To Row or To Sail
I shall preface this whole blog post (and the ones that follow) with the fact that I do not know how to sail a boat. I have never sailed a boat. I don't know the terms or all the work that goes into it. But, what I do know, is that it takes a great amount of skill to navigate waters, whether they are lakes or oceans, relying on the wind. Now that that's out of the way...
This book by Joan S. Gray has really influenced and begun to transform how I view ministry and how I hope to continue doing ministry in the future. I don't do it perfectly and I am still learning the skills which are needed to sail with the Wind of God as opposed to relying on my own strength, power, might and knowledge. Even though I quote Christ regularly when it is said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength" Mark 12:30 and then from Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding and in all your ways submit to God and God will make your paths straight" I often times fall into the pit of "I can do this on my own." I'm sure I'm not in that pit alone. The best intentioned Christians have a tendency to fall into the pit even though we know better. Goes back to the whole Adam, Eve, Serpent, Fruit story in Genesis 3. We know that God is the one in control of and who has power to do all things, but we still get it into our brains that we know better and we can venture out on our own.
In the first chapter of her book, Created to Sail, Gray begins to address this very thing. We look at what we don't have in churches or in our lives and think "I must fix this on my own!" The words she uses are convicting and the first time I read it, I stopped, took a deep breath, and then continued. When we get ourselves into the "We can do this" or "We can't do this" mindset, Gray quotes Parker Palmer and his book Let Your Life Speak in addressing this as "functional atheism." Yikes... so... well meaning, good intentioned Christians who sit in pews, in board meetings, in bible studies, are falling to "functional atheism" which is "the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests on us. This is in unconscious, examined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the ones who must make it happen--a conviction held even by people who talk a good game about God."
Let those words sink in for a moment... I'll be here... give yourself 60 seconds to ponder what that means in your own life...
Good? Still with me? Good :) Those are HEAVY words that should convict our hearts, souls, minds, and strength because we all do it. Start thinking about it: have you ever found yourself thinking in your church "if we just had more money we would be good" or "if we just had a different pastor, life would be so much better" or "if we just had more space, youth, young families, a praise band... then we could really do God's work in our community!" Well, friends... that's all about us... and not at ALL about God and God working with what we already have.
Being the church has very little to do with our resources and has everything to do with us following God's leading. When we start to get away from looking at the church as not being enough and realizing that God is wanting to equip each of us for ministry and to partner with God and share in God's abundance, then we start to see that God "through the power at work within us can do abundantly far more than we could ever ask or imagine."
This is a God who created all life out of chaos! Who spoke through ordinary men and women. A God who led people in slavery and bondage out of persecution and when they looked at a sea blocking their way to safety, said "That's not going to stop me!" A God who animated dried, dead bones and who brought Lazarus and Christ back from death! This is a God who looks at the impossibleness of the world and encourages us to say "With God nothing is impossible!" Luke 1:35-37. This God that we worship is telling us, begging us, leading us into partnership because we know that we can do more than what we think we are capable of with God's strength with us.
But... we have to put down the oars, throw them out of the boat, and hoist the sails to capture the ever moving Wind of the Holy Spirit. It is then that we are truly able to engage in this mission with God. But that takes skill. Gray will help us to identify what skills we need in order to become sailors with God, instead of rowers on our own. It takes us being willing to surrender to God (a word I struggle with wholeheartedly). It takes us being willing to transformed from a "my skills" mindset into one that focuses on what can be glorified and accomplished with God's leading. It takes us being ready to be humbled by God's power and excited to set out on the new adventure that God is charting for us.
You ready to put down the oars and get ready to hoist the sails? It'll take time, energy, transformation, and reprogramming of "how we've always done things." But it is exciting!