Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, July 1, 2012

it takes all of us

In Exodus 18, Moses has a problem….
He is totally overwhelmed
He is tired
Fall asleep at the desk tired.
And in real danger of implosion )  (13-18).

What’s the problem?

Moses thought he was indispensable!
Moses had become a one person show…oh, yeah, Aaron helped a little, as the “mouthpiece”
But essentially everything went to Moses, and through Moses.

And so Jethro, exercising that great freedom an authority that comes with being a Father-in-Law comes to Moses and lays it on the line.  “Moses, this isn’t working”  you have to do it differently.

Now at some level we may wonder why this was such a big problem
Let me point out a ‘few” things that occur to me

There were a number of reasons this wasn’t working.  First Moses was working from the principle that if he didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done.  See any problem with that?  Moses was one person.  One single person.  All around him were other people.  Smart people.  Qualified people.  Some people who probably had skills he didn’t have.

Is it not a matter of simple math?  It is pretty obvious that 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 people can get more done than one.  So essentially what was happening was that Moses was becoming a bottleneck…  Jethro points this out.  Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" (14). 

The line to see Moses was like the Queue at Disneyland to get on Space Mountain.   I would guess that some people stood in line all day, and never did get to talk to “the man”. 

A scond problem.  Moses was burning himself out!  Note some of the phrases in the passage
1) "Morning until evening" (13).
2) "You will surely wear out" (18a).

We joke about burn out, but it is no joking matter
One researcher who reviewed over a 100 articles on Professional Burn Out (PBO) and regularly treats impaired professionals with chemical dependency and other components of PBO, believes a diagnosis of  burnout can be made on the basis of three main symptoms:

1. Detachment (especially from clients and staff)
2. Exhaustion (physical and especially emotional)
3. Loss of satisfaction or sense of accomplishment.

Think about that.  How effective is a dissatisfied leader who has no energy and can’t connect with people?

A third issue.   Moses was doing the people of God a disservice.  First, he wasn’t being effective.  But Jethro in verse 18 suggests he is not only wearing himself self out, but the people as well.

But more important was the fact that there were all these people standing around, with nothing to do!  No role, no purpose.  It was like the people were starving, while all the time a veritable feast was sitting unused in the refrigerator.

A very wise mentor of mine once suggested that to keep people engaged in a church you need to do three things.   First, you need to help them be engaged in the mission.  They need to believe in what the organization or the church is doing.  Another way of putting this would be to say they needed to have faith.

Second, people need to have connections.  They need to be connected to the people around them.  They need to have friends.  Or be part of a group.  In the church that group might be the adult Bible Study, or the choir

Third, people need to have a task, a role.  They need to have a purpose.
Moses was robbing people of purpose.  He was doing it all.  Everyone else was just a spectator.

There is a wonderful old joke in which a famous football coach, or commentator, I can’t remember which, was ask to define football.  He said “football is 22 men running around on a field, desperately need of rest, being watched by 70,000 people desperately in need of exercise.”

That is the basic dynamic going on here with Moses.  Not a good thing.

A final issue.  I suspect that for Moses the sense of being indispensable was kind of addictive.  It feels good to be needed.  Appreciated.  It feels even better to feel as if you are REALLY important to another.  As if you are the reason they are alive.  That they can keep going.  To feel as if you have been the person who has really made the difference in a person’s life.

Ministers, counselors, physicians.  We all get trapped by this.  It is seductive.  And soon our helping becomes not about the other person, but about us.  We are helping, yes, but we are helping because it gives us identify.  It makes us feel better.  It gives us as sense of value and worth.

I certainly go to this place.  And it is sad to admit this, but almost any time I get together with pastors, what I hear is a litany about how worn out, but also how critical they are to the people in their churches.  They have a sense of being burned out.  But there is pride in that.  They like being “suffering servants”  Being martyrs

As if they are the super heroes of the faith.  They are the ones who ‘give it all” for the Kingdom
They gain their identify from helping, but more from going into this unhealthy territory of being the suffering, overworked servant of God

Jethro has a solution for all these issues .  Use other people.  Jethro called for shared responsibility.

Forget the idea of a one person show, he said.
Spread the responsibility around
Use the people around you well

And everyone will benefit.

We see this same truth echoed by Paul in I Corinthians 12 as he is talking to the early church.  Many gifts.  All needed.  Many parts.  All necessary.  No one is unimportant.  No one can be a spectator.  No one is without purpose.

In fact, the people who often thing they are unimportance, paul suggests, have critical important…

Pretty obvious isn’t it?
The work of God is not about me, as “the pastor”
It is not about the session
It is about all of us

As your know I am a little busy with other things
That is good

As some of you know, I am just a normal person, no saint
That is good

Because for this church to work, it takes all of you
You can’t lean on me
You can’t lean on the session
You can’t say, I am “just a spectator”

I can’t do it all
I shouldn’t do it
It takes all of us to make the church work
To make the church the church
The body the body
The body of Christ would look pretty funny without an arm, a hand, a leg

So the question we all need to ask ourselves is simply this
What can I do?
What can I do, to make this body functional?

I am going to be honest
I am going to try to do it on my own.  That is how I am wired
I am going to make all the mistakes of Moses
I am going to be stretched thin and vulnerable…..

Don’t let it happen!
Put me in my place
Remind me, that it is not about me
It is about us… all of us
And then let us be
The hands, the feet, the voice of Christ
In this place

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