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Do What You Do Do Well!

By Hedgehog.

One Sunday evening, over 30 years ago, I went with some friends to a well-attended Pentecostal church. The occasion sticks in my memory, not for the sermon (totally forgotten!), nor for the company (excellent though it was) nor even for the warmth of the welcome (I’m sure it was), but for the following reason. During the service, a lady was invited to the front by the pastor to sing a solo. To this day I struggle for words to adequately describe those five minutes of my life. It was dire! Apart from the mawkish music and sentimental lyrics, the poor lady could sing neither in tune nor in time. She did not hit a single note in the middle at the first attempt! Yet when she finally spared us any more ear-splitting agony, the pastor came forward to heap fulsome praise on her efforts. Me? I lowered my head lest my eyes betray what I was thinking. I was aghast (and still am) that such appalling amateurishness should be encouraged as a virtue. It seemed that, the poorer the effort, the more God was glorified!

I had hoped that such attitudes had disappeared during the intervening years, during which time we have become accustomed to the power of electronic wizardry to transform even the most hopeless of musical hacks into a skilled musician at the mere insertion of a floppy disc and the touch of a button. Nowadays a good PA system can transform a good preacher with no voice into an overnight superstar and computers can enable even design hacks like yours truly to produce a half-decent looking card or leaflet.

But no! The truth is that the venerable tradition of amateurishness as a virtue lives on, not so much in our musicians, preachers and church magazine editors, but in our leaders. I refer to the habit of so many of our church leaders to press on with doing stuff for which they lack any semblance of gifting.

For example, how many church leaders insist on preaching traditional expository sermons when they lack both gift and skill? How many continue to visit the sick when all they do is make them feel worse? How many persist in dabbling in the dangerous waters of counselling when they are more likely to make the emotional and spiritual wounds even more difficult to heal? How many persist in mis-doing delicate administration when they simply lack the attention to detail which such work requires? And yet while they persist, all they do is damage the very thing which they hold most dear - the Church.

My own son remembers with embarrassment the attempts of a local clergyman to lead his school assembly on one day each week. The poor old chap, nearing retirement, was an absolute sweetie, and much loved by his parishioners, but the children found his efforts to get onto their wavelength squirmingly embarrassing - with maximum cringe factor.

Now, dear readers, let me ask you - would you accept such behaviour from other professionals? Of course not! What would you say if the solicitor conveyancing your house purchase had no gift or skill in doing so? How would you feel if the doctor doing your heart surgery let it be known that he was in fact a vet? What would you say if the person fixing the brakes on your car had no specialist training or ability for the job?

And the excuse church leaders usually give is that the job has to be done. Does it? Are we sure about that? And even if it does, does it have to be done by the church leader? Admittedly, in some traditions some things do have to be done by an ordained priest, but most of the rest could be done, and usually done better, by suitably gifted lay people.

So why don’t we do it? What is it that makes a church leader agree to do stuff which they are almost certain to make a hash of? Is it that they need to be needed and therefore cannot get say ‘No’ in case the requester then finds someone else to do it? Is it that they fear a loss of status - as though their status in expressed by the things they do?

Or is it that they carry so much guilt about having their stipend/salary paid out of the pockets of the churchgoers that they fall into the workaholic mode of saying ‘Yes’ to everything as a sop to their conscience?

Is it that they don’t really feel confident in their ministry and are therefore reluctant and even unable to share it with others?

Or is it that they really believe that doing things badly attracts people to Christ and promotes the Christian faith? Surely not - perish the thought!

Perhaps in the end the problem is that many of our leaders have yet to grasp the simple, but basic truth, exemplified in the death and resurrection of Christ, that you only really own what you freely give away. He who works all the hours God sends in order to save his ministry will in fact lose it.

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A lovable, but sometimes prickly fellow

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You are reading Do What You Do Do Well! by Hedgehog, part of Issue 22 of Ministry Today, published in June 2001.

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Ministry Today aims to provide a supportive resource for all in Christian leadership so that they may survive, grow, develop and become more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.

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