This post is intended to be a companion piece to the previous post, “Tired?“.
When we first moved to Tennessee, I was frustrated by the only two words that God would ever say to me. The words were, “sit still”. It was the last thing I wanted to hear. I had just uprooted my family and moved them across the country and, as far as I could tell, my first order of business was to get busy finding employment but every time I asked God about my situation he would say some variation of “sit still”. It was maddening and went against every ounce of logic that I possessed. I strived against those words for 6 months before I finally decided to seriously entertain their meaning.
Once I embraced the concept of “sit still”, I realized that the talent side of me had been busily directing my actions. In a constant pursuit of perfection, I had exhausted myself in a vicious cycle. I was successful by all logical standards; I was a super employee, super Christian, super husband and super father (see “Confessions of a Recovering Super Christian“). All of this “success” was the result of my God given skills and talents working overtime. I always felt like I needed to be doing something better, faster or more. There was never time for rest, just doing.
I believe this is why we, as Christians, are warned to be sure that we are directed by the spirit alone. The talents (mind, will and emotions) are God given, but they are not designed to be our guide. Like any other talent, they need a manager. Something that will keep their workaholic tendencies in check. When our talents are in charge we never stop working and, as a result, we rarely hear the “still, small voice” that we claim as our guide. Since Christians can not admit this, we simply use our talents to come up with endlessly sophisticated programs. The programs give us a temporary sense of fulfillment, but rarely have a long term impact.
“The inclination of mature thinking is to provide sophisticated answers for age-old ideas, to lean on our own understanding while calling God the genius behind it all.”
-Kevin Adams “The Extravagant Fool”
Here is a scenario that has been endlessly repeated in churches, across denominations, for the last 40 years. A pastor starts a church. He is full of energy, ideas and is driven by his talents (mind, will and emotions). As a result, people start attending the church. For the next 30 years he experiences growth and shrinkage, growth and shrinkage until he retires, dies or is so exhausted that he has a mental breakdown and gives in to the sinful demands of his body, resulting in a stunned congregation. When the church attempts to choose a successor, they do so based on the candidates talents (mind, will and emotion) and the cycle starts over again. The enemy is aware of the flaws inherent in being led by our talents and he willingly exploits those flaws to keep us in an endlessly unproductive cycle.
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.”
– D.L. Moody
Here is an example: I am aware of a man who faithfully pastored a church for many years. The church went through the cycles of growth and shrinkage, mentioned above. The pastor was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in a matter of months. A little church lady decided that it would be a great tribute to the pastor to identify all of the people who came to Christ, as a result of the pastor’s ministry. After her research, she was forced to abandon the effort because none of the people identified as coming to Christ from the pastor’s ministry were still serving God.
I am not sharing this to be nasty. I am pointing out that being led by our mind, will and emotions does not result in a lasting change. I believe that God wants more than “saved” people sitting on a pew, hoping they have the faith to make it to the next church event. He is interested in people who willingly sacrifice their mind, will and emotions in favor of the active leading of the Spirit. That leading may not make sense or fit into the latest “how to guide” of pastoral leadership, but when has God ever fit into the “how to guides”?
We need to be willing to put the “doing”, of our talents on hold and be still (rest) long enough to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Then we will break the 40 year cycle of special services, programs and crusades and be part of turning this world upside down.