Tag Archive | accountability

I’m No Expert

Experts? 

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hate the idea that you should find the one thing you are really good at–become an expert–and use that as a platform to make money. Or do ministry. Or both.

It’s as if we are to find that one thing and use it as a way to lord it over others that you have more years, experience, training, ect than others to do that job. And maybe if you’re lucky, they’ll pay you for that privilege.

I experienced this years ago in ministry with a woman who had great skills. But on a team with a younger leader who lacked some of those skills, she sabotaged the team (and that leader) instead of filling in what lacked on the team and providing training, support and encouragement that young woman needed. God worked and the team accomplished its goal but rationally, spiritually, emotionally, there was a heavy price paid because of this pride and arrogance.

Ouch, did I really write those words?

I see this in the writing field too. I’m off to a conference this week and I’m doing a workshop. But I want to make it clear. I don’t know it all. I’m not an expert. I might be further along the path than some in some areas but I still need to learn and grow and sometimes I find my capacity for that growth is stifled by the tasks I need to accomplish. At the end of my workshop I’ll be pointing people to someone else who is teaching further along the path of my topic, I’ll get their feet wet and he can douse them with info they will need! Maybe I should provide towels? 

Ministry or People? What’s More Important?

We lose focus on what’s important. As my pastor, Ken Nabi has said,

We don’t use people to get ministry done. We use ministry to get people done.

But from what I see often in the publishing world, we are failing at this in honor of a buck or our name on a book, or maybe as the teacher of a workshop at a conference.

I’m still growing as an author and editor and would never have come this far if it hadn’t been for those further along the path who have taken time to encourage and mentor me. A helping hand. A little push from behind. A word of encouragement on the way when times get tough. And maybe even a dose of humility as thoughts and beliefs are challenged. This is true of my younger years serving in church leadership as well as with my writing career.

The fact is, none of us have arrived. If I see someone further along the path, I ask questions, challenge too if I need to, and grow. If I see someone younger in the journey or maybe less developed in skills I might have, then I can encourage, train, show the way and if it is a leader I follow, push them to further growth as others have done for me.

The Missing Ingredient

Now this is the thing that has been weighing on my heart most about this process: accountability. This in the church to varying degrees and there needs to be more. I don’t ask the hard questions often enough myself. But community cannot grow without that kind of vulnerability. As an editor, I’m not sure I’ve stepped in to assist my authors as much with their spiritual walk as I have their publishing journey.

And that’s a shame because their walk with God is more important than their name on a book or good ratings on Amazon.

My weakness goes back generations. I want people to be happy. I write “happily ever after” endings because of this deep-seated need within me. Ultimately we get that in this life, when we are with Jesus.  In the meantime though, it is in the best interests to help others grow towards that “happy” but along the way sometimes truth hurts. Truth spoken with love and grace can be a powerful force towards growth though. I’m just praying that if God pushes me that way, I will have the courage to follow. I need to humble myself more and more before His throne if he can even use me in that way. It’s not a happy task, but done well, glorifies God.

After all, He’s the expert.

Falling off a Pedestal

DSC_0506I sat down with a good friend last week and confessed that I was struggling in my walk with God. It’s not that I don’t pray, I do. But making a daily time to spend with Him was something I was ambivalent about and even resisting.

She asked me a good question. How come with all the women I know and have served with, there wasn’t anyone to be holding me accountable?

Well, some are just too busy.

I also served for years in leadership and to some that seems to elevate me to the status of someone who isn’t going to really struggle with my spiritual walk. I’m good for listening to them and encouraging and praying for them–but it’s not reciprocal.

And I’m still feeling bruised and battered from some of the abuses I suffered while in leadership. These are hurts that few know about because I don’t gossip and spread other’s sins abroad, no matter how badly I was injured in the process.

My friend gets it because she’s seen leadership struggle in her own church. It can be a lonely place.

Someone came up to me a few weeks ago and told me she used to be afraid to approach me. She thought I was intimidating.

Wow. That made me so sad. I don’t want to ever appear intimidating.

I’m glad she knows better now.

So here’s the scoop. I’m not in the “in” group anywhere. I often feel like an outsider. I’m afraid I’m not good enough – at anything and everything.  I cry. I lose sleep due to my irrational fears.

I get lonely and due to circumstances I won’t go into here. I struggle to feel like I have any value in this crazy mixed up world because there are people in my life who have pretty much led me to believe I don’t. And I often sabotage myself in the very things I’m trying to achieve.

Ugly truths, huh?

I don’t like heights. It’s not the heights themselves, but the fear of falling from them. Please, PLEASE take me off any pedestal you have put me on.

I sin. I screw up. I let emotions sometimes derail me from being productive in the work God has called me to do. I get scared about the future, even the good things I see God doing.

I don’t feel ready for that. I feel inadequate and inept.

Just because I smile doesn’t mean I have my act together. I’m so far from perfect. I’m a member of the human race just like you are. Any good you see in me is totally there by the grace of God.

I’m grateful that my friend was willing to take the next step that many others weren’t. She asked me the tough questions and she made a date for us to meet again to discuss how it’s going. Accountability. I am beyond grateful.

The best gift I ever got while serving in ministry was from the first pastor I worked for who weekly did not hesitate to ask : “So how is your walk with God going? What is He teaching you?” At first I found those questions intimidating but soon learned they were an expression of love. We need more of this in the church.

In a recent radio interview I said this: “Whatever calling you pursue, don’t do it alone. I don’t think we can do anything for the glory of God on our own.”

I know I can’t. How about you? Who is holding you accountable in your walk with God?

A Letter to a Dying Pastor

I haven’t posted in a long time as we prepare for  move to a new home. But Mark Steele was not only a pastor but a friend and mentor and employer for years and had a huge impact on my life. We served for years together at a church plant called Stonebridge Community Church. He is now in heaven after a short battle with cancer and my heart grieves. Here’s part of a letter I wrote to him a few days before he died. Not sure if he got to read it or not. I pray that somehow God can use me in the lives of others like He used Mark in mine.                                                                                                

June 1, 2011

Dear Mark,

I want you to know how much I appreciated you and the time and effort you put into mentoring a young woman in grad school who had been hurt by a previous church experience.  I learned so many things at Stonebridge. You just happened to be a large part of those memories although God was always the One doing the work. Thank you for your investment in me.

I remember the first time you ever asked me how my relationship with God was. I felt a little on the hot seat, like I was going to be taken to task for any slip up. But that was not the case. I soon learned that you asking about my relationship with God was an expression of love and a desire to help me continue to grow in my faith.  Over the years I have had so many people ask why I get up so early in the morning – but it is because that is one of the few times in my day when I can be alone with God and my thoughts and prayers. I still have so much further to go – but have come so far by His grace and patience with me. Thank you for caring enough to ask.

I remember when we did our Sunday mornings at the YMCA and we would pray and see God do amazing things. To see people come to Christ. To see them serve in their area of giftedness and passion. To see sacrifice and joy in the tasks before us. We were a family – one that I am still a part of in so many ways. I’m blessed to still have friends from those days who are intersecting with my life, some on facebook now and others in person at times. How amazing it all was.

I remember learning to “stay engaged through the pain.” If that wasn’t an axiom of Mark Steele I don’t know what was. I so often wanted to run when the pain got to be more than I thought I could bear. But you never let me. You didn’t tell me I couldn’t, but you let me seek God and entrusted that HE wouldn’t let me run. And He didn’t. Ministry is tough. Leadership can be lonely and painful, but you taught me that integrity was priceless and to persevere anyway. Not that I didn’t make my share of mistakes as I “grew up” in our Stonebridge family, but I learned from them and moved on and “I will never be the same again, I can never return, I’ve closed the door. . . “

Songs: “Saddle up Your horses – we’ve got a trail to blaze!” “Fear Not, for I am with you, fear not, for I am with you. . . “ “Be bold, Be strong, for the Lord Your God is with you!” (I remember Allison yelling out those words loud!), ‘Leave a light on for me. . .” oh, and so many others.  Those songs are Stonebridge to me – a precious moment in time I hope I never forget.

