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Prioritizing spiritual growth over ministerial productivity


Remember Martha? She was industrious, illustrating the adage that no one works harder than someone trying to prove she’s the only one doing anything. She was a pioneer of competitive baking, petitioning Jesus to check the scorecard and note her lead over Mary.

And she was wrong, “worried and upset about many things” (Luke 10:41) instead of focusing on the only thing that mattered – connection with the One who matters. 

If she were alive today, Martha might have made a good women’s ministry leader – on the outside, anyway. Her sign-up process would be seamless, her Bible studies perfectly timed, and her events impeccably hosted. Her sister, Mary, likely would have been eagerly in attendance. And yet, sitting in a well-organized, color-coordinated room with perfect lighting, the observant attendee might start to wonder: “Are we missing something here?” 

I am no stranger to Martha’s struggle. My humanness is apparent when I hyper-focus on “what” and “how” at the expense of “why” and “who.” Maybe you can relate. While I find this temptation to be especially present when performing in a leadership capacity, God has graciously led me to embrace a few consistent practices that are helpful in prioritizing spiritual growth over ministerial productivity. 

Schedule (a little extra) time to rest at His feet

The importance of rest is a consistent theme in Scripture and its practice goes beyond basic wisdom. In a practical sense, this looks like setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier on a particularly demanding day for a little more time to connect with the Lord. It looks like asking a kind sister for assistance with logistical matters as you step away from the busyness with a Bible in hand. It looks like a to-do list that is a little more delegated and a little less weighed to allow for spontaneous, much-needed “be still” moments amidst juggling logistical demands.

Learn from the Mary in your midst

While setting up a past event, I can still remember my frustration at fruitless attempts to hang a color-coordinated backdrop while an onlooker remarked at the peaceful nature of the setup. Far from her sentiment, my thoughts entertained fantasies of ripping the entire thing down. Her ability to find greater meaning in an aspect I found cumbersome and tedious was a sweet reminder that there exists a purpose behind the planning. Similarly, with a focus rightly on glorifying God, the misaligned details pale in importance to the ultimate outcome. 

Embrace and extend grace 

God’s grace allows for imperfections in the planning process. It extends to those seemingly less productive in our midst. It covers the occasional slip into legalism. When we find that perfectionistic tendencies compel us to idolize perfect planning, God’s grace is eager to cover us.

While Scripture does not tell us what Martha did after Jesus reminded her of the importance of His presence, I like to imagine that she abandoned baking bread and neglected ironing tablecloths to join her sister on the floor. In ministry, as in Martha’s home – even amidst overcooked food and wrinkled linens – Jesus’ visit is worthwhile if we simply take time to listen at His feet. 

This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

    About the Author

  • Tiffany Collier