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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

Box of Wine Theory of Ministry

A few years ago, I came up with the Box of Wine Theory of Ministry, particularly for people returning to church after an absence or trying out church for the first time. Have you ever tried to open a box of wine? [No, I’m not going to argue with you about the finer points of vintages and suchlike. Let’s assume a box of wine. Ain’t nobody perfect.] Opening a box of wine is not an easy task if we go about it directly. The usual way is to stand the box upright - as if you’d start pouring any minute - and try to open the box that way. It doesn’t work. It damages the box, frustrates the operators, the spout always gets stuck, and the entire process is ineffective at getting the “goodness” out of said box. Here’s how to do it. Lay the box on its back. Now open the box. So easy! The spout nestles inside. Just pull it up and set it gently into the cardboard. There is no struggle. Right? Now place the box upright. The “goodness” can now flow forth. It’s about relieving the pressure. Likewise, new people exploring your church could use some relief of pressure. I have years of outreach expertise. I’ve been loving and serving the least and lowest for over 30 years. In church, we encounter and become a holy family with all kinds of people. Almost everyone, ourselves included, are pretty stressed when we start coming to church. We’re under pressure. Boxed in. We don’t know how to get our “goodness” out within a church community, much less in our own lives. Often, especially if we’re new to church or have been away for a time, traditional ways of going about it don’t work as well as they might have in the past. Sometimes, they make matters worse. What to do? Well, we help our new church community members relax. We relieve the pressure. We support them and encourage them to rest and receive. But what if they do not pour forth their “goodness” after all of this? This is where we must let go of outcomes. Expecting “goodness” or gratitude or anything at all come from focusing on our problem. Not theirs. We must let this go. Doing so is an act of faith and obedience. Once the pressure is relieved, we begin - with the person’s full willingness - to tug and massage the insides so that God’s goodness can flow forth and be shared. This can be formation or education or service or worshipping together. All are equally important and effective. And then the box stands tall and goodness inside flows. Obviously, there is more to ministry. But, I want to know... Box of Wine Metaphor of Ministry: what are your thoughts?

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