Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 4 But Martha was distracted with much serving.” Luke 10:38-40a
Distracted. A weak word to describe what happens when we lose focus on what we should be doing. Or saying. Or being. We blame it on so many things: a physical ailment we often label as Attention Deficit Disorder, too many people making demands on our time, and any number of other excuses.
Yes, I said excuses. Why? Well, because we have, or should have, the power over our own minds. We know what needs to be focused on and when and for how long. And yet, we try to do it all at once.
Take for instance the scenario of Mary and Martha in the verses above. The Lord, Jesus, went to the sister’s house. Jesus was their guest. Oh, my, can you even imagine? Mary grabbed this opportunity to sit at His feet and learn. She focused on the Master teacher and gave her full attention to Him. Martha? Not so much. Instead of allowing herself to take advantage of this time with the Savior of the world, she chose to be distracted by the nuances of being a good hostess. I can just see her in the kitchen, glancing irritably at her “lazy” sister sitting there on the floor with her face beaming up at Jesus while Martha was sweating to fix dinner for Him. Martha was distracted from the reason for Jesus’ visit by the mandates of the world.
I’ve been a writer and speaker for bringing women to a closer relationship with Christ for many years. I have read book upon book of how to organize a ministry to women. Step – by – step, plan – by – plan. And I have seen many women’s ministries fall by the wayside because the leaders were distracted by making sure every detail fit that they forgot to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn.
Ministry is defined as ” an activity carried out by Christians to express or spread their faith, the prototype being the Great Commission.” Going back to Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus is on a mountain and He commissions His disciples to go into all the world and teach of God’s salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the comfort and teaching of the Holy Spirit that lives inside every believer. Jesus did not tell them to go fix dinner for everyone and then teach. He just said “teach.” And He provides the physical sustenance. He provides the order of things happening. He provides the breathing of the Holy Spirit to speak through us.
Organization to some extent is necessary. But when it takes away from the ministry, the call of Christ, then it becomes a distraction. I was praying about a ministry opportunity that has come up and how I could be a part of it. I looked through various books to see how to run the meetings, how to schedule the meetings, who did this and who did that. And suddenly I heard a whisper in my spirit, “Don’t organize this ministry to the point where the Holy Spirit has to make an appointment with you.” I sat back in my chair and I prayed, “Lord, let your Holy Spirit be my guide in this ministry. Let me be open to hearing what He has to say to me each and every minute of each and every day. Deliver me from trying to follow what the world would say is successful and replace that with a hunger to reach these women.”
I have a burden for mentoring women to live lives that embrace Christ and His teaching. Organization has its place. We have to have a schedule otherwise no one knows what is happening and when. So, how do we do that without becoming distracted by the details? Just few suggestions I have found are:
- Pray over the details. Constantly ask if what we are considering is necessary to the ministry or necessary to our own needs. For instance, I love to see pictures of the women’s events posted on our church web site. These are random photos taken throughout the event, maybe by one person who just loves to take pictures, or an accumulation of mobile photos taken by many. In one book I was reading it stated that there should be an appointed photographer (ok, I’m good with that) and that photographer should organize, organize, organize. No candid shots, only well planned shots of posed women talking with each other. And on, and on. It kind of takes the fun out of it.
- Second, use the details provided by the books we read as guidelines, not mandates. The Holy Spirit will guide us into what needs to be done, said, and taught, in the ministry. Yes, a regularly scheduled meeting on the calendar is good. But if it starts with prayer or testimony really can be flexible. For instance, I am leading a Bible study and our first one was a couple of weeks ago. We have several ladies who were new to going to the studies so we spent a good first hour just getting to know each other. Half way through the study I realized that I had not opened in prayer, which is what we “usually” do. Did I stop everything and apologize and say a prayer? No, I went on with the discussion, said a silent prayer to God for the ladies that were present and asked Him to show me where the needs were in this group. It was a blessed night of fellowship and learning from each other about God’s love. Yes, we prayed at the end. But I didn’t panic because we were out of schedule, I just turned it over to God and let Him lead.
- Give it to God before we ever start. He alone knows what He wants to do through the ministry He has trusted us with. It’s His ministry to His women. Not ours.
- And finally, don’t stress the details. Martha was stressing because Mary was not doing what she thought a good hostess should be doing. The phrase “let go and let God” is my constant reminder that I serve Him first, then He serves through me.
God needs both the Mary’s and the Martha’s. He needs the Martha’s who see what needs to be done and He needs the Mary’s who want to learn all there is to know. He needs us to mentor each other from our own gifts down the path He wants us to take. And He wants us to lean on each other for the perfect blend so that we don’t get distracted from His calling.