I work in sales. Some of our top performing sales representatives this year didn’t make much use of their computers. Fancy databases? Don’t use them. Email lists and mail merge functions to reach several clients at once? Nope. For these sucessful sales representatives, all that they need is their phone, some persistance and plenty of good personal skills. OK, perhaps there’s more than that, but I’m impressed that while many of us are worrying ourselves with details of database doohickeys, these representatives are making meaningful contact with customers and making good on their sales goals. These representatives worry themselves less with tools and more with task.
Tools versus task. Perhaps we get too worked up over the tools of our ministries – which hymn book, what style of prayer or worship, which new method of church organization or faith fellowship groups, etc. etc.. Fads abound, church consultants line up two-by-two, and whole toolkits are available for you to tweak your ministry’s operations. Tools often become the focus of our attention, drawing us away from our God-given task.
But when is the last time we asked outselves what we’re about? What’s the task we’re called to? I think that once we grasp a sense of task (or, perhaps better said, a sense of mission) the tools begin to play a supporting role rather than a primary role in our church discussions. Yet, it is so easy for us to cling to tools – they’re tangible, after all. But our mission is not about our buildings or our hymn books or our structure or . . . Rather, our mission should be supported and lived in and through these things. These tools are vehicles for mission, means through which we do the ministry – not ends in themselves. But they can be so fun, so distracting, so easily made into idols . . .
So for this next year, perhaps I’ll venture to play with my database slightly less. Perhaps I’ll renew an emphasis on my mission to my customers and let the tools return to their rightful, supporting role. And perhaps in doing so I’ll renew my vocation, my calling to serve others, and more readily hear God’s voice in my work.
But to be on the safe side, perhaps I’ll keep one hand on my laptop, just to make sure that God’s voice isn’t being spoken through my database . . .