Finding the right challenge for success.
Have you ever been to a place or an event and thought “I can do that way better?” I do that with almost every church I have set foot in. Until now..but more on this later. First you need a little background to make the story interesting.
I grew up the son of a preacher man in the Southern Baptist flavor of religion. Most of the churches I grew up in were small and well-meaning. This translates to if there was anything new to be done, someone in my family had to do it. Because of this, I became adept at solving problems. If you needed old equipment to work, give me a bit and I can fix it. Did you want to try something new and interesting – I will figure out how. During this process, church became all about what I could do.
On the flipside, I never had any freedom to figure out who I was – much less learn how to express myself. See, when you grow up as the preacher man’s #1 son, everyone has an opinion on who you should be. Every action had judgement coming, and every misstep was not only an offense to the people of the church, but also a slight to my family’s reputation.
So I spent most of my time and energy being the best at everything. I could set up the sound system, revamp the computer, direct the choir, lead the praise team, and speak from the pulpit on occasion. I was the jack of all trades, and contrary to old wives’ tales I was a master at most. As I grew into physical adulthood and as I searched for who I truly was – well as they say old habits died hard.
I would find a church that seemed different from others. And to be fair, each was a shade or degree different than the last. So as I searched, I did get slowly further away from what I had known. However, the habit was I would go in looking to be accepted, and to a point I would be. Then I would find a way to “plug in,” which is easily translated to “find a job to do.” And then my natural skills and talents kicked in and I would either outshine the pastor, I would be too aggressive in my forward thinking, or you can put any number of thoughts here that represent people not really wanting to change or truly take the scary path of seeking truth. The third strike would often start kicking in shortly there after.
In gaining some acceptance for a part of who I was, and then gaining praise and admiration for what I could do, I would inevitably show more of the bear to people. In one case, I would lay open my heart and soul with the fear and angst of my shaky marriage, my then-uncontrollable issues with my family, and my general pain against the world. And as good Christians do – they ran like scared picnickers (Yogi Bear reference yo!) It was there that I did receive one piece of good advice from a strong Christian man: seek counseling. That was the last church I went to for many years.
Now the “I can do that better” played a part in many of these stories. You see, when we as humans are damaged, we tend to hide behind the actions that make us feel better. Like a pastor will “be strong” for his flock or in general lack content in his presentation because he is afraid to show us who he was. When I would start to feel shut out or belittled, I would show them how to get things done. I have always been good at connecting with people and some have said I am a natural born leader. Not a good bear to have when you want to feel good about “how good you are at what you do.” Because I can usually do it better. I have done “The church thing” since I can remember, was damaged by Christians at the age of 12, and have been working the game since then. So yeah, I am better at you in almost all aspects of “doing the job.”
Anyway, that brings me almost to where I started this article. In the years away from church I committed myself to seeking truth and to find out who I was without the shackles of who I was told I should be. I spent so much blood, sweat, and tears on myself, and it was worth it. It was a long road and at some point my wife and I determined we both had a desire to find a church. Now I told you all that story to get you to understand it wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had been safe to heal and work on myself, but in returning to the church I would be facing decades of habits and demons that I didn’t know how to face. But by this point I had learned to trust myself and my wife – so we moved forward.
There were many a church service we would try, and the short story is I always found something I could do better. Until I found the “Church in the Now.” My wife had attended this church as a teenager for many years and wanted me to give it a try. I avoided it for different reasons until I quit kidding myself. See, in seeking out a place to grow we had put together a priority list of why we were seeking a church. CITN fit these priorities, so to be true to my path I gave it a shot.
I can tell you it wasn’t love at first sight. It took a few different tries over a year or so before this relationship took. But something that remained true throughout this process was this … the ability to disappear. The tech team didn’t need me, the praise team was out of my league, and the bishop could lead me like no one else in this world has been able to. I found myself for the first time in my life not wanting to do anything to participate. I was truly there to get what I came for and leave. I have never experienced anything like this in my life. Ever. I didn’t know the first name of anyone, I never interacted with the events offered, and I grew and fed and healed like never before.
Now that isn’t the moral of my story. If you recall three days ago when you began reading this long article I started with – I could do better until now. In the last 6 months my wife and I came to a place in our relationship with the church that it was now time to give back. It was time to get involved because they needed us, but not in the job kind of way. But again I have to tell this slightly backwards.
Recently the habit of seeing people in the seats kicked in. Basically all speakers want butts in their seats to speak to. I am a speaker, so as I get involved my mind starts tracking the empty seats as a habit. During the first three months of 2013, attendance dropped and it concerned me. Wrongfully, mind you – I was allowing myself to worry about things that had nothing to do with me. Anyway, recently in one of the services where it was emptier than what I expected to see, I had an epiphany. The Bishop was speaking on parents bragging about their kids and how that was great. Then he started speaking about specific families in the church and the successes their kids were achieving. That clicked in my mind with the success I had seen in many of the dedicated adults there, and what I was seeing in my own life.
I realized that I was part of a successful group. That here, bigger and badder were the norm. I was surrounded by a small but driven group to be better. I am challenged, energized, and driven to fulfill all four of the keys to our phrase: Bigger, Badder, Better, More. That’s why my wife and I have been attracted to become more involved. We are not working – we are rowing with the team to become stronger. Here I cannot do it better than anyone else. What I can do is dig deeper to find out more of who I am. Here I can level up my life and it not only is celebrated – it is the norm.
If you find yourself unpassionate, unchallenged, and only in your church (or other volunteer group situation) out of duty or “responsibility,” then quit. Quit lying to yourself that only you can do that one job. Find passion, seek love, chase down the life that brings you energy – grab that tiger by the tail and hold on with everything you have.
If you don’t know how to start, or you just want to see what moves me, then tune in Sunday mornings 11am E and/or Wednesday nights 7pm E to my church. Stop wasting your life – find something that moves you today.