what does your normal day look like?
Are there reports to submit, bills to sign, checks to deposit, phone calls to be made, budgets to be crafted (or re-crafted for the 10th time), personnel fires to put out….? Does that sound about right? I probably forgot to add, routine maintenance to schedule, board meeting details, corps council action steps to follow through on, people in visit in the hospital, statistics to enter, important community meetings to attend and perhaps a club meeting to participate in…and THAT sometimes is just the tip of the iceberg.
Commissioner George Scott Railton once said, “God requires the duty. If its performance brings no return, that is God’s affair not yours. The soldier who has obeyed every order comes back from defeat, as from victory, with honour.”
I often mistake business for duty, don’t you?
It seems we as Officers and even Soldiers are so good at busy-work that perhaps at times we miss the ministry altogether. We are very good at being soldiers and obeying orders yet miss the mark on pastoral ministries…and each one of us are pastors and ministry ought to be at the forefront of what we do in and out of uniform. If we work hard and climb whatever ladder we aspire to, yet lose the “Salvation” in our Army, then we will have lost everything and all of our hard work (duty) will be for naught.
Here are 4 steps to help each of us find the time for ministry again.
I hope and pray this will be beneficial to you as you read these. Most will seem quite obvious, yet actually following through on them intentionally will certainly be harder.
I also acknowledge that these suggested steps could include many more, yet for the sake of time a succinct list has been compiled here for us to consider. Also note that it is quite difficult to quantify these and wrap them up in a nice red bow, so as you read, perhaps you will discover other steps that I would ask you to share with us if you would be so kind.
HOW TO FIND THE TIME FOR MINISTRY IN 4 Steps:
- Recognize Everything As Ministry
As someone once pointed out everything is spiritual, there should be no compartmentalizing of our various tasks and that of holistic ministry. I know a financial planner in our community who makes a point of praying for every client that comes to visit him. He has even prayed with me there in his office. These prayers that he offers are not pithy cliche prayers either, but one can feel the presence of God while he prays for you and the present circumstances that you are facing. He considers his office not only the place he draws his paycheck from, but a chapel in which he ministers. Perhaps we have not made our officers our chapels of ministry. Perhaps we get so bogged down by what is required of us that we forget to include God in those spaces in order to make them sacred. Everything we do from the most mundane of things to the most important things ought to be considered ministry – not some laborious task to get accomplished.
Martin Luther King Jr is quoted as saying, ““If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Consider each task ministry – from the least to the most important!
- Intentionally Pray And Plan
We undoubtedly do our ministry a great disservice when we do not first intently pray for it and for those we will meet along its path. Prayer should never be the last resort, but the first weapon in our spiritual arsenal. If we aren’t burdened for the needs of others through prayer on our knees then we ought reach deeper into ourselves and explore our hearts and motivation. When we pray for each segment of our officership and appointment, we will find that our hearts are attuned to the moving of the Holy Spirit. If everything we do is spiritual, then why do not pray in such a way? When we intentionally pray and make this a spiritual discipline we will be better equipped to make the necessary plans that our ministries so desperately need. Don’t stumble into your day or week having now idea what you wish to accomplish. Don’t wait until the last minute to pray for our congregation and those you minister to. Keep them in the forefront of what you are doing, after all, the paperwork and reports are all because they are vitally important to you and to God. Do not make haphazard plans at the last minute, throwing things together and hoping they all pan out…do yourself a favor and your soldiers a favor and make intentional, prayerful plans that will form and shape lives for Christ.
- Intentionally Show Up – Practice Presence
I catch myself doing this, and I recognize my own conviction here:
Put down the cell phones, put away the distractions…close the laptop and look your people in the eye. Show up to your appointment ready to serve the Lord and those He has placed on your path. Practice the presence of availability. It almost seems contradictory, but forget those reports and the paperwork and spend time talking to your staff, your volunteers, your corps members…they are all members of your flock. They will know if you are not actually available to them just by your emphasis on the “important stuff” that consumes all of your time. I would imagine nearly 99% of us officers are guilty of this at one time or another. Show up and be present. Ask God to give you His eyes to see the needs around you. Spend time drinking coffee (or tea or water) with those who frequent your soup kitchen. Invest yourselves in the lives of people and do not stop with those who wear our uniform and within whom we already know. Step out of your comfort zone and be available to listen, serve and love.
- Focus On Lives Not Numbers!
This step goes hand in hand with #3.
Be mindful that our “end game” is not filling the statistics with numerical growth.
If our sole focus is on building our Sunday stats with attendees then all that we will be focused on in church invitations and getting people through the doors of “Sunday Church”….have you stopped to consider that EVERYTHING we do is Church? Have you considered that perhaps your biggest ministry isn’t on Sunday morning but during the week when you encounter broken people earnestly seeking help? These are members of your flock that often get taken for granted. They may never ever darken the doors of a traditional church, but 9 times out of 10 they call The Salvation Army their church home because we feed them on a regular basis and there are people who care for them. Focus on individual lives of people, how to reach them, pray for them and with them. Care about them…forget numbers, numbers will take care of itself if we are loving people and earnestly placing their needs at the foot of Christ.
Evangeline Booth once said, “It is not how many years we live, but what we do with them.” Allow me to adjust this quote to fit you the Officer today, and I do not think this loses any emphasis in doing so: “It is not how many years of service you have, but what you do with them.”
Something more for our Army and our Officers to consider today.
Please tell us what you think and offer additional steps you might offer in addition to these. Thank you!
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are the writer’s thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army. Reader discretion is advised.*