Plans and Interruptions

This is just a short thought at the start of a new year. Probably by the time you see this it will at least be the middle of January of 2021, but I think the thought is relevant no matter when it is.

Here’s the thought: sometimes ministry, sometimes life is about a plan; making a plan, following the plan, working the plan. In fact, probably it’s true most of the time.

We see Jesus who, when you pay attention to what He was up to in the gospels, wasn’t just wandering aimlessly. He had a plan to develop a core group of disciples to prepare them for the reception of the Spirit and the birth of the Church. He, at different points, talks about how He was working His way towards Jerusalem. He had a plan. He was going to the cross and He was going to rise from the grave.

We also see the same thing when He gave the great commission in Acts 1:8 where He says you’ll receive power when the Spirit comes on you; and you’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. That’s kind of like concentric circles, which is the plan and that is actually the outline of the book of Acts and the way the Gospel spread to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. There’s a plan.

The Apostle Paul clearly had a plan. He said I’ve made it my ambition or my goal to preach the Gospel where Christ is not named, and he recounts his commission from Christ in Acts 26:18 where Jesus tells him I’m sending you to the Gentiles. So he would go to these towns and would often start at the synagogue for whatever the reason, but quickly get kicked out and go to the Gentiles.

A lot of times ministry is about having a plan and life’s about having a plan, but there’s the other side to that often life and ministry are really about responding wisely to the interruptions. We can look again at the life of Jesus and whether you want to call these interruptions or whether He knew about them in advance, you can wrestle that through theologically.

Take Zacchaeus for example. As Jesus was going down the street, Zacchaeus is in the tree and Jesus responds to him and goes to his place for dinner. The woman at the well seemed like an interruption though if you read the gospels, it looks like Jesus intentionally went there though He didn’t have to. He was responsive to the woman who touched the edges as cloak and Jesus felt power go out from Him. That was an interruption. When people came to Jesus in desperation to heal someone, there’s these interruptions that He responds to that have become part of the gospel record and a clear part of Jesus’ ministry, verifying who He was.

Again, when you see the same thing in the early church where Jesus told them make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth, but they parked in Jerusalem after the Spirit was poured out. It was great and utopian, but then persecution comes and they’re scattered. Wherever they’re scattered, they preach the gospel. The interruption led to the spread of the Gospel.

With the Apostle Paul, we see how a large part of his ministry was being kicked out of communities and synagogues; kicked out of here and there. He had the larger plan of sharing the Gospel where Christ had not been named, but he also had this responsiveness to the interruptions.

So as you perhaps begin a new year or find yourself in the middle of some season of ministry right now, yes, it’s good to have the plan and we want to have the plan. We want to know what the calling is and what it means to make disciples in our context. But we also want to recognize that our little strategies and specific tactics may actually be interrupted.

We might be called to do something else in implementing that plan. Something that looks like interruption, but contributes to the calling and contributes to the spread of the Gospel making disciples.

So wisdom to you as you work your plan and as you stay alert to the interruptions that are from the Spirit.

God bless you in your ministry, whatever it is. Press on.

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