Messiah’s Misfits: Why The Name Says It All

So recently I’m reading 1 Corinthians 4 when suddenly it hits me…

…of all the chapters in all of Paul’s letters, arguably the greatest content on vocational perseverance can be found in v. 9-13 when Paul discusses the nature of true apostleship.

 Let’s check it out…

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (ESV)

It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.” (MSG)

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles at the end of the line, like men sentenced to death [and paraded as prisoners in a procession], because we have become a spectacle to the world [a show in the world’s amphitheater], both to angels and to men. We are [regarded as] fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are highly esteemed, but we are dishonored. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are continually poorly dressed, and we are roughly treated, and wander homeless. We work [for our living], working hard with our own hands. When we are reviled and verbally abused, we bless. When we are persecuted, we take it patiently and endure. When we are slandered, we try to be conciliatory and answer softly. We have become like the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” (AMP)

Now, before we dive in, we must understand the broader context.

First, what is the nature of true apostleship? Going back to 4:1, we find the answer: Those who minister Gospel hope as servants/stewards/ambassadors of Christ no matter the cost. The Amplified breaks it down further describing these servants as those who are certain in adoration more than they are uncertain in anything else. Essentially, apostleship goes beyond the office of apostle and involves anyone who is willing to be salt, light, and life in places where there is none. If you are being a faithful steward of God’s call on your life, you’re engaging your apostolic anointing! Whether or not you have a mobile ministry is moot compared to God’s faithfulness being reflected in what you say and do as you draw people to Christ (Colossians 3:17).

Second, how do we abide in the nature of true apostleship? Verses 7-8 give us a hint when paraphrased: We have not only been given everything for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but every reason to trust the Lord as our portion (Psalm 73:26)¹. Accordingly, as we reference God in reverence², to live as Christ (Philippians 1:21) becomes the foundation to our perseverance and influence regardless of setting and trial. After all, “there are different kinds of [work], but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work (1 Corinthians 12:6).

Finally, we arrive at v. 9 where Paul employs some serious poetic license. Messiah’s misfits (MSG), prisoners of spectacle (AMP, ESV), an accident in the street everyone stands around and stares at…these are all powerful metaphors and similes reminding us there is no earthly honor in apostleship. If, by chance, we are pursuing any glory apart from what is rightfully God’s, our endurance will not stand, but if our satisfaction is rooted in being complete with Christ (Colossians 2:10), if our contentment is secure to His sufficiency, only then will we be victorious as dregs. It’s a paradox to the flesh, but one necessary for our dependence. When we are thirsty, we’ll see the need as being filled as opposed to satisfying a lack. When we are persecuted, we’ll know God is with us as one who relates as opposed to withdrawn as one who can’t. And when we’re struggling to make ends meet, we’ll rest in the mysteries of what God has and hasn’t revealed since our reliance is not contingent on self.

For some of us, it’s hard to accept what doesn’t make sense. It’s like we’re okay being misfits to sin, but not to the minds/culture tolerating it. I know for me, I’d rather be criticized for what I do wrong than be judged for what I do right. At least, with the former I can apply the correction and move on! However, I also know whenever I crave my work to be affirmed and my love to be reciprocated, I can declare God’s grace as sufficient, the fact I can joyfully boast in His power made perfect in my frailty (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). And suddenly those ‘weak as I eke‘ moments fade in something infinitely more…

…the sweet reality that I need JESUS! What a beautiful place to be!

-Jprj2

Bottom line: If you’re a vocational leader, dare to see the identity of what you do through the lens of apostleship, through the lens of being a servant taking light into dark places. And if hard times come, don’t be surprised; rather view them as a sign you’re doing things right³. When you bless others in the face of voids and discouragement, remember the same Christ you ask to bless others is the same Christ who will honor your obedience. If you don’t fit in, remember you were never called to in the first place. Stand out, take what comes, and know the power of you standing through adversity will assuredly have a positive ripple-effect on those around you even if you don’t see it right away.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Note how strength in this verse has Hebrew roots to ‘rock’
  2. This form of dependence opens up the Romans 5:1-5 road (more on this in a future post)
  3. Assuming the hard times aren’t consequences of sin, shortcuts, etc.
Cover photo creds: Medium

Why We Need Vulnerability in Bivocational Ministry

Have you ever wondered what to do when you feel stuck and misunderstood at the same time?

I know I have.

In fact, it’s hard to remember a week when I haven’t thought about this at least once.

After all, when we talk about persevering through our purpose, no doubt, the topic holds perpetual relevance.

But for the bivocational who feel their life is like the Truman Show & Groundhog’s Day had a baby, sometimes truisms aren’t enough.

Not to sound blasphemous or anything. I just know for people like me, it helps when I’m able to  voice the struggles that come with the territory…and partner with people in troubleshooting their quandaries.

Thus, if any of you can relate…let’s just say you’ve come to the right place.

Bible_and_mouse_9605814_ml_1_RGBBefore His Girl Fryday launched, Lyssah and I did some research on bivocational issues and noted plenty of materials concerning the benefits of “bivocational ministry”; however, when it came to the challenges, we noticed a startling lack of content.

So in the days following, we asked ourselves some hard-hitting questions…

…like what makes the “cost of bivocational ministry” a taboo topic

…and why do some avoid confronting the truth when it seems to lack appeal?

After taking time to drill down, we realized:

The #1 thing bivocational ministers crave above all else is encouragement; hence, why so much content caters to this particular need.

However…

Bivocational ministers in hope of inspiration often stiff-arm opportunities capable of better equipping them for adversity.

Granted, it’s completely human to want edification; however, as bivocational ambassadors, we must realize we’re not called to manufacture floatation devices when storms come. ‘Cause truth is, if we want to walk in true freedom, we must get real about our struggles as opposed to tuning them out*.

And hear me…I get how easy it can be to rely on personal strength and distractions when we sense hopelessness knocking on our door.

Yet, it’s at that point we must embrace what we were ultimately designed for (i.e. accountability, intimacy, endurance, community, etc) to see and live the whole truth as God intended.

So while I’m all about encouragement and inspiration, I’m also aware we must be fearless in addressing the deep, dark closet spaces of our hearts.

Thus, in the coming weeks, we’re going to “de-taboo” some of life’s most complex questions…like…

  • What do you do when you feel like you’re not making a difference?
  • How do you respond when your authorities persecute you?
  • How do you cope with the fears of rejection and mediocrity?
  • What do you do when you feel old rejections are holding you back?
  • What do you do when you’re in the right place, but can’t connect relationally?
  • What do you do when you doubt God’s plan…and all you want to do is give up?

Of course, these questions only represent the tip of the iceberg.

Yet, as we tackle these issues, it’s my hope we not only discover the beauty in being bivocational but also the power that comes when we embrace the cost.

So in closing, I encourage you to ask yourself: Are you willing to let go of anything not God for the sake of trusting Him every step of the way?

In the meantime, stay tuned for a new post next week when we address our first question: What do you do when you feel like you’re not making a difference?

Fighting the good fight,

~ Cameron

Footnotes

*Trust me…I’ve tried self-medicating many different ways. It never works.

Photo credits: revivingthesoul.com & synergyforministry.org