Yeah, right! Control and perfection are quite elusive in ministry – especially in the kind of organic ministry we do in small churches. Events and programs pretty much never come out as designed – at leats by us. But God always seems to work through whatever happens.
From what I can see, when churches get big enough, they can predict and control the way events and programs play out. I guess if you have enough staff and a large enough population, the rules start to apply. But in my small church ministry experience, that’s rarely the case. Instead, those of us working in smaller churches have to learn to ride the wave of God’s will as it unfolds around and beneath us.
What made me think of this was the joy I found at repairing our vacuum cleaner and clothes dryer this week during my vacation. They were so… controllable! There was a finite amount of work to be done, and I could get as close to perfection as I chose to. The more work I put into cleaning the Link out of the inside of the dryer, the closer I got to a perfect solution to the problem. If I chose to, I could remove the dryer’s drum and get to the lint behind the motor. Or I could choose to be satisfied with cleaning out what I could reach from the front access panel. It was my call.
In ministry, some fraction of it is my call. Part of it depends on what the volunteers in ministry (AKA church members) at our church decide to do and how much they choose to commit themselves. Then there’s another factor – a factor that dwarfs the others… It’s what God is doing. Sometimes, programs utterly fail. And when they do, I can usually see that the timing wasn’t right for them. Other times, things succeed but in a way far from the way I or other leaders intended them to work. Then there are the thing that “shouldn’t” work that work anyway – the cases where people haven’t done the “right” publicity or preparation – but God finds a way to make them work, and people are blessed.
It’s no wonder why so many pastors seem to have hobbies like building model railroads or woodworking. It’s nice to have a place to go where things can actually be completed and where you have a shot at making them come out the way you want them to… But that doesn’t seem to be how ministry is intended to work. And I guess that’s a good thing. I just need to grow into it a little bit more.