During the years when our sons were younger and still at home, one of them asked me one evening, “Dad, what do you do all day?” No doubt I was distracted with whatever work I was doing at the time, and I glibly replied, “I attend meetings, talk on the phone, solve problems, and write e-mails.”
While a little sarcastic, my answer was not inaccurate. Administration is not just a big part of my job, it’s one of my spiritual gifts from God, so I accept it gratefully.
But some weeks, administration can feel more tedious than purposeful or personal. That was the case this past week, and in the midst of that drudgery, God sent me several unexpected guests.
One guest was a man I have known for years, though we have often not seen things the same way. The last time we talked by phone was months ago, and our conversation then had ended professionally, but not cordially. The only thing that surprised me more than seeing him at my office door were his immediate apology and his request for forgiveness when he sat down. I gratefully accepted and reciprocated, sorry that I had not taken the initiative. We prayed together sincerely and parted, brothers again. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.
A second guest came to me via both phone and e-mail. He was brokenhearted and concerned for the church where he grew up, and where some of his family still attend. He described the problems, and sources of conflict, and the impasses. He asked for counsel, and for information and resources to help, and I did the best I could on the spot, offering to come or send others from our staff when the time was right. There was despair in our first exchange, and optimism and hope in our last. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.
My third unexpected guest just dropped in while she was in the area. I didn’t know her personally, though I knew her church. She quickly and quietly told me that she didn’t want to take much of my time, but her mother had recently died, and she found in going through her things documents from several Baptist meetings that were over a hundred years old. Rather than throw them away, she wondered if they might be as important to us as they were to her mother. I reverently paged through them with her, talking about what it must have been like to attend a Baptist association meeting in 1894, and why her mother would have treasured them. I gratefully agreed to receive them into our historical archives. And I remembered that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.
Other unexpected guests came into my life this week. One had been deeply hurt by his church, another by her pastor. Neither plan to return to their lifelong churches, but both were looking for reasons not to give up on church entirely. I know why one of them contacted me, but I have no idea why the other one did. But by the time they did, I remembered again that my work is often administrative, but my real priority is people.
What do I do all day? There are indeed a lot of meetings, and phone calls, and e-mails. But God used at least five unexpected guests this week to remind me, in the midst of my administration, that real life and ministry and purpose is found in people.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.