Ministry

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.


Remember the poor

By David Ruis

I have a distinct memory of sitting in my study one day as I was pulling together thoughts and materials related to stepping out on yet another church planting adventure. I was quite excited, feeling that rush of risking faith that these types of pioneering ventures demand, ready to pull together my demographics, cultural analyses and various and sundry cool ideas that I was envisioning for this new emerging community.

In the midst of the swirl of documents, scribbles, ear-tagged books, notes and the latest DVDs – on everything from relevant communication trends to systems and community development – was my Bible. Open.

Staring up at me were the words given to Paul as he was launching on his first foray into church planting and mission. Peter, James and John, considered to be the pillars of the early Church in every regard, agreed that it was time for Paul to step out. To risk. To put his hand to the call on his life to participate in the expanding kingdom of heaven through missional endeavors out into the Gentile world far out of the reach of Jerusalem and Samaria.

Their words of instruction to Paul were there on the page burning not just into my eyes, but into my heart as well.

As Paul would step out he would become the first intentional missionary and church planter in the history of the Church. The gospel had spread to many places of the world through persecution and the dispersion of believers for various reasons. But this was a first. This was important. The key elements of the gospel of the kingdom must be proclaimed and modeled.

Pretty big stuff.

The thing Peter, James and John said to Paul was not just gripping my heart, but shifting my thinking. In fact, the more I pondered what I was reading, I began to get somewhat angry as I looked up in my study to see, as Wimber would say, ‘words, words, words, words’ – so much instruction; teaching; training information about faith; life and the church. I couldn’t remember anyone in the midst of all these ‘words’ telling me what Paul was told.

I was ticked. Why had I never heard this before?

‘All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing that I was eager to do all along’ (Paul the Apostle, Gal. 2:10).

That’s all they asked. Full stop. At the one-year evaluation as to how things at your church are going, there is only one question on the exam. At the two-year point, just one question still. At the 10- year mark, there is just one requirement that cannot be lost in the midst of all the challenges and hurdles of living out faith and building community:

Did you remember the poor?

The more I walk this journey in my own life and in the midst of the community of faith I realize that this one simple request is more and more central than I ever dreamed to the understanding of the gospel, the call to follow Christ, and the mission of the Church.

Remember the poor. Don’t forget the poor.” 


This article is reproduced from the booklet 'Come, Holy Spirit' with permission from Vineyard USA. 

The complete booklet and other booklets in this series are available to buy from Vineyard Resources.

Click here to purchase

Come, Holy Spirit

By Steve and Cindy Nicholson

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a direct, bold request for the Spirit to do the work the Father wants to do in us, and to be the fire that propels us out to do the work the Father wants to do through us.

“Come, Holy Spirit." We remember the first time those words were used by us as a conscious invitation to the Spirit to come, with an expectation that we might see evidences of the Spirit’s presence. It was at our young church’s annual dinner-come-slide-show-come- worship celebration. Everyone was standing. There was a deep, unnerving, very long silence.

Then in the cavernous acoustics of a church gym, the sound of a metal folding chair flipping over and the unmistakable wail of a man whose emotional pain had just gotten uncorked by God. More flipping chairs, more crying, laughing, shouting, people shaking, people ending up under folding chairs, and all through the room, such a sense of purposefulness to it all, of God doing things and saying things, as though we had finally opened the door and let Him in. Which we had!

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ did not originate with John Wimber. We are merely the latest generation to embrace it. It has its roots back in the earliest prayers of the first Church Fathers and Mothers, the first generation after the apostles to carry the flame of the gospel forward. This prayer is not just some oddity of 21st century Western Christianity. It is part and parcel of Trinitarian theology, a beloved prayer of every generation of believers before us. you are in very good company when you pray, ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a direct, bold request for the Spirit to do the work the Father wants to do in us, and to be the fire that propels us out to do the work the Father wants to do through us. The words are not magic (oh, how many times have we found that out the hard way!); we have to actually expect the Spirit to accept our invitation! Otherwise it’s a bit like standing inside our home saying ‘Come on in!’ to someone standing outside, but never actually opening the door.

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a prayer best prayed with willingness to welcome surprise and unpredictability.

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a prayer best prayed with willingness to welcome surprise and unpredictability. When we pray this prayer, we never know what will happen next! Most of us love the image of Aslan, in the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, as ‘good but not tame.’ It’s another thing entirely to be met by this not-tame Holy Spirit in real life! But nothing beats the joy of seeing the Spirit come and do what we are powerless to do in our own strength.

Go ahead – pray this prayer. Your life will never be dull again.


This article is reproduced from the booklet 'Come, Holy Spirit' with permission from Vineyard USA. 

The complete booklet and other booklets in this series are available to buy from Vineyard Resources.

Click here to purchase