I come from a family of ministers. My Father was a pediatrician who spent every spare moment working to give good health care to the needy by opening a Well Baby Clinic in the middle of the most poor neighborhood in the Southwest Louisiana town of Lake Charles. My Mother was a high school guidance counselor who worked tirelessly to help kids make it to college, and she also opened up her home to troubled kids when they needed a place to stay. My big brother is a pastor at a church in the Atlanta suburbs, and is undergoing some pretty heavy criticism for trying to establish a Hispanic ministry at his mostly white church. My big sister is a podiatry resident in Pennsylvania, and she's probably got the biggest heart of anyone I know. So, while us Hayes' have our fair share of dysfunction, we hail, nonetheless, from a rare line of walking wounded who call themselves "ministers".
I bring this up not to toot our respective horns (if you knew my brother, you'd know that he can toot with the best of them!), but to share a truth about ministers and ministry of which many may not be aware. "Minister" is the Latin word for "doer of little deeds", as opposed to a "magistrate", who is a "doer of great deeds." This stands in stark contrast to the idea of ministry as it has come to be understood in recent times. Many look at the minister as someone who is God-like in both thought and deed. Ministers are thought to be "perfect" or at the very least they are considered "better" than most ordinary folk. They are the keepers of the great truths of God, and are shining examples of holiness.
What we see in the Latin, however, is a dramatically different inference. Here we see that ministers are servants, humble and lowly. Ministers are more likely to find the short end of the stick than the pot of gold. Ministry, in this light, is characterized not by the high offices of church or state, but by the lower, more hands-dirty types of tasks. As such, ministry is humiliating.
The reason I'm writing this today is because my sister and I were lamenting my brother's recent troubles as a pastor, and she shared with me my brother's insight into the whole matter. "Anyone who has ever become great has gone through the harsh fire of criticism." was my brother's wisdom on the subject. Spoken like a true minister. Helen Keller, no stranger to hardship and ridicule, had this to say about becoming great, "I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." In other words, God honors and uses the humble, however humble they may be.
Perhaps the high price of greatness is not the hard work and years of practice it takes to become a doctor, but the one contagious act of humility that turns medicine into ministry. Maybe the greatest thing is not the up-front pulpit savvy of the pastor, but the lowly vision to reach the diverse and marginalized in our ever changing society. God may not use anything more in this world than the accomplished man or woman who commits to become the "doer of little things."