Andrew Hughes | Category: The Church Community; The Christian Life
"Stop being so efficient."
Let's be honest. That's not a phrase probably any of us have heard recently! I imagine, in your job this week, your boss has more than likely said the opposite in some way. Efficiency, Productivity, Scalability, Optimizing, Streamlining, Maximizing, Output, Growth, etc. Those are probably the words you're working with on a daily basis.
Most of our lives (at least in our vocational labors) is spent attempting to become more efficient and productive. And there is indeed a Biblical call for the urge to use our time wisely- Ephesians 5:15-16. And there is certainly a Biblical basis for hard work in our labors. But there is a danger when efficiency gets translated into our interpersonal dealings with those around us.
I was recently reading the book The Trellis and the Vine, and the co-authors, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, made a statement that jumped off the page at me and arrested my attention. They wrote, "There needs to be inefficient, individual people ministry, as well as the more efficient ministries that take place in larger groups." That really challenged me because it may be the first time I can ever recall someone arguing for inefficiency in anything, much less ministry to people. To give a context, the authors are observing that while ministry can (and often does) take place in the corporate/group setting, the most effective and long-term ministry will be the one-on-one ministry we have with others. And that type of interaction is rarely efficient.
Think with me. It can be easy to pre-plan and aim to control our ministry to others, can't it? We can easily look for the most convenient time to invite others over, call someone back, and meet up with people. But maybe inviting someone over on the spur of the moment when the house isn't cleaned and a meal isn't prepped is what someone needs that moment. Maybe that neighbor that stops you in the middle of your lawn work, when you need to finish up quickly so you can run to the store, needs to be talked to and the lawn left half-mowed. Maybe you need to call that person back even though you know it might be an hour long phone call. Don't get me wrong. You can't let your schedule and time be so controlled by others that your family and responsibilities suffer. That certainly isn't Biblical. But a good question to ask ourselves is, "When was I last 'inconvenienced' for the sake of ministering to someone?"
Consider these "people ministry" words from Paul: "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Admonishment, encouragement, help, and patience aren't usually things that can be done when guided mainly by efficiency. Chances are you'll come across abrupt, disinterested, rushed, or unsympathetic. And the person will know it. You probably know what it's like to be one the receiving end of that yourself.
The beauty of "ministry" is that it is something in which every Christian is involved, not just the church leaders. Full-time ministry, in Biblical terms, is something every Christian has been given. Our ministry is the people, circumstances, and context God has placed us in-- people, circumstances, and contexts in which no other person finds themselves, and thus is unique to you. Therefore, your ministry is providentially unique and no less providentially important, even when it feels very inefficient and unproductive.
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