Thursday, December 31, 2009

Aha! Again

I’ve been on a yellow-caution pace (my normal reading “speed”) through Church Turned Inside Out by Linda Bergquist and Allan Karr. It’s a bit deeper than some of the other books I have been reading over the past few years. I read the following paragraph in a bit of a morning zone; stopped and read it again. I read it one more time and found my soul spilling out onto the page. The words are descriptive of what I’ve sensed and agonized about over the last 10+ years.
In ministry, we sometimes adopt prescribed roles or scripts because they are “working” well, and seemingly bearing much fruit for others. We attend conferences where mega-fruit bearers challenge us in new ways, and sometimes our egos are challenged as a result. We want to bear much fruit too; after all, the mission of God is what we structure our lives around. So we stop working in ways that reflect how we are naturally and supernaturally created, change the way we do ministry, attempt to reengineer our personhood, and sometimes actually become more successful as a result. For a period of time this satisfies, but eventually we burn out and wonder why. It’s because we are working contrary to how we are designed. It is also because we confuse fruit bearing with producing visible, countable results, as indicated by the common questions “How’d ya do last Sunday?” “How many showed up on Easter?” “Baptize anyone yet this year?”
Some of the counsel I’ve received from some insightful folks along my journey did not sink in when first given. I didn’t “get it” when a friend stepped outside of his administrative role and told me to put on my resume who I really actually was and not the format suggested in seminary class. I recall reacting with the Victrola dog look when Reggie McNeal stated at a seminar: “It is about you, despite what you may have heard.”

I didn’t comprehend as I had indeed adopted “prescribed roles or scripts” that followed an accepted formula of institutionalized dimensions. When burn-out and confusion resulted, I realized that I was not functioning according to my talent and ability. I had to take a risk to discover how to work in ways that were complementary and not contradictory. It’s been a major element of my own recent transformation process. I’m certainly not approaching a stretched out tape, but I believe I can make out what appears to be a finish line.


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