Sunday, October 17

Interruptions are my ministry

The past two weeks have been frustrating. For every item I am able to cross off on my "To Do" list, 2-3 more are added. Calls needing to be made, reports overdue, projects waiting attention, documents needing translation, individuals needing counseling, materials needing to be re-worked, follow-up visits that should have been taken care of weeks ago, banking and financial matters needing attention yesterday, etc.

In the past fourteen days, I have only been able to cross off fourteen items total out of 40+ things needing attention yesterday. That averages to one item accomplished per day!

Why am I getting so little accomplished these days? I can answer that with one word. INTERRUPTIONS. And what is the definition of interruptions? PEOPLE!

People calling. People needing help. People asking favors. People dropping by the house. Meetings...requests...office/paperwork. Endless correspondence where you respond to an email and there are two more that pop up in the inbox while answering! Night and day, it never lets up. When is one supposed to get around to doing "our stuff" when everybody else's stuff is taking up all our time?

But...

What if God also has "to do" lists? What if God has on his list today for Juán to call me and see about our getting together for coffee at 2:15 this afternoon and talk about his problems?

When I seriously pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done..." am I not in effect saying, "Lord, your "to do" list has priority. Your agenda today takes precedence over my own." While meeting Juán at 2:15 may not be on my list, I would be foolish to blow off meeting Juan at 2:15 if he is on God's list.

I am reminded of a Mark Batterson quote I once came across,
One of my mottos is "ministry happens." I think that at least 90% of the ministry that happens in the gospels is spontaneous. Jesus was headed from one place to another and an opportunity would present itself. Jesus was willing to get off the beaten path and take the road less traveled. He didn't see them as detours or dead ends. Too often we mistake human interruptions for divine appointments. --from a Mark Batterson message entitled "Wild Goose Chase."
For people like myself who are geared toward intentional ministry and "to do" lists, the above thought is a needed reminder. Am I too busy to take time for someone interrupting "my ministry?" Am I so geared towards that 10% intentional ministry that I overlook the 90% God sets in my path daily?

Is not that 90% as much "real ministry" as the 10% I set out to accomplish?

"Intentional ministry" people often hide behind the excuse of thinking I am too busy with real ministry. I simply do not have time for unplanned spontaneous ministry from people interrupting my busy schedule. The truth is I view my own agenda as more important than the needs and concerns of others. Their need for feedback and/or attention is secondary to my accomplishing what I think is my own more important agenda.

Was that Christ's attitude who often left the crowds and made time to go eat at Zaccheus' house? Healing blind beggar Bartimaeus? Stopping in his tracks on his way to a resurrection when an unknown woman touched the hem of his robe? Taking time for children while leaving the crowds to wait?

90% of ministry happens when we seize those spontaneous opportunities that come disguised as detours or interruptions.

What do you think?

10 comments:

Mlabus said...

Amen Guy! We too have learned that as a missionary it is not always your ability that impacts the community, but your availability.

Gabe said...

(Well, I'm hesitant to leave a comment because my doing so will cause yet another email to be added to your already overflowing inbox!)

Wow Guy. The Holy Spirit used this post of yours to cut deep into my attitude! I LOATHE interruptions. They ANNOY me. They take me off my game. But I've never thought of them as God's "to do" list...hmmm....just what I needed to hear as I search for persons of peace in my town. I've always assumed I need to go out and find them, but it just might be that God is bringing them to me in the form of my customers who interrupt me and I'm missing those opportunities.

Ben & Christine Haley said...

Thanks for this encouraging word. A lot of times I might feel guilty when I get distracted by things that come up instead of focusing on the 'big vision, etc.'

Jeremy Myers said...

I agree...but I don't. Sometimes distractions and interruptions are divine appointments, but not always.

For example, if you work a secular job (as I and many other church planters do), I don't think it's a divine appointment to shirk your work duties and tasks because the office gossip came by to share the latest news. God wants you to honor your employer with your time while at work.

The same principle may be true for your family. Many of us church planters allow outside interruptions to get in the way of quality time with the wife and children. I'm not sure this is God's desire either.

But in general, I agree with you. Part of giving all to God is our schedules as well.

GuyMuse said...

Mlabus: Similar is something we have learned that just "showing up" is a big part of the equation. Seldom do we know what God is really up to until we show up and see what it is He is up to.

Gabe: LOL! Let me assure you that people responding to blog posts gets priority on my "to do" list. I may leave other things to lag, but reading what others have to say about something I have written is always interesting to me. Interesting thoughts you share about how God might be sending you persons of peace in the form of interruptions, and our missing the opportunities by seeing them as interruptions.

Ben: Good to hear from you. We miss you guys and wish you were still here. Hope all is going well with you. I know I often get distracted from the bigger picture as well.

GuyMuse said...

Jeremy,

Thanks for the balanced input on this matter. I hear what you are saying and think it wise. We need to have discernment between what might well be a "God interruption" and simply giving ear to someone's gripes that end up being distractions to truly doing all that God would have us do in that moment.

Aussie John said...

Guy,

You are so right!

Your post rings true of my first call to a rural church pastorate, and from then until retirement. After a few weeks I had a program worked out, to the last detail, as I had been taught.

I was soon shown that this was not God's way of doing ministry.

GuyMuse said...

AJ: I'd love to meet you some day and just listen to your stories gleaned over the years in ministry. Thanks for stopping by.

TKB said...

one of my mentors says the same thing, "Interruptions are the ministry." Dwight Robertson

GuyMuse said...

TKB,

Your mentor is a wise person! Who is Dwight Robertson?