One of the most valuable pieces of ministry advice I’ve ever received was:
You aren’t ever going to “bring” God anywhere.
That statement is meant to give us understanding that the common Christianese phrase, “bringing God to the situation,” is a misnomer. We are never bringing God to a situation – he is already everywhere.
It feels offensive to our savior complexes, but it is so true. I am never “bringing” God anywhere. He is not something to be tucked into my back pocket, along for the ride. He is already there. He is already at work. He is gracious enough to invite me to join in. And as a result, any form of ministry is his project, not mine.
When God told me to move to LA, I knew it was because he had something there for me. I naively assumed it was going to look like me arriving on the scene of a city aching for Jesus and then subsequently ministering in some huge showy way to the people of Los Angeles. I guess that wasn’t just naive, it was also largely self-centered. This vision wasn’t coming from bad intentions. I wanted to love people, to pour out, to be working towards God’s Kingdom. But I missed the whole point.
God brought me to LA for a lot of reasons, but being a savior wasn’t one of them.
That’s his role.
Moving to LA shook me up. It was a really big move for me, not just in distance but also in mentality. It required me releasing all of the long-held plans I had for my life – which revolved around me living in New York – and surrendering to a life I had never imagined for myself on the west coast. And it turned out that adjusting to an entirely new coast and life plan left little room for me to jump into ministry right away.
So here we are, almost 8 months in (wowza!) and I don’t serve on any formal ministry team. But what I’m trying to remember is that ministry doesn’t mean bringing God somewhere; it means partnering with where he already is. He is in my Bible study, my apartment, my workplace, and every single coffee shop I enter. Sometimes ministry looks a lot like loving people that God already loves in places where he is already working. It doesn’t always mean flashy titles or new strategies for ministry or cool websites. Sometimes it looks a lot like patience with your coworkers, taking a moment to actually have a conversation with your barista and loving your friends intentionally and consistently.
Some days, I genuinely struggle with remembering this. I like to measure my value, benchmark the contributions I make and see results. I want something to point to. “Hey look, I’m doing that and therefore, I’m adding value to this community and city.” But for today, what God has given me doesn’t look like an organization or title or formal role to point to. Today God has called me to love the people around me – my friends, roommates, coworkers, and coffee baristas. My value isn’t measured in those things anyway. Whether I am on leadership for a church or just a good friend to those around me, my value doesn’t change.
I do believe God will eventually call me into a more formal ministry role at some point. But right now joining him in what he is doing means loving people in the places he has led me to. God is at work in Los Angeles. He is at work in this world. And we get the immense honor and privilege as his children to join him where he already is, in what he is already doing.