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

the top 10 media that shaped my 2010

with 2010 wrapping up, i thought i would add my little nugget to the overwhelming verity of top 10 lists.  unfortunately i am not clever enough to share the top 10 quotes, or savvy enough to share the top 10 youtube videos, or hip enough to share the top 10 songs. thankfully, there are plenty of those people out there in the world.  but it was an interesting exercise to think about the top 10 media that has shaped me this year.  these are the books, movies, commercials, websites, etc, that have actually impacted my thinking and therefore impacted my actions throughout the year.  some of these media have dramatically altered the course of my life, and others have simply  brought joy.  but no matter how significant they are in the grand scheme of things, these are the 10 media that has shaped me over this past year.

1.  outliers: the story of success by malcolm gladwell:  if i could be anyone, other than my handsome self, i think i would choose gladwell.  he is one of the most interesting and thought provoking writers i have ever read.  the unique way he approaches the world is amazing.  he can see the big picture, he understands the systems, and describes culture in a clever and thoughtful way.  outliers is not a new book this year, but it was new to me.  he dismantles the story of success.  our story is that if you work hard and apply yourself you will succeed.  but he unpacks this story and highlights how there are unique cultural stories that shape what success means and then adds historical, social, and economic factors that play into how successful someone can be.   it helped me understand some of my professional angst, as well as helped me come up with a plan for change.  (if one can actually break out of their historical, cultural, and social settings)  we will have to see how this goes in 2011.

2.  sustainable youth ministry by mark devries: i loved this book!  as someone who has been doing youth ministry for 15 years, i wasn't sure how i was going to take another "how to" book for youth ministry.  but for the first time i read a book where the author calls out our profession and the need for real and healthy systems to deliver an impacting message.  in his forward he describes how many books talk about the treasure in the jars of clay, but this book was about developing our jars.  for me, this book came at just the right time and gave me a fresh picture of ministry and challenged some of my systems which both added life and freshness to this calling into student ministry.

3.  harry potter (the movies): i know i am a late comer to this harry potter deal.  but as i have re-engaged my calling to student ministry and challenged to re-engage the ever changing youth culture, i have finally gotten around to watching these movies.  although the movies themselves may not have rocked my world, the refreshing work that god has been doing in me to get to the point of actually wanting to watch them is significant, and therefore worthy of the list.

4.  modern family: this is hands down my favorite television show.  every week i come home from  youth group and laugh out loud and all of the antics in this show.  for the first time in a long time there is a show that represents real life and doesn't take it too seriously.  it is a true situational comedy.  as someone who needs to laugh more, this is a vital part of my media diet.

5.  why we love the church by kevin deyoung and ted kluck: i came across this book last christmas and spent the early part of the year digesting it.  i have spent the last couple of years reading through the many "we are pissed at the church," "we love jesus, but hate the church," and "if only the church didn't screw everything up" books.  this book was a fresh departure from that genre.  this book is a thoughtful, biblical, and theological argument for the institutional church.  and since 99% of the christians i know participate in an institutional church and 100% of the youth workers i know are employed by one, it was nice to read a book that affirms what we all do, and gives hope for moving forward.  say no to angst and bitterness and yes to hope.

6.  affirming the apostles' creed by j.i. packer: as i have come to a re-found respect for the institutional church, i have also come to a re-awaking of some of the history and traditions of our faith that are the foundation of who we are and what we believe.  the apostles' creed is one of the foundational documents for the church, and packer's book on them was a refreshing and convicting devotional.  packer challenges the reader to understand that the continual dilution of the gospel and our history is bad for our faith development and for the church.  at some point we need to step up and do some of the hard intellectual work to understand the deeper things of faith.  and this book, for being a quick read, gave new life to an old document.

7.  realclearpolitics.com: in case you were living under a rock  2010 was an election year.  no matter where you land on the political spectrum, you have to admit that this was the most important election EVER!!  actually, i think that is said about every election.  i think the political process is so interesting.  it seems that politics is less and less about governing, and more about battling for the hearts and minds of the electorate.  it is a grudge match between two opposing teams, who actually hate each other.  it is sad how divided we are and how much weight political party identification shapes our presuppositions.  for the past few election cycles i have enjoyed playing the devil's advocate in discussions and debate.  and i have found this website to give me plenty of ammunition for both sides.

8. rei commercial:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXOMQMcFfPg]

i watch this commercial, and i want to get into my car, drive to yosemite, hike through the wilderness, and even have small, meaningless conversation with people i meet.  rei has captured the longings of this suburban man.  thankfully i have finally gotten the church credit card to be and rei card, and this march i will have almost $500 in dividends to spend, and will be spending this spring and summer using my equipment to live out my less handsome version of this commercial.

9.  All things apple: as you could probably tell from #8, i am weak minded when it comes to the power of advertising.  because of commercials i have bought scarves from gap, speed reading programs from informercials, and even a kriby. i admit it, i have a problem.  but one problem i don't want to be cured from is apple.  their commercials speak to my soul.  i actually stop our tivo just to watch them.  i will sell everything in my garage, save up for a year, whatever it takes to buy the next product.  right now i am saving up  for the april launch of the ipad 2.  let's facetime!

10.  red: this was an amazing film.  the cinematography , the screen play, the special effects, and the acting are all worthy of . . .  ok, the movie red is not worthy of any special honors.  but it did have bruce willis in it.  so how did this movie round out my top 10 list?  one of my favorite rhythms of this year has been to wait until the wife and kids are asleep, grab some guy friends, and go to the movies.  as a man, i like simple movies where things blow up.  i pretend to like the academy award movies so i have things to talk about in social gatherings, but the truth is i want to see action.  this shameful vice has been great for my soul and for my male bonding.  (crying during small groups is great, but awful action movies are need too)

we are shaped by so many things, it was interesting to reflect on what shaped me.  what shaped you?  i wonder what will shape me this next year!  happy new year!