I have not taken to writing too much on the ole “Sword and Trowel” of late. The reason is that the Spirit began to uncover some things in my soul that needed some attention. As that has been happening, it’s been hard to write. So, I’ve not written a ton.
One item the Spirit uncovered was my operating for the eyes and approval of “men”. The other was a by-product of number one, and that was that I was operating out of weaknesses not strengths.
For some this may sound tame in some lame comparison to other sins. But the reality is that what I was doing is a gross form of idolatry, and the object of my worship was none other than my own fame. That’s some nasty stuff.
Where and how that all started can be traced back to a particular point in which someone I respected told me I was a professor/teacher and not a pastor. I’m not going to go into the nuances of professor/teacher/pastor etc. Just suffice it to say that to make any such judgment on any ministry person is stupid and an abject failure to recognize gifting, wiring and plurality in the pastorate as right and normal. However, when a younger person hears such and seeks to honor the older respected person’s thoughts and opinions without regard for their own Spirit gifts and abilities it begins a negative course correction that is damaging.
Somehow, I ended up in a place where I spoke, acted, wrote, preached from a framework designed by me to please others, prove I was capable and ultimately in a competitive nature such as a I have, to win.
What I discovered is that I can succeed at doing things NOT the way I’m wired. I’m an adaptor in the Strengths Finder assessments. It’s my number one strength. I can adapt to any place and any need. However, just because I can adapt does not mean I always should. What I did was almost extinguish natural and Spirit gifts.
There is a good chance that no one has ever noticed any of this. Why? I’m a good adaptor. I can cover it up through learning how to be whatever I need to be.
Over the past few years as the Lord healed and corrected me by putting me in solid covenant community with the RL group my family is in, constructed the most amazing body of pastors known to man to work with, and grew my relationship with my spiritual Dad, Bob, and spiritual brothers Omar, Steve, Kevin B, Kevin C, Scott, Mike, Daniel and Nic. This work of the Spirit in community has brought me to the place that I have begun to shed those adopted weaknesses disguised as strengths and I’m limping back into simply being who God made me to be.
How might these internal shifts be manifest? There will be some things others may see. Mostly, these shifts will result in internal peace for me and a longer life due to repentance and believing God. I hope that affects my performance for the better, but I am more hopeful that God is pleased with me working for his eyes and approval and not the eyes and approval of men. No doubt I have a job to do, and I am accountable to a body of men who are my pastors, but they want what I want…to hear and obey on the same vision and strategy and tactics together. We are a unified, peaceful, loving joyful team on mission. That’s good.
What are some take aways from my experience?
- Be careful with the words you speak to and over others. Truly life and death are in the tongue.
- Be careful who you allow to speak authoritatively over you. Sometimes you have to hear others talk, but you don’t have to “receive” their words if they are not life. Try to discern good fruit.
- Be careful here, don’t take this too far, but be who you are created to be in Christ. Don’t use this statement as an excuse to be lazy in developing and growing oneself into the best one can be through hard work. The point is that I can’t be Bob Roberts or John Piper or Matt Chandler or George Muller. I can be the absolute best Mitchell Jolly I can be through blood, sweat and tears.
- I came to see these idolatrous things I was doing through daily bible reading, prayer, journaling and being in covenant community and listening to the Spirit through the preached word. SO…don’t fail to be disciplined in the disciplines of following Jesus. Don’t fail to be in covenant community (your church’s small groups whatever form they take), and don’t fail to be present for corporate worship under the preaching of God’s word. It’s essential to hearing and obeying.
- Being who God made me to be does not mean I can be a jerk. Some people use such things as I’m saying here to justify meanness. That’s not what I’m saying. Being who God made to be is being that person IN CHRIST. That means being holy. This does not mean that some people won’t interpret stated truth as hurtful or the bearer of said truth as mean, but that is because truth can confront sin, and that is not comfortable. I can state truth properly and let Jesus be in charge of how it lands. But I can’t be a jerk in how I do it.
I hope this helps you a bit. It has been good for my soul to process, and I hope to pick up using this space to sharpen our focus on what matters, laugh a little and poke some idols together!