Between walking through the hallways at church, listening to voice mail, and reading my email, I sometimes feel like I am navigating a minefield. A pastor hears a barrage of comments, requests, and statements. Everyone seems to know or at least wants to offer an opinion on how I should spend my time.
Some comments are innocuous. Some are encouraging. Others are benign and meaningless. Some make you laugh while others make you cry. Still others will leave you crippled with doubt and fear if you take it to heart. Others can do even greater damage.
Some comments come from church members. Others are requests from neighbors in the community. Some are voiced by Christians. Others are offered by non-Christians.
Some comments are voiced by well meaning people. Some are spoken by misguided individuals who don’t have all the facts. Others are laced with malice. Some are served up by people with a critical spirit. Others are compliments offered by gracious individuals. Still others are fired off by “His majesty’s loyal opposition.”
A smattering of recent comments has included the following:
- Announce this event!
- Did you hear about . . . ?
- Why was this decision made and why wasn’t I consulted first?
- Why are you supporting this group?
- Attend my meeting.
- We (meaning ‘you’) should start this ministry.
- This person should be fired!
- It’s important for you to be at this meeting.
- You have to tell people how to vote on this issue.
- If you don’t step in and lead, this ministry will fail!
- You need to visit this person in the hospital today.
- Stop what you are doing and research this question for me.
- This person doesn’t think the church cares. You have to call them right now.
- This person/ministry is broken and needs to be fixed (by you) right now.
I have learned by experience (which translated means, I made quite a few mistakes and lived to tell the tale) that it is better for me to listen and respond, “Let me pray about this,” rather than jump in with both feet and commit myself on the spot. I tend to respond better if I take the time to ask myself some key questions:
- What has God called me to do?
- Does this request fit with my gifts, passion, and calling?
- Is it the best use of my time?
- Where can I be the most fruitful and effective?
- Will this request build up and edify other believers?
- What is God saying through this person?
- By saying, “Yes,” to this request, what do I need to say, “No,” to?
- Does this request fit with our goals and purpose as a church?
- What is God trying to teach this person? If I step in and rescue them, will I short-circuit what God is doing?
- How will this request glorify God?
Rather than let other people set my agenda, I need to ask God for wisdom. As I listen to his voice, he can help me safely navigate the minefield.