I moved from the East coast to the West coast about seven months ago. Life on the East coast is quite different than life on the West coast. People on the East coast have a very fast pace of life. Everyone’s always hustling and bustling around, always busy doing something. Sometimes I think they don’t even know why their busy. When you live that way for a long time you start to feel guilty for not being busy–you feel you need to at least look like you’re busy.
I was a part of a discipleship program called Masters Commission for about nine years. I went through the program for three years then was hired and went on staff for six more years. My time in the program was invaluable. I learned a lot; one of the most important things I learned was a good work ethic. I accomplished things I never dreamt I could do, but because I was given the responsibility to do it I was able to do it. One time I remember working for a youth event called “Kingdom Bound.” Kingdom Bound was a kind of Christian “Wood-stock” (minus the drugs). Several stages were set up in a huge field and about 50 different Christian bands would come and play throughout the weekend. Obviously those stages didn’t just get set up by themselves; no, they were set up by Masters Commission students. We “slept” at a local camp (we worked from about 5am to about 2am loading bands in and out–not much time for sleeping!) Cool thing is I got to meet the Newsboys, Third Day, Rebecca St. James and a bunch of other Christian singers and musicians. We would wait for one band to finish and then get the next band loaded in and ready to play in 15 minutes. We worked that schedule for two straight days. And then after the last band finally finished playing, the real fun began! Our job now was to tear everything down. Everything included ten stages fully equipped with state of the art lighting, trussing, and speakers. Believe me when I say that nothing–and I mean nothing–associated with staging stuff is light. All of it is bulky, awkward, and heavy! We worked from 5 am in the morning to 5 am the next day–24 hours straight! I have never, ever, been that tired in my life!! One of the girls working with us even started to fall asleep standing up!
When working in the ministry, one thing you need for sure is a strong work ethic. But at times I wonder if our work keeps us from having a close relationship with Christ. In Ministry we are often event oriented. We move from one event to the next, to the next. Events are great, don’t get me wrong. A lot of planning on how to reach and save the lost goes into events. We just had one for our Church here in Arizona. We hosted an event called “Movie Night at the Park” where we showed the movie “Polar Express” for Christmas. About 200 people turned out, most of which had either never gone or had quit going to church. It was a great event! Events aren’t bad but sometimes we can get so wrapped up in The Event that we forget about our purpose for the event: REACHING PEOPLE.
I’ve done it myself; I get tunnel vision, becoming so focused on getting each detail right that I miss opportunities for ministry all around me. Have you ever read the book “The Screwtape Letters,” by C.S. Lewis? It’s written from the eyes of a demon called Screwtape. He’s writing letters to an apprentice demon teaching him how to deceive people. I was thinking the other day, “man, we (Christians) are so fooled.” We are out hustling and hurrying, trying to plan our next event. And in all of our busyness, we’re passing by people and God wants us to stop and minister to them. But we miss the opportunity because they’re not part of the plan; they’re not part of our event, our agenda, our whatever. What they are to us in that moment is an inconvenience.
Have you ever been talking to someone whose attention is elsewhere? When I first started out in ministry I was at a convention and began a conversation with another evangelist. I was asking him questions, picking his brain, wanting to learn from him. Yet the entire time we talked he kept looking over my shoulder. I went away with the feeling that I was just an interruption, just a blip on his radar, while he was searching for someone “more important” to come along. I remember feeling like an appetizer being picked at while he waited for the main course to arrive. Even though I know I’ve been guilty of treating others similarly, I hope I never forget that feeling. God help each of us not to get tunnel vision in pursuit of our goals, our tasks, our events that we miss what Christ has in store; that we not forget that He is to be the main course.
Yet, it’s so easy to do! We work so hard planning these events so that thousands of people can come to know Jesus but we glance over the one with a need who stands “in our way” because they have nothing to do with the event. WOW!! The Devil isn’t stupid. I can just see him down there with his pitchfork orchestrating a bunch of busy little Christians so focused on doing their busy, godly work–all the while missing God’s more immediate and more important purpose for them. “We’re doing it for the Lord!” Even though your intention is to please God, please make sure you’re not missing the “little things” in your zeal to finish your quest. Slow down, take a deep breath.
Often it’s like we’re trying to earn our love and acceptance from God. Most people know my story. I was raised in a very strict home with a father who was mentally, verbally and physically abusive. I spent my childhood trying to earn his love and acceptance. One thing my dad appreciated was hard work. I remember one Saturday when I was a kid spending three hours on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. I scrubbed and polished tile by tile, making sure I could see my face in each one. After I was done I asked my father to come and see what I had done. I remember the feeling I had from his approval along with a feeling of accomplishment. I would have scrubbed for 4 hours or even 4 days for that feeling. The cool thing is we don’t have to scrub any floors for God’s acceptance or approval. In fact in Isaiah 64:6 it says we are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. That may sound discouraging but it’s quite the opposite. We should be encouraged to know there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love; all we can do is accept it.
Make the time to take a deep breath in the midst of your planning. The next time you get annoyed by someone interrupting your hard work, stop and take time for that person. Truth is they probably don’t care about your event, but wouldn’t you make their day if you were totally interested in them? What if you took time to silence your cell phone, look them in the eye and ask them “So how are you?” Growing up, that’s a question my youth pastor never failed to ask me: “So how is Jason?” It meant the world to me, and after asking the question you could tell he really wanted to know. It’s about PEOPLE, not about the events, not our busy agenda, not the next text message, or the next …next. It’s about the One. THE ONE.