Friday, October 20, 2006


One of the questions I have struggled with over the past fifteen months of teaching the 20's bible study at church was how much time I should spend on preparing, planning, and carrying out this ministry. "Should," meaning, how much is expected of me. It's a horrible question; I hate even verbalizing it, because it makes me sound like I'm just trying to do the bare minimum. In a way, I think that may be part of the motivation.

But as a single man who is balancing two jobs, running my own meager household, contemplating a writing career of some kind, and maintaining friendships and family relationships (not even factoring the question of dating and other such social interactions), I find myself wondering how much of a slice this should comprise.

I finally posed this question to a few married-adult teachers, during a teachers' conference thing at church last week. One was a married woman who wasn't teaching at the time, but had in the past; the other was, as I later learned, the married-adult Bible study minister guy (on par with my SunSco "boss," the singles minister).

What the woman said was that, yes, when she taught, the ministry touched many areas of her life. It was incorporated into a lot of her time.

The man concurred, and they both agreed that part of my problem and frustration is that I don't have any kind of support person in class, who can help with the coordination and planning (which are clearly not my gifts).

Nevertheless, I realized over the course of the evening that I've lately been giving less effort toward preparation and planning, and that my class has been suffering because of it.

Then, a few days later, I was reading in Paul's first letter to Timothy, and he writes:
"11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (emphasis added)

That word "wholly" jumped out at me. If I consider the last few months, I have to admit that I haven't been devoted to the work, let alone wholly devoted. Part of the problem has been my attitude. I've been so turned inward that I spend more time feeling sorry for myself or feeling bitter at the non-participants in the group than I have in prayer for them and in study, and as a result, my teaching and caring have dried up. I've become selfish and distracted.

Maybe part of the reason I was so hesitant to give myself wholly to this place of ministry God has led me to, is that to do so means I'd have to give up some things. I'd have to give up my personal agenda, my selfishness, my comfort. My plans for the future, my preferred approach to dealing with life. I'd have to start living a more ordered and outward-focused life. And that's not very easy or comfortable. Lately, I've been all about ease and comfort. What I slowly realized is that serving myself and my own desires left me cold, disconnected, and hopeless.

So, I'm recommitting to take the plunge. To devote myself wholly to the work of the kingdom. And to trust that when I do that, "all these things" will fall into place.

I've been devoted before. I've been committed before. But never completely. Never wholly. And that last bastion of self, like a little yeast, works its way through the whole dough, spoiling the batch. I don't want to be spoiled for service, because I let my self-regard and personal agenda trump my obedience to God.

No comments: