Saturday, June 24, 2006

under-reaching v. over-reaching

Many church leaders are frustrated. I know I am. And it seems we are mostly frustrated with other leaders within our own church. The ironic part is I think that those leaders we are frustrated with are also frustrated with us. Why is this?

It seems to me that we have a few fundamental issues.

First, many of us overstep our call. Perhaps I'm called to really sow the life of Christ into a handful of people via small groups but because I'm a smart guy, I've been around the block a few times, etc., I notice some things at the church that are not going as well as they could be. What happens? I fool myself into thinking that is what God has called me to do. It starts out innocently. I have the talent. It shouldn't take too much time. Others ask me to do it and praise me for some short term results. Etc.. Initially the scope is low. But with every "success" comes more opportunity. Soon I'm overwhelmed - and by the way, that hand full of people that I could have really effected through the Holy Spirit, I haven't spent any real time with them in weeks. Certainly I am not praying for them daily, calling them to ask how their sick kid is, organizing a little celebration on their birthday, etc..

Nope, now I am completely focused on the "bigger" issues like what format should serving communion take? Should we let this group use our facility or not? Is it ok to park our cars over there? And so on. You know - real Bible stuff [sarcasm]. Sometimes it actually is Bible stuff. Like we really need to deal with so-and-so on some sin issue. But of course we are discussing it and working it by committee rather than by the people in our community that have real relationship with the person. And so on it goes.

And worse, those guys that once seemed to be great spiritual leaders, they don't share my passion for the car parking issue, they would rather talk about the curriculum used in grade 2 Sunday School. And that other guy, he's still going on about the size of the Christmas tree while I didn't think we should have one at all.

Frustration is growing. Tension increases. I do not even have to wait any more for them to fully explain themselves. I know where they are going and why - and more importantly, that they are wrong and that I have a better way. Sometimes contempt sets in.


God called me to care for that hand full and Satan deceived me with good works, recognition by man, etc.. I stepped out into more than God called me to. I need to be quiet. Allow those that are in other areas of leadership to lead with the grace God has given them and I need to do the same in what He has called me to.

But they are doing it all wrong. They really need my help. Right? No - wrong. I will make a more real, bigger, and longer term impact by effectively handling only what God has put on my plate. And while doing that, I need to demonstrate real submission to other leaders. It's easy to submit when we agree. It's time to submit when we do not.

The other problem is that sometimes we are called to more. And when that happens we will bump into others that are frankly not heading in the same direction. Or they are but they do not yet have the capacity for it. Certainly we should hang in and work what God is leading us to but we need to do so respectfully and lovingly. Without bitterness and frustration. When these set in we must ask (1) is my heart right? (2) oops, am I overstepping again? or (3) is it time to step out?

Time to step out? Yes, in addition to over stepping what God calls us to, some of us "under-step". At some point a person needs to stop expecting to be taught and start to teach. To stop critiquing the preacher and to preach. Etc.. I know a lot of guys like me who have received so much grace but we continue to hang in with our full time jobs thinking we are going to support and mold the guys that were obedient enough to go into full time ministry.

I think that some of the tension I feel is that we are just not obedient and willing to step out into all that God is calling us to.

So bottom line, there's too much frustration. It is sin. We need to get our own heart's right regardless of the direction. And then we need to decide if we are over reaching what God has given us or if we are under reaching. It is not ok to be under someone else's authority for the long term thinking that we are there to shape them while harboring a complaining, bitter, etc. spirit.

Next week we start in a new church in Cincinnati - let's see how well I do. Pray for me.

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Anonymous said...

It took me 49 years to figure this out. You, only 44. Great blog!

Shannon Laser said...

Since returning to Calgary, Chris and I have had many conversations with people from our church. The majority end up being about how tired/over-worked people feel from working in the church OR about how disconnected/uncared for people feel. They are frustrated and don't see an end.

So naturally we (perhaps more me than Chris) challenge them about what their part is. No one is a victim, no one can be forced to serve in the church. Yet MOST people (all were in leadership/teaching positions) said that they do their job out of a sense of duty--not out of passion/answering God's call on their lives. The big comment we have heard was 'well no one else is going to do it and it needs to get done--so I guess I'll have to do it'.

My heart grieves for God's kingdom, His body of believers. If this is the mentality of the coming generation of leadership then our church does not have much to look forward to.

My heart breaks at the lack of faith the people have. If we can not even trust God to rise up people to fill positions for HIS WILL to be done in HIS CHURCH--then what else will HE trust us with?

Mediocre is not of the kingdom of God.

At one Bible study we got into a very tense discussion. I told everyone present that if they are not answering God's call to fill a role in His church then they should stop doing that job.

I do not regret it though I have taken much flack for it--it is the cry of my heart. God does not need our help. God wants us to love Him, see where He is working and follow.

And God is working amongst the broken hearted of our church--while we worry about filling roles.

If there are programs where no one wants to do the job, then is it time for it to stop?--or for us to back off from doing it in our own strength and allow God to do it in His?

We limit God to our own strength. And are missing out on how AWESOMELY God can bless!

We have a generation of followers who do not follow in faith, who do not trust that God is all that He says He is--and I am torn.


This is an email I recently sent my pastor. It seems we all struggle with the same things. Thanks for the blog Rick!