Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When in doubt, submit

For the last few days I have been wondering or not "this is my battle to fight". I know there will be a multitude of issues and barriers throughout my ministry and the current ones are surely just the surface. I definitely think that justice for the homeless and inclusion of the youth (even if they're *those youth*) is a part of our call and discipleship. I also know that people will only follow you so far so fast and 3 months is still very early on in the game. I have been wondering whether or not these issues are the ones I am supposed to take a hard stand on or if I should let them go and wait and see what happens down the line.

I'm not sure who exactly said it to me last year but someone told me that the best answer for us in ministry is to submit. Just submit. In my head submitting sounds like giving up. Submitting means I don't actually stand for the things I say I stand for, and so I struggle to think that might be what I need to do. But I also know that alienating people and forcing them to go where they are not ready to go will not make them want to go back to that place and especially not to go beyond. In many ways I can suggest a new road. I can challenge us to see with new glasses or from a new perspective. And for those who are ready for a challenge, yes I can take them to a new place and challenge them to grow beyond their comfort level.

But that challenge, I fear, is not for everyone. If even a few are screaming, "I'm scared, get me off", then it's time to stop the ride and let them off. Yes, there are times to leave someone on, like if they begged and begged to get on the ride and you know it will end soon. But if you forced them onto the ride thinking they would enjoy it and it ends up being miserable, then you don't force them to go back on. Sometimes some people just need more time.

In some ways it's like when we took my niece and nephew to Disneyland a year and a half ago. They were young and enjoyed the characters and some of the rides. But there were many they weren't ready for. There were a few tears and a few protests and with that we knew not to try Matterhorn or Splash mountain or anything like that. This year was a different story. A little older, ready to take on new challenges and to risk more, we dared to do bigger and better rides and by in large, it was great! The kids had fun and we had no meltdowns or tear-filled rides. Sometimes, even as adults, we need a little more time, a little more experience, and a little less reluctance to take a risk. I don't mean to be condescending by comparing adults to children, but in many ways, psychologically, when we are challenged or fearful, human nature is human nature and it's clearest in children and still true for adults.

Many in my congregation trust me. They know me relatively well after only a short period of time and generally they are ready for more risks (whether that's in mission or in worship) and I can take them to new places. But for others, I am still an unknown. And not knowing me, they don't trust me. Maybe they've been burned in the past. Maybe they don't like change. Maybe they don't want to risk. Whatever the case, I can't assume everyone is on equal footing at this stage in the game.

So, I will submit. I will still continue to preach the gospel and live the Christian tenants as I understand them. But I will also defer to them as they are the people I am called to serve and that service must be done with respect, humility and gentleness--as defined by them, not just as I understand it.

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