circles who are allowed to teach and preach because their message is that women aren’t allowed to teach or preach. They get to do what they feel called to do because they make their message fit the paradigm. Sometimes they will justify what they are doing by saying they are only teaching and preaching to women so it’s okay. The problem with this is if they changed their message to the women and began preaching and teaching that the women could do anything in the Kingdom to which God called them they would be shut down immediately! They don’t want to lose their position and power so they sacrifice everyone else for their own sake.
Many feminists are fighting for those like themselves not because they don’t care about other women but because they don’t understand that their circumstances are not universal. It’s part of living in a community of people like you and it’s no one’s fault – it just limits your effectiveness for anyone not like you.
This becomes obvious in discussions about things like availability of education for women, or healthcare options for women and creates political polarization. Do you want education for all women? Or just women who can afford it? Is it important to have healthcare options for all women? Or only those who can pay for a decent healthcare plan.
This is where real ministry changes you.
This is where you have to ask yourself are you representing a political party or philosophy or are you partnering with God to bring about Kingdom living wherever you are.
It is challenging to be stretched and confronted with the reality of other people and whether what you’re fighting for has room for them too. Right now there is a lot of tension in feminist communities about whether fighting for the rights of women includes trans women. It’s an emotionally charged question that is challenging even some long time highly intersectional feminists.
Let’s step away from feminism for a minute and talk about faith.
How intersectional is your faith?
Is your faith avaible to all? Is it accessible to all? Or is it only for people like you?
When you share your faith with someone are there strings attached? If so, it’s not accessible to all.
Do gay people have to decide to be straight before your god will save them?
Do women have to fit a particular mold of personality and spiritual calling and body part count before your god accepts them?
Are you more comfortable with the career pastor who is saying the current string of hurricanes pummeling our shores and the shores of other countries and leaving destruction in their path are punishments from god because we let gay people get married than you are with the pastor doing real ministry who doesn’t have to wait to get asked to open the doors of your church as a sanctuary even though very wet people will come in and the rugs will get destroyed?
I want to challenge you that the God of Creation is intersectional when it comes to loving and saving us. God isn’t just able to accept people with your sins.
I do believe God has a standard for living that all who become Kingdom citizens are being developed and matured and changed into meeting. And I believe grace is the gap between where we are and that standard and we all fall short.
It’s time to build a wheelchair ramp to the Table.
It’s time to let God take care of what girlie or boy bits are under someone’s clothes.
It’s time to let the Spirit distribute gifts as the Spirit chooses and empower everyone to fulfill their gifts.
It’s time to let God be God and learn our place in the Kingdom. God calls us to do our part and that does not include playing god.