When you’re in ministry and you enter into a new position, you’re meeting new people, learning their likes & dislikes, getting familiar with their patterns. It’s likely you’re seeing them at their best, too. People are still getting to know you, they’re asking you questions about yourself, and there’s this mutual “I’m interested in you” focus to the conversation. It’s a lot like dating, oddly enough. We like it when people talk to us about us, and they like it when we keep asking questions about them. It’s a unique place to be.
Nobody begins their position in ministry thinking about transitioning out. If you do, that’s probably coming from an unhealthy experience, and there’s fear already creeping in where it doesn’t belong. Most of us who begin a new ministry position, depending on our philosophy of ministry, might plan on one day retiring from some position within that body, many, many years down the road. We might think about transitioning within, but we aren’t thinking about leaving. We look at an opportunity, we zero in on that opportunity, and something in us tells us that this is the opportunity, and that this is the only thing that God wants for us. We convince ourselves of it. This is ‘our‘ opportunity.
And that’s a fair thing to feel. The interview process takes a little while. It’s a dance, it’s a waiting game, it’s a pursuit of conversation, and maybe an avoidance of other things. We ask what we want to know, we might delve into some sensitive topics, but we don’t dig as deep as we might want, for fear of crossing some arbitrary line. And so we set our expectations from that set of questions and answers, and then we build from there. Some of what develops from that spot is fair, and there are other things we would never have thought to bring up that only time will reveal. We learn this way, and people learn us this way, too.
Opportunity develops over time. We are mistaken when we look at them as singular points in time, as individual appointments. We begin conversation with a church about an opening, we work our way together through the processes of interviewing and hiring, voting and introductory lunches. When that process wraps up and we begin in that new place, we describe that whole process as -an- opportunity.
But what happens after that?
Are we still within that opportunity? Are we between opportunities? Do we see opportunity as stand alone events? What is opportunity? How frequently do opportunities come up? Only when we seek them? Only when they are thrust upon us? We have all had opportunities pop up that we weren’t expecting, right? Opportunities to meet someone for lunch. Opportunities to go to an event, to see a movie, to catch up with someone over the phone. Opportunities are everywhere.
What do we make of opportunity? What do we make of these openings into the life of the body of Christ? What do we do with these invitations to come and minister, to share love and light? What do we do with the host of moments that are laid out before us? How do we view their weight and significance?
What if we started looking not at events, not at hiring and firing/resignations as the boundaries of an opportunity (these opening and closing moments of an opportunity) but that every day, every choices are opportunities?
Every day, you and I are met with a whole host of decisions. How do we greet this person? Do we act proactively here? Do we wait to react until something else happens? What is responsible? What is good? What is right? Do we wait and let things happen to us, or do we stand up and address things, people, situations as different opportunities? Do we see the things that happen in this life as a series of individual opportunities that either work toward the growth and advancement of the kingdom, and toward our growth in Christ, or do we view them as unavoidable circumstances that we have no power over?
If we want to have a healthy view of opportunity, then we need to view them as Jesus did. That new church position? Whose opportunity is this? That difficult conversation that feels like it might bring the end of your current opportunity? Whose conversation is it? That person who keeps popping up in your heart & mind, located in that inconvenient nursing home miles off your radar today? Whose are they? Which opportunity do you take? How do we view the plethora of opportunities that are presented from day to day? How do we handle dealing with responsibilities where people, hearts and eternal consequences are involved?
Without oversimplifying, it all begins with prayer. It begins with asking. And it all begins with understanding that opportunity doesn’t just ‘knock once,’ it doesn’t just show up at major points of life transition. Opportunities come up every day. How we respond to them shapes our character, and is shaped by the character we have developed so far in Christ. It speaks to our trust, to our faith and to our weaknesses.
Big decisions or small, we need a healthy sense of perspective, a measure of faith and an understanding that big opportunities are often shaped by the small opportunities that come up day to day. We don’t need to feel overwhelmed by them, but let faith guide us through them, seeking God-honoring counsel where needed, and being present in them so that we can be mindful of acting as Jesus would act. Every opportunity is His, so let’s wait for Him in them, let’s bless and be blessed in them, and let’s remember that each and every opportunity He provides serves as an opportunity for us to open up new opportunities for others to see Him at work. That is the beauty of ministry, whether new to us or a decades long series of opportunities with one family of faith.