Don't overlook the power of 'mini' ministry moments to reach people
For the longest time the 93-year-old neighbor I help out has been after me to watch one of her favorite classic movies, Random Harvest.
If I had to choose a phrase to describe the kingdom of God, it might be that title.
So much of what we spend our time doing in full-time ministry is planning. And pre-planning. And, of course, post-event planning, in which we determine what we'll do differently next time based on areas that could be maximized to yield more favorable results.
We're right to be diligent and work to prove ourselves good stewards of the fields God has entrusted us with—please don't think I'm saying otherwise. But sometimes I wonder if in our overwrought efforts to reach others we lose God's heart for them.
Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know" (Mark 4:26-27, NASB).
Jesus' Example of Divine Encounters
We think of Jesus as one who ministered to the multitudes, who drew crowds of thousands simply by showing up to speak on a hillside or healing the hundreds clamoring for His touch. And Jesus certainly did both in the context of the masses.
But so many biblical accounts are of Jesus ministering one-on-one to people He encountered out of the blue—often interrupting the course of His journey to do so.
How odd that the Holy Scriptures would record in detail specific interactions Jesus had with (often unnamed) individuals: the centurion, the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood.
The disciples were apt to dismiss the children, the down-and-outs or that one person distracting Jesus from the important work of ministry. Jesus, however, always heard the voice of the one among the clamor of many.
Should our strategy for touching lives be any different? How many God-given ministry opportunities do we miss because they don't fit into our flowcharts?
Less Time Judging the Soil, More Time Sowing the Seed
I believe it's the small, seemingly trivial moments we think nothing of that authenticate our life's work. What about the quick, two-minute conversations you make a point of having each Sunday with that troubled 15-year-old, simply showing interest in his world and meeting him where he is? What if your cashier is one kind word away from a breakthrough that will allow her to finally entrust her heart to the Lord?
If we reminded ourselves that God is "not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27), perhaps we'd spend less time judging the soil and more time scattering seeds of light, hope and truth wherever we go.
I think back to a recent time when I had the chance to speak into the life of a young person working at a restaurant—just a few hours after the Holy Spirit had told me to expect to encounter ministry opportunities every day. As she began to describe to me her life situation, I felt God say, "Tell her I have a plan."
"You know, that's funny," she responded, "because just the other night a woman I waited on wrote something similar on the check she signed: For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good ... ."
My point is this: I will never, on this side of eternity, know what happens next in this young woman's journey. But I planted a seed, which another person will come along and water, and will continue to grow until God causes the harvest (see 1 Cor. 3:7).
Sowing seeds in God's kingdom is not all straight rows. It's not all in our job descriptions. What if our greatest contributions to the kingdom are the ones that are unplanned, unexpected and unquantifiable? Let's sow generously and plan on being surprised.
Sarah Wolf is a writer who has served in full-time ministry for the last nine years. She is from the Philadelphia area and currently resides in England.
Shawn Lovejoy has seen pastors driven by numbers, salary or book deals fall into isolation, exhaustion and self-destruction. In The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors, he calls pastors back to the "main thing": the call to love people and make disciples.