I’ve given up praying for patience. God seems reluctant to give it to me and I just can’t wait any longer. But during my times of quiet meditation and confession I realize that many of the offenses I cause can be traced back to a lack of patience. In the ministry many of our frustrations can be traced to impatience with interruptions and obstacles. We have our plans, our goals and then something, or someone, comes and messes it all up.
I remember early into my first church plant reaching a point of frustration with my congregation because they didn’t seem to be cooperating with my vision. “Don’t these people understand that I’m trying to do something here?” I vented to Ellen. At first I didn’t appreciate her twenty year old wisdom (that’s right…we were both in our early 20’s) “No, as a matter of fact, they don’t. They’re not really thinking about it at all. They’re busy making a living, raising kids. They’re no as “into this” as you are.” My wife is right about 70% of the time and if you give me awhile I’ll probably come to realize she’s right for the remaining 30% as well.
It’s unrealistic for you to expect them to be as “into it” as you are. We’ve got to become more patient and comfortable with interruptions and obstacles because…
1. Divine appointments often come disguised as interruptions.
2. Obstacles are sometimes God’s way of protecting us from making a mistake.
3. Obstacles can be God’s tool to work humility in us as we see that our well thought plans are not working.
4. Interruptions (the drop in, the phone call during your study time) remind us that we are in the people business.
Ellen always used to say, “It’s about people, not programs.”
She was right that time, as well. I was beginning to see people as interruptions and obstacles to my objectives and plans. It’s hard to love roadblocks.
In larger churches pastors enjoy multiple staffs and more than likely a secretary that can run interference for those phone calls or drop-ins that come unannounced. But pastors of smaller churches are exposed to more interruptions than they would like to admit. When I think of interruptions I think of people, when I think of obstacles I think of unexpected circumstances that obstruct our plans. Whether we’re talking about people or circumstances
I’m not suggesting that you have no boundaries, or that you never say no. There is a time to tell someone you’ll call them back because you’re in the middle of something. But I’m reminded of Saint Augustine’s words, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” I don’t know if wisdom tells you to be patient or if patience produces wisdom but I do know that pastoring smaller churches means interruptions and obstacles and we’ve got to learn to be patient with both. I’ve got to go now and yell at my dog who won’t stop barking.