Here's a personal confession.
At the National Pastors Convention (NPC) we attended seminars as often as we could. We interacted with well-known leaders and got some of the inside scoop through Zondervan. Because we are authors and seminar leaders, they gave us special treatment. I often feel self-conscious and suspicious of special treatment, but I sensed a lot of sincerity from the Zondervan group.
Halfway through the convention, I started to feel overwhelmed with the dynamics. One lunch, Jonalyn and I went to In-N-Out and talked about our impressions together. I shared discouragement over seeing so many leaders, so many on the 'cutting edge' of their fields, and how their age and experience and knowledge so far surpasses my own. It was that part of me that wants to serve the church through a non-profit and yet seeing myself as contributing little compared to what many, especially professors, are offering.
The other half of the discouragement came from seeing those I didn't perceive as all that qualified getting so much press and coverage. And I see the new 'pastor celebrity movement,' putting young mega-pastors into print, in part, because they will sell many copies and not necessarily because they are saying anything much more than is already published. And that's discouraging. I'd often rather hear the passionate professor over a pastor anyway (is that bad?)
So there I was at In-N-Out, struggling with these two dichotomies, reflecting on my own mission, struggle, voice. It was a mire of self-reflection, really, that gooped me over with despair. In the quest to help others see God had I become focussed on how I'd get to that point?
I recently read a commentary on how attractive power is to the evangelical community (well, any community really, the Christian one being nonexempt), how we cling to it when we get it and forget our purpose in it. And I saw how that temptation was creeping into my own thoughts. I was focussed on getting into a higher 'status,' to get 'recognized' for the purpose of having a broader voice. Was I conflating my desire to for a 'broader voice' with desires to be validated, affirmed, be seen as important?
So two things emerged from this, from prayer, from my experience at NPC. And it had nothing to do with what was taught at the NPC. This reflection came from observation of the evangelical climate of the convention and my own struggle to be 'successful' at my work and a leader of the larger body.
So here's my motto to grow into for 2008. Jonalyn and I have been saying it to each other at our various events since my In-N-Out confession.
1) Be yourself
2) Serve the people
That's all I have to offer. And that's what God wants me to do. Keeping those two simple ideas before me as a discipline of 'centering down' my motivations and gifts has already proved to be a relief of a burden and a focus on the needs of my audience.
I'll add a third idea that I learned from my acting mentor, Bethany Crawford, in college. After all the preparation and rehearsals were over, she'd tell me to let all of it go and allow the rehearsals to carry my action. My job on the stage at the moment of performance was to concentrate not on the technique of storytelling or characterization. Rather it was to enjoy the performance. Before I'd go on, she'd say this idea I'm adding as the third part of my new motto:
3) Have fun.
And there's my personal confession.
I have an additional fear that if I am to 'be myself' that they won't like me as 'myself.' But I guess they will have to deal with it. Cause that's all I've got. It's the human thing.
Be Yourself. Serve the People. Have Fun.