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30 November 2007

The Layperson's Guide to Maximizing Headroom

Reader Tony M made a point in his comment about "Headroom in the Church" that leads me to another thought about the whole headroom thingy. He said, "...If we have the level way up there, maybe someone will be distracted from some of the stuff that we're not doing, or doing wrong, or something." I want to focus on the "something" to which he refers (and to which he probably did not intend to refer).

As I offer these words, I amn't (my favorite Bizarro word, I think) suggesting that a particular course of action is the end-all, be-all for every church, nor am I suggesting that any fellowship is somehow more "spiritual" or less so than another merely because of what it does or doesn't do; I am only relating things about which God's been dealing with me personally. Over the past weeks I feel like I've been fairly relentless in hammering on this point, and I will stop when God stops putting this in the forefront of my heart so clearly.

Yesterday I listened to a CD of a speaker from the Catlyst Conference saying that it's not unusual for a church fellowship to get many, many activities going and essentially say to the world, "Here it is! [Then beginning to speak in a brethless, frantic way:] Come-on, come-on, come-on, come-on, come-on! Come and get it!" He sums up by saying, "Clearly, this is fulfilling the Great Commission." I laughed aloud at the irony of the last sentence.

Does too much activity amount to throwing spike strips into the road, hoping to pop the tires of a passing car? Putting a piece of flypaper in a meathouse in order to snag flies? Turning up the volume of a stereo so loud that at least someone in the neighborhood will hear our Nat King Cole CD?

If so, what's the practical upshot of this conviction? I've read blogs -- some excellent points have been made by Jan Owen, with whom I have not coordinated but happen to be talking about the same things -- and I've read some fantastic articles about this issue, and I think, "Okay, sure. We're busy. So what's the course of action for someone who reads all this?"

Well, before going any further, if I'm the only one having this "great revelation," then I'm the only one who should be doing something about it. If you happen to be experiencing this conviction yourself, your course of action is dependent upon your seeking God's wisdom and then acting upon it. I do not suggest that you drop out of a ministry area to which you've committed. On the contrary. One of the basics of the lifystyle of a Christ-follower is to honor the commitments one makes.

Below are some imperatives and also some suggestions for the person who thinks, "Okay, I'm sold. What next?"

- Do seek the Lord daily. Not just a quick Bible verse, or even a good devotional book. Be serious about this -- it is the priority. As a Christ-follower, God is your life! Dig into the Word.

- Don't look at ministry areas or programs of your church in which you're not involved and think, "Now there's one that ought to be the first on the chopping block!" God will work in the lives of others according to His plan as the church fellowship grows in unity with Him and one another. This is like hearing a sermon and thinking, "Boy, I wish that so-and-so were around to hear this." Or, "Thank the Lord I'm not like that person."

- Do pray a great deal for wisdom about how to use your particular gift for the edification of the Church and fulfilling the Great Commission. You may need to ask God to tell you what your particular gift is. As I've said before, the Creator of the universe has a plan that involves you, and He has something specifically for you that He wants no one else but you to carry out.

- Don't commit to an area of ministry out of a sense of guilt.

- Do pray daily for those in leadership at your church fellowship; not that they'll "come around" to a particular way of thinking or a particular set of convictions, but that they will be led by the Holy Spirit.

- Do keep your personal "headroom" in mind, both in a spiritual and a physical sense.

- Do find joy in what you do.

- Do look for good in others.

- Do love people.


Jan Owen said...

Hey Dean - Here is a link to the website for an upcoming book by Anne Jackson called "Mad Church Disease". (I don't know how to imbed a link) This book is about church burnout, which is a slightly different issue, but relevant nonetheless. I think they are definitely related. The book is not published but I foresee it rocking the church world! You might also check out Peter Scazzero's "Emotionally Healthy Church" and "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality" for some deeper reads on balancing the contemplative and action aspects of church ministry and personal life. They are MUST READS - some of the best books I've read. So we're all thinking, reading and converging to a similar point. Now what do we do???? As a minister I have tried to be proactive in working the idea of rest (oxymoron there) into services and into the life of my ministry team - with reflection times, quiet moments, being sensitive to their families and their need for rest. Isn't the whole point of our ministry activity to enable people to be present to God and engage with Him? Surely our point is not to just give us another "Christian activity" to do? Maybe we've lost sight of the point just a bit?

Tony M said...

Your second point under the imperatives and suggestions reminded me of "Everybody Else But Me" by Don Francisco. Another "good one" (that might not be exactly in the same vein) is The Steeple Song. Just thought I'd share some of Don's MP3s.

By the way, Jan, if you ever do want to embed a link, do this:

- type the text you want to display
- immediately after the text, put "</a>" (but without the quotes)
- immediately before the text, put this (with quotes as shown):
<a href="">

Tony M said...

Go figure - too "busy" offering instructions on how to embed links, and I go and mess up The Steeple Song link! Think I got it right this time... :)

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