A Beautiful Mess – CMN Women

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A Beautiful Mess

By Becky Swartzendruber

Ministry is messy. Well, at least in my case it always has been. I think a lot of people expect ministry to look like a Thomas Kinkade painting, but it’s more like a Jackson Pollock painting.

Thomas Kinkade is known for his beautiful scenery and ideal paintings of life. In a Kinkade painting, you will find gorgeous backdrops of Hallmark-esque life stills. While Jackson Pollock, on the other hand, is known for his unconventional, messy, splattered canvases. In a Pollock piece, you are more likely to see chaos. I’m here to talk about the chaos of ministry. The unconventional, messy version.

God has always put messy people in my path.

In our ministry, we deal with witches, satanists, addicts, atheists, etc. Living life with people and loving them like Jesus does includes breaking bread with the “bottom of the barrel sinners” as a friend once put it.

I have had the opportunity to love some amazing humans. They are loving, kind, funny, and adventurous, but they are searching in the wrong places for something greater than themselves.

In my experience (here in rural Bible Belt Texas), those who practice satanism and witchcraft have been hurt and rejected by the traditional church at some point for being different. I, too, know what that rejection feels like. I thank God he has brought these amazing people in my life to love and disciple.

It’s not easy. It’s downright exhausting. Sometimes you will find yourself, quite literally, in the middle of the witch’s den.

A few months ago, I was invited to a new friend’s daughter’s birthday party. When I showed up, I found myself in the midst of witches and carnies. I wanted to hug them all and tell them Jesus loved them, but I didn’t want to scare them away.

It was the second time I was invited to an event and the same crowd showed up. I see these invitations as opportunities to get my hands dirty and bring light to those who need it so desperately.

This ministry takes time and patience in teaching the word and letting God do his job. It’s not my job to change people – that’s all Him – but it is my job to love, pray for, and speak truth to them. I have to allow the Holy Spirit to move in their lives like I never would be able to do.

This crowd will ask questions not suitable for children, and that’s ok. We can be thankful they are asking questions. They will come without a filter and use language suitable for a sailor, but that’s ok too. They are there.

Let God do the changing. Intercede on their behalf, pray for them daily, and watch them grow. Be thankful in the small things, like when a dear friend tells you that the fortunes she’s been practicing her whole life now feel wrong and she’s telling her family about her new perspective.

Sometimes, it may feel like you’re not making a difference, but God is working even when you can’t see it.

When you do see it, it’s so amazing.

I used to think our ministry should look more like the Kinkade painting, and I felt inferior because it didn’t. I am now so thankful for the Pollock-type ministry, because I get to be a part of beautiful and unique stories. I get to love them as they are.

I wouldn’t trade our group of weirdos and misfits for the ideal painting. So if you ever get a witch’s invitation, take it from this unlikely pastor, it might just be your greatest opportunity to love your community fiercely, like Jesus does.

It won’t be easy, but man what a beautiful mess it will be.


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Becky Swartzendruber is a pastor's wife at The Venue church in Levelland, Texas.