If you have come by my office lately, you have probably noticed a green toy sitting in my window sill. If you are older than me, you will probably immediately recognize this funny shaped fellow as Gumby. If you have no clue, like I didn’t when I first heard about it, Gumby was a clay animated character who was overly positive and always willing to help out others in any given situation.
In seminary, we used this character as our unofficial motto. Semper Gumby was the battle cry of my fellow classmates. Always flexible. While we often used it to mean that we have to do what is necessary amidst class expectations, work expectations, fitness, and some semblance of a social life, this phrase actually epitomized well what ministry truly looks like.
As I reflect upon these early years of ministry, I have come to see that this battle cry is closer to truth than imagined. Ministry or ministering to people means meeting them where they are. And that goes for both literally and spiritually. Sometimes ministering to others means picking someone up because their car has broken down on the side of the road. Other times it means an impromptu trip to the hospital when a little one has broken an arm during baseball practice. Loving your neighbor enough to minister to them looks like going out of your way whether it is part of your schedule or not.
Spiritually speaking, flexibility is also necessary when it comes to ministering to others. This does not mean that you are flexible in your theology, but it does mean that we must be patient when talking with others about theological matters. We never know where someone else is at on their Christian journey. We often get in a lot of trouble when we mock others for their lack of understanding on a given topic. Not every gets to grow up with a solid Biblical education, so we should walk meekly with others as we bring them along.
When we adopt this mindset of semper Gumby, or always flexible, we will by necessity become more missional. We will look for opportunities to share the love of Christ both physically and spiritually with others. Jesus in his teaching from Matthew 25:35-40 demonstrates this flexible mindset when he says
“35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Unless we keep ourselves flexible and willing to help others when we see a need to be met, we will likely fail to honor the Lord in these moments. So my encouragement to you is to keep your ministry opportunities semper Gumby. For as Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Pastor Aaron Suber