Last Saturday, I turned my foot while walking in my driveway and heard a pop. Thinking I must have incurred a mild sprain, my first instinct was to put it up. I thought, “I’ll keep it this way for a couple of hours and then I’ll get back to work.” When I attempted to resume my plans for the day, I discovered that I could no longer bear weight on that foot. And so began what has now been over two weeks of relative dependency on others.
I hate depending on other people. I hate it because I get much of my sense of self worth from what I’m able to contribute to any group. I also hate it because there are several things which I like done a certain way and other people don’t do it like that. For instance, I like it when the liner in the trash can is tied in a knot at the top so it doesn’t slide down into the can. The knot needs to comprise just the right amount of liner so as to make the top taut without breaking the liner. But the mantra of my children is, “Do as little as possible to say we fulfilled a requirement.” This morning as I looked down at the half in/half out liner in the bathroom can, I thought, “If you want something done right, you’ll have to do it yourself.”
That thought was immediately followed by what felt like a corrective word, “If you want something done right when you’re out of the picture, you’ll have to teach others to do it right.” I realized that I had spent very little if any time or effort showing my kids the “right” way to do things, when to do them, why to do them. It’s just always been easier to do them myself and I get to maintain my own self worth in the process. That got me to thinking, like most things do, of church planting.
People often go into ministry out of a craving for a sense of significance. Think about it, a career in ministry pays little and requires much. Obviously, we’re not doing it for the money at least most of us aren’t. While I would grant that most people who go into full time ministry have a desire to devote their lives to God’s service, there are perks on this side of heaven as well. After all, how many other professions outside of Hollywood or Broadway afford a person the undivided attention of a room of people on a regular basis? That can make an otherwise unpopular person feel pretty important. I believe that people who lean toward codependency and narcissism tend to gravitate toward careers in the clergy. This sets everyone, both members and ministers, up for relational dysfunction.
Aside from the soul sickness this dysfunction causes to everyone involved, ministerial codependency arrests the spread of the gospel. When church leaders opt to just do things themselves rather than recruit, train, supervise and release others, the number of workers in the kingdom stagnates. In human organizations, we want top-tier leaders to say, “The buck stops with me.” But in the kingdom of God, we don’t want the buck to stop until Christ returns. We need to pass the buck of gospel service on to everyone who comes to faith so that more people will come to faith.
Of course, everyone can’t physically take a turn preaching every Sunday. For a congregation comprised of 100 adults, that would mean that each person would get to participate in the ministry once every two years. But what if we met informally in smaller numbers? Wouldn’t that give every man, woman and child an opportunity to encourage the believers at least once per week? What if we focused on equipping every believer to share the life of Christ everywhere they go? Wouldn’t that allow every man, woman and child the opportunity to minister the word of life at least once per day?
So, I’m going to work on assigning more tasks to my kids and training them to do it right. I’m also going to stop doing so much ministry myself and work with others on doing it right when I’m out of the picture.