"What if the priest and Levite passed by the beaten man on the Jericho road, not because they lacked compassion, but because they were running late to a discipleship group or an important board meeting?"
My college professor's application of the Good Samaritan parable didn't fully register until I'd been in professional ministry for nearly 20 years. I'd walked past so many who could have used my help because I was too distracted by church programs.
The best ministry moments don't arrange themselves neatly in my pre-planned activities. They usually spill out of spontaneous encounters at a critical moment in someone's life.
I've noticed that many people can't remember a teaching I gave two days earlier, but they remember with sparkling clarity a statement I made over lunch nearly a decade ago.
Nothing is more seductive in ministry than thinking that my efforts for the many justify my ignoring the individual God sends my way. Sometimes people need to be touched one at a time.
No easy lesson
I didn't come to this conclusion easily. I'll never forget the look on my guidance counselor's face when she heard I was planning to go into ministry.1