• Crash-Proof Ministry


    On Monday a passenger jet took off from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, headed to Medellin, Colombia. It never made it. It crashed eight miles short of the airport killing 71 people aboard, including members of a soccer team from Brazil headed to Medellin for participation in the finals of a soccer tournament.

    The reason for the crash? The pilot decided to skip a refueling stop in Bogota, thinking he could make it to his destination. That decision was fatal. The jet ran out of fuel, faltered, and fell.

    That incident serves as a tragic parable for something far too many pastors experience. Amidst the busyness of their schedules, they go and go and go without refueling, ignoring God’s call to find rest and replenishment in Christ.

    A member of my church and I just finished Kevin DeYoung’s book, Crazy Busy. DeYoung’s final chapter is entitled, “The One Thing You Must Do” and focuses on the account in Luke 10 of Mary and Martha to stress that “one thing” that must be done.

    We read that account with mixed feelings. Anyone who has labored over a Thanksgiving meal alone in the kitchen while other family members sit talking in the living room can relate. It seems to us that Martha is being the responsible, caring one. But Jesus does not seem particularly sympathetic to Martha’s grievance. Rather, He commends Mary’s choice, not for any dereliction but for her direction.

    Mary is oriented toward Jesus. As DeYoung points out, Martha was “distracted.”

    Jesus is not chastising Martha so much as He is cajoling her to refuel. The account presents us not with an either-or but a both-and, with an emphasis on prioritization. In the race we are to run, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, so that we can maintain direction but also so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.

    Jesus often dealt with situations in a more-than-meets-the-eye fashion. The rich young ruler had his questions. Jesus answered his heart. The Samaritan woman at the well posed her topic for theological discussion. Jesus laid bare her heart. Perhaps that’s the case with Martha. Maybe she had divorced service from the One she was to serve.

    Pastors can do that. I know from personal experience. We can move from one good and important ministry cause to the next good and important ministry cause. But to turn our eyes from Christ, to neglect lingering in communion with Him, to make our time in Scripture and prayer all business and no pleasure, will lead us to crash, often taking casualties with us, including our wives and children.

    I recently emailed a pastor friend about matters of mutual concern. I closed my email with these words: “I hope in your busyness you are making time for communion with Him apart from whom you can do nothing. I know that’s a challenge with a full schedule.”

    Evidently, I hit a nerve. Not in a negative way but in a convicting way. He sent me a lengthy response pouring out his heart, lamenting his lack of time with God, and chronicling all sorts of repercussions for it, including spiritual and mental fatigue and lackluster relationships with his family. He thanked me for the (indirect) reminder my words brought to him and asked for prayer to do something about it. I responded by enlisting his prayer for the very same thing for me.

    Eight miles! So close, at least when flying by plane. Don’t we reason the same way? “I can push myself a little bit further. Just a few more things.” But the words of our Lord Jesus are confirmed by our own experience. We must choose the better thing, not neglecting the other but empowering it. We need to regularly put it in park, turn off the engine, and survey the landscape of His grace and glory, while communing with Him who is our all in all.

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