Monday, July 2, 2012

Spinning Wheels: a ministry metaphor

"I'm going to be productive today," I told my wife on Monday. I'd already accomplished several goals: laundry, exercise, unloading the dishwasher, watering the lawn, and making breakfast for the family. I hoped to take the momentum into my study at the church. I even cancelled a lunch so I could dedicate my attention to tasks.

On Monday mornings I get things done. 
  • I pick up bulletins shoved under seats in our auditorium, fill in the empty blanks, and throw them into trash cans.
  • I write a weekly email to our church called "PTs Weekly Feed," which serves as a virtual reminder that I exist beyond Sunday's, and, yes, my sermon did have a point.
  • I edit the recording of the message and post it online. I take out the heresy, removed awkward pauses, and add a laugh track. Then I publish for a swelling fan base.
  • I turn in my receipts, update my expense account, and cringe at the number of milkshakes I consumed in the previous week (4).
By lunchtime, I've worked up an appetite.

For the rest of the week, I find myself bouncing between coffee shops and bookmarks, spinning my wheels in between. I'm trying to write a book. I'm trying to develop curriculum. I'm trying to fuel a movement. I'm trying to counsel, coach, and keep tabs on people. I'm trying to build readership and take leadership and have fellowship and play Battleship.

My boat is sinking. My wheels are spinning. This is ministry, and I am not alone.

I guy from my church asked me to bike to Churubusco with him a few weekends ago. He's training for a bike ride across Iowa, so I felt obliged. We drove there and back. The end point was the starting line. No real progress. We spun our wheels; the sun burnt our legs. 

Before my neighbor left for youth camp last week, he asked me to water his plants. He told me he subscribed to my blog (Hi, Marc!), so I felt obliged. His flowers melted halfway through the week. His students' hearts did not. He spins his wheels; the grip of apathy continues to hold.

I shot baskets with a few guys from my church yesterday. The wind picked up and made a good shot impossible. (Most of us liked the excuse!) One guy shouted at the wind to stop. I told Him Jesus did that once, and the wind obeyed. Yesterday it kept howling; we continued to miss.

These vignettes underscore the difference between accomplishing tasks and engaging people. Checking items off a list equals progress. Americans love progress. Contrarily, nurturing the life of Jesus in people feels more like a slow climb up a gentle grade. The hamstrings burn as the wheels spin. The top of the hill brings little relief because the rider knows the road does not end at the peak. The journey continues. The horizon looms. The wheels must keep spinning.

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