Jesus' Pinball Ministry
Posted on August 23rd, 2013 at 9:30AM
Just before going on the mission field in 2003, I attended a Church Mission Society training to help prepare me. The sermon given on the last day has stayed with me ever since, about Jesus’ pinball ministry and how that can often characterise our experience on the mission field.
Jesus’ ministry is likened to a pinball machine where the balls, instead of going straight down to their destination, are batted about from place to place by the levers. As missionaries, the speaker shared, we may feel like we are there with a specific job to do, a particular goal to reach, and yet we keep getting sidetracked by other things that come up and other needs we must respond to. With the wrong focus, this can become very frustrating.
Jesus’ ministry had one very clear end goal and one specific purpose, but as he walked toward that goal there are many instances of him being knocked off course which I hadn't appreciated before hearing this sermon. For example, he wasn't ready to start his ministry when his mother told him expectantly that they had no more wine (John 2), Nicodemus comes to him in the middle of the night (John 3), often when he withdraws, the crowd finds him and he continues to minister to them.
The point for missionaries and indeed for all of us is that Jesus’ plan for us is often found in those things that send us off course (or off what we think is our course). I may have a plan set up for the day, but if there are interruptions, it may be that attending fully to these interruptions will actually be closer to God’s plan for my day, than my own plan!
Here again we come to the little acts that we can do in our ordinary lives. We don’t need to look for the man who has collapsed and needs resuscitation to survive or the girl being attacked where we wonder if we can intervene. All of us have the opportunity to do some little act, perhaps unseen, to make life more pleasant for someone else. These deeds may have a cost in terms of time, thought and effort, but they will be worth it if we are following God’s will.
Jerry Bridges, in his analysis of kindness and goodness in "The Fruitful Life", draws out this concept: “Remember that opportunities for doing good are not interruptions in God’s plan for us but part of that plan.” He encourages us to look beyond ourselves to the concerns and needs of those around us and let His diving grace guide us in doing our little acts, thereby growing in the fruit of kindness and goodness.