It’s one of the dirtiest little secrets in ministry.
And it’s a secret that infects a lot of us–from senior pastors to support staff members, youth leaders to volunteers, program directors to musicians.
And I bet you have been at some point, too.
The dirty little secret is this: sometimes, we give into that temptation to take the lazy road in our ministries.
I’ll be an open book and give you a personal example that I was dealing with recently. This year, instead of having just one large Christmas party for our middle school kids, we decided to have two big parties at two of our church sites. Translation? Twice the volunteers, twice the supplies, twice the planning and shopping, twice the challenges.
I know, you optimists will all say, “Oh, but don’t forget that you have twice the joys!”
My tiny car was jam-packed full of supplies, and I had a boatload of cookies to go home and bake in order to prep for the event–not to mention a house to clean, presents to wrap, dogs to walk, appointments and meetings to prepare for, along with dozens of other things to accomplish on my to-do list.
I only had one thing to do: write the devotion for the event.
That’s when the temptation snuck in:
“Surely you don’t have to write a new devotion for this group from scratch. You don’t need to spend time thinking about what they need to hear, what Truth you can share with them, what will affect them the most–just grab something off the shelf and use that. Come on, you don’t have time for this. You’ve done this a thousand times–just wing it. No one will ever know the difference.”
The temptation to turn off our brains and spend less effort, less time and less consideration in what we’re doing in our ministries is ever-present. Taking the lazy road in ministry takes different forms: popping in a movie instead of critically evaluating and re-writing an important Bible study, writing off a student or parent because they’re a bit difficult to handle or copying and pasting every idea from the internet and not really caring if it actually works for our ministry or not.
Maybe, for some of us, it’s the temptation to gravitate towards the people that we feel most comfortable with, instead of intentionally spending time with those who seem to drive us a little batty.
Perhaps it’s the temptation to use the same curriculum that we wrote twenty years ago, because it’s just too much trouble to get to know this new generation and discern what they need to learn.
Sometimes it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I mean, there’s likely something worthwhile that others will get out of it even if we do grab something off the shelf or pop in a lame movie. And someone else can handle those people we prefer not to chat with on a Sunday morning–heck, they might actually enjoy it. Furthermore, how much can teenagers have changed in twenty years? We can still use the same illustrations–these kids will know what a typewriter or car phone is, right?
We can find any number of reasons to justify our laziness. But I suspect we don’t often think about how this slack attitude can affect the rest of our lives, and that’s where it gets darkly serious.
What about the temptation to slide into home base–uh, I mean a comfy church pew–and let the sermon drift in one ear and out the other, instead of allowing the “living and active” Word of God to pierce our hearts (Hebrews 4:12)?
Or what occurs when we allow the temptation to skip our own personal prayer life or time in God’s Word to take root, because we’re constantly scanning Bible verses as we get ready to teach kids–and those “Dear Jesus, help me not smack this annoying teenager with my catechism right now” prayers have gotta count for something, right?
How would our lives look if we completely disconnect from the people around us, refusing to “hold out the word of life” to those drowning in a “crooked and depraved generation”, who desperately need to know the endless love and forgiveness offered to them by our Savior (Philippians 2:14-16)?
The Bible certainly doesn’t say, “Do mostly everything to the glory of God, except for those few things you still enjoy slacking off on because we all know you work too hard and/or your life is too busy to have your A-game on in every facet of your life”.
No, 1 Corinthians 10:31 urges us “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God…. We must not…assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.” To me, this is a gentle reminder of an important truth: I am here by God’s grace, to fulfill the duties that God has set before me in His timing. He didn’t gift me with talents He wanted me to waste needlessly, nor did He surround me with people or opportunities He wanted me to ignore.
Even when it means spending more time studying and evaluating, writing and preparing, enduring the circumstances and people we don’t really want to deal with, we’re called to do it all for the glory of God.
After all, God certainly teaches us some incredibly profound lessons in the midst of the moments when we’re out of our comfort zone, at the end of our rope, overwhelmed beyond belief and learning something from scratch. We may encounter again the living God in a fresh reading of His Word, and be transformed ourselves once more by His grace in Christ, crucified for us. Forgiven and restored by His Promise, He will give us a fresh way to bring that Promise to others.
And that’s a little secret I’m more than willing to share.