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I do a lot of thinking, reading, and writing. It’s what I do. I need to focus (and being ADD that can be really hard, even when I’m on my meds). And so, there are times when I get into a groove and just get flying and then something happens. I get interrupted. It’s the little things that interrupt and it’s the big things too.

When sermonating or reading at my office, I get phone calls, I get people stopping by, or I wind up gabbing for a half hour with our awesome secretary. When I’m doing work at a coffee shop I wind up gabbing with the barista for a little while, or chatting with someone I know or even sometimes just met. And if I try (note try) to work from home, my kiddos want my attention, my lovely wife might want me to aid her in something, or I just get distracted along the way. I get interrupted.

So, yesterday I did something different. I went to the local library to get some work done.

I found a table way in the back of the library near the periodicals and got to work (no outlets near by to plug in my computer though, luckily I had like 5 1/2 hours of battery life). I got done in two hours more than I had in the week. I was in the groove. I was working and getting stuff done. After two hours, I realized that I was pretty much done and headed home.

But it felt weird. It felt odd. I hadn’t been interrupted. And that just didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t talk to anyone, yes, and so my work was done, yes. But it didn’t feel like I really did what I should have done. It didn’t feel like I really accomplished something.

As I reflected on this, I began to realize why: In ministry, you need to be interrupted. Being interrupted’s part of doing God’s work. Jesus was interrupted all the time. You read about how he stopped and had compassion on the people. You read how he stopped in a crowd to heal a blind mine. He stopped to heal 10 men with leprosy. No matter how busy or pressing things were, he stopped. He was interrupted.

My favorite time he was interrupted is in Mark 5.

Jairus’ daughter is sick. He’s a leader in the community. Jairus comes to Jesus desperate to have him heal his daughter. In the huge crowd, Jesus is being pressed on by people on all sides. Jesus agrees to go with Jarius. As they are going, a woman who had been sick from bleeding for 12 years stoops down and touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak. Jesus immediately stopped. He asked who touched him because he knew exactly what happened.

This was a desperate plea by Jairus. This was a life or death situation. And Jesus still allowed himself to be interrupted to be present for someone. The woman was healed as soon as she touched Jesus’ cloak. She came forward and admitted that she touched his cloak. Jesus took time as he was interrupted to be present for this woman. He gave her what she needed. His attention and the forgiveness of God.

By this time, Jairus received word that his daughter had died. It was too late now. If only Jesus hadn’t allowed himself to be interrupted, then his daughter might have lived. Yet, there’s more to this than just that. Something greater was going to happen. If Jesus hadn’t allowed himself to be interrupted, then Jairus wouldn’t be able to witness something more amazing than his original request.

Jesus goes to Jairus’ daughter and brings her back to life. This isn’t a simple healing, this is life giving. Because Jesus was interrupted, something greater happened. Life was restored. More than just healing happened. New life happened.

So, when I’m sermonating, when I’m doing my work, I gladly allow myself to be interrupted. I always remind myself that it is relationships over accomplishments. People matter more than how good my sermon is that Sunday morning. People matter more than how much reading I get done.

Jesus was about people. He built relationships with people as he walked with them. I try to do the same.

I am gladly interrupted so that I may give my full attention to someone because they deserve it. Relationships will always trump accomplishments any day for me.


I've been going to the library for years to get sermon work done.  I make little or no progress at the office.  I set aside time to be interrupted (when i'm at home/at the office), and time when I can focus and think without being interrupted.   If I didn't my sermons would never get finished.  You can accomplish ministry by engaging people when they are appear or you can accomplish ministry by being able to think clearly and write a good sermon.  I think both are important.

It's interesting that scripture tells us Jesus would slip away from the crowds to the mountains to pray.  Not even his disciples were around.  It would seem that during those moments Jesus was not interrupted.  Perhaps the Savior valued balance.  Like Doug Bouws has indicated, I find it important to engage people when they appear, guarding their time with me from interruption.  And its necessary to have stretches of concentrated time to prepare for Sundays.  I find it necessary and rewarding to have this type of balance.

I appreciate both of your observations and reflections on this post. I agree that preaching the Word is very important to faith formation and it is central to worship. I also agree that careful preparation is needed to faithfully preaching God's Word. It is something exciting and also terrifying to do each Sunday (for some, twice a Sunday). It is a great responsibility to correctly and faithfully preach His word. Yet ministry isn't about just that. It is part of it but not the only part of it. Reading through the Gospels, yes, Jesus took time away from people. He didn't take time to prepare his sermon on the mount though. He took time to pray, he took time to connect with The Father, he took time to rest. Reading through the Gospels, Jesus was about people. He was about the sinners, the tax collectors, those on the fringes. He even calls the pharisees to repentance and invites them into the kingdom.

I find that the word "balance" is tossed around as an excuse to hide away rather than engage; to evade rather than encounter. Reading the Gospels, Jesus lived rhythm not balance. He lived in a rhythm of doing God's work and then rest and prayer (for example, he went to pray before and after important events in the book of Mark). He had a rhythm of work and rest. You're welcome to check out my blog where I look more into this subject of work and rhythm here here here here and here

Rhythm is important to doing ministry. God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th, not because he had to because he was tired but because he knew rhythm. Jesus lived this rhythm, not balance. Engaging people helps me engage God's word. If I do not know what someone is going through, how I can faithfully speak God's word to them, allowing the Spirit to move in their hearts?

Thank you again for your comments and observations and thoughts. May God bless you in doing his kingdom work

I can't imagine any minister would disagree that sermon preparation is only one part of ministry.  That would be a pretty tough position to defend.

As Joshua Benton has correctly described of Jesus, "He took time to pray, he took time to connect with The Father, he took time to rest."

Regardless of how he used certain private moments, it's easy to picture those moments of Jesus' life as being free from interruption.  

While I have times where I do receive people who appear and phone calls that spontaneously arrive.  My only point is that I need pockets of time that are free from interruption from time to time, too.   Whether it is for another step forward in preparing the sermon or for going to bed for the night.  In the case of emergencies, there are even exceptions to guarding those important moments.  

Guarding certain pockets of time within reason is a necessary part of ministry for me.  It enables me to see certain commitments to the ministry through to completion.  I wouldn't dream of walking out of a board meeting to go work on my sermon; I wouldn't interrupt pastoral counseling with a grieving family to start making phone calls or to receive another parishioner who suddenly appears (again, unless it was an even more urgent emergency).  Why should assembling the gift of a good Sunday sermon warrant any less care?

The author of the article indicates that interruptions are an important reality in ministry.  I completely agree.  

But, never guarding certain pockets of time from interruption would not work for me.  It would be chaotic.  It could open the door to not being dependable.  It would be rude and disrespectful to parishioners who need and deserve a moment with a fully engaged pastor.   

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