The Ministry of Small Talk

Eugene Peterson at ChristianityToday:

If we bully people into talking on our terms, if we manipulate them into responding to our agenda, we do not take them seriously where they are: in the ordinary and the everyday.

Nor are we likely to become aware of the tiny shoots of green grace that the Lord is allowing to grow in the back yards of their lives. If we avoid small talk, we abandon the very field in which we have been assigned to work. Most of people’s lives is not spent in crisis, not lived at the cutting edge of crucial issues. Most of us, most of the time, are engaged in simple, routine tasks, and small talk is the natural language. If pastors belittle it, we belittle what most people are doing most of the time, and the gospel is misrepresented.

Preparation Time Is Not Wasted Time

James Montgomery Boice on Paul in Acts 13:

Paul had been in the background for a long time. He seems to have faded from sight, at least to the eyes of the people in Jerusalem. Most had forgotten about him. Paul had spent three obscure years in Arabia, had been perhaps seven years in Asia Minor at Tarsus, and now had spent two more years at Antioch. Twelve years! Paul was getting on into middle age at this point, and he had not been used much—certainly not in any great pioneer work among Gentiles, which God had told him he would do.

But now the call came, and from this point on Paul leads the enterprise to which God had earlier set him apart.

You may be in a time of preparation too, even though you are thirty, forty, fifty, or more years of age. If you are, don’t cut your years for preparation short. If you have been given such years, cherish them and use them wisely. Christians emphasize missions, and missions are important. Don’t give up on missions, but don’t give up on preparation for other Christian work either. The important thing is to keep close accounts with God, study the Bible, learn about others, and serve everyone as widely and as well as you can. It may be that in the years to come, you will look back on this very time and say, “God was working,” and others will note that God was indeed preparing you for even more useful service.

On Ministry Evaluations

My personal highlights from Chuck Olson’s post on ministry evaluation:

A ministry evaluation should contain no surprises. Surprises ultimately reveal that the supervisor has not sustained an ongoing dialogue about the direct report’s effectiveness.

A wise supervisor will probe for patterns, not the “one offs.” It is important to identify the actions and attitudes consistently reflected in a person’s life and ministry. Those are the ones worthy of deliberation.

Why No One Can See God and Live

Dane C. Ortlund on Jonathan Edwards:

The reason no one can see God and live is not God’s wrath or justice, but because “God is arrayed with an infinite brightness” that “fills with excess of joy and delight,” so that “the joy and pleasure in beholding would be too strong for a frail nature.” According to Edwards, it isn’t God’s terribleness that would incinerate us. It is the joy that would erupt within us that we cannot handle.

The Stories We Tell

Mike Cosper’s new book “The Stories We Tell” is a very fascinating analysis of why we love stories. For the first time I understood why I really wanted Professor Snape to be redeemed even if I hated him.

Christians believe an audacious fact. At the heart of our faith is the bold claim that in a world full of stories, with a world’s worth of heroes, villains, comedies, tragedies, twists of fate, and surprise endings , there is really only one story. One grand narrative subsumes and encompasses all the other comings and goings of every creature— real or fictitious— on the earth. Theologians call it “redemption history”; my grandfather called it the “old, old story.”

[Jesus affirmed it. Paul got it.] We can see it, too. If the Bible is true, then it has a way of encompassing and overarching every story ever told. Our personal stories , our fiction, our literature, our television shows, and our movies are all accounted for in a sovereign God’s design for the world. The stories we tell are all a part of the story he’s telling. We tell stories because we’re broken creatures hungering for redemption, and our storytelling is a glimmer of hope, a spark of eternity still simmering in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3: 15).