This is the second of my Leadership letters. I want to help people know and use their spiritual gifts more effectively, and help others use theirs well. Spiritual gifts are designed to point people to Jesus, to alleviate human suffering, and to help us move forward in our relationship with God. They are an adventure in joining Jesus in His ministry to humanity.
Like you, I have a life that often feels over-full and very stretching. When people ask “how I am doing?” I don’t like saying that “I’m busy” but rather, try to reply, “my days are full.” I say this for 2 reasons. Firstly, when we say “I am busy,” sensitive people easily interpret that as “he is too busy for me,” and sometimes an opportunity is lost. And secondly, being busy seems to be worn almost as a badge of honour these days. Being busy isn’t a virtue: being fruitful or being effective really is much more important. Being busy can easily result from being disorganised, distracted or misdirected, as it can from doing too many things that make a difference. It is better to live full days, which include time to listen, think and reflect, as well as time to do.
Sometimes, we have days that seem to get taken over with other things that we didn’t plan for. (Now I know that well-meaning goal-setting, life-planning people say that you are in charge of your own schedule. But meanwhile, on Planet Reality, things happen that can’t be planned for, or even anticipated.)
Just last week I had had a particularly full week, and was needing to accomplish writing my sermon for Sunday, as well as a couple of key phone/face-time conversations. And I had an evening commitment as well as a full Saturday. So there was no margin for not completing that main task of preparing Sunday’s teaching that day. By 2pm Friday, I hadn’t even turned on my computer to study and write because there had been several long interruptions. But they were good and fruitful interruptions. They were Kingdom interruptions! So with the time frame now severely compressed, I asked God for an unusually quick clarity of thoughts, captivating images and sentences. And so by the end of the day, God had graciously compressed a process that would normally take much longer, and require more work on my part, and I were as done, note outlines printed, and in to the commute home.
After many years of serving in ministry roles I have come to understand ministry as a series of conversations and interruptions. So often the Kingdom advances happen on my margins rather than in the middle of my planned activities. We know that life consists of “Kingdom setups” where we serendipitously meet someone, or a conversation heads down an unplanned direction, or a simple (sometimes shallow) prayer suddenly ushers in a “God moment” when the Kingdom of God draws near, and we find ourselves in what the celtic church called a “thin place.” These are the moments of ministry. Sometimes hard conversations, sometimes deeply frustrating interruptions. But they are so often the ministry!
While we must of course be present and attend to the things that we must do (though it is good to regularly prune what those things may be), so often it is the conversations and interruptions that bring the change. Being at our desk, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, having coffee with people, and being at meetings isn’t always ministry. Ministry is about God and the people he brings to us to love and bless. Everything else we do is simply about getting to where we can do ministry as we join Jesus in what He is doing around us.
So just as fruit grows on the branches and not on the trunk, don’t be surprised that Kingdom advances happen in the margins rather than the centre of our activities. Ask our Lord to open our eyes to spot the God moments. Ministry is a series of conversations and interruptions.