Ministry is a weird thing. It’s like being a toddler and ministry is your shirt. Once it’s on, you can’t seem to take it off—you’re stuck in it until that big person comes along and takes it off. And in ministry there are always times when you feel like all you’re doing is falling down, getting up and bumping into people and things.
I just survived the infamous Xmas run as the program director of a big program-driven church—(not for the faint of heart.) In January my thoughts most often swirl around catching my spiritual breath. Maybe that’s the nature of the beast or maybe I haven’t yet learned to weather the season better. Regardless of why, this is where I am. It’s been almost a month since I’ve gotten away to my Fri. sanctuary here at Starbucks. I picked up “Soul Cravings” by Erwin McManus last night in expectation of this morning; I literally parked the car at the curb and ran in the bookstore last night in their final minute of operation to snag it.
Only through a few pages and I saw my friend Bruce come in. This is the place that we happen to run into each other. I ran into him originally when I was still a pagen in high school. Then, my best friend, Ray, worked at the radio station Bruce worked at. We called him “Mr. Intensity,” but never within earshot of him. Now we talk ministry stuff as he lay pastors a small church in Greentown (in addition to having a full-time sales job for a local radio station) and I work at Oakbrook; which in the context of Kokomo, is a mega-church.
When he sees me he always comes over to where I’m sitting to chat, always sensitive to not take away from my refueling activity. I tell him he’s not a bother but he usually doesn’t believe me. Today I noticed he went right to the little round top table eight feet from my big comfy chair and got straight to work. No interruption.
I read a page or two but couldn’t ignore our lack of conversation. I wondered if I was way overdue to engage him. I felt somewhat like the guy who always gets invited to dinner by his neighbor but never invites his neighbor over for dinner. “How was Christmas, Bruce?” I said over our eight foot invisible barricade. We made small talk. Finally he mentioned something vague about feeling tired in lay pasturing his small church.
I couldn’t really stay in my big comfy chair after that. I grabbed my venti Yukon and joined him at his round top. He was less upbeat than the normal Bruce, (which is still more positive than most people on a good day.) I started nosing around his emotions about his pastoring situation. Early on he said he only had a few minutes. He lied. We talked and the more we did, the more he let things out, the more engaged the conversation became. Turns out he’d only talked about this with his wife, Jane. (I seriously appreciate how hard it can be to find objective and safe counsel when one is in ministry.) This conversation seemed to be on God’s to-do list for today. By the last five minutes of our talk Bruce seemed lighter. Smiled more easily. Felt clarity, encouraged, peaceful. (Not because I’m anything more than a toddler bumping into things at Starbucks, but simply because God is real and working.) It seemed like Bruce left Starbucks feeling closer to where God wants him to be.
I’d envisioned just reading for a while; just trying to water my soul. I’d envisioned writing about my spiritual guts. One of the random thoughts I had before Bruce came in was that my busy ministry pace hasn’t allowed enough time to really minister to people. In December I’m so busy on the task it can feel more like a job than like ministry. Fish, fish, got my wish…
Something about being used to help a guy like Bruce waters my soul as much as Bruce’s. It’s one of the tricks of ministry; you think it is in essence “work.” Turns out that with friends, either side of the round top table is equally replenishing.