This past Sunday we did not use the regular lectionary reading. Instead we read the Passion story from Mark 15. Granted it is not totally different but I was surprised when I first saw what we were doing.
It all made sense when the Pastor gave his sermon. He focused on Simon of Cyrene. This was interesting because I have not thought too much about him in the past. Granted Simon of Cyrene was only mentioned once in the entire Bible. Many questions surround this Character. Where did he come from? What was he doing there? What happened to him after he carried the cross of Christ?
This got me thinking after the services. How was Simon effected by this event? Did he have faith before he came to Jerusalem that day? This led me to think about those people who come into the church for one reason or another. There are people who are touched by our faith, by our preaching of the Gospel. How do we reach out to those people? Do we reach out to those people?
Simon could of had this unforgettable experience of carrying the cross of the man who saved the sins of the world – and he could of forgotten about it. He could of walked away shook his head and said “what a bunch of freaks” — OR he could of walked away realizing what was happening, he could of stood next to the cross and watch Jesus die and then left and proclaimed the gospel. We don’t know.
What we do know is that we can learn from this experience. We can reach out to those who experience our ministry, weather it is in a church or not. We can follow up with them and ask them what they experienced. We can continue to reach out and preach the Gospel. There are many Simons of Cyrene’s out there and I bet most of them are turned off from the church for one reason or another. Most of them I would think really don’t feel that connection, they don’t have that built in connection that they have in other aspects of their life. I am not saying that it is void — but it might be hidden.
Those of us who do have a connection can create connections for other people. But we need to know what that connection might be and that is where the personal contact is important.
I feel lucky in a way that I have had 9 years working in ministry full time and part time. The biggest thing I have learned about ministry and building up ministry is that it boils down to finding a connection within the church for people through the process of relationship building. It takes time, it is hard work and it does not guarantee success but that’s the best way in my opinion.
This upcoming year when I take on a new church situation, where I will be working with youth I will be spending 10-12 hours a week — almost 150 hours this summer building up relationships with the youth in the church. That’s the only way I can create a program where we will be successful. I am excited about this and I hope to continue to learn about ministry through this. I have not been able to really put this theory to the test (fully). But I don’t see any other way to do it.
I like to think that Simon’s experience carrying the cross really effected him in a positive way and that he really took it to heart and shared that experience with the people who stopped to listen to him.