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Messy, Messy

Posted by Kent Copley , 16 February 2014 · 1523 views

When my oldest daughter, Tori, was a toddler she was meticulous. She was a fairly clean eater who required little cleanup, was in many ways organized, and loved to stack blocks high. However, once in a while the ornery toddler in her would come out. She’d place her hands in the middle of her food plate, look at us, then swirl her hands around in the food, and look at us again with a big smile holding up her now dirty hands and say, “Messy, messy!” We’d laugh, and she of course would do it again saying, “Messy, messy!” We often tease her about it today.

Ministry requires casting, goal setting, and strategizing, but despite all the plans ministry can be, “messy, messy!” Right? Go back and refresh yourself on the story in John 4, which tells of Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman. For Jesus, as a Jew, to go through Samaria, well, it was… “messy, messy!” In the story we are told that the disciples went into town and Jesus went to a well. He met a Samaritan woman who had a “past”… “messy, messy!” As we read on in the story the conversation unfolds, and we discover that the woman has had multiple husbands, is looking for her emptiness to be satisfied, and discusses with Jesus matters of faith… “messy, messy!”

We all know ministry can be “messy, messy.” Addictions. Gossip. Manipulation. Anger. Resentment. Denial. Conflict. Self-promotion. And that’s just within the walls of the church, and often our church leadership…messy, messy (sorry, I couldn’t help it). But what about ministry beyond the walls of the church? I am finding in our community that we “do church” in a certain way to reach a certain people which means that we also “do church” in a certain way that doesn’t reach people… “messy, messy!”

When Jesus approaches the woman and engages her in conversation, He is addressing her in a way that’s not the norm. Issues addressed? Cross-cultural, Jews and Samaritans didn’t cross paths on purpose. Cross-social, two groups didn’t have much in common. Cross-gender, one-on-one conversation with a woman with no one around. Cross-faith, Samaritans on a different path for worship… “messy, messy!”

But, what happens when Jesus chooses to get “messy, messy.” Jesus looks down, puts His hands in the food plate of life, and swirls them around. Then He pulls out his hands, holds them up in the air, and with a big smile on His face says, “Messy, messy!”

I ask you to consider looking at your community in a different light. There are all kinds of challenging people and messy situations. This is nothing new to you. Take a moment, stop at the well and have a conversation. Why? Like in the story of the Samaritan woman, in amongst the messiness of her life, Jesus shared the Good News. She then went back to her community, shared the message of the Savior, and many came to faith. Now that would put a smile on anyone’s face. Reach up your hands to the Heavenly Father and say, “messy, messy!”

  • Marvin Harrell, David Manske, Michael Sohm and 2 others like this

Michael Sohm
Feb 19 2014 05:08 PM

Thank you Kent for an honest and helpful look at life and ministry.

    • Kent Copley likes this
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Marvin Harrell
Feb 20 2014 09:41 AM

You said it, Kent. Messy, messy could be tattooed on my forehead for all to see!


My favorite image was of Jesus putting His hands on the plate of life, swirling them around and holding them in the air with a smile! In a way, I guess he did that on the cross. And the "messy, messy" of my life, swirled together with all of our messiness, is there forever as a reminder of His grace. Thank you again for this great reminder!

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Kent Copley
Feb 21 2014 03:28 PM
Thanks Mike and marvin for your comments. Marvin, isn't it true...if we were to be honest though saved and sanctified, our daily sin not kept in check sure can be part of the daily challenges of ministry.
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