BE PRESENT. That's the theme for Catalyst 2011. I love the theme. I've spent most of my life learning how to show up—I mean really show up—and be present to God, my own heart, and of course people—church people, lost people, happy people, anguished people. But how do you pull that off, especially given the frenzied demands of ministry? Andy Stanley opened the day by offering one small step on the journey of being present.
He started with a simple premise: "The more successful you are, the less accessible you will be." For instance, now that my senior pastor oversees 1,000 people, he can't be accessible to everyone. Given this reality, Stanley says we have two options: (1) Ignore it and burn out being accessible to everyone; or (2) Face it and hide yourself from everyone. But here's a hard-edge truth of ministry: we can't shut out all the needs around us but we can't take them all on either. According to Stanley, that's the fundamental tension of ministry—a tension you'll never resolve.
So what do we do? Here's his advice: "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone." That is how you can manage your limits in ministry. For example, you might not be able to do ALL the marital counseling in the church, but you should be knee-deep in at least one troubled marriage. Or you might not be able to do ALL the funerals, but you better be walking beside at least one grieving family.
Stanley offered a few maxims that go with this principle:
1) Don't be fair. Be engaged. (Because if you're "fair," you could you ever justify doing marriage counseling for one specific couple but ignore all the other couples in crisis. You can't be "fair" to all of them, but you can be engaged with a few of them.)
2) Go deep rather than wide.
3) Go long-term rather than short-term.
Sometimes God will nudge you to be extraordinarily present to one. Stanley gave a moving personal example about God's nudging in his own life. Although Stanley's church ministered to a lot of homeless people, he couldn't help all of them, but he did feel a nudge from God to help one of them—a severely broken, addicted woman named Jane. After working with Jane for over twenty years (with incredible heartaches and relapses), Jane finally came to a point where she was pouring out God's grace to help other female victims of sexual abuse. What we do for "one" often ends up having a greater impact than trying to help everyone.
So how are you dealing with the tension of too many needs and not enough time? Do you try to ignore the tension and meet everyone's needs? Or do you disengage and become completely inaccessible? Has God nudged you lately to pour your life into one person (or a few people)?