I am 31 years old. At times it’s easy for me to feel down on myself because I haven’t “accomplished” enough for the Kingdom… I haven’t planted a church, I haven’t written a book or released a CD… I’m not currently employed by a church… I haven’t even had more than 100 hits to this blog in any given day… Some people in the church have even said that I’m “producing no fruit” and “have no potential”… I guess they think your value to the kingdom depends on how much you produce. I’m not surprised… It’s the evidence of the impact our capitalistic, consumer focused culture has had on our churches.
When I see someone I went to Bible college with, the first question they always ask is, “So where are you at now?” What they are really asking is, “So how big of a church do you work for? Have I heard of it? Are you a big deal?” People in the church get caught up in the hype, and everyone thinks they need to be a celebrity pastor, with their picture on a billboard and their book in the gift shop. If you aren’t producing hype, you aren’t bearing fruit.
Jesus spent 30 years doing nothing at all, at lease, nothing worth mentioning in the gospels. His entire ministry lasted only three years. After his baptism, he went into the desert for over a month, just to be alone.
Paul, after his conversion, vanished for over a decade before becoming the man we see in the epistles… and at one point, stepped out of his missionary role to just work a regular job and save some money.
It’s easy for the negativity and criticism to get to you and make you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels. It’s easy for people to criticize those who aren’t as big of a deal as they are. The thing of it is, the bigger your head becomes, the smaller the kingdom appears to be. The more hype you create around yourself, the more of it you need to feel value… the more you need to look down on others to make yourself feel higher.
I woke up this morning feeling like a failure because I was just going to church. I would sing, listen to a sermon, go to my Bible study class and go to lunch. Some little voice in my head was telling me that I was a failure for not being a bigger deal on Sunday morning… but before I even made it to lunch I realized that the little voice (telling me that my seat five rows back wasn’t good enough) wasn’t the voice of God at all, but rather the hollow arrogance of someone else’s expectations and blindness to the Kingdom.
We all have our turn in the wilderness. We all have our tents to sew. We all have to vanish once in a while. What a tragedy if we listen to the negativity of the Pharisees telling us that we can’t come back! …that we have somehow lost our potential! What a tragedy if we get our picture on a billboard and see the Kingdom start to shrink around us!
The kingdom doesn’t need our hype. The Kingdom needs deep people who are willing to take a long journey.. a journey that takes us, sometimes, up on a stage, and sometimes into a closet… from the wilderness to the steps of the temple and back again.
I am on a journey; as are you. Never be ashamed of where the path takes you, just stay on it! To quote the actor/director Baz Luhrman from his 1997 epic address ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen‘,…sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, but the race is long and in the end it’s only with yourself.’
Stay the Course