Twenty years ago, Bill Hybels wrote a book entitled Too Busy Not To Pray: Slowing Down to Be with God. Over one million copies of this book has been sold to a bustling people reminding them that they needed to cultivate a prayer life by slowing down to spend time with God (ironically, they apparently had enough time to read his book!). Hybels’ book is a part of a growing corpus of literature challenging Christians to develop a more spiritually disciplined life, and for that, we should all be grateful. Certainly we could all be more disciplined to pray and slow down to spend more time with God.
During this summer, I have been teaching on what I have called “everyday evangelism.” At the beginning of the summer, I addressed the reasons why we do not evangelize. Along with fear of rejection, perhaps the greatest reason why we do not evangelize as we should is simply because we are too busy. Hybels recognized twenty years ago that we needed to slow down to be with God, and I am recognizing today that we need to slow down to be with the lost.
While staying at a hotel earlier this year, I took a long look at this door hanger. The more I looked at it, the more I realized it was something that could not only be found on the front door of my room, but as a billboard to my life. “Please do not disturb.” No thank you. I don’t want to be bothered by you. Has anyone informed you that it’s my life? I have got things to do, places to go, more important people to meet (people like me). You are an interruption not welcomed, a nuisance to my already overly stressed schedule. Please just leave me alone and stay out of the way.
I know that sounds harsh and a bit overdone, but you get my point. For the most part, this commentary could be said of our lives. This door hanger could be hung around our necks. The more important we think we are, the less time we will have for people, especially people who are not like us. The busier we become, the less we think of the lives, hurts, and needs of people around us–you know, the people we glance at and then look the other way. Whether intentional or accidental, the agenda of our lives is dictated by matters of urgency and prioritized by things most important to us. The result is that little if anything is left over. After all is said and done, we simply hang up the sign that says, “Please do not disturb.”
I believe it is our desire to be “Great Commission Christians.” We want to be on mission for God. We want to see sinners saved. But let’s face it: if we are going to be more involved in the mission of God, if we are going to participate in the work of evangelism, then some things will have to change. Those of us who are too busy not to evangelize need to throw away our door hangers and put up the open and welcome sign. We need to practice personal hospitality which says to a broken world, “You’re welcome here. Please come and sit a while.” The first step for us is to repent of our me-centeredness and get on board with God’s program so that it governs our lives. Is this not what “seek first the kingdom of God” is about? The kingdom of God should be top priority in our lives, period.
There was a time when Jesus was asked about what loving God and loving your neighbor looked like. Jesus responded by telling a story of three men who encountered a beaten, hurting man on the street. Two of them were deeply committed religious leaders. They thought of themselves really important. They, religiously speaking, had it going on–the position, the prestige, the spiritual performances, etc. But both these men, having seen the hurting man, intentionally took a detour to avoid such an encounter. It was below them to stoop down. It was beyond them to change their plans. But the story transitions to the third figure. A half-breed Samaritan, despised, rejected, and ignored by most in the upstanding Jewish culture. As the most unlikely and religiously unqualified person of the three, you would think that he would have no part in this hurting man either. But he had one thing the other two didn’t have–compassion. He had a heart that was open. He had time to give. He had a life that welcomed broken people. As a result, he did what these two other men did not and could not do. He showed mercy and loved his neighbor.
Jesus tells us to go and do likewise, but how many times do we find ourselves like the priest and Levite looking for a detour because we have determined other things to be more important? Indeed, we miss out on the mission of God because our mission (or minutia) takes precedence. We don’t love our neighbor because we don’t welcome them. It is disturbing to us. And we don’t welcome them because we are simply too busy.
In the following post, I will address this a little more, in particular what I am calling missional margin. Jesus had it. Paul had it. And so should we.