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OST PEOPLE hate flying. The cramped seats, the tiny bathrooms, the bad food, the surcharge for

checking your bags—it’s as if the whole experience has been designed as some sadistic psychological experiment, and if you’ve got an airline ticket then you’re a part of the control group.

Yet I must admit that I relish the oppor- tunity to sit for hours in some uncomfort- able middle seat in the back of a Delta jet. Why? Airplanes are virtually the last place on earth where any of us can work without interruption—no cell phones, no Internet, no church members. With this kind of boost to my productivity, a holding pattern couldn’t be more welcome.

However, I am consistently surprised by people who bring nothing to do on air- planes—no computer, no reading material, not even an iPod. I have watched people do

by Josh Rice

Can we work while we wait? Can we remain self- disciplined and productive in the holding pattern? The way that you answer this question is largely deter- mined by whether you can wrestle a certain enemy to the ground. That enemy isn’t the devil; it’s much less detectable. The enemy is called apathy.

Apathy attacks when circumstances around us do not appear to be moving forward. It stems from the Greek word apathos, mean- ing “without passion,” and it can snake its way into our heads in the many waiting rooms of ministry. “This church can’t change!” is perhaps the most venom-

In the Waiting Room When it appears no progress is being made, apathy attacks.

nothing but flip through SkyMall maga- zine and stare at the back of the seat in front of them. And if we find ourselves circling in a holding pattern, my big break is their big irritation. As an associate pastor, I’ve found that ministry is full of such holding patterns. In fact, though our work is typically fast-paced, the results are quite slow. Put- ting together an inspiring

Deadly Sins

lesson or sermon may take a couple of days, but it can be years before I see the benefits of solid teaching or preaching. Leading a counseling session typically takes an hour, but the results of Christian counseling usually require a year or more to materialize. Launching a stewardship

campaign takes a month, but building up the actual funds is a long road to walk. Modernizing the worship service in a church that has grown stale can be done quickly, but pulling that congregation out of outmoded ways of think- ing takes serious time. For a church that has dug itself into decline, experts say it typically requires seven years to get it back to ground zero

before the building can begin. In each of these examples, the path- way to the destination consists of a hall- way full of waiting rooms. Sometimes, when the destination seems almost in sight, we are jolted again into another holding pattern. The challenge is this:

ous python of apathy. But there are lesser minions as well. We question whether the input of our work is commensurate with its results. We hear the Enemy preaching relevance at all costs, tempting us to turn stones into bread immediately. Compas- sion fatigue sets in as we deal with desper- ate people, and we wonder how long it will take for life change to set in. In the waiting room we have two choices. Apathy is perhaps the most comforting choice, because it allows us to shelve the expectations we once placed on ourselves. To choose to work while we wait, however, places us into the stream of what the Bible calls faithfulness. As Clar- ence Jordan, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, remarked to a reporter after his entire operation was burned to the ground: “Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we are about is not success, but faithfulness. We’re staying. Good day.” Here’s to being misunderstood, and to defeating apathy, in the name of faith- fulness.

Josh Rice is college and discipleship pastor at Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta.

EVANGEL | October 2010 11

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