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Ministering from the Margins

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , , ,

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“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage, As they pass through the Valley of BacaThey make it a place of springs; The autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, Till each appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:5-7)

The theme over at SheLoves Magazine this month is "Margins."  Well now, that is close to home isn't it?  

But it's not about me.  

It’s not about me, the bullying and abuse, shaming, name-calling, labelling, manipulation and persecution.  It’s not about me and now I realise, it never was.

It’s not about me raging or fighting or trying to force my way into a position where I can be heard by those in authority and leadership.  Like Sarah Bessey this week, “I don’t really want a seat at that particular table.”  The table which either actively oppresses others or turns a blind eye to it.  This is not about me trying to “campaign my way to a seat at their table;” neither is it about running for cover and moving on.  Rather, this is about setting “up a table in the wilderness.”  It is about me, along with Sarah Bessey and so many other voices in the wilderness also wanting to “find that creative, God-of-more-than-enough, streams in the desert way forward.” 

It’s about “a third way.”  It’s about a “new way forward.”

It’s about speaking up on behalf of others.  And it is about "getting on with the work of the Kingdom."

It's about ministering from the margins.

It’s about the elderly prophet and Jesus-lover who feels used and who no longer speaks in church because she’s been told no one wants to hear what she has to say.

It’s about the woman whose husband stays away because church is supposed to be a sanctuary and instead it is a pressure-cooker.

It’s about the man and his family, who put in hours of blood sweat and tears to serve the community, only to be judged and labelled.

It’s about his wife who digs in her garden in order to practise grace and forgiveness.  Again and again.

It’s about the woman whose son won’t cross the threshold of the church because he doesn’t understand why someone he has always looked up to is no longer wanted and seemingly not even missed by others.

It’s about the family who no longer feels safe, having warned and prophesied to deaf ears and blind eyes.

It’s about the woman who shakes her head at it all but whose hands are tied because no one will listen to her either.

It’s about the elderly man who has been marginalised and pushed aside and told to know his place and stay there.

It’s about his beautiful and gentle wife who knows too well what it is like to have her gift taken away from her unjustly and to be told her services are no longer required.

It is about the very same couple who have been pushed into the margins and have witnessed so many others pushed too, but have stayed because God has told them “I have work for you to do.” It’s about 30 years of broken hearts that they have stayed to help mend.
It’s about their weeping and their pain and the tears we shed together over so many broken hearts.

Too many broken hearts.

And it’s about you, the many from other towns, other cities and across the globe who have shared with me a bit of your story because my own sounded so familiar. 

Too familiar.

And it’s about countless others whose stories I do not know but have only heard of because they have been pushed so far that they have disappeared. Beyond the margins. 

It’s about a church in crisis.

It’s about THE CHURCH in crisis.

It’s about an oppressed people the world over that have been pushed into the margins and been abused in the process by leaders and authority figures in the church. Not every church thankfully and I am grateful to know many pastors, leaders and apostles who shepherd their flocks in true gospel-humility and submission to the Holy Spirit working in and through them. However, I have learned of many who lead by their own instincts.  Leaders and authority figures who perhaps crave power but more importantly, who fear two little words so much, they would rather sweep sin and abuse under the carpet than deal with it lovingly, maturely and appropriately.  Instead they desperately turn the tables on the hurt and the oppressed by manipulating and challenging them into thinking they have no respect for authority, that they carry a divisive spirit, shunning them in the process.  Pushing them into the margins further through guilt and shame.  Pushing them so that they stay quiet.

Two little words:  “church split.”

From their veiled and privileged position, they don't seem to be able to see the obvious: the Church is already split.

The Church is split between those that are in the margins and those that are not.

This is about those of us in the margins.

But those in the margins are standing up.  The margins are standing up for truth and justice.  Those in the margins know that God promises, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). 

This is about standing up and saying it is not okay to make those in the margins think they have done something wrong when they have asked a question.  It is not okay that someone should leave a church and nobody feels they can ask why.  It is not okay that leaders can make people feel guilty and ashamed for using their God-given gifts.  It is not okay that so many are accused of being negative or divisive or emotional or subversive simply because they have pointed out inconsistencies, injustices and asked for a better way. It is not okay to spread and feed on rumours, lies and gossip.  It is not okay to hear only one side of the story.  It is not okay to make decisions based on assumption.  It is not okay for anyone to abuse the pulpit with sermons containing specific messages for specific people, disguised as "the voice of God."  It is not okay to carry on in leadership without a trace of transparency and accountability.  It is not okay for anyone to hold their tenure as a God-appointed leader above the flock as an excuse to bully and victimise and enforce submission.

It’s not okay.

The margins are growing and rising up and ministering so this is about them.  This is about choosing to stand with those in the margins across the world and encouraging others to stand also.  And as Rachel Held Evans points out, it's about "responding to shaming tactics (deliberate or inadvertent) by pressing on and continuing to speak the truth, even when it makes people uncomfortable."  Because when we learn to speak the Truth and continue to be salt and light in an unjust and dark world, then we will see the weeping in the Valley of Baca become pools of refreshing, so that God can begin to build his kingdom here. 

So that God can rebuild His kingdom here.

So that we, as a unified body in Christ Jesus can bring glory to His name. 

Because Jesus Christ is what it should be about.

And Jesus ministered from the margins too.

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