Saturday, April 01, 2006

Why = What + How

(I’ll continue with the baseball vision in my next post however, I’ve had a few thoughts concerning leadership & freedom…)

Why do we do what we do? Motivations, over the years I’ve gotten into the habit of regularly asking myself why I do the things I do. If we can answer the question why, we’ll gain great insight into what we do and how we do it.

Success, what is Success?

I’m concerned. I’m concerned about the church and I’m concerned about pastors. Over the last 20 years I have served as a pastor in three different states, New York, West Virginia and Washington. In each location I’ve personally know men and women who’ve served the Lord faithfully and selflessly. Unfortunately I’ve also know others who’ve worked very hard building their little ministries into big ministries and their own kingdoms at the same time.

Just over a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer, a medically incurable form of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. Stage 1C, Follicular small cleaved, B-cell NHL. I did a round of chemo and six months later I did some follow up antibody treatments. Presently I’m in remission. Yeah God! I’m scheduled for another round of PET scans, CAT scans and antibody treatments in June.

While I was in the middle of the first round of chemo I attended a meeting of some local pastors. After the meeting we went out for lunch. One of the pastors turned to me and asked a philosophical question:

“So, tell me Tom, what have you learned from having cancer”?

Without a moment’s hesitation I offered this reply – “I’ve learned that not all growth is good”. The table suddenly fell silent.

Pastors, especially American pastors are obsessed with growth. Somehow the American church has bought into the western worldview mindset that bigger is better. Church success is measured by attendance, budgets, square footage and staff. If you pastor a large church with a seven figure budget and modern facility you’ve successfully built the Kingdom of God.

Hmmm… maybe not

OK, let me be brutally honest here… though I doubt any of the pastors I know would state it just that way – actions do speak louder than words. In a search for validation and significance often driven by their insecurities pastors have developed a cancer of their own and it’s called selfish ambition. The Apostle James warns us:

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing”.

To the pastors out there, does that sound harsh? Maybe it is, but here’s the acid test, how do you feel when one of your church members visits another church? Do you feel jealous, angry, betrayed resentful, hurt? If so why? How do you honestly feel when another church or pastor is being blessed? Does it get your competitive juices flowing or do you rejoice with them?

At best we’re spiritual fathers; at least we’re stewards, custodians of the gifts of God that these people are. We don’t own them, they’re not ours to control. They belong to God and He can do with them as he wills. If God can move us across the country to a new pastorate he can certainly move his people across town. As good fathers we would raise our “kids” to grow up and leave the house. It’s pretty sad to see a 35 years still living with mommy and daddy.

Why = What +How

Our motivations are revealed by our activities and our methods. Evangelism is a great example of this. Is your evangelism program designed to build the Kingdom of God or is it designed to grow your church? Are you willing to invest time, energy and money into an evangelistic outreach if people are nudged closer to God or even get saved but no one from it attends your church services?

Our motivations will also impact our relationship, how we treat the people in our lives and those under our care. Do we view our role as one that assist people in reaching their destiny or do we view people as the building blocks to help us fulfill our callings? Listen to me, God will take your best – bless them and let them go. Give and it will be given to you, press down shaken together and running over.

My point is this, if our motivation is to build a bigger church our “what” and “how” are going to be impacted. Please hear me, there is extraordinary freedom if we let this success driven mindset go. Let’s start by asking different questions. Instead of asking God how can I grow my church let’s ask him what He is doing and how can we cooperate with Him. I have a plaque over my desk. I can see it as I’m typing. It says:

“Father, how can I cooperate with you today to advance the purposes of heaven”?

I’d said to those pastors at lunch what if a world famous prophet came through the door, poured a flask of oil over one of our heads and prophesied “You have the anointing of Abraham, you will be the father of nations, an Abraham to your generation” and turned around and walked out the door. We would be stunned, surprised and excited. But what would that mean? Abraham was the father of nations but all he had to do was raise one son and he messed that up. All his son did was raise one son but nations came from it. What if we simply ask God what He wants us to do and then we go and do that. What if you’re called to raise up one spiritual son, just one? Jesus said that he did only what he saw the Father doing. What is the Father doing around you? Go and do that.

What if we hear God perfectly and we obey his directions perfectly and as a result we lose 40% of our people, is that success or failure? It’s success if your motivation is to do what He’s doing. Hey, think about this: John 15 says that he prunes the fruitful and the unfruitful – either way you’re getting cut.

If we can be free from selfish ambition and the fear of man ministry can be a lot more fun again. If we can be free from the worlds standard of success and simply walk with our Father and go where he goes and do what he’s doing maybe the dropout rate and infidelity rate in the ministry wouldn’t be so high. Remember why you got into ministry in the first place. Wasn’t it out of a passion for God, His people and the lost? I don’t know of anyone who got into the ministry to be an administrator, accountant or politician.

Be free my brothers be free. If we can walk in freedom, so will our people.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Gal 5:1

© Tom Zawacki 2006

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:05 PM

    After becoming church planters, God brought us people who wanted a relationship with Him, but wanted nothing to do with belonging to a "church". It took us almost a year to answer this question: "Do we pick the PEOPLE or the PROJECT?" In the end, we laid down the project (the church-plant) and stayed with the people. That was three years ago this month, and we (the people)are all still together living out our lives in the care of God while very mindful of our opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God in our everyday walk-around lives. We have nothing, no budget, no building, no ministries to offer....only Jesus and each other...and it is good.