why we sit on our butts and miss out on our calling part 2: laziness

lazy gamer

Continued From Part 1: Poor Theology Many of us in ministry feel like there is an unrealized call on our lives. I know, at least for me, I have certain things God has put in my heart to do and to be. Most of them have to do with my local context and some have a larger scope.

What I have noticed is that there is some poor theology, laziness, and fear of failure that justifies why I am stagnate in my professional development and not living into the larger dream God has put in my life. In my last post I looked at poor theology, and this post I will examine how laziness is a huge deterrent from running after our dream.

Laziness: We live in an instant gratification society. Everything in our world is about getting a quick buck and becoming instantly famous. We want to graduate from college or seminary and land a $100,000 a year job. We are called and gifted and should work within our strengths. We want to be high level managers without working through the ranks.

A few years ago I had a conversation with a recent college grad who had a huge heart for ministry and amazing gifts for it as well. She wanted to pour her lives into high school girls. She really only wanted to do the deep relational work of youth ministry. There was no space for things like games, middle school boys, parents, logistics, etc. What I didn't have the heart to tell her is that her passions lined up perfectly with a volunteer youth worker. But what I did tell her is that the kind of job she dreams about having is a great dream. But that job happens down the road in ministry. You have to pay your dues, take jobs that are not ideal, do tasks that are boring and uninspiring. But if you swim in the right pond, then you have a real opportunity to work towards the dream job in ministry, whatever that takes. The one thing it will for sure take is hard work and effort.

I am sad to admit that I enjoy the show American Idol. It is everyone's dream, including mine, that someone will come across my amazing talent and promote me to the top of my field. But after 10+ seasons with thousands and thousands of contestants, only 2 have really become famous. That is because there is a rule that works again this get famous quick dream. It is the rule of 10,000 hours.

Malcolm Gladwell sites this study in his book Outliers where he argues that people at the top of their field got there because they had put in a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice. He sites famous musicians, writers, artists, programmers, all got there through hours and hours of practice. His two most interesting examples were Bill Gates and The Beatles.

To be the top of your field in wherever you are called takes intentional time and hard work. Writing a few blogs, speaking at a couple of camps, running a stable youth ministry, that is easy. You are naturally gifted, and your gifts and calling can get you pretty far, but to take any of those things to the next level take hours and hours of intentional practice, evaluation, and more practice. Here is a plan to do that. Seth Godin has another take here. Either way it takes some smarts and lots of hard work.

Besides the 10,000 hours we need to put in, we also must come to terms with our genuine obstacles. Personally, you might not have enough education or experience, or your skill set might be lacking. In your local context, the obstacles might be the number of students, the health of our church, or our budget. In a larger context it might be your lack of connections and opportunities. Obstacles are called obstacles because they are things that interrupt the easy and natural flow. Everyone has them, and it simply takes time and effort to overcome them.

All of us are willing to work hard in the short term if there are instant benefits. But if we are truly going to run after our dream, our true calling, then we have to get to work. The "poor me" card gets old really fast, and un-checked envy causes deep seeded resentment and bitterness. The kings in their respected fields all got there partly because they have some amazing gifts and used their connections, but mostly, they got there through an incredible work ethic.

If we are going to be who God has called us to be, then we must work hard! It is a crime to think that simply updating your facebook, collecting friends on twitter, and reading a bunch of books and blogs about going after it, will somehow result in you living into the vision God himself has put in your heart. If you are going to go after it, then you MUST get off the couch, wake up earlier, come up with a plan and begin to work it out.

Today is a great day to started!

