A while back, I had the honor of serving on the staff of the fifth fastest growing church in America. My whole career, I had the goal to make that list. I worked hard to recruit enough workers and have events that brought kids in like crazy. It didn’t matter what the cost was . . . I was going to make sure that I did my part to get on that list.
I remember looking at the list every year as it came out. I would Web-stalk the leaders from the churches in the top ten. Some of them I would call and talk to. All the while I was silently comparing myself to these people so I could become more like them.
The time came. The list came out and our church was on the list. I remember that moment well. I had climbed the Mount Everest of ministry and had just reached the summit. This would be the best moment of my career, and it was . . . until I looked around.
What did I see? Destruction. I saw a staff that was burnt out and on the verge of quitting. I saw my own wife and children completely disengaged with our church (and with me). I looked closer and realized that I didn’t even recognize who I was any more. I had built this amazing ministry that the whole world was comparing themselves to and in that moment I was more broken than I had ever been.
So I quit. I found a new job at another church. I realized in that moment that life isn’t lived on the summit. Life is lived in the valleys and that is where I wanted to be.
Passion can sometimes cause us to lose sight of what is really important when it comes to furthering the cause of Christ. We might become distracted by increasing numbers so much so that we risk losing ourselves and the mission to the data. If it’s not extravagant, big, or expensive we might miss seeing its value. In a culture that promotes smoke, lights and grandiose coffee shops in our church lobbies, we run the risk of losing ourselves in the “stuff.” That is what happened to me. I am pretty sure I am not alone.
Now don’t take me the wrong way . . . I don’t necessarily think those things are bad. I think the church should do anything and everything to bring people in. Where we struggle though, is when we begin to place our identity in those things instead of where it should be. We go wrong when we think that if we don’t have those things we must be less-than. We go wrong when we stop being thankful for what we do have and trade it for longing for more.
Here are some things to ask yourself when it comes to your church:
Do you know your people on Monday?
Basically do you work for the weekend alone or do you spend real time getting to know the people in your church on the other six days of the week? I used to live by the weekly motto of “Sunday is our Super Bowl.” I don’t necessarily believe that any more. The real battle isn’t the Super Bowl . . . it’s the season leading up to it.
Does your family feel like they are important to you?
You know how many people in ministry I have ever met who have never let church stuff get in the way of their marriage or relationship with their kids? NONE. Friends, I beg you . . . never let discontent damage your family.
Have you built walls that stifle authentic conversation?
Where do people turn in your church when they are hurting? I remember sitting on a staff once where people literally drew straws to figure out who had to do the latest wedding or funeral. Don’t build walls that stop you from authentically connecting. We do ministry because we want to help people. Help them!
If you truly want to pursue greatness in your church or ministry then pursue what God wants. The latest trends and models are cool but nothing beats good old-fashioned authentic community. Be happy with what you have been entrusted. Lead well and let that be enough!