To write the exact details of my day would probably be very unprofessional and get me in a bit of trouble. In fact, writing about it at all definitely tows that line.
But for politeness and brevity’s sake, I will just say that today I spent my time writing a sermon that nobody will hear, cleaning my house for a meeting that never happened, cooking dinner for a large family that will not eat it and writing a blog post (2 now) that very few will read.
This comes towards the end of an emotionally exhausting week that nobody could have seen coming. And this week is just the latest in a long line of epic failure days that have ended with my head in my hands and tears in my eyes.
But something else did happen today. I read several chapters in my latest book about a couple of pastors who chose the tough and difficult path of a missional discipleship over the easy attractional model that had attracted thousands to their church. Their attendance dropped from 1700 to 700 over night and they learned a lot of painful lessons.
I will write a full review of the book later but halfway through one of the copastors writes a very frank and needed chapter about ambition. He describes a shift in “pastoral ethics from one of faithfulness to one of productivity and success.” He goes on to state that the “tendency towards self absorption plagues every one of us” and then brings the truth home when he says, “I am convinced that personal pastoral ambition and a pastoral ethic centered around productivity and success is brutal to our souls and destructive to the souls of the people we lead.”
Ouch, ouch and ouch.
He continues that he wishes we could be more truthful about it and “not by pointing the finger at all those naughty, self driven pastors and church leaders out there someplace. We must begin with ourselves.”
Let me be as honest as Kent Carlson is frank and say that the reason I am hanging my head over my laptop tonight and struggling with all these questions is that I wish there was just one thing I could hang my hat on and say, “That worked well.”
I had dozens if not hundreds of them not long ago and now I can’t think of one in the last year. To try to feel better about myself I have gone fishing for compliments but have only reeled in criticism, helpful criticism, maybe even needed but hurtful none the less.
In the midst of all this I am clinging with all my willpower to verses like Paul’s, “When we are cursed we bless. When we are persecuted we endure it.” I am neither cursed nor persecuted which drives the point home that I need to be blessing and enduring all the more.
And yet there are days when just one eaten dinner or listened to sermon might make a world of difference. There are days when one scheduled meeting actually happens when and where it is supposed to happen and the people that are supposed to be there actually show up. There are days when just one tiny little noticed victory might be enough.
And yet those things are not my God. Those things are not why I joined the clergy. Those things are not the sum total of my effectiveness. After all, in this gig, who you are is way more important than what you do or accomplish.
Still, I feel like I am failing on both fronts, which may means God’s grace is all the greater.
In closing, I do this thing when I write blog posts. I write a rough draft. Than I read it and revise and edit almost all of it. Then I read it again and delete a bunch of superfluous stuff. Then I read it again and change some words. Then I click the “publish” button and wait for it to publish. Then I go to the site and read it there and come back to the editing page to edit some more. Than I add tags and categories if I remember. Then I wait a couple hours and come back to edit it some more. Then I check the stats once or twice that day before forgetting all about it.
I am not doing that this time. What you just read is pure stream of consciousness and I think maybe that is a good step after an epically horrible, very bad, no good day.
Sweet dreams! May your tomorrow’s be full of grace.