Learning to Rest In Ministry, Not From It

This post is a continuation of the conversation Bill Mills had with Craig Parro titled Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: 20 Years Later. Listen to the full conversation below.

Craig Parro: So, Bill, over twenty years ago we wrote the book. If you were writing the book today, what might you change in the book?

Bill Mills: The thing that I have learned the most as I walk with the Lord in ministry next to ministries about Him and what He’s doing that sets me free to follow Him. I would have done a section on learning to rest in the work rather than just resting from the work. By that I mean this: I look at my life and the patterns of ministry that I’ve developed, and I think brothers and sisters in the ministry get caught in the same patterns. We see ministry as pouring out our lives for our people, and every one of us wants to do that genuinely. With a whole heart, we want to serve the Lord. We want to serve our people. So, we give ourselves. We lay down our lives – preaching, shepherding, counseling, organizing, and leading. We give all of our strength and energy and get emptied out in the process. Then we go away for a personal time of prayer or study or vacation or holiday. We get filled up again. Then we follow the same pattern. Laying down our lives or our people, pouring yourselves out, and then finding a place of rest to be filled up and filled up again.

I think the model of the Lord Jesus, and I think of the apostle Paul as well, was resting in the work rather than resting from the work. I learned that primarily from Jesus’ ministry model, that you alluded to earlier, of watching to see what the Father is doing and entering into the Father’s eternal work. He was following the Father in ministry. I think of many ministry trips that you and I have taken together, Craig, and I remember on trips where somebody else was leading, someone else was responsible for the trip, it gave me a sense of rest in the process. I don’t have to be all over this, I don’t have to worry about every detail; someone else is in charge. And there’s something restful about that. I think that’s the way Jesus walked with the Father in ministry. He knew that this is what the Father is doing. He would fulfill His purposes. He was following in the Father’s service, resting.

CP: Along those lines, one of the things that impresses me most about the way Jesus does ministry is how He responds to interruptions. I contrast that with how I respond to interruptions. When I’m on task, please don’t interrupt me. I want to finish what I’ve started. And Jesus doesn’t respond that way. When people interrupt Him, He receives it as a divine appointment, and He puts down whatever He was working on, in a sense, and gives Himself to the person or people who interrupted Him and looks for what God is doing there and how He can participate in it.

BM: Yes, it seems that Jesus’s ministry, as we read in the Gospels, is very spontaneous. Not pressured to get these disciples ready by a certain point of graduation so He can turn over the work to them. He is very free along the way. Knowing that they will be ready in the Father’s timing.

When I think of resting in the work, I think of one those interruptions with the woman at the well (John 4). Here He’s going through Samaria – and Jews, of course, would never do that – but the disciples went into town to buy food. And He sits down to take a rest, and here comes this Samaritan woman. He knew all about her. She’s a hurting woman; she’s a sinful woman. She’s been used, she’s hungry, she’s thirsty for the real things of life. Jesus begins to talk to her about living water. And it just happens along the way. He heals her life. He satisfies her with the living water. And then the disciples come back with lunch. It’s time to break out the sandwiches that they purchased in town, and Jesus says, “I’m not hungry anymore.” And they begin to look at each other and say, “Did someone bring him something to eat while we were gone?” He says, “No, I have food to eat that you don’t know anything about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, to accomplish His work.” So Jesus was being filled up along the way through the ministry by the things that came from His Father, in that relationship.

I think the same is ours in the Holy Spirit in this walk with Jesus in the ministry – that we can be filled up along the way in the process, even in the interruptions, and break this pattern of the work of the ministry being exhausting – pouring out my life – and then I need to go to a place of rest to be filled up again. I think we can rest in the work.

The next post shares how gratitude is a powerful weapon.

Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Father. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.