A Problem of Ownership
by Moe Redding
God will use you in powerful ways ... if you will let Him move you through the burnout to hope and new life.
I was ready to leave the ministry 12 years ago. I mentioned to my wife that perhaps the reason I was so unhappy was that I missed my calling. She looked me straight in the eyes, and with a loving but firm voice said, "Sweetheart, I don't know if you'll ever be happy."
That was the beginning of my new life with Jesus.
Needless to say I was thunderstruck with her response. What kind of thing is that to say to someone as down as me? In my case it was the essential thing.
Her response drove me to spend some quality one-on-one time with the Heavenly Father. What I heard her say was that I could change every circumstance in my life and it would not change my heart. I would either allow the Father to change my heart or I needed to get used to misery. I called out to Him that night with something like this: "Father, I don't know what has happened to me. I no longer love you like I used to. I no longer love my family like I used to you ... the people in the church ... the lost. You either have to bring me back or get me out. I can't keep talking about this life-transforming love when it is just a distant memory."
The Spirit whispered a very simple question to my heart and mind: "Are you going to give me back my church?"
That was it! That was the entire issue! I had taken ownership of something that didn't belong to me. The church! I had given my life to the Lord, but never my life and the congregation. In a heartbeat I said, "Lord, it's yours! All of it! Use me however you would like. I am giving you back your church." And the joy, power, love and freedom returned in an instant. People who were in worship that Sunday said it was quite clear something miraculous had happened in my life.
This isn't new. Peter fell on his face in front of Jesus and said, "Lord, get away from me. I am a sinful man." It was like he didn't want to infect Jesus with his own sinfulness. Can't you see the Lord smiling and saying, "Now you're ready ... follow me and I will make you fishers of men."
We have to come to the end of ourselves, almost on a daily basis, before we allow God control in our lives. He is the Vine. We are simply branches. We are to point people to Him, not ourselves.
Even the term "shepherd" when applied to pastors is somewhat unfortunate, in my opinion. Although it is used a few times in the New Testament writings to apply to pastors, every time Jesus used the term it applied to Himself. I am convinced that although I do have some oversight responsibilities ... I am not the Shepherd. I am simply a sheep, staying close to the true Shepherd, encouraging others to do the same.
Giving the church back to God was everything for me. I only go to two meetings a month (staff and board). Since it's the Spirit's church and not mine, there is no need for me to micromanage anyone. Find faithful, loving followers of Jesus, encourage them in ministry, and release them to serve and lead. (If Jesus himself could send out the disciples without having to look over their shoulders, I think we can too!)
The Lord has shown me it is not my job to grow His Church. That's His job. My job is to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind (what does that look like, pastor?), and to love others as myself.
He has shown me I complicate things. Everyone talks about making disciples, but here's the thing. Good luck making disciples if you're not a disciple. I was trained to be the pastor of a mainline denomination. That is completely different than being a follower of Jesus Christ! What does it look like to be a follower of Jesus? The Lord has shown me that if I will focus on following Him and being a disciple, then making disciples is simple: we just tell them what we're learning!
We are no different than the first disciples. Most left Jesus. It is a long, grueling, frustrating, confusing and sometimes infuriating journey. But if we will stay faithful and close to the Shepherd, walking in Holy Spirit power, in His way and His time He will grow us up into men and women of faith, hope, love, joy, patience, gentleness and self-control.
True "leaders" in the church are really just followers of Jesus. He will use our example to bring others home.
Don't give up. In order to use us the Lord has to refine us, which is never fun! Trust Him. Walk with Him. Submit to Him. He is the Vine, you are a branch. He is the Shepherd, you are a sheep. The church belongs to Him. You have an important role, but so does everyone else!
He loves you just as you are. Thank you, Lord, even for the struggle! Thank you, Lord, for choosing me to follow you.