As I was reading through Acts 16 this morning, I had a thought about Paul the Apostle. It seems that no matter what Paul was doing, nor where he was in life, the Gospel ministry was always on his mind. Indeed, the Gospel ministry flavored everything he did. And it occurred to me that sadly I can’t say the same. It seems that unlike Paul, I treat the Gospel ministry more like the way I treat Microsoft Word. Ironically, I’m using Word to write this blog. Actually, it’s less ironic and more case in point. Here’s what I mean…When I need to write a paper or a blog or type up some sermon notes, I open Microsoft Word and do my thing. When I’m done with the paper/blog/sermon notes I close the program. I, like many Christians I’m afraid, turn the Gospel on for a mission trip or a planned meeting with a lost friend or church worship service. But then when those events are done, I close it down. Some people call this compartmentalizing the Gospel. I think that’s a very fitting description.
But there is a Microsoft program that I almost never close down. It’s Outlook. Outlook is constantly running on my home and work computers. It’s the rare exception when it’s not running. Most of the time it’s minimized, but it’s still running. It’s still receiving email and reminding me of appointments on my calendar. When an email pops in, I get a little notification at the bottom right side of my screen. If I’m sitting at my desk working in one of the other programs and I see the notification, I stop what I’m doing and I check the email. To be honest, I sometimes have to shut it down when I’m trying to really concentrate on something else so that a Facebook notification email doesn’t get me chasing a little rabbit for 30 minutes! But that’s beside the point.
The point is that in the Gospel ministry, Outlook is way better than Word. For Paul, the Gospel ministry was constantly running and no matter what he was doing, when he got an email notification (an opportunity to share the Gospel), he put everything else aside and went for it.
What does this look like for modern day ministers of the Gospel? And by ministers, I don’t mean pastors; I mean Christians. It looks like starting the day with a quiet time (much like checking the email to see what came in overnight…reconnecting, so to speak), then going throughout the day with the Gospel minimized on the desktop, but not closed. It’s in the background running the whole day, constantly on my mind. It means I’m prayerfully going about my daily business. In the commute to work, it’s praying for wisdom to deal with issues that will pop up. It’s praying for opportunities to be the salt and light. It’s praying for people that the Lord has lain on my heart. And it’s worshipping to music that is beneficial, not destructive. Music that uplifts and doesn’t break down. Or talk radio that does the same. The stuff that makes me want to be a better husband and father not that makes me want a better wife and kids! It means when I get to the office or the worksite or school that I’m focused on being a good laborer, but I’m also silently listening and looking for that email notification from God saying, “Talk to her or pay for his lunch.” [Just got a real email notification from Groupon, think I can let it sit there for a while.] Then when I’m ready to head home for the day, it’s praying that God gives me the strength and the desire to be present for my wife and children. It’s praying that I will have the wherewithal to engage my children in constructive play and conversation. It’s praying that I will be sensitive to my wife’s needs after a long day with the kids or at work. When we go to a restaurant or the grocery store, it’s being attentive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, “That family needs some help, buy their groceries.” Or, “This man needs to know the hope of Christ, bring Jesus up in conversation as you stand in line.” “Ask the waitress how she’s doing and how you can pray for her.” As you get ready for that weekend project and you head out to the local hardware store, it’s praying that God would help you not be so laser-focused that you pass by Gospel opportunities. You may think you’re going to Home Depot (or Lowe’s or Ace so as not to offend) for a gallon of Honey Oat in Satin and a paint brush, but when you leave the Gospel running in the background, you may just find that God brought you there to plant some seed, or better yet to reap some harvest. Yeah, in the Gospel ministry, Outlook is definitely better than Word. Let’s all try to be Outlook Christians!
(For all you techies out there, please don’t comment about how Outlook and Word are completely different programs…I know that; I’m using both right now.)