Submit to one another out of reverance for Christ.
~ Ephesians 5:21
It's an interesting thing that we do when we begin to compare our life with that of someone else. What's even more interesting is when we begin to create a litmus test to determine whether we are successful or not.
Years ago when I served my first church, I would attend clergy meetings where the topic would often include the question, "So how many people did you have in service on Sunday?"
I learned very quickly it was a way to boast about a person's success as a pastor. Within months of serving the small faithful community I had been callled to serve, I learned to respond, "A little less than 500 souls."
To that I would then entertain eyebrows being lifted, eyes rolling, and a few, "Your kidding, right?"
I learned very quickly that ministry should never be about the number of people sitting in a pew, instead it should be about your own relationship with God and if your voice, whether in the wilderness or under a concrete bridge was bringing a person closer to God.
I think several clergy I served with simply "wrote me off," because they quickly learned I wasn't going to play the game, and I wasn't going to base my ability to serve others on whether I could fill seats in a building.
I actually got to the point that I felt sorry for those that ended up feeling trapped by a system that created a place where good people who simply loved God could no longer just gather, but insisted that they begin to submit themselves to a broken mold that left them feeling anything but the love that drew them to God in the first place.
Today in my ministry I have to admit that I'm often grateful for those who taught me that serving God should never be about human success, instead it should focus on whether my own relationship is where I can be a real servant, and not something God never asked me to be.
I miss my grandmother Williams who used to call me each Sunday after preaching and ask me, "So, did you bring them closer to heaven or hell today, and why?"
Jesus reminded people that it is "not the well who need a physician."
We seem to have forgotten that in the eyes of God, we are all God's children. The person who prides themselves in what they have accomplished might find it interesting to know that the person who sits quietly talking to God will receive the same reward.
I seem to spend a lot of time talking to folks on hospice care relating the things they "wish they had done better to serve God."
Often I have to ask, "Who told you that you needed to do more," only to discover someone had told them that, often in church, that would suddenly make them feel "less than qualified." (Back to the pastors who once asked me how many folks I had in the pew on Sunday morning.)
What a terrible thing to lead someone to think that they are not good enough, or done enough, to receive God's love!
Scripture reminds us that at some point we have all fallen short of what we need to do to serve God, but no where does it ever proclaim we have fallen short of God's love.
Perhaps today's sharing isn't so much about sharing my thoughts as much as a reminder that God loves you, always, and don't let anyone or anything cause you to not believe that to always be true!
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.