Wait a minute? Those two things are not mutually exclusive, are they? The answer is obviously that they are not. However, as someone who has spent eleven years of my professional career on two different church staffs, I am here to tell you that often times we make them mutually exclusive without even realizing it.
As a jumping off point, let’s go to I Kings 8 as King Solomon has the Ark of the Covenant brought into the Holy of Holies in the brand new temple at Jerusalem.
And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. – I Kings 8:10-11 ESV
As we read through the scriptures in the Old Testament, we learn that the priests had a lot of daily tasks to take care of in and around the tabernacle and later the temple. There were sacrifices to make, fires to maintain, utensils to keep clean, incense to make and offer, and the list literally goes on and on. The priests were serving a population of well over a million Jews on a daily basis. Yet here we see a moment where God’s presence comes down in such a powerful way that all of the other stuff stops. God’s presence was so strong that we are told in verse eleven that the priests couldn’t even STAND to minister. In other words, the presence of God drove them to their knees. That’s kind of a launch pad for an entirely different teaching. That one can wait for another day.
The Western or as some would call it the Americanized church is a very busy place. In a normal week at the churches I have served in, it would not be uncommon to participate in multiple planning meetings daily (worship services, special events, facilities coordination, summer schedules, and anything else that happens involving the church facilities and resources). Each one of these meetings would have the potential to last well beyond an hour. So if I was in the office four days a week (we each got a weekday off as Sunday was considered a work day), it was quite conceivable that 10-20 of my roughly 32 in office hours were spent around a table or in front of a whiteboard planning, brainstorming, etc.
I want to stop right here and say that this is not necessarily a bad thing. I am a firm believer that things need to be well thought out and planned. Having said that, we all know that when attempting something new, all the planning in the world goes out the window when the first curveball happens on event day. As leaders in the church, the staff needs to have a solid grasp on what is going on and how things are going to interact.
What I worry about in many churches is the fact that we have created so many programs and activities, that we have to spend the majority of our time planning and prepping and we run out of time for things like personal interaction with our volunteers, going by the local hospitals to check on church attenders (not just members) that may be ill or having surgery, and spending time together as a staff to pray and worship.
I love the fact that every morning at 8:30, the staff of my previous church would come together for a time of devotion and prayer. Some mornings it would last 15 minutes and others would go on for an hour. These times of spiritual refreshing with each other were critical to help us get through the demands of any given day on our campus.
How does all of this tie in with the scripture from I Kings 8? Well, for me, every time I come across this passage (which is at least once a year, often more than that) I am reminded that while doing God’s work is important, being in God’s presence is what prepares and equips me to do God’s work.
You may think that I am just writing to those who serve on a church staff. I’m not. God has called each of us to something. For some, it is full time work on a church staff. For others, it is running your own business and for even others, it is doing your job whatever it is to the best of your ability. We all encounter people on a daily basis and we have been called by God to show His love to those we come in contact with. I’ll be completely honest, that does not come easily every day. Life’s challenges, stresses, and the like make it difficult to look outside of my own little bubble and love on someone else, but I’m called to do it.
When I have made time in God’s presence a consistent priority in my day, I find His love flows through me with much less fleshly resistance. Doing God’s work is important, but do not forget about spending time in His presence as well. It is just as important and quite possibly a little bit more important.