Navigating Life-as-Ministry

By Robert Grove-Markwood

September 2014 Issue

BEARINGS (noun): comprehension of one's position, environment, or situation.

Welcome to BEARINGS, a blog space featuring local, regional, and national 21st century ministry thought leaders and thoughtful practitioners. In BEARINGS posts, diverse voices will offer commentary and insights on how ministry is changing today and share stories of inspiring networked, relational, and incarnational ministries. The aim of the blog is to help equip and support lay and clergy leaders navigating the challenges and opportunities of 21st century ministries. It will complement other programs of The BTS Center. Dr. Elizabeth Drescher, Consulting Scholar for The BTS Center, served as our host, guide, and companion. (Her initial post is here.)

Why did we choose BEARINGS as our title? The multiple meanings of the word “bearing” provide several points of contact for discussions about how we might understand and respond to—navigate—the shifting contours on the rolling landscape of religious beliefs and practices.

I assume that you’re at least modest masters of metaphor, so let me just list a few relevant definitions and the questions they provoke for ministry. In the months ahead, we’ll further unpack these metaphors with a diverse community of contributors to the blog. For example:

  • Definition: to know where you are in relationship to your surroundings; also, to discern/decide on a path, direction, or trajectory. Questions: Have we lost our bearings in ministry in relation to the world around us now? How can we begin to reset them?
  • Definition: relevance, significance. Question: What bearing does this ministry have on the people we serve, on our communities, on the wider world?
  • Definition: bringing forth fruit. Question: How are our ministries bearing fruit today?
  • Definition: endurance/sustainability. Questions: How can we support one another in bearing the challenges of ministry in a changing world?

image002In the early 1970’s, shortly after my college graduation, I was commissioned as a Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant. Navigation skills were a critical part of my training. I was pretty good with map and compass. But I vividly recall training with my platoon in the Panamanian jungle, where I experienced an epic fail during a night compass navigation exercise. It was only “practice,” but it was frustrating not to do well. More than that, it was frightening for me to consider the implications of failure in a real-world, combat-mission test of my skills. I was fortunate, and never had to pass that kind of ultimate, final exam.

As a Marine I learned to locate myself and a desired destination on a map, discern directions to the destination, and adjust to changing conditions as necessary. But it was through my faith journey – which prominently featured a theological education – that I truly “got my bearings.” I learned how to navigate life-as-ministry, with maps of mercy and compasses of compassion, sharing the journey with others justly.

We pray that you will find BEARINGS much more than a navigational aid providing helpful hints, or tools and techniques. We envision this online space as a collaborative effort to build a theologically grounded community that will grow through energized engagements and creative conversations —not just a collection of passive posts for you to ponder. Permission is granted, of course, for you to ponder at will, but we also hope you will become a companion on this journey of discovery. 


Photo Credits
Photo: “An Evening With the Ladies” by Kris Williams, 2014.  Licensed under CC2.0.
Photo: “Just Do Not Lose Orientation” by Georgie Pauwels, 2013. Licensed under CC2.0.