Cutting Through The Fog of Ministry

I woke up knowing that it was going to be the hardest day of our trip, but I didn’t know how hard it was going to be. As I crawled out of my tent to rouse the rest of the group, I found myself enveloped in a cloud—the thickest fog I had ever seen.

The beautiful island we camped on the night before had suddenly become a prison of fog. I had the responsibility of leading our group of 18 teenagers and adults on a canoe trip through the Canadian wilderness.

Two hours after, the rest of the group loaded the canoes. I sat on a log with my compass, a map, and a pencil and paper, making measurements and calculations. With visibility less than 20 feet, I knew that once we were on the water, I would be relying totally on my map and compass to navigate through this pea-soup fog.

As soon as I finished my calculations, I called together the 5 adults and teens that would be in the sterns (back) of the other canoes. “I want each of you to have your map and compass on the backpack in front of you so you will know where to go. We will be traveling 187° south for 7 minutes and then turning 80° to the east. If my calculations are right, we should arrive at the trailhead for our next portage in about twenty minutes. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of staying in two columns close to each other. I will be setting the pace and cannot slow down or speed up at all. Stay with me because once we start, we cannot stop.”

With those words, I called the rest of the group together and gave them a brief explanation of what we were going to do. We prayed and then loaded into the canoes for an adventure in the fog.

We had paddled only a few seconds when I glanced over my shoulder. The island had disappeared. As we glided across the glass-smooth water, I kept my eyes focused on the compass and watch attached to the backpack in front of me, while praying continually under my breath.

About 14 minutes later, having made the turn, I noticed the dark outline of a shore on our left and prayed that it was the peninsula we needed to pass as we entered the bay where our trail began. Each stroke of the paddle put us deeper into the white darkness. Was I leading them well or misleading them? Only time would tell.

Several minutes later, a sudden stiff breeze blew across the lake and the sun appeared. There, only about 50 yards in front of us, lay the trailhead for the portage. We had made it!

As I think about that day in the fog, I’m reminded of all the times I have felt lost in a fog just as dense, but much more dangerous—the fog of our ever-changing society that has redefined tolerance and raised it up as the ultimate good. It is the fog of proclaiming that everyone is free to determine what is true and right for them—to the point of all the confusion over gender identity and the total undermining of any foundation for disciplining children. It is the fog of the growing hatred and division within society. Add spiritually absent parents and a growing biblical illiteracy in the church to this, and the fog thickens.

We are called to lead people off the island of safety and convenience, through the fog of this world, and to the shore of salvation and sanctification in Christ. We can do that by utilizing the same tools I used that day on the Canadian lake—the map, compass, a watch, and a leadership team.

Maps don’t change with the weather or seasons. Neither does the map God has given us—His Word. It is vital that we not only know the Word, but that we embrace it as our map for life and ministry, allowing it to show us the way through the fog.

Look at any compass, and it will point north. A compass is what makes a map understandable and relevant. Our compass is not a thing, but the person of the Holy Spirit. He always points to true north—to Jesus. As Jesus told us, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . . He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you,” (John 16:13-14, ESV).

When we are not living in total dependence on the Holy Spirit, we are at risk of getting our map turned around and heading in the wrong direction. But when we are living and ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be assured that He will always lead us to Jesus, the Living Word, and to a greater understanding of the written Word of God, regardless of how thick the fog may be.

A watch is important in that it keeps us grounded to the present. It is learning to exercise discernment in the midst of the fog. Sometimes in the middle of a program or ministry, a change of direction needs to take place—a “Plan B.” That is where discernment is needed. 1 Chronicles 12:32 describes what I’m talking about: “Of Issachar, men who had an understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do . . .”

I had a trained group of leaders with me that day on the lake. Each understood what we were doing and why. They were able to take charge of their canoe or step up if something happened to me. We are not meant to lead our ministries alone. Leaders need to continually be recruiting and training other leaders.

That day on the lake, the map and compass showed me where to go and how to get there, the watch told me exactly when I needed to make a change in direction, and having a team of leaders who were trained and united with me enabled us to get to where we needed to be.

Duane Miller

Duane Miller

In 1974 I married my high school sweetheart, Molly. The Lord has blessed us with four daughters and 20 grandchildren. Eighteen years in youth ministry and a couple of stints in solo pastoring have led us to the most exciting church we have ever been part of, Living Hope Church in East Canton, Ohio, where I serve as pastor. I recently had a book published by Discovery House Publishers titled: SURVIVOR - A story of tragedy, guilt and grace. (www.duanemiller-survivor.com)

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