What’s This Ministry Thing All About?

For some time now, I’ve been trying to define what “Jackie Shaw Ministries” is all about.  It needs definition for others so they can figure out what I’m up to, and it needs definition for me so I have some direction in which to work.

According to dictionary.com, ministry is defined as “the service, functions, or profession of a minister of religion” and 2. “the body or class of ministers of religion; clergy.”  That is about as vague as what goes through my head when I try to define ministry for myself.  Writing usually helps me clarify my thoughts, but I struggle to define this, even after writing about it.

Perhaps it would be best if I talked about what ministry means to me, in my circumstances.  Going to church after being abused always put me in an awkward position.  I loved church because it was my excuse to get away.  It made my head spin because I heard things like “Honor your father.”  “Don’t partake in communion unless you have asked the one you hurt for forgiveness.”  I couldn’t sort it out.  My father was not honorable.  He was despicable.  I couldn’t figure out who I had hurt so badly that abuse was my punishment. I did learn it was not my fault and I hadn’t hurt anyone to cause the abuse.

My brain couldn’t sort it out.  Some days I still can’t.  I tried to sort it out in seminary.  I gained a lot of insight and helpful perspective.  I asked a lot of questions and pushed a love of boundaries, sometimes to the chagrin of my professors.  But I learned I believe in God.  Yes, that may sound crazy from someone who was in seminary studying for the ministry, but there are times when I’m not so sure.  I believe that God sometimes feels distant from me, but then I have to stop and figure out what’s going on.  I believe in life and freedom from abuse. I believe no one deserves to be abused.  I believe that survivors were never at fault for their abuse.  I believe that forgiveness may never come, and that it can’t be forced upon anyone.

Ministry to me is sitting with someone in pain, hearing their story.  My friends have done that for me.  Some of them heard more than they probably ever wanted.  But they heard me, and they listened, with pained faces.  And they never denied what I was saying or made me feel like it was my fault.  That was a ministry of friendship and care they offered to me.  I can hope to do no less.

This is what I want to do.  I want to speak to large audiences like Marilyn Van Derbur.  I want to work with survivors and write healing services.  I want to work with ministers and help them minister to the survivors in their congregations.  I want to preach and teach and speak at every opportunity I am given.  I want to stop abuse everywhere.

Big dreams?  Impossible?  Perhaps.  But I believe in empowering people one person at a time.  I became empowered, and it took years of pain, and tears and friends who listened and believed in me.  Everyone deserves that.  If I can talk and give resources that may help survivors, I’ll keep doing it.  That, to me, is ministry.  It isn’t in a church building at this point, but it is part of church as I have come to understand it.

I tried to be concrete with this.  It took two days to put together because I can’t define what this journey will look like yet. I tried to define this ministry, but I can’t see it from here yet.  Follow with me as it develops further.

If you need someone to hear your story, email me or comment on the post.  I’m listening.  If you need someone to preach in your church about sexual abuse, email me.  We may be able to work it out.  I’m in the Midwest, but love to travel!  If you need resources for a survivor in your community, perhaps I can help you find them.  You want to have a service of healing in your community?  I’d love to help write it. I believe that survivors have a lot to give the church and the church has a lot to offer survivors if it is willing.

It has been my honor and my privilege to walk with a few survivors on pieces of their journeys.  To me, if I can help one person learn that they are not alone in this horrible soul-sucking abuse that they are experiencing or have experienced, that will be ministry enough to me.

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