Today I had someone say to me: “I thought because you were a minister…. you would help me!” This was in response to quoting a price for my legal services that included a payment plan. If I actually listed the terms here, both ministerial and legal colleagues would then ask if I was intending to GIVE my services away and open a free legal aid clinic!! Let’s just say it was a highly conflictual family law matter that most attorneys would start their opening retainer quote at $5,000.00. I required no down payment and, a weekly payment that would likely not cover my gas costs to court!
What is important about this interaction is not the market cost of legal services, my potential sacrifice, nor the person’s glib statement (borne out of fear regarding fighting for their children's safety and wellbeing). What I am inviting you to consider is, that there is a misunderstanding about Christian ministry and it is this: ministry services should be free. Well, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I am here to tell you that belief is not “free" (do not take this statement out of context, I know salvation is free… keep reading). Not just in honor of the sacrifice of what was done in the human yet divine form of Jesus the Christ, but also in a current 21st century context that says, it costs money to liberate people. It costs money to serve people. And… people have concrete needs that require time, energy, resources, as well as the real and tangible that has to be completed. Buildings and businesses need working lights, phones that ring, and people to do the work that want to get paid to make a living.
Yet, somehow people often have an idea that ministry should be free! This is what I suggest all people must consider:
1) Christian ministers and Christian people, have a responsibility to offer themselves and their services to people displaying a spirit and practice of service and servanthood;
2) Christian ministers and Christian people have a responsibility to have their service actually impact the lives of people who have been disenfranchised, oppressed and left out;
3) Christian ministers and Christian people must empower people who have been disenfranchised, oppressed and left out in a way that makes a tangible difference to their daily living.
While I can write several paragraphs and examples expanding on the possibility and historicity of Christian ministry where we have fell short and succeeded in this practice. I will not. Jesus’ ministry was full of tangible actions that made ministry real in people’s lives (e.g., restoring sight to the blind, feeding those that are hungry, etc.). Today in the 21st century there are many people in the world right now who engage in Christian ministry in organized religious settings, non-profit organizations and businesses that impact how people experience life on a daily basis (e.g., feeding ministries, free health clinics, etc.). In this current day and age, we as Christians in the world should be making some in roads into the lives of people who are disenfranchised by oppressive systems, personal circumstances, and unworkable situations. Sometimes, those inroads will cost - monetarily. Sometimes the cost will be simply making the choice to accept assistance or, request help. Sometimes it the cost will be simply believing in a God whom we cannot see. However, there is always a cost, because real practical ministry is a mutual relationship that is give and take for both involved.
You should know I extended my services to the person and made it clear that assistance was not free. I also made it clear that I would be available in some concrete ways that will make a significant difference for the battle they were engaged in legally. I was unapologetically not free, yet available to serve.
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If you have legal or faith questions, or perhaps another concern or question, feel free to contact me at:
Regina D. Jemison
500 Griswold, Suite 2410
Detroit, MI 48226