Since I know most people don’t read an entire blog, and will form their opinion after getting half way through, I will start with the end. To those who I’ve discouraged through my “Motivation” in recent posts, I’m truly sorry. I thank you for taking the time to share your words to help me grow as well. As a church family we are all in this together; and only together can we truly make a difference.
I seem to have struck a chord with quite a few people recently with my posts about “Christian Apathy”, volunteerism, and active church involvement (see “An Open Letter to My Church“; “Saying You’re a Christian Doesn’t Make You One“). The sentiment of “Why don’t more people do more” resonated with a lot of people who feel the burden of making ministry happen despite the lack of support or enthusiasm from others. There are more people involved in our churches than those who are up front and actively doing ministry, and those who don’t. There is a third group who is seeking to find their place and are caught in the middle.
They want to do something, but for a variety of reasons don’t. Whether they feel they lack the gifts, time, or see those involved as politically motivated; they inherently get lumped into my “Apathetic Christian” corner when there’s so much more to it than lack of interest. These individuals see those up front pushing for volunteers as leaders with skills and abilities. And it can be intimidating. Like King David they ask “Who am I and what can I offer”? I’ve been there. Sitting with the weight of life on you as someone asks you to do one more thing. They don’t give you a lot of details, just a statement of “would you like to help”. You insert your own job description of what it would take for you to feel like you were being helpful and it seems overwhelming. Your heart says yes, but for one reason or another you talk yourself out of it.
And it is people like me who fail them. We sit on the board and look past the work of all those behind the scenes who keep the church going as it is. We focus on steadily decreasing attendance and the ministries that have been mothballed; then as we feel ourselves getting discouraged we go into “group motivation mode”. Like a high school football coach we take on the team with “you bunch of momma’s boys. Get out there and play like men.”
When I was a sophomore in high school I played basketball for my school’s varsity team. Being an underclassmen meant I didn’t get much playing time. At the time my dad was driving a truck and wasn’t home as often as we would have liked, but one game he drove home 5 hours just to see me play. The game was awful. Our starting 5 kept turning the ball over and by half time we were in a 20 point hole. Just before the half, I played for 1 minute 38 second, in which time I scored 3 points, 2 rebounds, and a steal. (Yes, I remember all those details to this day). I was proud of my small accomplishment and thinking I would play more in the second half because of it, I was excited to go into the locker room at half time. When we got there however, our coach came into the locker room, through his clipboard across the room, and simply said “I’m ashamed to be your coach right now” then left. I sat on the bench the rest of the game and watched our starters lose by 40. I turned in my uniform the next day.
Our role as leaders is to inspire and encourage. And too often that get’s overshadowed by our own discouragement and frustration and even burn out. We forget to nurture and grow, responding in the true manner of Jesus. I do this well with my youth group, protecting them from themselves and the burden of ministry, but too often overlook the same qualities when dealing with adults. Because we literally have a pulpit to speak from, we make a general call for revival to which many would respond if only we told them how.
That third group is the future of any healthy congregation. Because when a church learns how to respond to them, building a relationship that goes beyond programs and positions, we have truly learned what it is to disciple.