Ministry is a series of conversations and interruptions

Like most people, my life often feels over-full and very stretching. 

When people ask how I am doing, I don’t like saying, “I’m busy”, but try to reply, “My days are full.”

I say this for two reasons. First, 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 second, being busy seems to be worn almost as a badge of honour these days.

But 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 things we didn’t plan for. (Now I know well-meaning goal-setting, life-planning people say that you are in charge of your own schedule. Meanwhile, on Planet Reality, things happen that can’t be planned for, or even anticipated.)

After many years serving in ministry roles I have come to understand ministry as a series of conversations and interruptions. So often, Kingdom advances happen on my margins rather than in the middle of my planned activities.

Just last week I had had a particularly full week, and needed to write my sermon for Sunday, as well as have a couple of key phone/face-time conversations. I also had an evening commitment and a full Saturday. So there was no margin for not completing that main task of preparing Sunday’s teaching that day. 

By 2pm on 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 timeframe now severely compressed, I asked God for unusually quick clarity of thoughts, captivating images and sentences. And 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.

After many years serving in ministry roles I have come to understand ministry as a series of conversations and interruptions. So often, Kingdom advances happen on my margins rather than in the middle of my planned activities. We know life consists of “Kingdom set-ups” 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.

While we must, of course, be present and attend to the things we have to 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.