A couple of years ago, one of my finest Ph.D. students, Rev. Dr. Cletus Hull, shared with me that there are five practices in ministry that are always successful:
- Anoint the sick with healing oil,
- Serve holy communion,
- Read from the Bible,
- Lay hands on those who are ill, and those who are set apart for a task; and
- Pray always!
This is so true and I asked Cletus to share his thoughts with the readers of my blog. These five symbolic actions are not restricted to pastors, but can be practiced wherever “two or three are gathered in my name” (Matt 18:20). These are symbols of God’s presence.
Cletus told me that an older pastor once told him that by utilizing these five Scriptural symbols, people would sense that they had received ministry. Reading an open Bible, anointing with oil or grasping another’s hand in prayer surpasses anything a pastor could achieve by his own initiative. “We cannot do it. Let God bear the load of ministry!” the wise man reiterated.
Ministry is about the God who acts in human beings. For many ministers it takes deep courage to say, “I can’t do this myself.” The symbols unveil concrete expressions of the Lord that people can touch and hold in faith. These Bible-honored symbols are points of contact, connecting us with God. These symbols of faith employ the five senses to associate with spiritual convictions and draw us closer to the original faith that touched our soul. That is the power of symbols!
The power of forgiveness, prayer, and symbols operate in the hard places of ministry. Because of their divine origin, they demonstrate and release God’s healing power. As a pastor or a lay minister in the Christian faith, we minister the life of Christ, who brought wholeness to a fragmented world. We humbly serve only as the conduits of God’s wholeness in humanity!
Rev. Dr. Cletus Hull has served as a chaplain at two Pennsylvania state psychiatric hospitals for twenty-nine years and is Senior Pastor of Trinity United Christian Church in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania.