the leaders needed… the easy way out
August 31, 2007
Yesterday I was quickly seeing some friends over lunch. We are all studying theology, all of us started out to be ministers in the Dutch Reformed Church. All of us was forced to get at the point of realizing that something is terribly wrong, and that the church is mayorly missing what it’s supposed to do. All of us ‘achieved above average’, in society, or academics, or leadership positions in the church, faculty, university etc. All of us are entering a church where the average age of pastors are getting quite old, and pastors are retiring at a trememdous rate. All of us are living in South Africa, and realize that the real challanges are much bigger than we are capable of handling.
At one point, one of us said that sometimes (s)he just want to get to a point where (s)he know what to do. Where (s)he know the system, know how to work within the system etc. And not in a bad way, in a good way, nurturing people, begin their when they are in trouble, talking to them about God, and all those kind of stuff. Yes, (s)he said, (s)he know about all those outside the church, but sometimes (s)he just want to settle down, find a congregation, and do the things pastors in congregations do. OK, this might not have been the exact words, but this is what it came down to.
And the reality is that the option will always be there for us. To settle down, become another pastor, caring for another flock. Helping them, preaching to them, visiting them, making money to keep the church going, having meetings to plan how to fix the roof, and getting paid for it. And it’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong. You’ll be the one who get’s called out when one of the sheep in the flock is sick, may even be contemplating suicide, and you’ll be there for them, and we can never make that off as something small. One of the pastors I’m curently working with said something significant a few weeks ago, he said that we should always remember that people come to you, and trust you with things they will trust no one else. And that is significant, a God-given opportunity to help someone else.
But the realities of a world full of need. Of thousands daily dying from lack of proper food and water, from AIDS, from simply bad government (Zimbabwe). The realities of thousands of people who are mentaly of physically impared, and need to fend for themselves on streets. The realities of multi-billion companies that exist only for the elite few percent of the world while 1.6 billion people are living in absolute poverty, that is absolute poverty a few billion more are living in near absolute poverty, which all of us reading this would also consider absolutely poor if suddenly we had to live like that.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know how! Here I am, typing away on a laptop, thinking which cellphone I would next use, feeling slightly hungry, since I missed breakfast this morning, but knowing that I’ll get to lunch shortly, spending more each month on petrol than most of the world would spend on food. And giving all this up won’t really make a difference. But at some point we will have to become the leaders that are willing to say that we were called for the world, and not for a certain domination, or congregation. We’ll be part of a system somewhere, and that’s fine, that’s life, but we need leaders: theologians, Engineers, Artists, Secretaries, bloggers; that will make themselves available to reach the world.
There is an easy way out. And what is making it worse is the fact that it’s not a ‘bad’ option, it’s a highly religious option, caring for highly religious people, working out sermons, liturgies, meetings, making money and building churches. But it might just be missing the realities of the world we are living in.
I found this prayer, written for Sir Francis Drake, who between 1577 and 1560 shipped right around the world. Might be a prayer we need to pray from time to time… maybe daily.
Prayer of Sir Francis Drake
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth, We have allowed our vision Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land, We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future In strength, courage, hope, and love.