Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Pastors Don't Succeed

I learned a big lesson over the last 18 months that every pastor needs to know.
I'm not responsible for people's spiritual growth. At all.

That might sound counter-intuitive or maybe even irresponsible. But if I take responsibility for people's growth, I take the responsibility out of their hands. They feel better for a bit "oh, someone's going to hold my hand for a while, I don't have to do anything. Sweet." and I start to feel overworked, overburdened and resentful. But it also feels really good to have someone dependent on me for their very life. I feel needed and valued and important. But a sick, symbiotic relationship starts to develop where neither of us takes a step forward.

Every person is responsible for their own journey. Every single one. No exceptions. And what I've realized is that many people (myself included at times) don't want to be because it's too hard.
  • They'll have to think about their destructive patterns and actually confront them.
  • They'll have to engage in disciplines that aren't a current part of their routine.
  • They think they'll have to give up what they love (the reality is that they will realize what they loved is destroying them and that what they end up loving is better by a factor of 10).
  • They'll have to look at how their relationships aren't working and examine what part they have it that.
  • In short, they have to be ruthlessly honest.
This doesn't mean there's no responsibility. As Mark Waltz puts it, we have a responsibility to each other, but not for each other.

Here's how he puts it.

BlockquoteWhen I’m responsible to people I understand they have a choice. When I’m responsible for people I think I should decide for them.
When I’m responsible to people I know they must figure out their next step. When I’m responsible for people I try to tell them what their next step is.
When I’m responsible to people I allow them to bear the brunt of the consequences for their own chosen actions. When I’m responsible for people I assume the guilt, or worse the shame, for them.
When I’m responsible to people I engage in their journey, offering encouragement and teaching. When I’m responsible for people I try to direct their journey, never allowing them to wrestle, mess up or make a wrong turn.
When I’m responsible to people I talk to God on their behalf. When I’m responsible for people I talk to people a lot on God’s behalf.”

1 comment:

Josh said...

Interesting thoughts here. I wonder how you might tie in a little incarnational theology with these thoughts.