Ministry Masks – Which One are You Wearing?
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
I've been a churchgoer and avid ministry participant for as long as I can remember. Early on, I became labelled as the "church kid" and the "church baby," as I was one of the consistent faces you would see whenever the church doors were opened.
Looking at today's world crisis of identity issues, reckless lifestyles, (more specifically pertaining to women), I am extremely grateful that my mom dragged us (my brothers and I) to church at every opportunity. Thankfully, it was in those four walls that I began building a relationship with the Lord Jesus at such a young age. I've journeyed from then to now knowing that life may not always be smooth sailing. Still, I'd ALWAYS have my Sailor (Christ) who was trained and skilled in navigating through all storms (of life).
Growing up, I had an exceptional childhood. No, my family was not wealthy, and neither did I have all of my wants and desires. Yet, I lacked nothing. Blessed, favoured and loved on every level by so many people made life rewarding. Regardless, I was known as the "good girl", a goodie-two-shoes of sorts. The kid who "stuck to the rules," never wanting to ruffle any feathers or get in any trouble. My friends could hardly get away with or wanted to do anything sneaky around me. Not only was I not up for the challenge but I wasn't about to allow anyone to get me in trouble.
My childhood was a somewhat lopsided balance between church events and school life. While in school, I found myself an active member in almost every club or team; while church life was far more involved. From the children's choir to dance ministry and the drama team. Anywhere there was a vacancy, I filled a need. Every ministry I was involved in all helped me to continue building my personal relationship with God. I was always passionate about ministry; simply put, I loved it! I loved sharing my gifts on the stage. I loved the feeling of family, the connection with ministry friends and the fulfilment that being involved gave me as I grew older. Although the only thing I knew or could relate to was "church," I never felt "left out" or that I was "missing out" on life's happenings as a teenager. Well, at least until friends came and discussed parties or events, they may have attended over the weekend. Even still, many couldn't and wouldn't understand, and it was just no need for me to try and explain. Jesus, Family, Ministry, Church, was my life and in that order.
What I find, though, in my years of active church ministry, many people live behind masks called "church involvement." They use it to conceal real, deep-rooted problems like hurt, rejection, pain, denial, confusion, anxiety and countless other issues. It's as if these things were too taboo to mention in the sacredness that is 'church.' As a result, people opted to hang on to clichés and taglines such as being "blessed and highly favoured" to mask challenges that set them apart from other people they share ministry with, rather than exposing the truth that would bring healing.
For me, my ministry mask wasn't to conceal any of the issues mentioned. Thankfully, I never struggled on those levels growing up. My mask was subtle, like lip gloss. It was the guise that women are to always be strong. No, this mask never prevented me from my commitment to the call but what it did was make me feel that there was no room for weakness, vulnerability or brokenness. Especially when you are the leader in any group, there is the expectation from other leaders, onlookers and even the naysayers that you ALWAYS have it together. You know, to always have the answers, to ALWAYS get things right, mainly to just be perfect. Then there is your own expectation that makes you want to be regarded by many as the "strong friend" or the friend that navigated through issues seamlessly. There were many people that trusted me with personal secrets and burning issues (a lot of which I never even experienced myself).
Nonetheless, I gave advice, inspiration and encouragement as best as I knew how. Trying my best to perfect the gift of helping others to steer their personal ships to shore. For me, though, here is where the mask was always displayed because no one around realized that even the strong friend, the strong ministry leader, the "church girl," was also human. She too needed a shoulder, an ear, and those same words poured back into her. Thankfully, I never gave up or even caved in when life was at the peak of chaos. My level-head and 'trust' in the process kept me all the way together.
So what happens when life does what life is meant to do, EVOLVE? And seasons do what seasons are meant to do, CHANGE? Then the life you worked so hard to keep together for so long presents you with unexplainable changes, discouraging reports and bad news, what are you left to do? Yes, the strong friend and ministry leader still does what she knows best to do, and that is to always show up. It was a hard realization but necessary to understand that showing up is REQUIRED! It's all in the package deal. However, showing up needs to be done without the mask.
It is so ironic that because of COVID-19, almost every establishment has on its doorpost, NO MASK NO ENTRY! Though for the church and other groupings, people have long been entering with masks all along. The masks worn are unlike those we wear now to prevent others from spreading germs, but masks that would not reveal or uncover your deepest pains and expose your broken pieces. Showing up for ministry and being loyal to a vision is commendable but ensuring that you not only "show up" physically but "SHOW UP" is most important.
Many people find themselves functioning faithfully in ministry only to appease the desires of leaders with ministry demands. At the same time, they show up not in peace but in pieces. However, in faithful devotion to serving a vision, which I am in full support of, many ignore the fact that God is not focused solely on their talents or their gifts. After all, he was the giver of them all. He is quite aware of what He placed on the inside of you, so what He is most concerned with is the state, the position and the posture of your heart because out of that flows the issue of life.
Masks and ministry seem like they were always a thing, without people even acknowledging it for what it is. Contrary to popular belief, some ministries still "seemingly" function effectively with persons who never enter without their mask affixed. However, let us consider the levels of breakthroughs and the freedom that will come if we flip the tagline and present to ministry members that masks are not a requirement for entry. Instead, let's make it known they are actually a hindrance. It must be communicated and understood that help, healing and hope can be obtained without judgement (in the church). But the inclusion of masks hampers the process. Yes, mistakes happen. They serve as proof that we are trying at this thing called life. It is just so funny that it seems like ministry and mistakes don't mix together, but ministry and masks do. Oh! The irony!
Covid 19 has forced us to fall in love with the idea of masks. Not only did it create businesses to now supply the demand, but we were able to find masks to match every outfit. While this accessory can be beautified and serves a purpose in this era in which we live, it does one more harm than good in ministry. Ministry is more meaningful when masks are off.
What ministry mask do you put on to make your issues seem small? It is about time to take it off. NO MASK, BETTER SERVICE! Uncover yourself; it's just safer that way!