LESSONS LEARNED ON THE GO (5/5): You Be You

Most of us are copycats and we live in a copycat society. We see this play out in sports. A few years ago the wildcat offense hit the NFL and team after team would pull their franchise quarterback so a slot receiver who runs a 4.4 in the 40 could take a direct snap from the center. As soon as one team started implementing it other teams quickly followed suit. No one wanted to be left behind. While immediately semi-effective because of its novelty, a year and a half later it was abandoned. It wasn’t that effective after all. In the NBA with the success of the Golden State Warriors and their 3-point shooting prowess you now have team after team abandoning their low-post game and jacking up threes. Except your team doesn’t have Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, or Klay Thompson.

The point? We inadvertently copy and follow. I know I do. We see this happen all of the time in ministry. We read books, attend conferences, and listen to experts give their take on anything from church planting to disciple-making and seemingly the only response is to copy and follow. However, when that happens too often we become like the NBA with no true shooters and we’re throwing up bricks from behind the arc.

In my early ministry years if there was a constant thread it was this … I would regularly get into trouble with the senior pastor. As a lowly youth pastor, I was told to simply copy and comply with the tried and true systems before me. For a youth pastor that meant ski trips to Tahoe, lock-ins, camping trips, taking students to concerts or hosting them ourselves, summer camp, mission trips to Mexico, and lots of pizza. When I complied everything was smooth, but when I stepped out and created my own way I’d be called into the senior pastor’s office and reprimanded. I’ve been in hot water for changing small group curriculum, switching mission trips, not using denominational material enough, and even for my failure to adequately sweep rocks off the sidewalk in front of the sanctuary. That last offense elicited an irate phone call from the senior pastor who was seething in his voicemail. Luckily I missed the voicemail because the next day he felt guilty for yelling at me so he took me golfing and it wasn’t until I got home that night when I learned about the voicemail. It struck me odd while walking on the back 9 why the pastor mumbled something of an apology. I had no idea what he was talking about until that night.

Based upon the experiences at my first couple of runs on staff at a church, I could’ve simply tucked my tail and did what all of the books, conferences, and speakers said I should do. But I knew myself. I knew I was wired to swim upstream. Not out of angst nor rebellion, but because I was born to create, to start stuff from scratch. That’s when the lights started coming on when I first ventured into church planting. In the truest sense, it was like art for me. The canvas was the city before me and I had the freedom to create.

Every semester in the classroom I stand before young aspiring college students. At some point, whether the class is on understanding cities, community development, or urban history, the topic of vocation or calling inevitably surfaces. Based on my early experiences on staff at churches after college I do my best to encourage the students along the lines of the title of this blog post … you be you. You be who God made you to be. There’s no mold other than becoming like Christ that you need to fit into.

When we realize this, we’re free. We’re free to slow down. Free to rest. Free to rest because God made me as I am. No need to fit into other peoples’ mold. No need to be a copycat. While I may not be a 3-point shooting savant like Steph Curry, I’m content being me with an average low-post game.

You be you.

Sean Beneshrest, slow down