Monday, April 20, 2015

You Talking to Me?

I cannot tell you how often I've wondered about my call to ministry.  I certainly empathize with Moses who raised a plethora of questions when God appeared to him in the burning bush.  (Exodus 4). I've often questioned God thinking that He must have mistaken me for someone else.

And yet, here I am.  This year marks 38 years since my ordination to ministry.  In case you don't know, in Southern Baptist life, ordination means that others have seen evidence of God's gifts and call in your life.  This year marks 41 years since I heard that call. It's been 4 decades of mountaintops and steep valleys, but I wouldn't change a thing.  At least that's what I thought until I spent three days in a coach/consulting workshop.

On the first day, we were required to do what's called a 3 in 1 Leadership Profile, a Leadership Assessment tool, and a Spiritual Gifts/Passion instrument.  All three were extremely important because the reality is that a call to ministry IS a call to leadership.  Some of what came out on these instruments was not news to me. I knew I was a strong introvert.  I knew that dealing with people was a large energy expense for me.  I knew that public speaking really was work for me. I knew that I just wanted people to get along.  But when I got all the results together, it really struck me.  Everything that I'm doing at this point in my life is out of character with the person described in my Leadership Assessment profile.

On DISC profile, I'm a high S with a good bit of C thrown in.  That means I'm a "steady competent" type.  I enjoy small groups of people, I am sensitive to the needs of others, and I'm loyal.  But, I can be caustic and critical.  I move slowly to correct things in order not to hurt feelings.  I do not like speaking in front of large crowds.  I prefer to weigh evidence and move slowly toward a logical conclusion.  I'm a collaborator who is a stickler for responsibility.  I am a passive person by nature and can be satisfied working behind the scenes. Not exactly a charismatic leader.

Now, let me remind you that there is nothing wrong with any of that.  It IS who I am.  It is how God wired me.  BUT, I am not what the world sees as "leadership."  Yet, that is exactly what God called me to be and do.  Isn't that just like Him?  He's constantly pushing us to move out of our comfort zones because when we're comfortable, we really don't have to trust Him as much.

So here I am at 60 years old doing things I never thought I would do, having to be something I never thought I would be, and using my position to urge others to get outside of their comfort zones in order to experience God in a new and exciting way.  The old saying just might be true -- that pastors are called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  It's a part of leadership.  Oh, I've used the excuse.  "I'm not wired that way.  That's not one of my gifts.  This is the way God made me."  All of that might be true.  You can use them to stay within your comfort zones your entire life and rob yourself of the adventurous faith that God wants you to experience.

I used to see introversion as a weakness.  I used to see collaboration as a weakness.  I used to see the need for time before making a decision as a weakness.  I used to see reluctance to confront conflict as a weakness.  I used to see passivity as a weakness.  Hey, who am I kidding?  I still do.  But we all have weaknesses and that's where God shines.  Paul summed up God's response to Moses' objections and his own objections in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10  - . . . I will only boast about my weaknesses . . . Three times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time He said, "MY grace is all you need.  MY power works best in weakness.  So I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong." (NLT)  Why can he say that?  Because when he (or you or I) is weak, it strengthens the faith, heightens the need for God, and humbles the spirit.

So stop worrying so much about your weaknesses.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Give your testimony, teach a class, give more than you usually do, pray publicly, apologize to someone you might have hurt, forgive someone who might have hurt you.  Go on a mission trip, do a local mission project, visit a nursing home, or mentor an at-risk student.  There are so many ways to make a difference and to build the Kingdom of God.  But most of them will be outside of your church walls and out of your comfort zone.  It is God Who qualifies the called.  So stop making excuses and start making a difference!  And if you're a pastor, stop making excuses and start leading!   "He Who calls you is faithful and HE will do it."  I Thessalonians 5:24 (HSBC)