• James O'Connell

Wrestling With Potential 5


In our last blog, we discovered that it’s the privilege and right of every believer to discover what God is calling them to. It’s also the job of the pastor to make a space for them. As promised, I want to expand on that. I hope that it will help you understand the process and I would love to hear from other pastors how you interface with this responsibility.

Making space for people to do ministry is important, but it’s not the most important thing. I would say one of my most important functions is protecting God’s people. Historically, we would identify this mandate as the “Shepherd’s Role” of the Pastor. Jesus declared that His Kingdom would not be a top down organization when a fight broke out about who was the greatest (Matthew 20). We don’t collect power and then hold that over people’s heads chanting, “I’m in charge. You better do what I say.” It’s actually the opposite. Jesus demonstrated that leadership is more about serving. The worse the job, the more appropriate (John 13).

So in any given environment I am serving in a bottom up dynamic. My role is to come alongside people and help them discover there place. I use my authority to make space for them to do what God is calling them to do. I grant authority through permission to act; through titles such as Ministry Leader; and I resource with authority with things like keys, checks, and fishy crackers.

However, when safety becomes relevant the leadership structure flips and I become the boss telling people what they will or won’t do. In other words, my job is to serve you so you can serve unless there is some sort of safety issue, and then it becomes my obligation to protect others. The safety issue may be a crisis or hopefully it’s just a perceived risk. Let me give you an example. When it’s time to do VBS, it’s my job to ask our VBS Director what they need to do a great VBS. I help them buy resources, I help them find leaders, and I believe great leadership is serving at the direction of the VBS Director doing games or whatever else they need done. I become their volunteer, following their leadership. It would be ridiculous to tell the VBS Director how to do their job. Let’s imagine though, that the VBS Director decides that doing background checks on our volunteers is too costly and tedious. At this point it’s my obligation to take off my volunteer hat and put on my Shepherd hat and demand background checks. For the record, all of my VBS Directors have been amazing and have never suggested skipping background checks. In this example we see how my role shifts from servant leader to dictator. that may sound harsh, but when safety is at stake, clear boundaries must be demanded.

This seems obvious. It’s not always that obvious. Part of the pastors job of shepherding is praying about volunteers who come forward and want to be involved in ministry to make sure that what the volunteer is hearing is from God and is healthy for the church. It’s not that the pastor tells people what God is saying; our job is better defined as confirming what God is saying. If God doesn’t confirm your ministry with the leadership of the church, whether that’s the pastor, board, or ministry leader, you need to submit to the leadership doing what God has called them to do. You may want to see it as an opportunity to reconsider and pray more about what God is laying on your heart.

Your success is your obedience, not the outcome of your obedience. It could be that all God wanted you to do was ask. Once you ask, you have done your job! The church really is a beautifully designed organism. We don’t always get it right. We are prone to fail and be less than our best. I would encourage you, whether you are a pastor or a volunteer, to be patient and do your best, especially when others fail to do their best.How do we discover our role? We know that our role comes out of our intimacy with God. We know that as we draw close to God and abide with Him, that God blesses us to discover what He is up to and where we fit into His plan. But how do we do that? It’s not easy. It does require spending time with Jesus, investing into your abiding relationship with God. That is exactly where we start. We look at who God is. The fullness of who God cannot be comprehended. The known identity of God is too big for us to wrap our minds around. I think that is a good thing. It means we can spend our whole life in pursuit of God and never get bored. We are never going to get to a place where we have it all figured out and can move on to the next thing. Since God is larger than our lifetime can apprehend, what He reveals about Himself is intentional. Pay attention to what God is revealing to you about Him. The characteristics of God’s nature that are revealed to you, is usually an invitation for you to grow in that area. If God is showing you how patient He is, you are seeing how patient you get to be. No one likes learning patience, but everyone loves it when we realize that we are more patient. The ability to be content in wanting seems like a paradox. It is. So is God. And so will you too. Your first questions is “God, who are you presenting yourself to be to me?” This leads us to the next question, “God, who are you transforming me into?” When we realize what God is working on in us, we begin to see the direction of our potential. You are also learning how to walk in your potential. Can I suggest that your life is like a video game and God is giving you the tools you need to pass the next level. And like a good Father, He will not let you play a level you are not ready to play until you have the right tools. Going with this analogy, God even gives you a sidekick, Holy Spirit, who will help you hack the game. Your life should be a joy, figuring out what’s next and how you are going to crush the level you’re on. God has already given you the “More Than A Conqueror” badge. Your character has been upgraded and your tools, while unconventional, are pretty tough. Your sword isn’t just sharp, it’s double-edge sharp! Let me suggest one more question to reveal you potential, “God what are you up to?” Taking your eyes off of your life and your needs and looking at what God is up to in your community will give you context. Picture yourself like a prairie dog popping up to see what the terrain looks like so you can tunnel in the right directions. God is very committed to using the church, the global group of people who are committed to Him. He is so committed it’s His only plan. He will use you with others. That’s the plan. It’s always been the plan. Looking at what God is doing in His church and in the world may give you some of the surrounding narrative to figure out where to go. Allow me to stick with our game parable. Like most kids my age, I got captivated by the game, “The Legend of Zelda”. In the game you’re a character who goes around picking up coins, buying swords and other odd items. The point of the game is to rescue the princess Zelda. To rescue Zelda, you have to defeat some antagonists. To defeat your foes, you have to collect the TriForce (a yellow, fancy triangle). I remember playing on that original Nintendo system, “How can video games get any better than this?” Now it seems silly playing an 8-bit game looking for triangles (unless you’re a nerd like me). The point is, I would have never beat the game unless I knew the story. I would have been destined to travel around collecting coins and never beat the game. Seeking what God is doing in the world is like figuring out the point of the game. It will give you clues.. motivation… maybe even a princess. Last, remember, God loves to tell you what He is up to. It may take time and be difficult, but He ultimately wants you to know!

#PotentialSeries #Equality

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