Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Misconception #7: "People Are Problems."

[This is the 7th in a series of Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

As much as I don't like labeling people, it's just a fact of human nature that we tend to categorize people. And I'm sure we all have "those people" that we can put into the category of...shall we say..."needy"?

Growing up in a pastor's home, I discovered that pastors end up helping a lot of "needy" people. And sometimes the whole family gets involved, whether it's inviting people into our home, giving someone a ride to a doctor's appointment, giving people a place to stay, etc. And it IS important to help people with their problems, but we shouldn't view "these" people AS problems.

Why would I view a person as a problem? Again, I need to ask myself the "why" question. If I am honest with myself it could be because I value my own personal comfort instead. Spending time with a needy person may involve getting my hands a little dirty on occasion. This may be uncomfortable. I remember times when I was younger and I just wished people would just leave us alone and we could have our house and our family to ourselves. (As long as we're labeling, I tend to be an introvert so I value my alone time.)

We need to find the balance in our priorities. I remember hoping at some times that we as pastor's kids could be just as important to our parents as the people they were "ministering to" in our church. I'm not saying this always happened, but this may in part be why I have so many fond memories of our family vacations growing up. We were away from the pressures of the church and were able to have the undivided attention of our parents. I think it is so important that the pastor's family makes their family a priority so they can be a good example of what an intact family can and should be. This means that we ARE involved with our congregation and with those who are hurting, but we also realize that we cannot be God in another person's life. We can't just drop our family responsibilities. One practical example of this is turning off your phone during supper and making that a time for your family to have uninterrupted time. I have a pastor who makes it a priority to attend his son's baseball game, even if it happens on Sunday. It can be easy to be so busy "serving" and "meeting needs" that the needs of our own family sometimes go unmet.

For myself I find that I like a scheduled life. In my busy schedule, I can also tend to view people as interruptions. Ironically I also find that I want to help people. You can't help people without spending time with them. One practical thing I've recently been trying to do is to "schedule in" free time in so that I can take a few minutes between things/walking down the hall to talk to someone who may need a listening ear. I need to schedule enough "down time" for myself away from people to recharge, but then listen to the Holy Spirit's leading in what opportunities He makes available to connect with people.

Of course I've had to learn this for myself through trial and error. When I first moved out on my own I was sure I did not want to share my living space with anyone else. I like to be independent and do things on my own, and it gets confusing when you add roommates. When I purchased a home in 2005, I took the step to make my home available for renters, as well as trying to make my couch available for those who needed a place to stay. And I can say that yes, it does add a layer of uncomfortableness, but it has also given me such a good opportunity to put into practice what God has been teaching me in my own life.

I had one roommate a few years ago who was dealing with some things. And I remember thinking that I really needed my sleep and there was no way I could talk to her, help her, and be coherent myself. What I learned was that God will give you the strength you need if you are willing to be used. Also it helped me to grow in my knowledge of God, because when you have people asking you questions about Scripture it causes you to dig into it more.

I've also learned that I've discovered that in my own thinking I tend not to want to get involved because I think it will be a long-term situation. When I feel God prompting me to do something, I just need to do it. For example, I saw a post from an acquaintance on Facebook that she wanted help getting a real Christmas tree. I had done that for a few years myself so I decided to invite her to go with me, and we had a nice time together getting to know each other better. This only took one evening.

God convicted me of my lack of love for others. The two greatest commandments are to "love the Lord your God" and to "love your neighbor as yourself." I am working on growing in my love for others. When an idea comes to mind (send a card to someone, send a text, bring coffee to a coworker, write a note of encouragement), I think that could be the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Find ways to connect with people. I need to portray the love of Christ to others without trying to BE Christ to them. My job is not to try to fix them, it's to come alongside, spend time with them. Get to know their interests. Listen to other people.

Here are some practical ways I've been learning to get involved in my community and DO LIFE with the people in my church. I am a member of the local music teachers association. I have volunteered at the Community Center. And I got a dog. Walking my dog has encouraged me to get out into my neighborhood and meet my neighbors.

People are opportunities for me to grow in my walk with Christ.

Reality: God wants to use me in other people's lives to ultimately bring glory to Himself.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Misconception #6: "I Will at Some Point Cross the Line into Being Spiritually Mature."

[This is the 6th in a series of 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

I've wanted to be a Christian leader. I am a Christian school teacher. In positions of leadership it is easy to make the assumption or feel like you should "know it all." I guess that's kind of what I expected my Bible college education to get me: a pass into "I'm-Spiritually-Mature Land." But the more you learn, the more you realize that there is to learn. And God does want us to keep seeking and learning Biblical answers. It is also a good thing to want to help others with their problems. We want to use our spiritual knowledge and apply it to everyday life. But it can become easy to become proud and to want to just "fix" other people. You tell me your problems, and now that I'm "spiritually mature" I can assess the situation, slap a Scriptural "bandaid" on your issue, and send you on your merry way.

