I don’t know where or when this started, but I think it was in high school when I was a new Christian.
Many people have catchphrases that they use repeatedly. Dr. Jim Denison often says “from then till now” and “from that day till this” when he’s giving a presentation.
I once imitated the hand motions and catchphrases of my pastor. He was only somewhat amused and “semi-gently” put me in my place.
One of my church elders can never offer a prayer without using the phrase “the hedge of protection that keeps Satan out and blesses all we do.”
You likely have your own words and phrases. I’ve been told I say “alright” too often. That’s likely because I grew up in the same region of East Texas as Matthew McConaughey—“Alright, alright, alright!”
In a fog
Anyway, when I was in high school, my brother handed down his overcoat to me. He found he had no regular use for it and wanted the room in his closet. It was a camel-colored long coat I admired and enjoyed for many years.
I saw the brand label inside: “London Fog.” I thought that was a strange name for a coat company. I later learned and then experienced how London is famous for its fog. (History note: in December 1952, a lethal combination of fog and industrial smog blanketed London for five days, killing a number of people, sickening more, and bringing the city to a standstill.)
What stuck with me?
That word fog!
Fog mystifies me every time it rolls in.
Through the fog
Fast-forward a bit. When I started driving, bumper stickers were a thing. People expressed all kinds of ideas and feelings, sometimes through a plethora of small, sticky, vinyl placards affixed to their cars and trucks. This form of free speech was so prevalent in the ’80s that my Bible professor at Howard Payne University, Dr. Sandlin, lectured—or shall I say “scolded”—us one day in class about the evils of “bumper-sticker religion.”
That afternoon, I removed three stickers from my truck in the campus parking lot.
One bumper sticker about fog from those days stayed with me. It said, “Onward through the Fog.” I don’t know its origins, but we can surmise it likely had something to do with smoking pot. Maybe it still does.
Either way, it’s a good description for ministry.
Despite the fog
You know the verse, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12)? That verse is all about the fog that impairs our faith!
I like the picture The Message paraphrase paints in this verse: “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (emphasis added).
Not surprisingly, this statement comes in the middle of a ministry conversation in 1 Corinthians 12–14. The young church in Corinth was struggling with how to serve God together in unity, honor, and coordination. They were combating a good bit of “ministry fog” caused by the difficulty of ministry in a broken world combined with their own brokenness and spiritual immaturity.
In the next verse, God gives a clarifying truth that blows out some of the fog: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Those three words were Holy Spirit-infused priorities for the Apostle Paul as he navigated ministry fog. They will help us too.
Focus on them, meditate on them, ask God to fill your soul and thoughts with them and then empower you to live and serve by them. Faith trusts God in the fog. Hope knows he will clear the fog in his way and in his time. Love seeks to do what most honors God and helps others until all the fog is gone.
These days I’ve adapted that bumper sticker I saw. I still like the mystery of fog, even in ministry. Things are never fully clear this side of heaven, inside and outside of the church. My motto is this: “Onward through the Fog with His Spirit.”
May his presence and Spirit clear the ministry pathway for you and your church this week.