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Busily doing something…

When people ask church leaders, "How's ministry?" the usual response is "Busy." Then, they'll list all the meetings, pastoral visits, and church programmes in which they are involved, as though being busy was a measure of importance. The reasoning goes something like this: the busier we are, the more important and vital we must be, and the more essential to God’s plans. Such talk of busyness suggests that productivity and achievement are measures of worth in the kingdom. Ironically, most of us would speak about being saved by grace, not works. I do wonder if busyness is one of our church's core problems. 

As mentioned in previous reflections, our team is experiencing a growing conviction that God is urging us to appreciate the significance of the everyday and ordinary and to seek Him within it. To not rush and launch another initiative or ministry, but to work on our rhythms of prayer and presence. We sense that God is calling us to pay attention to matters of the heart.


When I think of Biblical characters whose hearts were for God, I very quickly arrive at David; indeed, many of the Psalms bear witness to the state of his heart (good and bad). These past few days, I have been reflecting on what can be a puzzling account of David’s offer to build God a temple and God’s response, ‘Nah, I’m good, thanks.’ God does say a lot more than this, shaping one of the most significant covenants of the Old Testament, but the initial interaction between David, the Prophet Nathan and God has caught my attention.


“What can I do for God” is a great question, but perhaps around that question lies the thought process that being 'busy' and 'productive' is needed to please God. I'm not suggesting passivity or inactivity for the sake of inactivity, but I'm wondering if our thoughts of acceptance by God are linked to doing things for God. We can be too busy trying to please God when all God wants is our company, a relationship with us. It is our heart, not our output, that God desires.


Learning to sit can be a significant challenge if you are an activist like me. We feel we need to do something for God, which is what seems to be going on in 2 Samuel 7. At first reading, David’s plan seems generous and reverent: “How can I live in this fine palace when all God has is a tent?” Yet, go a little deeper, and it seems that David is inadvertently trying to reverse the relationship; he wants to do something for God and arguably contain God by placing him in a physical building, fixed in one place, which David can then control. If the bible teaches us anything, it is that God doesn’t do boxes! Maybe David thought he needed to try to repay God for what God had done for him. Whatever the reasoning, God changes the equation from a transaction into an unmerited gift. “Let me tell you what I am going to do for you…” and in a very gentle way, God says no to David’s plans.


I wonder about my reactions when God says 'no'. To be honest, not having my vision or plans fulfilled may make me feel disappointed, even rejected by God, especially if I feel they are particularly noble. However, as so often is the case, God has better plans, as He demonstrated with David.


God does agree to the building of a temple by David’s son, but I get the impression that God’s agreement was pretty much the same way God agreed to Israel having kings...God doesn't really want it, but God will let us have our way.


So, perhaps a cautionary tale to the church in the privileged West, with our senior pastors and ornate buildings (neither of which seem to be found in the language of the New Testament) and our busyness - these are not the core of God. More than a building, more than a title, more than a full diary, God is a divine transcendent being, faithful to His promises. The true fruit is found in a relationship with God through the ordinary circumstances of life and ministry, not by trying to be busy.

Simon Mattholie CEO, Rural Ministries


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