Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Trouble with "Success"

I sat quietly as a well intentioned student dutifully read aloud my bio to a roomful of listeners, ready for my workshop.  It spoke about my position, work experience and even a bit about my interests and family.  

Earlier in the day I had listened as the bio of another speaker (a really good one too!) was carefully reviewed. . . all the great things he's done for God.  

Call me cynical. . . but I just keep retreating, shrinking, pulling back internally from "great things" done for God.  I was physically ill late last year upon visiting a new church and freshly remodeled portion of an evangelical school. . . clearly millions upon millions had been spent in both cases.  A close friend recently recounted for me how "X" dollars would be spent by his church in a missions project of great efficiency and great effect.  the kind of thing where if you spend these dollars a clear prediction of how many churches will be established can be certain.  

This is exactly the kind of "winning" presentation that I am urged, pushed, influenced, and encouraged to use to portray our work at Sunshine. . . but I just don't buy it.   Don't get me wrong, we are working on our marketing and I know its important.  I just don't know if the "image" is true.  At the very least its an incomplete picture and in that sense, its not true.  

What kind of person or church always grows, always wins, always triumphs, always experiences efficiency and decorum, always impresses, always reflects strengths? No true church or person does.  So if that's all that is presented. . . if that is what is put forward as "success". . . our honesty, and integrity, and understanding are in jeopardy. 

Yet the true church perseveres through adversity, the true Christian loves without concern for accomplishment, fame, reciprocation or adulation.  The true Christian fails, even in this unrequited love of neighbor.  

I don't think God's work is efficient.  I don't think it is predictable in a scientific, expedient, rational way.  There are few Christian leaders I've known who lead out of weakness and suffering, and what Paul calls his resume of garbage.  

How do we want to be introduced?  Whose list of deeds do we want read aloud on our account? 
 
How's this:  imperfect dad, faulty husband, inefficient minister, lowly neighbor, slow learner, one growing only by God's grace, doing small things for a Great God.  Hungry for another round of communion. . . one of sovereignly propped up faith. 


2 comments:

Aaron said...

Joel,
You know what I shared to our core group of leaders the other day? My encouragement concerning what is going on at Sunshine.

I get Sunshine's newsletters and I was especially touched by this recent one... I know the struggles that Sunshine has had throughout the years and have been directly involved in those struggles (sometimes the cause of those struggles :))and yes there are a 1000 things that I know you wish you could change or better but at the end of the day Sunshine is making an impact.

I was so encouraged by what is going on there and was persuaded to move forward with our church plant here in Richmond. Yes there is always room for improvement but at the end of the day Sunshine is a place of hope and optimism rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a great lesson for us here in Richmond and I broke down in tears when sharing it with our folks.

So PLEASE tell Sunshine's story with confidence because it's reach is further than you know... even Richmond, CA!!! Keep being faithful homie!

I love ya man!

hammerdad said...

Aaron~

Thanks for your good words brother. I went back and read the newsletter and was blessed to see what you said is true.

In writing my post I wasn't doubting the validity of what we do exactly. Rather, I was and am always wrestling with what we deem "success".

Do you remember that old dictum that I quote from Pastor Davey: "God normally works slowly but steadily and with lots of problems".

I find that again and again to be true. Slow, steady, broken, weak in the knees, faultering, trusting, moving ahead without a big bang, reveling in the glory of the work of Christ. . . that is what I think is success. . . . but its not very marketable.

Press on Brother. I know that God has called you to this slow, steady work of raising up a multi-ethnic family and church for his glory. Thanks again for your encouragement, I can't tell you how much that means to me!