January - February 2018

Written by Robbie Cansler
From her column Kingdom Come

rc pic.jpgEditor’s note: With this issue, we welcome Rev. Robbie Cansler to the P&B writing team. Robbie is an ordained elder currently serving as pastor of the Mission Church of the Nazarene in Hammond, Ind. As a bivocational church planter, she spends her days substitute teaching in the public school system. She and her husband Mac and their son Michael Robert (born 12/12/17) live in Hammond, where they seek to transform the neighborhood and world through radical hospitality to those around them.

 

As a child I always wished for a magic wand. I preferred a magic wand to a genie in a lamp, because while genies held the power to grant wishes they were limited to three, whereas magic wands held endless possibilities. So, every Christmas, birthday, and probably even Easter, I would pray, wish for, hope for, and ask for a sparkly magic wand.

While walking in my community the other day, I was reminded of my dream for a magic wand. But now, as an adult, my requests wouldn’t be so selfish. Today, I would like to have a ministry magic wand, and I have some good ideas of how I would use it.

kingdom come

I could help some of my neighbors with their lawn care. I could purchase an apartment complex and offer affordable rent. I could turn an empty lot into a community garden with flowers and fresh vegetables. I could maximize my time to better serve people the way they need to be served, and I could definitely give the church building fund the money needed for that new roof.

But, the reality is, there is no ministry magic wand, and there are only so many hours in a day, and so many resources to go around. This thought can be discouraging at times, like when I think we should be doing bigger and better things. Sometimes the realization of my limitations is overwhelming—there are so many needs and no way to meet them all.

Living in this state of mind for too long can be dangerous for me and my church, because it loses sight of the fact that we have something better than a magic wand. We have the Holy Spirit who is already at work through prevenient grace in my neighborhood. If I am busy focusing on the problems around me and the things I would do to solve them, I lose sight of this important truth.

We have the Holy Spirit who is already at work, through prevenient grace, in my neighborhood.

I can also miss the ways the Holy Spirit has gifted the church to meet needs in ways I cannot. The church is a body of many individuals with a variety of gifts, talents, and abilities. As a pastor, if I’m not careful, I can attempt to shoulder all the work myself. This leads to frustration and highlights my inadequacy to handle the load, instead of recognizing where the Holy Spirit is equipping the church to meet needs.

When I stop wishing for a ministry magic wand and look around with different eyes, I notice a neighbor taking an elderly woman to her doctor’s appointment. I see kids riding bikes together and laughing. I see young adults stopping by just to say “Hi.” I notice others reading books, and caring for each other with acts of kindness. I see God at work in small and big ways.

When I stop wishing for a ministry magic wand, I see the talents and gifts within my congregation, their ability to share hospitality, to join in community events, to learn the names of visitors on Sunday, to serve one another. I see how different God has made each of us, and how, when we work together, we are able to accomplish so much more than we possibly could as individuals.

When I stop wishing for a ministry magic wand, I am freed of the pressure to be some sort of super pastor, and am released to be faithful to the call of Christ on my life. I no longer have to live in discouragement that I am not doing enough for those around me. I am free to preach the word, to care for my flock, and to equip them to do a great work in the world. I am free to see where the Holy Spirit is at work and to join in that effort in my community.

It is my prayer that we won’t hold out for magic wands in our ministry, and that we will take time to see where the Holy Spirit is actively engaged in the lives of those around us. It is my hope that we will stop living in the discouragement that comes with thinking we can serve Jesus effectively only by attempting to do bigger and better things than we have the time or resources for.

May we instead lean upon the great power the Spirit has bestowed upon the church to join in the mission of God to serve the world around us—a power greater than any magic wand.

Rev. Robbie Cansler is an urban church planter/substitute public school teacher who serves the Mission Church of the Nazarene in Hammond, Indiana.