Slow Your Roll

Enjoying the Gift of A Slower Pace of Change

slow

For those of us accustomed to a rapid rate of change, things should happen yesterday or at the latest, this afternoon. Finding oneself in a land where change occurs slowly can fool the pilgrim into believing that it isn’t occurring at all. Frustration and even thoughts of failure can ensue unless the eyes and heart are awakened by the Spirit to recognize the gift of the slower pace.

For a variety of reasons, ministry in a rural context moves a slower pace. Serving an agricultural region helps you to learn to appreciate a slower, more considerate pace to life. From the first seeds planted in the spring to the harvest in the cool of autumn, little can be forced or imposed on a field. The farmer must be observant and aware of how all of the components of life are interacting on a day to day basis and then respond when necessary to maintain the equilibrium needed to produce the harvest. Conditions change. Life intervenes. Any number of things must be kept in balance as the crop transforms slowly from fragile seedling to robust stalks of grain ready to be reaped.

Ministry in this context is going to occur at the same pace and any attempt to impose or force a faster pace is going to be doomed to failure. God’s people in this context are prepared to initiate change in the seed form but not in the planting of full grown specimens from the nursery. They will allow incremental change that can then be nurtured along and monitored, but radical-turn-things-upside-down change will be rejected. Leading change demands that you acknowledge and respect this.

The gift of the slower rate is in the increased success of the initiatives. A slower rate enables the careful consideration of the incremental steps rather than surveying the train wreck and then trying to go back and see where the engine slipped off the rails. It allows God’s people to acclimate to change at the same rate that they see God at work on the fields that surround them. It allows for greater glory in God’s name as His people celebrate the small successes along the way rather than the final big bang of the conclusion.

The ministerial gift is in allowing the Spirit to turn one’s internal dial back from 10 to 2. It allows the small steps and relaxed pace to allow you to look every more closely for where He is at work in the process. The greater gift perhaps is that it allows us to savor God’s pace of redemption in us as individuals and in the world as a whole. Where we might have liked to see the sanctification occur in full yesterday, in His economy it takes a lifetime.

Image courtesy Martin Deutsch

Far from the City

cityFar from the bustle and concrete byways of the city lies a place of mystery to many people. Though geographically this place dwarfs the footprint of the cities, suburbs and exurbs, its inhabitants are but a fraction of their population. This place is known by many names, some derogatory and insulting, some more indicative of the labors that take place there…

The countryside, hinterlands, sticks, farm country,yokeldom and hickdom, the tall corn…

Those who live in this area by choice or calling are similarly caricatured. They are simple, unsophisticated, a bit rough around the edges and lacking the panache and polish of the urban and suburban brothers and sisters. Their tastes tend toward gingham, heavily laden plates, trucks and events involving livestock.

Of course, none of these are true and all of them are true.

People are people regardless of their proximity to the urban core. They live, love, sin and repent. They are theologically complex and in some cases, artless. Some have a desire to know the Shalom, the peace of a life lived in God, The Peace and others choose their own path to peace.

It is in this rural context to which I’ve been called to minister. The challenges are unique and complex despite the stereotypes and little in my formal training prepared me to engage this culture. Yet minister I do because these are God’s people and I love them. To be their shepherd is a privilege that I do not take lightly. They have taught me much and from their ovine counterparts that I pass each day I am enlightened.

Much is made of those with sufficient fortitude attempt a ministry in the inner city as though this is the ultimate ministry field, filled with dangers and challenges unmatched in any other ministry field. We rightly admire those whom God has called into these stations but we should also avoid denigrating those who God has placed in the suburbs as well. The tract home holds its share of unique problems as well.

God calls some of us into the countryside to minister. We worship with top-notch musicians and deeply spiritual people whose prayers move your soul. We preach with all the fervor and sophistication of our urban cohort. We marry and we bury and we equip His people to minister on their own. We are not here because we were unable to make it elsewhere or because we are running away from something, we are here because we are obedient to God’s calling upon our lives.

We are here because we love God’s people and His people are here.