On Saturdays, I’m going to start writing my thoughts on sermons I hear. Today’s entry was inspired by Betsy Nichols’ sermon given at Irving Bible Church titled “Redirecting the Way We Work.”
My friend looked me dead in the eye. There was a LONG pause. An uncomfortably long pause.
…in the *hell*…
…are you wanting to continue to pastor in a church?”
My friend had walked with me through a lot and knew my story well. He knew that my first ministry drained me and my family as we went through a difficult time. Very poor financial management (or possibly very excellent financial mismanagement) and trying to fix it wore us out over time. We wound up leaving a ministry we loved and helped recover that 501(c)(3)’s good name…but it drained us in a myriad of ways.
He also knew that I’d been rocked by extreme legalism in a part-time job that I had in seminary. It’s hard teaching a lifestyle of grace in an environment where well-intentioned legalism is part of their culture. Again, ministry was great…but we were drained and glad to graduate seminary with a job that was a much better fit for where I was spiritually.
He also knew that I’d been part of church that got rocked by sexual sin from someone in leadership. I loved the people of that church deeply so it was a joy to serve. But make no mistake, there were some very long a difficult years in the aftermath. My leaving that church was under loving and amiable circumstances but there were some deep and difficult things that no one will ever know about that took a toll.
He also knew that I had this pipe dream of opening a “great, good place” that would draw people who will never come to a church out of their suburban cocoons and help them see a Kingdom lifestyle could be possible. An entrepreneurial mission in the form of a pub. I say pipe dream because, well, it all fell through when I discovered who I am…and who I am is not strong in being a missional entrepreneur.
My answer was one that I’ve used over the years. It was an honest one, too. One that I stole from the author Stephen King when he was asked why he wrote horror stories. People would ask me why I was a youth pastor:
“Why do you assume I have a choice?”
Now I was getting to use that answer because “who I am” was morphing from a love for teenagers to a love for people being on mission for the Kingdom. And a love for the church who God tends to use doing that very thing, no matter if we screw up with money, legalism, sex or in limbo between who you were and who you are.
I had come to realize that “who I am” would have much greater benefits for the Kingdom if I spend my time helping people use their gifts and talents and passions and abilities to show their worlds the love and character of God. That’s why these words from Betsy were such a great reminder of my time trying to figure it out:
(after a story about a business with Christian leaders who gave generously to a dying woman who hadn’t been there long just to show her love and the character of God) That is so the heart of God. That is so people using what God has given them to bless the people around them. What will that look like for you? Who you are and how you live matters, because our mission matters to the world.
It so happens that my gifts and talents and passions and abilities are pastoral…and I can use them to disciple others…
…to be missional where they are where God has placed them.
One of the best ways answer Betsy’s question of “What will that look like for you?” is to look at where you are and figure out how to apply Hugh Halter & Matt Smay’s (in their book “The Tangible Kingdom,” a long-time recommendation here at The Diner) moment-by-moment approach to Kingdom living: “You see, transformation is limited when all we do is write checks for global missions. True transformation happens only when God’s heart becomes a habit in our normal community.”
The way they recommend doing that is through…
…benevolent actions (simply finding ways to show love practically)
…and blessing those around us spontaneously.
And doing those things in such a way as they become habits in our moment-by-moment. Those things, done in integrity, in this world we’re put in together with folks at work, school or play, will show a world that is hungry for Christ (even if they don’t know it yet) His love and His Kingdom. Again, Betsy sums it up:
Don’t you know that our culture is hungry for people to live in integrity? To be a marketplace where we know you are working for my good and I am working for yours. I’m not exploiting you. I realize we’re in this together. This is what God has called us to. Men and women of God, this is the table we are supposed to set for the world…to show them what it looks like to do this right.”
So, when your good friends look you in the eye, with a long pause, with an uncomfortably long pause, and ask you why in the *hell* you’re doing what you’re doing…
…it’s because you have no other choice.
Because a hungry world needs what you bring, man.
So set that table for the world with benevolent actions, sacrificial giving and spontaneous blessings. And do it right…you won’t regret it.
(didn’t Betsy paint a beautiful picture with that phrase?)