Busyness or Business?

June 17, 2013

When I reflect on the last three months. I am surprised how much took place. Planes, trains and automobiles; not just one plane, but twenty different plane rides on four different continents. It was great to make new friends and spend time with people I have known for years. I witnessed lots of wonderful ministry going on in these places and got to participate in some of it. I blogged a lot about these different cultures (check out blog at cloviscc.com). It’s got me thinking of our North American culture, too, specifically our busyness. Each of the cultures I visited demonstrated the value of spending time with people. People were in general of a relaxed lifestyle and not in a hurry. They spend time with others like it is the most important thing for them to be doing. I will share one story to illustrate this.

On a Sunday, while in China I went into a nail shop to get a manicure and pedicure. The combination was about $5. How could I not go? There were three girls in there getting their nails done. The three of them were friends from junior high but who now lived in different cities and had come together this weekend for a reunion. They were some of the few Chinese people I met that spoke English. We had a great time of talking. I invited them to the coffee shop that night to talk more. They came! Then they invited me out to have BBQ. They were the ones who introduced me to eating barbecued duck’s tongue and intestines. They were so generous and fun. Later they took me home in a taxi (going out of their way).

One of the girls lived in the city where I would be flying out – three hours from where we had been staying for almost three weeks. So I emailed her to see if she wanted to get together when I was going through to the airport. She invited me to stay with her. Well I couldn’t stay with her since I only had half a day but she still wanted to meet. So she took a bus an hour and a half to meet me at the train station. Then we walked around and she treated me to a yummy dim sum lunch. Later we took another bus to the airport. She could have left me on my own to take the bus since it was going to the airport (as I wouldn’t get lost!) but she insisted in taking the bus out to the airport (an hour trip) even though she would need to take another bus to get home. This was truly a wonderful form of hospitality. She took a full day to spend with me although she has a very busy job during the week. I could share more stories with you like this but you get the idea.

I had to ask myself if I would do that for someone who I may never see again? I have a car so it would have been easier for me but I’m not sure if I would have gone out of my way like this. Going to America is a dream for many Chinese people, like Vicky (that is her English name), but she realizes it will probably never happen. I told her at lunch about the project in Cambodia our church is involved in and that I may be taking a team in October. She said she would be very interested in being involved. Wow, that would be neat. AND it would be another opportunity to share the Good News with her. Yes, I did that at lunch with her. And I had opportunities to do that with a couple other girls while in China. What fun it was! Not easy, but it made for some great conversations.

I’d like to go back to the idea of busyness. I know that I am too busy and you have heard me say this before. I’m working on it and trips like these where I see people put more emphasis on relationships than tasks, remind me of my commitment to slow down. I read an article that shows that this is something that we as contemporary Christians do not have a handle on. A recent survey of 20,000 Christians around the world revealed that Christians worldwide identify busyness and constant overload as a major distraction from God. Dr. Michael Zigarelli, who conducted this survey from his post as associate professor of Management at the Charleston University School of Business, describes “a vicious cycle” prompted by cultural conformity. He says, “It may be the case that 1) Christians are assimilating a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to 2) God becoming more marginalized in Christian’s lives, which leads to 3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to 4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to 5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.”

The sad truth is that life in and around the church these days often leads people into a way of life that is becoming more and more layered with Christian busyness. If we are honest, we might admit that those of us who are in Christian ministry are just as driven to succeed as anyone else, only our success is measured in larger congregations, better church services, more innovations, and bigger buildings.

I need to reevaluate what it is I want to “succeed” in. What about you?