Do you ever feel overwhelmed as a spiritual leader or growing Christian? Do you ever wonder if you’re making any real difference? Do you battle with feelings of failure, impatience, and awkwardness? Read on…
I recently read a fantastic book entitled “Prophetic Untimeliness” by Os Guinness. It’s a small book of incredible depth. (As a side note, his book “The Call” is also fantastic.)
The central-message of the book is essentially this: When we pursue relevance, we become irrelevant, but when we lift up truth, we are always relevant. God’s truth is always relevant because it is indeed timeless, which makes it always timely. Yet we live in a day when Christians have become bored with the truth, feeling it is out-dated and irrelevant. This leads us down a road of experimentation—trying insatiably to mask truth, improve it, dress it up, market it, and make it APPEAR attractive.
My ministry goal is not to dress up truth, but rather get out of its way! The relevance road is a dead end of manipulation—reinvent the church, redesign the truth, and make every effort to make it attractive.
Here’s the real catch! The gospel, the love of God, the grace of God, the truth of God—these things are eternally, irrepressibly ATTRACTIVE! We could not possibly make them MORE attractive! These things are deeply infectious to the human heart. We neither need to MAKE them attractive or DISGUISE them as attractive. They ARE attractive. We simply need to STOP making them unattractive.
Os shares three thoughts that connected with feelings I regularly experience—as a pastor, spiritual leader, and growing Christian. Every spiritual leader and Christian will wrestle with these emotions on some level.
If you are going to be an EFFECTIVE and FAITHFUL servant of Jesus Christ, there are three costs that will hound you for your entire journey.
Before we discover the costs, remember—Truth is timeless, so when you commit to truth (and stop messing with it) you become infinitely relevant and valuable to your world. Your message suddenly has teeth. Your life-purpose suddenly has substance and significance. God’s Word never needs to adapt—it transcends adaptation. It rises above cultural nuances—if we will apply wisdom in its delivery.
When we lose sight of truth’s timelessness we’re essentially admitting that we fail to understand truth. Truth doesn’t adapt, it doesn’t bend, it can’t be shaped or shifted. It must be accepted, understood, applied, and embraced. Truth subjects us whether we want it to or not. Time doesn’t shape truth. Truth shapes time. Secular culture doesn’t change truth. Truth changes secular culture. The more we attempt to adapt God’s truth, the more we lose our relevance.
(As a side note, I spend my life seeking to make truth understandable to secular culture and modern minds. This is not so much pursuing relevance, as uncovering it and letting it shine.)
So, as a spiritual leader or growing Christian, what will truth cost you? What will truthful timeliness cost you? What will difference-making require?
Os shares three costs…
Awkwardness—the cost of “a sense of maladjustment”—you’ll wake up every day feeling just a bit out of sync with the culture around you. You will feel like you “don’t quite fit in.” This doesn’t mean we segregate or isolate ourselves from culture. It does NOT mean we relish or flaunt being stuck in a 1935 cultural model. It does mean, to make a difference we must first BE different. This is not “old fashioned.” This is not “old” at all—it’s TIMELESS. It’s being willing to stand upon what is eternal, never outdated, frankly—always new.
This brings awkwardness, and many Christians prefer to fit in. We want cool and trendy over eternal and truthful. The missing connection is that truth is always VERY relevant. It transcends cool and always speaks to trends. It trumps “cool and trendy” with “even more awesome” every time!
Christian—be comfortable being “strategically out of sync” with secular thinking. Stay informed. Remain connected—intelligently equipped to dialogue with culture, but resist the temptation to be “in sync” or to fit in. Your differences are your voice! Truth can only speak in contrast to lies.
Impatience—the cost of “a tendency toward impatience”—a spiritual leader always desires himself, God’s people, and God’s purposes to be further down the road of growth and maturity. We long for a different, better, higher place spiritually. We want to be better leaders. We long to see God’s people grow forward. We desire to see lost souls believe in Jesus. We pray for casual Christians become passionate Christians. We labor that the church might have fresh vision, and a greater voice.
Built into this passion (against the status quo) is a tendency to be impatient or discontent with “the here and now.” A longing for another place makes us impatient in “this place.”
Impatience is a great temptation for every Christian. To make a difference, you must get used to feeling impatient, and intentionally choose patience. Being patient doesn’t mean you lose your passion. It means you subject your passion to the providence and pace of God.
IMPATIENCE will cause you to get ahead of God, in your own flesh. Or impatience will cause you to slump into discouragement. Neither place is productive. PATIENCE will temper your passion and allow God to retain control. Patience will cause you to thirst for more, but trust God with the process. PATIENCE will prevent you from manufacturing your own results FOR God, and allow you to rest in HIS results through you.
Failure—the cost of “a sense of failure”—“I’m not making a difference.” “What I hoped would happen, didn’t happen.” “I can’t measure visible results.” Think about how often you feel like a failure as a Christian or leader. Think about how often in scripture, God defined success in terms that would appear to be failure. Was Jeremiah a success? Absolutely. But he sure couldn’t see it or feel it.
Built into daily Christian living and ministry is a general sense of failure. Even if you have a visibly fruitful environment, there is always more growth, more needs, more people to reach. There are aways more people rejecting the message than accepting it. It never takes long to feel you are failing. This is a bad road to go down emotionally and mentally.
We tend to define success in terms of achievement. But God defines success in terms of obedience. And God specializes in taking “apparent failure” and revealing it to be massive success!
A.W. Tozer said it this way, “Our Lord died an apparent failure, discredited by the leaders of established religion, rejected by society and forsaken by His friends…. It took the resurrection to demonstrate how gloriously Christ had triumphed and how tragically the governor had failed. …How much eager-beaver religious work is done out of a carnal desire to make good. …No man is worthy to succeed until he is willing to fail.”
Truth makes us timely and “able to make a difference.” But it also places us in the vice-grip of three difficult emotions:
—We will feel maladjusted, misfit to the world around us
—We will battle impatience personally and organizationally
—We will feel a failure, in spite of success in God’s eyes
Christian—keep growing in grace! Leader—keep leading forward in truth! Don’t let these three costs derail you from growing forward. You are more successful, further down the road than you realize, and to the kingdom where you are headed, you are a perfect fit!
(Did this article encourage you? Share it with a friend, it might encourage someone you love!)