The call to be unproductive?

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

Henri Nouwen

(HT: Brad Brisco)


3 thoughts on “The call to be unproductive?

  1. carlienmg

    Can I repost this?
    As a woman I often struggle with getting the right balance between being ‘Martha’ and ‘Mary’. Martha’s jobs do need to get done eventually… and in some Christian circles the busier you appear to be, the more praise and esteem you get as a hard worker in God’s kingdom. It’s hard to take Mary’s approach and ‘ignore’ the to-do list, and first to just sit at Jesus’ feet, but then secondly, as Nouwen says ‘to pratice this simple ministry of presence’ for other people. Being present.. instead of flying past people as I go about completing the tasks of a day.. that’s hard, but so necessary. Thanks for the reminder!


  2. John Post author

    Repost away!

    And I do not think it is a woman thing (except for the Mary and Martha bit that is). I am trying to really listen to the story my community is telling, where are their “false gospels”, what do they believe will make them happy, bring significance etc. And then structuring my ministry around engaging with that and showing them that Jesus is better and more glorious. Of course this all takes time, patience and does not often look like much.

    I would far prefer to put on a programme that I know “works”. I have done it before, am comfortable with it and in fact am rather good at it. But that would be about me feeling needed and significant rather than hearing how it is that I am to demonstrate the gospel to my community (serving them) and speak the gospel to them in their language, speaking to their idols and false gospels.


  3. Pingback: I am not a radical! « a missional life

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