Why do you do what you do? Bruce Lee, one of the greatest innovators in the martial arts world – a man whose writings I have studied fairly extensively, said that the genius of sculpture is not knowing where to add more clay, but knowing where to take it away. The art of life is knowing what I am called to do, and then doing THAT AND ONLY THAT.
We see it all over scripture:
- Jethro tells Moses "You’re doing too much – knock it off!"
- The first church leaders (Acts 6) create ministry teams to allow the leaders to lead and not be bothered with important, but distracting, food distribution.
- Jesus is pursued – heck he’s flat out stalked – "Stay in our town – keep healing people"…but his mission is in J-town, so he keeps walking.
I struggle with this… a lot of people want/expect me to do a whole lot of stuff that THEY think a pastor should do. And in my experience NO ONE will ever tell you to stop doing so much… Most people will applaud your "work ethic", "dependability", and "availability" right until the moment you crash and burn. The only thing that will stop this is knowing what on earth heaven has called you to do. It’s taken a lot of years, but I believe strongly that God has asked me to do these things, and in this order:
- Follow Jesus. My relationship with God is first. How wasted would my life be if I spent so much time "working for" Jesus that I forgot to know him intimately?
- Be a husband to Jennifer and a father to my boys. My family is my primary relational responsibility – if I fail them, people are impacted for generations. After generations of father abusing son in my extended family, it stopped with me…and I am the genesis of a whole new family system. My three sons get to restart the Bell family – and how I love their mother is paramount to that process. Nothing short of Jesus is more important.
- Lead his church. I am not what most people think of when they think of a pastor (forget the shaved head and goatee). I am not a good counselor (Yeah, you’re pretty screwed up… better stop doing that), I am not inclined to appease people for political reasons, and I’m not patient with religious types. But I DO feel strongly about a vision God entrusted to me about the way a church should be: a place where regular folks don’t have to put up with religious hypocrisy before they encounter God; a place where the whims of a few connected people don’t prevent the sickest, wickedest, most twisted, confused, hurting, and messed up people from hearing about JESUS in a language they understand and in a culture that is appealing, welcoming, and relevant. A place where people are free to question, journey, stretch, and challenge the boundaries of God without being ostracized because they don’t think, dress, and vote like everyone else in the church.
That means that anything that doesn’t fulfill one of these three missions I DON"T HAVE TIME OR ENERGY FOR. PERIOD. Other people can "You should" and "Could you" to death… No matter the expectation (well, a good pastor would do this…. or you really should do that…) I must do only those things that make me better in one of those three roles.
That is why I don’t do night meetings – I want to be home with my family. It’s why I don’t do any counseling or many hospital visits – I am not good at them and they drain me terribly. It’s also why I now keep my mornings free of meetings – I am at my best in the morning and I want to spend that time with God.
Know what God called you and don’t let ANYTHING stop you from giving your whole life to that thing. People who are trying to control you for selfish reasons will tell you that you let them down, or that you don’t measure up. They will call you cocky, arrogant, aloof, mean-spirited, and question your motives. But don’t worry about letting people down… they won’t be sitting in the Big Chair at the end of your life. This doesn’t mean I have a license to abuse people or neglect them. It simply means that I see them through the light of the mission and vision God has entrusted to me, instead of letting them set my mission and vision. And that, man, is freedom.