"I've been in church a long time. I guess I just want to know, is this it? Is this all there is?"
Member of the New Hope Ministry Team earlier this week
Once a month, New Hope, where I have the privilege of serving as pastor, has a meeting of all of the heads of ministry. During that meeting, there is a time of sharing, where those involved "on the frontlines" of ministry can candidly and openly share their joys and their concerns.
During our last meeting, one of our ministry leaders expressed a wonderfully subversive question that she has been wrestling with. As we discussed things regarding hospitality, worship, building and grounds, children's and young adult ministries, and missions, all bustling with activity, she halted the conversation to ask "Is this it? Is this all there is?".
Now, one could have responded by expounding on all the wonderful activities, the initiation of new ministries, and the inviting of new members, but that would have been a superficial response to a deeper and more profound question. You see, busyness is a poor indicator of the presence and power of God. In fact, truth be told, sometimes we busy ourselves in religious activity as a means of avoiding our desparate dependence upon God and our radical need for a touch, a blessing, and a connection from the Almighty.
What she sensed is what I called the reality gap. The gap between what is expected in the life of the believer and our lived existence. Jesus said that those who come after him will do even greater things than he did (John 14:12). He said that his disciples will exercise unique power to spread Jesus message of freedom (Matthew 16:19). We are to be witnesses to the power and presence of the very Kingdom of God, not in just in the after life, but in the here and now (Acts 1:8).
In our focus on the details of church life, we can loose focus on the big picture. Our dedication for making the best ministry for children for instance, may focus on the grind of preparing lessons, speaking with parents, developing visuals, and praying for the children. Yet, within this, we can mistake a good lesson, or a full classroom for the power and presence of God. They are not mutually exclusive, but we must be careful not to equate the means with the end.
Asbury Seminary Professor Howard Snyder describes the asking of subversive questions as symptom of "Holy Discontent". Holy discontent is often a sign of spiritual renewal and revitalization. It is literally the Holy Spirit clarifying our expectations and giving a hunger and thirst for what we were created for: to experience the power and presence of God in everything we do. It is not the need for the miraculous and the amazing, but the sacredness of the ordinary, where we reverently experience the presence of a Holy God working in every handshake, hug, craft, song, and conversation of the day.
Are you experiencing some Holy discontent? Have you asked "Is this it? Is this all there is?". Is this it, at my church? Is this it, in my marriage? Is this all there is at my job? If so, God is up to something. A season of renewal may be at hand.
My God and Savior, I sense that in all of my busyness, that I am missing something, or maybe more accurately, I am missing someone. Forgive me for focusing on ministry instead of you. In your mercy, we ask that your spirit would open my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my heart to feel your presence. I surrender my plans to your power. I confidently look forward to experiencing you in new ways in order to fulfill our prayer that "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done". Amen.
God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor