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Monday, July 27, 2015

Full Circle

Expectation: I thought this job was going to be cool.

I never set out to share current stories on this blog, especially on Mondays.  This was supposed to be a place where people could learn from my old experiences.  No kidding.  But this week has been crazy.

Actually, let me expand on that a little bit.  The past three weeks have been crazy.  During that time, my family has participated in the national quiz, Nazarene Youth Conference, Phil's ordination, our last day at our now previous local church, and campmeeting/family camp.  Somehow, I thought it was a bright idea to enroll in Advanced Biblical Exegesis during this summer term, and now that the class is half over, I think I have finally read all of the directions for assignments and found the links to feedback on the nine papers that I have submitted while riding in the van, sitting at hotel desks, and falling asleep on my keyboard, in the kitchen, at two o'clock in the morning.  I'm not complaining.  I love this life.  I just can't figure out what I was thinking when I signed up for all of this.

It started out quite simple, really.  I was reminded of this when one of the adult worship services ended early and I had a few minutes of downtime while I waited for the morning children's camp to get out and Ian to appear.  Phil, Seth, Miah, and I sat down for just a moment in the chapel, and one of the children's workers made a joke about how the last people there were expected to straighten the chairs.  He was kidding, but I know what it is to lead children's ministry, to be exhausted, and to find that when everyone has vacated the building there are still so many tasks to be done.  I told him that we would be happy to straighten the chairs. 

He said, "really?"  We got up and began working on the task. 

I don't know if you know this or not, but if you have someone who wants to volunteer in youth ministry, and there is really nothing for them to do, you ask them to set up the chairs.  It's the job that nobody wants to do.  It's the job that you delegate, even if you are abysmally horrible at delegating.  I mean, no one can really mess up the chairs that badly, can they?  I have set up a lot of chairs in my life. 

Even Miah, who is only five, knew that this was not a lucrative assignment. 

"I don't want to do this, Mommy.  Why are we doing this?"

Well, there's a teachable moment if ever I had one.  So, looking in the face of my preschooler I said, "We're doing this, because it will help the children to worship when they come in tonight".  Miah jumped up and started straightening whole rows of chairs at lightning speed, with a smile on her face.

At first, I thought it would be hard to share this story without seeming prideful.  I have been accused of that in recent days.  But then I considered how ludicrous that sounded.  You can think I'm patting myself on the back if you want, but the truth is that when I stop to think about the fact that I am a woman with multiple degrees, theologically trained, straightening chairs with my baby at a children's camp; there is no pride in that.  There is humility.  We all need humility.  I need humility.

It was a theme of sorts for this week.

As another example, Phil was asked if he could serve as an usher.  Near the end of the week, the volunteer who had asked for his help took a few minutes to ask who he was, where he came from.  As the story came out that Phil is a pastor, the usher recruiting volunteer was slightly horrified, because he tries really hard to not ask pastors to help in this capacity.  Why?  Aren't we called to be servant leaders?  Oh wait, perhaps being an usher is another one of those jobs that we delegate to people who can do nothing else?  Something isn't ringing quite right here.

Well, an ongoing conversation has been happening at our house over the course of the past few months.  We have been looking for the things that only we can do, which is sort of funny in its own right, because there probably isn't really anything that only we can do.  I was reminded of this, again, as I read a blog post, today, about how God's plans for us are much less rigid and individualized than we often realize.  But this is probably another topic for another day.

As we straightened chairs and collected offerings, this week, and then as we sat down at the same Dairy Queen that has been standing on a corner of downtown for all the years we've been here and all the years we've been away; something hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wrote these thoughts down on a napkin, because that's really the only appropriate way to save ideas that come to you over ice cream...

We can do the things that nobody wants to do, and why would we do anything else?  That's it. 

These are not the kinds of things that will lead to power or prestige.  They won't come with paychecks attached or provide any sort of career advancement.  But they are the things that won't get done if we don't do them.  It's not because other people aren't capable.  Let's be real - anyone can straighten chairs or pass a plate (or bucket in this case).  It's because other people are not willing.

Well, I'm willing.  Here I am.  Here we are.  Bring it on.

L.

10 comments:

  1. If someone thinks they are called to leadership, but not to servanthood, then perhaps they are mistaken.

    Servant leadership is the cruciform way.

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    1. I agree completely, and yet we seem to put people in positions of leadership, giving them titles and "legitimate power" (you know, the kind that comes from titles), and often they either forget about the servanthood part or we eventually come to realize that they never had this in mind to begin with.

      Obviously this cannot be said of all leaders with legitimate power. There are some very good ones. But I think we also know that there are many who are simply grasping at power for power's sake... for the notoriety... for the paycheck...

      But I think what really stood out to me, this past week, is that even people with a *little* bit of power are often unwilling to serve. Why would pastors be averse to participating in collecting an offering (assuming it is a normal practice for them... this could be a completely different topic otherwise). Why does anyone think they are somehow too good to straighten chairs... or take out trash... or clean up messes... It's almost as if even those with the smallest amount of power are looking for someone to control as opposed to someone to lead. And, oh... those are two very different things...

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    2. L. & Rich - I think it is important, too, to remember that leaders aren't 'born' or 'made' (or even 'ordained') - they are called, as Len Sweet says in his book, "Summoned To Lead." In that book Sweet looks at the life and leadership of Ernest Shackleton and the Shackleton expedition over 100 years ago. I think the most important thing we might learn from Shackleton was his fierce desire to not leave behind a single one of those he led - and in fact, all returned safely, from the greatest to the least.

      Leadership is about listening to God's voice and God's call, and out of that, listening to others, and yes, *serving* the least of these.

      We desperately need that kind of leadership in Ekklesia. We see far too little of it today, at least in many Western-American modes of Christianity.

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    3. Phil -

      I agree that we see far too little of that kind of leadership, but I think sometimes it is simply because we have labeled as "leaders" those who are *not* leading in this way and labeled those who *are* as something else... or nothing else...

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    4. I agree. One particular problem with this is that we associate leaders with position and titles (as you say, 'labels' - we do love labels).

      Having a position or a title does not a leader make (and not having a position or a title is not any sort of indication of lack of leadership).

      We do need to find ways to then to raise up authentic leadership, regardless of title/role/position, and not just "allow" people to lead, but to encourage and support such leaders...

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  2. The story about Miah helping with the chairs was awesome! It's more than okay to be proud of our kids when they are ministering. That is exactly what you all were doing, ministering, meeting a need. It is disturbing that others would get down on you for being proud of your children's accomplishments. Try to let it roll off your back like water off a duck!

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    1. Thanks, Bryan. I think this is a very important point, especially for families who teach their children to serve, and, for the purposes of Ministry Monday posts, especially for vocational pastor's families who are so often scrutinized. We need to teach our kids to meet needs... to minister to others. And it's perfectly OK to tell them that we're proud of them when they do. I wonder how many more people would be willing to serve if we at least acknowledged them as opposed to making them feel as if what they're doing is not important to the Kingdom of God!

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  3. Part of the reason for not having pastors help with receiving the offering, is that pastors should never handle the money in a church setting. I know, being at Campmeeting is a little different. They probably just wanted to give pastors a break. After all, they do pretty much everything else that needs to be done, especially in small to medium sized churches! A pastor friend of mine cleans the church he is serving at. My Pastor has been known to mow the lawn and shovel the sidewalks in the past. Fortunately, others have stepped up and helped in these areas, so my Pastor does not have to continue to do so. The point is, he did them with a servant's heart!

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    1. Bryan -

      You have pointed out a couple of important things. First, yes there are sometimes policies in place that prevent pastors (or any other number of people) from performing certain tasks. That's certainly not what I was getting at!

      Second, there are, indeed, many pastors who serve faithfully with hearts that leads them to do anything and everything that needs to be done, so much so that it is often overwhelming and sometimes leads to problems, because these tasks are completed at the expense of other things the pastor should be doing. I am doing some exegetical work that might help with this particular discussion, but I haven't finished it yet! :) However, I think there are also many pastors who feel that there are tasks that they are simply "above", because of their position in the church. *That* is the kind of attitude that I was hoping to guard against.

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  4. Pastors who think they are above certain tasks. That is so sad and pathetic! I certainly realize they exist. Whatever happened to servant hood?

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