Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3
I will be the first to admit I have validation issues…O.K., maybe not the first to admit it, but I do get to that admission eventually. 🙂 What other people think of me probably matters more to me than it should…words of affirmation are definitely how I feel loved (thank you, Gary Chapman). Add to that my (mostly-healthy) competitive nature and then stir in my very American-public-school-achievement orientation, and you have a recipe for a man who is all about constantly assessing his successes versus his failures. It is important to me. Maybe it is important to you too.
I measure everything. I measure my case load and my billings at work. I measure my workouts and my sleep hours at home. I measure my quality time spent with my wife and with my daughters (never enough). I measure the conferences and speaking engagements I do, the writing time I have, the churches with whom I consult, and the budget dollars in my ministry. I measure the attendance in The Gathering, and my teaching time there. I measure my readership, my “hits”, my “click-throughs” and my subscriptions to this blog. I am always assessing and reassessing and measuring the success and/or failure of all these endeavors. I’ll bet you do as well.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11
This year, my home church celebrated a significant birthday. It is 150 years old. That, my friends, means something in excess of 7,000 covered dish suppers. Think about that. So we are spending all of this year reflecting on the last 150 years. It is truly great fun, even for those of us who are not necessarily history buffs. It is really interesting thinking about the historical events going on around those 13 dear souls who founded our church. Can you even imagine trying to start a new church at the same time the country is dividing for the Civil War?
So, all of this reflecting and celebrating got me thinking about the things we celebrate in the church.
I believe in the celebration of human achievement. I believe that, especially in a “volunteer army” like the church, pats on the back for a job well done are critical. I would even go so far as to say that every ministry team leader needs to be intentional about celebrating when volunteers get it “right”. That is just good leadership.
I also believe in taking the occasional glance back in history to remember (i.e., to celebrate) the sacrifices of those who have gone before us in order to make our lives (and ministries) possible. Again, that is just good leadership to keep us connected to our heritage.
But among God’s people, there is a far greater focus when it comes to celebrating. Far more important than celebrating human achievement in the church is the discerning, marking and celebrating what God has done among us. Like Joshua erecting the stone memorial so as to say, “Thus far hath the Lord brought …