“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)
It’s been a strange few weeks for me on the field. Fifteen months ago when we started working with our present church partner, we did not particularly expect to be heading up the entire work at this point. However, that is how the Lord has unfolded things as the vicar we were working with felt called by God to serve elsewhere. Leading a congregation is quite different from being a missionary working alongside the church leaders. Now, we’ve tried to do that as much as possible with the leaders still in the church, but there’s still a sense that we are “in charge.”
One of the biggest differences between what I am presently doing and what fifteen months ago I thought I would be doing, is all the paperwork, admin and pastoral care and that has swamped me. From safeguarding incidents to new believers suddenly withdrawing, there’s just been a lot of fire extinguishing, which is a far cry from the glorious dreams of generations of disciple-making that fill the heads of people first catching the vision for that sort of thing.
So on one hand it’s easy to get frustrated and disgruntled about the whole thing—church systems, messy people, red tape and all the other things that seem to suck my time away. On the other hand, this sort of thing is part of church. Things need administering. I am not doing kingdom work any less now than I would be if I were doing the sort of glamorous evangelism I often daydream about. Everything we’re doing is necessary for the kind of work I dream about to go forward in the not-too-distant future. Kingdom living can look a lot of different ways, because the bulk of it happens in unseen places, in the secret places of individual hearts.
Paul writes the famous words in 1 Corinthians, “Whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory,” and in Romans 14, “The kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” As always, God reminds me that kingdom living is about what’s going on in my heart, not what’s going on around me. I don’t need to second-guess or think I’ve somehow been derailed or distracted by all this administration, safeguarding and fire-extinguishing. It’s exactly what God has for me right now, and to live the kingdom life is to live fully in what the Lord has put in front of me, even if it’s not the sort of rapid multiplication stuff I’m praying will take off in my corner of England.
Warmly in Christ, Fred Swartz
For Reflection: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, ESV)
When are you most tempted to think the kingdom of God is about your circumstances rather than about your heart?
What tasks are the hardest for you to do to the glory of God?