I remember an orange van that we painted burgundy. I remember loading that van over and over and over again!

I remember music rehearsals taking place in your home late into the night on Mondays.

I remember meeting at Hardees and later at Mayfair mall food court for our “staff meetings”.

I remember getting paid $1 for my first year of employment!

I remember you coming through a colored curtain a la Johnny Carson!

I remember being taught about protecting a marriage with firm boundaries.

I remember when you debated whether or not to shave off your mustache – and you did it and never went back!  Right after that we had more men in our church with mustaches and beards than ever before! Too funny. (You have a mustache in our wedding pictures!)

I remember you liking cherry pie.

I remember after a conference, how you would always quiz us about what we learned and took away so that our experience would stick and not just be a moment to be forgotten (I do this with my kids now!).

I remember fearing your return from study break because I knew you would come back refreshed and full of ideas that I would somehow have to put legs and feet to.

I remember your hugs. You were always a hugger. I loved that. I miss your hugs.

I miss the synergy of what we had as a team on Sundays.  There was, most of the time, something very precious and beautiful that happened.

I remember having to make sure you were presentable before going up on stage – and one day asking if your fly was zipped – and surprisingly enough you found it wasn’t!  I hadn’t noticed personally – it was just part of the routine! (giggling)

Many people will criticize Stonebridge for having been seeker-targeted. I don’t. It opened up my heart to the reality of hurting people who needed Jesus and trying to make a place where they would feel welcome. It’s a value I carry with me today.

I learned about the dangers of triangulation. I learned about confidentiality. I learned about the value of a pastor who “has your back” when times are tough.  I learned about authenticity and perseverance and spiritual warfare. I learned to submit to godly leadership (even if I didn’t always like it.) I learned to accept change better. You always said I would kick and scream at first (metaphorically) and then settle in just fine! I learned about the power of encouragement.

I learned that even serving with a limp (depression) is something that can bring honor and glory to God and no matter how unacceptable we feel we are – the church is blessed when we come and step up in faith to serve our glorious King.

I learned more about worship at New Community than I had ever learned before.

I see my time serving with you at Stonebridge as a series of life-defining moments.

I remember laughter and tears and prayer walks.

I remember camping.

I have learned it is sometimes better to take a risk and fail than to always play it safe. I learned that pushing the envelope can be a very good thing if God is behind it.

I learned that none of us are “normal!”

I remember that you always loved to be on the cutting edge of technology and always knew “just enough to be dangerous.”

I have seen God redeem pain in amazing ways. I have taught many women master’s level theology and leadership classes – and some of my lessons don’t come from a textbook .  I found that I love to teach. Because of what I have learned at your feet, Mark, I have strived to be a blessing to the leaders at the church where I serve. I’ve been blessed with leaders who strive to be “healthy.” I continue to learn so much but fear that if I hadn’t had the foundation for it, which you helped me build as a leader, I would not be as nearly effective for the kingdom.

Because of you, I value more than ever true life change – that process of sanctification we all should be embracing but many Christians don’t.  I have raised a higher standard for women in leadership that involves godly character (not as easy to find as some might think – leading women is much harder than working with men in my opinion!).

You have definitely left your “mark” on me for sure as well as on many others. (pun intended!)

I continue, Mark, to pray for your healing. Yet I felt that if God chooses to favor you with the joy of His presence face-to-face while the rest of us wait in a pain-filled sinful world, that I couldn’t not let you know, once again, how much you have impacted my life for the better.

Okay – I am sure I could write more. Heck, I write novels but you probably wouldn’t have the strength or patience to read that much! There is a nice pile of Kleenex next to me to give  testimony to the grief in my heart over what you and your family are suffering through. I know God gives grace for the journey and my own tears are more selfish than anything.

I will continue to pray for healing – even knowing that God’s view of that might be ultimate healing that comes from being in eternity with Him.

With much love and fondness, as your sister in Christ,

For His glory alone,

 Susan