“In the church, as long as you appear busy, people rarely question your knowledge or effectiveness. They assume whenever there is a cloud of dust, meaningful activity must be just ahead of it. So I started kicking up perpetual dust clouds.” – Fil
Fil Anderson is the author of a book I read more than a decade ago, Running On Empty. His book, sub-titled, “Contemplative spirituality for overachievers” is a helpful one I recommend. Fil began to see a revelation of who he was becoming… a minister on empty, in multiple areas of his life. In his own words, “So I started kicking up perpetual dust clouds.”
How much dust are you kicking up? How do you identify if your ministry is kicking up dust clouds? Maybe the best way to identify the cloud is to understand the things it might be hiding.
What’s could be hiding behind the dust clouds:
- An absence of true direction
It could be you’re not called to vocational ministry or to lead your church’s vision, and when you don’t have that calling, you replace it with other stuff. You stir up dust clouds in hopes no one will notice there’s nothing holy or substantive about the work you’re leading.
Frenetic work and ministry activities can easily conceal sin. And many times, the dust clouds aren’t even intended to conceal, but rather to compensate. You have guilt about your personal sin, so you strive to make up for it by manufacturing more ministry.
- Tired people
Within these dust clouds we create, there are tired volunteers. We don’t want to be tired alone, so we invite others into our dusty worlds. We recruit them with great vision and momentum, and when we tire them with our meandering mediocrity, they not only lose steam but also the beautiful spirituality of their service.
There will always be more dust to kick up. There will always be more ministry to do. But there will come a day when your pace slows down, and people will notice… “He used to make so many more hospital visits.” “She used to offer more support groups for our community.” “I can’t believe he doesn’t attend our group study anymore.”
You’ll hear these whispers and feel inadequate…And the truth is, you are.
You can’t keep up a façade of assumed knowledge and effective ministry via meaningless activity. Albeit meaningless, it’s still tiring. At some point you’ll reach “empty”, the dust cloud will settle, and you’ll realize you don’t know what to do next.
So how do you avoid this dusty reality?
You can avoid the perpetual dust cloud by understanding who you are in Christ. By understanding what God has called you to do. By clearly understanding what the church has called you to do… and what it hasn’t.
I believe with all my heart God will provide you with enough clarity to take the first steps to move out of the dust clouds. Search scripture. Seek wisdom about designing ministry plans. Ask the next question in the church’s interview process, about how they define success (is it meaningful work they want you to accomplish, or frenetic work that will temporarily drive up attendance or budget numbers?)
What do the next seven days look like on your calendar? How much of your activities kick up dust clouds? Begin the hard work of making your personal and ministry life a dust cloud free zone.