As 2017 began I had a number of things weighing heavy on my thoughts and my heart concerning our church family. We were entering our second year together and I had my doubts about our commitment to one another and the mission to make disciples among those uninterested in the church.
In addition to all this, a founding leader in our young church was increasingly feeling alienated from the life of our community and we were freshly dealing with a community in crisis due to another leader’s failure and lack of repentance.
In it all I felt burdened, alone, and seriously questioned my leadership, our future, and every other end-of-the-world scenario my fallen heart and brain space could conjure up.
This blog post is not about how everyone redemptively got to living happily ever after by year’s end. In fact, now a year later, nothing I mentioned above has really been “fixed”, though we have seen some fruit, and I’m certainly still prone to begin thinking, again, that the bottom is falling out of this precious little ministry I somehow began believing was mine to bear and build.
“I am not the Christ.”
I remember a mentor, and dear friend, of mine made me repeat these words after listening to me bitch, whine, and worry about who knows what in ministry almost 10 years ago.
I’ll never forget it.
Now, if I can just remember it, believe it, and live in light of it.
Looking back at how I was responding at the outset of last year to everything going on and what I perceived was going on, whether reality or not, it’s clear I wasn’t leading from faith, but rather from a place of power and control. A place only belonging to One.
I subtly believed that our mission was mine to accomplish and my burden to bear. I thought I needed to make it all happen. And when things began falling short of my expectations and timelines I panicked, grew fearful and sought to fix things accordingly.
The lyrics from the As Cities Burn song “I know now that glory has not a place near my hands or any man’s” ring true in my case. I should know by now being a Christ imposter only produces in me, and others, death.
Oddly, it’s the embracing of this death and a returning to the actual Christ that leads to life.
“We trip into the beautiful mystery of a certain Someone in other’s lives and play along.”
I hate to reach back to the last blog post I wrote on the topic of trust with the above quote, but at least I didn’t quote myself, which I did once (SMH).
The above phrase is meant to remind us of whose mission we are on and who truly is the Christ.
It’s easy to forget theologically, but even more easily practically, that I am not the Christ. I am at best a guest at the table Jesus prepared, not the host. And I’m most certainly not sitting at the head of this table.
This is life-giving good news for the guy who is prone to thinking the seating arrangements, overall mood, and behavior of all the guests is somehow his ultimate concern and responsibility.
“You are free to rest”
A lot of people hear us talk about “slow(ing) down” and being “free to rest” and assume we’re advocating for inactivity, or even worse the dreaded antinomianism. It’s quite the opposite actually.
When we speak of resting we’re not referring to a lack of doing or laziness, but rather a restful and faith-filled culture of the heart as we “go...and make disciples”. A kind of rest that comes from knowing the actual Christ and being confident in his unwavering love and promises. A kind of rest from the fear that causes us to love only ourselves and our reputations instead of those we’re called to love and lead.
When we say “rest” we mean jumping into all the relationships of discipleship believing and trusting that “he who began a good work in us (and others) will complete it”.
If you ever hear us say we are free to rest we mean to encourage the kind of freedom and joy and love that comes from believing I am not the Christ.
We do, however, know this Christ. And only when my heart is restful and satisfied in him am I truly free to love and minister to those around me without worrying about failing, the opinions of others or what I’ll write in the next update letter I send to all my supporters.