I made a comment at a recent seminar that the only way pastors can reach the unreached is to get out of the office. Seemed to me like a no-brainer, but I repeatedly heard comments like, “Get out of the office and do what?!”
The answer is to “Get out of the office and get distracted!”
I remember the incident like it was yesterday. I was a young pastor with a to-do list of church work that seemed to be growing, not shrinking. The problem was, it seemed every time I started to make headway on a task, someone interrupted me. I was complaining about the never-ending problem with my mentor. He listened to me attentively and then said the words that changed my perspective about church work forever.
“Ministry is distractions.”
Now, I know that’s a pretty simplistic outlook…I’m a master of distraction and even I know there are times when I’ve got to accomplish X, Y, or Z, and distractions cannot be a part of the equation. But in general, I’ve lived by these words. Especially when it comes to being out of the office.
So, the question remains: Get out of the office and do what?
If you find yourself in a quandary about what to do to connect with the unchurched when you’ve left the office, here’s a short litany of productive things to do while you’re out.
- If you’re the interrupt-able kind of person, take your laptop or a book to your local coffee shop and just be there. Listen to the conversations around you while you work and be ready to offer directions to the guy who asks the barista the fastest way to the mall or to offer your opinion on the headlines or…. listen and don’t be bashful about edging your way into a conversation.
- If you’re the kind of person who gets so involved in their work that they block out everything else around them, leave your laptop and books back in the office. Go have a cup of tea, relax at the tea shop, listen, and interact with those around you.
- Go to Barnes and Noble (Borders, or a local book store where you can sit and read) and peruse the newest books of your choice. As you do, notice what others are reading. If it’s a book that strikes your interest (even just a little bit of interest), ask about the book. I often just ask, “Is it good reading?” or “Is it worth buying?” That generally gets a conversation started.
- Volunteer at the Red Cross, the local food bank, thrift store, public school, etc. Do NOT volunteer at a “Christian” based ministry. The point is to be with people who are not part of the church…either clients or staff. Remember, clients are in and out of most mission stations, but you’ll build relationships with the staff. Might as well be the light in a dark place than just another light.
You get the idea. The point is to both be in the company of people who are not of faith as well as to BE with them. So get used to distractions and make a difference outside of your office.