I was at a luncheon for Ministry staff the other day and the speaker asked us to share what the most dangerous thing we have ever done in ministry was. Some people shared funny stories. Others talked about sermons they had preached on topics people didn’t want to hear. Two shared actions taken in the mission field. A couple of people talked about things which bordered on the foolish, rather than dangerous (I am probably in this group). I talked about the terribly exciting job of changing light bulbs.
Years ago, the building maintenance man was about 80 and his days of climbing ladders had gone. He came to my office and asked if I would “help” him change the light bulbs in the church Sanctuary. I thought this would be easy. Then we started getting ready.
I knew this was more than I had bargained for when we got out two of the 8-foot wooden folding tables and brought them into the sanctuary. We then fetched a ten-foot-tall ladder, a wooden one. One I thought was about the same age as our maintenance man.
As we brought it to the sanctuary I was already calculating a problem. The ladder was 10 feet tall. The lowest light was 13 feet from the floor and they ranged from there to about 17 feet up. I’m not the best at math but even I could see this wasn’t going to work.
He had me help him flip the tables upside down and lay them on the tops of the pews, bridging over three pew-backs. We then set up this 10-foot rickety ladder ON TOP of the tables, the legs of the ladder were just perfect to fit inside the legs of the overturned tables, thus “locking it in place.”
He then told me that he would hold the ladder while I climbed up and changed the bulbs. We moved it to six locations for the different light fixtures and I dangled at the top of this ladder while it swayed about 6 inches left and right as I climbed up and down. Yeah, not my smartest move. It could easily have been the end of me and I am not sure about my headstone had I died of foolishness while changing light-bulbs.
In reality though, the most dangerous thing that I do in ministry is the same dangerous thing you and every other Christian does who follows the great commission~ sharing the word of God with a world that doesn’t want to hear it.
It doesn’t want to hear it because while the grace taught in gospel does bring us light and make our whole world brighter, like the old light bulbs, the gospel asks all of us to change for the better. It promises us that God will be the one to bring the change in us and the Holy Spirit will be with us every step of the way, but it does bring change. And people don’t like change. They don’t like to change and they don’t like the idea that a change is needed.
We may not be a secret missionary in a nation hostile to the gospel where you could be thrown in prison or even dragged out and killed. We don’t face that kind of danger here. But we do face the danger of speaking to people who do not want to hear what the word of God actually says. When we face that danger we are sometimes tempted to do the “less risky” thing and water it down. We wouldn’t call it that of course, we might call it “softening the blow” or couching it in acceptable terms, or something else. There is nothing wrong with trying to be diplomatic if we are remaining true to God’s word, but the real question is; are we willing to actually take some risks to bring the light of the gospel to a dark and dying world?