Part 3: Fear of Failing

why we sit on our butts and miss out on our calling part 1: poor theology

I don't know about you, but it is easy for me to watch other ministry professionals' career take off and soar and wonder when it is going to be my turn. This feeling has plagued me throughout my entire career. It has looked differently over the years. Why did I get passed up for that job? Why is my group stagnate while the church down the street is booming? Why don't I get to preach more? Why did that guy get picked to speak at that retreat? Why did they get to be a part of that cohort, and I wasn't? Why did they choose her to write that article and not me? Why did my proposal get turned down, and theirs was accepted? I recognize that at the core of who I am, I wrestle with envy. Now, part of this is of course sinful. Watching what others have and wanting that for myself. That part is part of my flesh that I must die to every day. But if we are honest, part of this battle is that there is a real vision of the person that God has made me to be, and I am in the birth pains of trying to work that out.

If you can humor me for a minute. Assuming that we have done the hard spiritual work of dying to our fleshly envy, what is left is some unrealized vision of who we might be if we were fully living into the person God made us to be. And what I want to do is figure out who that person is, and then run after it with all my might. So when I use terms like, "advance" or "move upward," I am simply saying that there is a larger call that is being pursued.

What I have noticed is that there are some poor theology, laziness, and fear of failure that justifies why many of my colleagues and I are stagnate in our professional development and not living into the larger dream God has put in our lives. This is what I mean: Poor Theology: When I look around at my peers and see the fruit of their ministries, the opportunities they have to speak, the invitations to be a part of special cohorts, the books and articles that they publish, I think that it must all be spiritual. These people are faithful to their calling and God has blessed them. Now while that is entirely true across the board, what is untrue is that it is simply a spiritual matter that they are advancing in their careers.

A book that has changed my life is Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. In this book, Gladwell challenges the assumption that it is simply hard work that moves people along the path of career advancement. And in the Church we can add, God's will. But what Gladwell observes is that people are born into unique settings with unique connections that allow for certain kinds of success.

Going back over my list of people who I am envious of, I realize that many of them have had very unique opportunities based on their unique connections. Working at a mega-church, or being friends of a well known and connected pastor, or being related to someone connected are the easiest and main ways people advance in careers in ministry. On a side note, once you are given the opportunity, it is imperative that you come through and do a good job. But if the connection is made and you can adequately accomplish the task given, doors begin to open for you.

Now you have opportunities to speak at camps and retreats, present at conferences and trainings. And as you do this well, more and more doors will open up to you.

But what about the people who did not land in a context that allows them to make connections and advance in ministry. There are many youth workers who are in this camp, who excel in their small-unconnected context, faithfully serving. For most of my career in ministry I have found myself among the unconnected. God has given me a vision of what kind of youth worker I can be, what unique things I can bring to the table in my local context and beyond. But if I land in the place where I actually think that it must just be God's will to only do X or only be Y, then I am afraid I will be missing out what God actually might have in store for me.

I love the story of Joseph who had a vision of himself where he was going to be someone respected and bowed down to by his brothers. It was a dream given to a spoiled kid. Because Joseph shared that vision of who he was going to be in an immature way, he paid the price. He was sold into slavery, wrongly accused and spent years and years in prison. But sure enough, as God was refining his character, the vision of what God originally put in his heart, finally came to fruition. A similar account happens with David who was anointed at a young age, but doesn't live into that anointing until years later. Even Paul was given a vision of who we was going to be in the church, but it took years of trials and testing until that was proven true.

I firmly believe that God gives us certain visions of who we are to be in the body of Christ. There is no hierarchy of visions or places God calls us into in His body. The body of Christ is so diverse and made up of so many unique parts. The vision God has given me will be different the vision God has given you. So, no mater what the calling God gives us, we are to be faithful to pursue that calling with all of our hearts and will all of our strength.

Too often, we simply affirm that God has given us a vision to do something or be someone, and then we sit and wait for our big break. We can not be passive in this pursuit of our calling. God rarely grabs passive people waiting for him to show up. We all know that it is easier to steer a car in motion then one standing still, and the same must be true as we work out our calling. We cannot rely on poor theology and passively stand by as our our dreams wither and die. We must get off our butts and work hard to pursue God and work out our calling.

Next we will look at our natural bent toward laziness and the status quo and how that squashes our abilities and opportunities to advance toward our call.

Part 2: Laziness Part 3: Fear of Failing