Monday, December 15, 2014

Leadership Matters

Don't know why this is weighing on me, but it is...

Growing up, I received some pretty theologically awful answers to the hard questions I was prone to ask.  It seemed like any doubting was to be squelched, and tough questions were to be ignored or given pat answers.  Sometimes dangerous pat answers.

Take for instance my (terrifying) question, "What is the unpardonable sin?"  This was a question I asked during my teen years, and was given the answer, "Sinning away the day of grace."  WRONG.  Jesus clearly said that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one sin that will not be forgiven.  Anyone with a fairly mediocre reading comprehension can figure that out.  I wanted to know what He meant, but further questioning was highly discouraged, and I spent YEARS terrified that I would commit the unpardonable sin unknowingly, unintentionally.

Or take another situation that faces many people in our churches today -- depression and loneliness.  I'm not talking about cabin fever, or the "let down" feeling that some feel around the holidays each year.  I mean real, dark, clawing loneliness and/or depression that many in our churches struggle with daily.  Growing up, it was made abundantly clear that "real Christians" do not feel abandoned or deep loneliness or depression.  WRONG.  It's sort of the emotional equivalent of telling someone that "real Christians" don't get cancer, or Alzheimer's, or MS, or any myriad other debilitating illnesses.  Christians have the SAME struggles as everyone else.  We are still part of this fallen world.  Joyfully, Christians will NOT feel these things once we've received our new bodies in Heaven, BUT we are not there yet. 

And this is why leadership matters.  Humble leaders will admit they do not have all the answers, but will not grow angry at the questions.  Godly leaders will always root their answers in the Bible, not in a more comfortable tradition of man.  True leaders will be searching the Scriptures, submitting to the correction of the Holy Spirit where they have been wrong, or incorrect in their understanding.

Finding these leaders is not easy.  Often those who encourage questions do not then stand on Scripture.  They do not give Biblically sound answers, and many times their answer will depend entirely on the situation.  Others will root themselves in biblically sounding answers and catch-phrases and angrily reply to earnest questions.  Sadly, both of these types gain a large following.  And lead many astray.

Being this kind of leader isn't easy, either.  Encouraging those under our leadership to question, while admitting we do not have all the answers is humbling.  It's so much easier to give a quick answer, or to grow angry with deeper questioning.

But here is what I remember about growing up in a situation where questions and uncomfortable emotions were met with anger, it teaches that God is not big.  That vision of God is too small.  He created us, He knows us far better than we know ourselves.  He is fully big enough to handle our questions, to guide us into a bigger, better understanding of Himself and His purposes, and plans.

I still struggle with doubts about many things.  Some (not all!) of those doubts and fears probably stem from the theologically unsound answers I received from leaders growing up.  Some of my struggles could have been lessened with answers truly rooted in the Bible.

This is one of the reasons I encourage my girls to ask questions, one of the reasons I encourage them to seek out our pastor to answer questions.  They sit with us during church services, and many times the Doctor or the Cowgirl will have a question about either the passage specifically or about the sermon.  I am many times amazed at their questions, given their relatively young ages.  The Doctor especially asks deep questions.  The Cowgirl often wants to know the traditions, or culture behind the passage.  They are quick to notice inconsistency in either content or application.

Basically, leadership matters.  Their view of God will color your view of God, either to strengthen your faith, or to put stumbling blocks that lead to doubt.  And your view of God will color someone else's.  Be careful whom you follow, and be careful where you lead.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Unworthy (Terrible) Servant

I have been struggling for a while.  For a long time (years, maybe), I begged God to allow me to see myself as He sees me.

In my mind, I had visions of being assured of being His beloved child, of Him showing me how much He cares.

Instead, the passage that leapt out at me one morning was Luke 17:7-10.  Yeah.  Not what I wanted to hear.  Not a passage I can recall ever hearing a sermon on, in fact.  "Unworthy servant?!"

I cried.  Several times over the next several days.  Each time my attitude about something stunk, I would pray, "I am an unworthy servant."

See, I am a terrible servant.  I don't WANT to serve.  I want to be left alone, to be allowed to do my thing, or sometimes, for others to serve me.  I want to help those whom I choose, when I choose.  And my heart rebels at the thought of being God's servant.  And admitting my unworthiness.

I've been struggling again more recently.  Rebellion against the whole servant thing again.  It happens a lot with me.  Some people seem to naturally serve.  Not me.

The verse that keeps coming to mind? Galatians 6:9 "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."  Mostly, the "do not grow weary" part keeps reverberating in my head.  But I am weary.

So what to do?  I pray.  I am learning to pray differently.  To focus on how much I have been forgiven, on what I am to do, not on the shortcomings of others.  I am learning to ask that God change ME, my heart. my attitudes, and actions.

I am just beginning to see that I need to be doing things in service to God.  In the story in Luke, I believe that God is the Master.  It's Him I am serving, not people.  Yes, the people around me may benefit from that service, but the service must be rendered to God, because He commands it, not because they need it, or I can do it, or it's convenient to my schedule.  So, I guess it's time for changes.  Changes that do not come easily to me.

Left to myself, I would not serve.  My very being rebels at the thought.  But I am a new creation in Christ, so serve I must.  Starting with those closest to me.  The ones who know me best, and the ones that I most expect to serve me. 

Good night, and God bless.