Saturday, March 29, 2008

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

I've been working these last two weeks on some ideas about what we could be doing in the weeks and months to come to see God glorified here at New Hope. Some I've shared openly on here for feedback (and I appreciate all I have received so far) and some I've kept close to the vest. In my heart, really.

Times like this, when instead of giving us a "put tab a into slot b, now stand back and watch it happen" sort of direction, God gives us stillness - don't really sit well with me. Yet I have learned over the years that some of the best things God has ever done came at the end of one of these "sessions."

As I've been working on a series on "Big Questions" to begin next week, I've tripped several times over a question that Jesus asked in the Scriptures. "What do you want Me to do for you?"

I chose "tripped" there to indicate that I'm a little uneasy about what I would answer. There's a tendency to want to wrap your own ambition up with a God honoring request. Here's a quote that might help you understand what I mean.

Something has happened in the past thirty or so years that has shifted our pastoral ethic from one of faithfulness to one of productivity and success. I believe this has stirred the fires of ambition. Given the nature of our American culture, this doesn't surprise me. It also doesn't surprise me that the battle with ambition will be a ferocious one, for the tendency toward self-absorption plagues every one of us.

For more than twenty years I have attended church conferences. I have observed as we sized each other up to see how quickly we could find out who had the highest attendance, the largest staff, the biggest budget, the most property. The secret that hardly anyone talks about is that most of us want to win the "largest church game." Or at least make a good showing. I am convinced from first hand experience, as well as from paying close attention to the darkness of my own heart, that if all-of-the-sudden thought bubbles appeared over all our heads, we would all fall to the ground in repentance.
- Kent Carlson writing in Leadership Journal
It is so darned easy to get caught looking at the numbers and deriving your worth to God from them. If they are great, you inflate your importance in God's plan. As I look back over the years, I'll confess to having done both. Someone pointed out once that in farming, 95% of what happens - success or failure - is out of the farmer's hands. A farmer only has a 5% impact on the outcome. Well, pastoring a church has to be much like farming. The successes you may have may very well have occurred through other people's faithfulness, and are always initiated by God in His grace and mercy.

So as I head off to bed tonight, I am thankful that God saw in me something He could use to illustrate His grace and mercy. And I pray that through my efforts in love of Him, He might find Himself glorified through changed lives who then go on to change other lives.

I am fighting the good fight. I am keeping the faith. And one day I'll receive the evaluation, but for now it is enough knowing that God loves me and has chosen me to serve His purposes in this generation.

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