Positionally I know about progressive sanctification. I know we will never be perfect until we get to heaven, but it is still easy for me to live my life in a way that is not evidencing the fruit of what that means to my individual life. Practically I want to live my life without realizing I am a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. I have just as much potential for sin in my life as the next person. In fact, I had gotten to a point in my life where it felt like I had pretty much nothing more to work on. How proud is that!? I had a "breakthrough" moment when I read a Nancy Leigh DeMoss article talking about the sin of unbelief and doubt, and I was actually quite relieved to find that I was struggling with that because then I had an issue in my life to work on.

The Christian life takes maintenance. I own a home. I own a car. Both of those things require maintenance. As a young car owner, I remember it came as somewhat of a shock to me to realize that not only did I have to pay money for this vehicle, now I had to pay money to register it, put fuel in the car, get oil changes, and pay for maintenance! My house also requires me to mow the lawn, paint it, etc., etc. The dishes don't do themselves, the laundry will not wash itself...and I have special appreciation for stay-at-home moms who have to maintain all these things and keep the kids going too! Everything wears down. If you don't maintain your Christian walk it will also fall into disrepair. I need the accountability of a church family and godly friends who will steer me in the right direction. In my life that has really come into play through my Tuesday night ladies' Bible study. When I am tempted to think I am alone in the struggle, they are there to remind me that there are others with me. I need to keep making DAILY choices for good and not for evil. Otherwise I can get caught up in the lie that I am good enough.

Honestly, growing up in the church it is easy to get the impression that some people are better than others. (Now, my parents did NOT teach me this.) I learned a lot of things in Sunday School and church, but practically we often learn the most by watching the lives of other people. And we watch how people act at church and how they live throughout the week. (I'm really trying to avoid the word "judgmental" here, but that's a topic of its own for another post.) My parents did a good job of making the Bible applicable throughout the week, but it is still easy to think that church is just something you do on Sundays and Wednesdays. Especially in ministry, it is easy to make it feel like church is just something you DO. I need to get to the point where worship is something I take with me throughout every day. And make it a part of what I LIVE and live out in the lives of other people.

It's ok for me to want to be a Christian leader and to help point others to the truth of God's Word, but there will never be a point in my life where I am "more spiritual," because in reality we are all in just as much need of a Savior as the next person. I am just one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread. I am just a tool to be used by the Savior. As I allow others into my life they will see my faults and failures and hopefully learn how to respond. I am nothing in and of myself.

And I guess that is the pitfall here. It is tempting to think that any good I do is in my own strength, but anything of any value in my life will be because it is a gift from the Father of lights. I have had to learn the hard lesson that I can't make decisions for someone else. I need to be coming alongside others and joining them in our path to godliness. I don't want it to be a "do as I say, not as I do" thing. I need to get down and dirty in the daily aspects of a person's life so that they can see how much I care. The old adage is true that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Along with that, I've also come to realize that I need to grow in my love for others, which will be the focus of my next point.

Reality: We are all in the sanctification process.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Misconception #5: Everyone is Like Me.

[This is the 5th in a series of Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel and see other parts of the country and other churches. I have very fond memories of traveling with my family growing up--we went to the East coast and the West coast for a couple of weeks on different occasions. In Bible college I was privileged to meet friends and missionaries from around the world. I traveled on a ministry team to other churches in the country. In Lafayette, I work at a Christian school that has over 70 churches represented. I also get a chance to travel with the Faith Ministry Team (high school ensemble) to visit other churches--some of different nationalities. We aren't all the same. In a church context, we don't all worship God in the same way.

My church has a worship band. Some people raise their hands to worship, some sing with just a piano and a song leader, some don't use any instruments, some have a worship band. I am responsible before God with the talents and abilities He's given to me. My role in my church now is to be a faithful helper to my pastors in whatever capacity they need me to serve--even if it's playing piano or keyboard in a band.

My siblings are different than me. My housemates are different than me. I need to not compromise my beliefs yet still show love and compassion for those who are different than me. It can be a long process to figure out why something might bother me. I need to question myself, "what is it about this that bothers me? Is it because it's violating a Biblical principle or is it just because it's different than what I'm used to?" Jesus was the ultimate example of showing love by associating with those whom the Pharisees considered "unclean" or "worthless." Am I being as loving as Christ?

Yet it is easy to have a hard time associating with people who are different than ourselves. I started to ask myself, "Why is that? Why do I feel more comfortable with some people than with other people?" Or even, "why does my church do things a certain way?" Of course I am thankful for those who are "kindred spirits"--those who are very similar to me. But I think it is important to realize that just because someone's application of a Scriptural truth is different than mine doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. There are some things it's ok to "agree to disagree" on. (Obviously the gospel & other Scriptural commands are non-negotiables.) Not everyone is like me. God created me uniquely with my own story, background, and personality. What is important is that I am closely associating with people who are headed in the same direction I am--closer to God--and reaching out in love. We need to be of the same heart and same mind in wanting to become more like Christ and showing Jesus to the world.

Reality: God creates us to be unique. I am to love others.