"I’ve discovered there are several types of people around you: those who are with you, those who are for you, and those who use you." -Unknown source
"I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf."
-Paul to the Colossian believers in Colossians 2:1
Church planting and church life is a struggle for sure. The challenge of relationships and walking out the unity of the faith among people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, dysfunction, religious traditions, temperaments, cultural backgrounds and all the while under the pressure of this world system that works hard at sowing non-kingdom values into peoples minds and hearts is quite an endeavor. One that Paul's admits can only happen according to God's power "mightily working within him" (Col. 1:29).
There are so many moments when I feel like just giving up. I love to watch the show "So You Think You Can Dance" and one of the reasons is I love watching the beauty, creativity and skill of a good dancer or couple. One of the things I think must be liberating is the fact that dance is just you and the art...artists just create...it's not about someone else necessarily. There is a freedom in just doing your craft, expressing your passion, embodying your dreams and honing your talents and skills. There's a certain holy narcism that is needed to produce art. If someone doesn't like it, critiques it, trashes it, picks at it, grumbles about it, gossips about it...you can just tell them to go make their own or brush it off because...you like it and mommy told you you're a star! I sometimes wish for that place.
Pastoring is an art that requires...a ton of grace, almost daily forgiveness, political like compromise, bite your tongue humility and a host of other "Don't rock the boat" type of character qualities; that are often more the fruit of wise, old age than red hot blooded American young manhood.
It's exhausting...but God's power seeps up from deep places and you find yourself able, in some way, to find what is needed to press on and not get submerged in the quagmire of negativity, attacks, nagging doubts, out of your depth realities, and whatever else faces you that seems more than you can gather wisdom to answer, grace to move through or love to endure.
I've made one major realization in these last two years of church planting:
I most likely will never, ever, ever, ever....criticize another pastor....ever.
This endeavor has humbled my inner "I can do it better" voice like nothing else could have. God has used the big gnarly steel vice-grip of people to squeeze out that "thorn' that was wedged deep in the tissue of my religious psyche and by God's grace granted me a perspective that has changed the way I view every leader before me that I have worked under. I now know why so many Pastor's wince underneath their smiles when someone say's they feel God is calling them to plant a church. I used to get ticked off at that look...now, I will try to not give it myself. It's kind of like the look your parents gave you when you tell them you are going to ask that special someone to marry you. As I remember it...my mother cried....oh the honesty of a mom.
Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it." -Romans 12:9-18 (The Message)