The island of isolation is a home for far too many ministry leaders. I ought to know because I have visited many times; and if I’m really honest I have lived there far too long. During the days and nights of living in Isolation I have had plenty of time to sit and ponder ... how did I get here.
How did I get here?
In hind site. I believe there are three boats that I’ve sailed on that have brought me to this emotionally empty Island in which I long to be rescued from and never return.
The first boat is - Comparison.
We started TheCHURCH about six years ago. During that time there were about three other leaders that I knew had started their church around the same time. I like these guys, I really do. But there have been many times where I find myself “accidentally” coming across their post, scrolling to see what attendance looks like or reading to see what new program they are initiating.
In those moments, I don’t want to admit it, but I am comparing. I’m comparing what God is doing through me to what God is doing through them in hopes that I am at least around the same place on the leadership ladder, but secretly, truthfully, wanting to be a few rungs higher than they are.
I see their budget. I hear about their building program. I notice they just hired a killer youth pastor and from the angle they are taking the photos at least, it looks like the place is packed every Sunday.
In truth, looking at others drives me to the ditches of thinking I’m really good or thinking I really suck. Either way the ship of comparison transports me to a place where I am focusing on me. It has brought me to isolation.
The second boat is - Getting Burned.
When I really stop and think about it. Getting burned, is the same story over and over again. The only thing that changes is the name. “Someone” starts attending the church - they want to get more plugged in. We see potential in them. I begin to personally mentor and personally sow into them. We train them and place them into ministries. We become friends. We welcome them to our home, have BBQs together, have coffees on regular basis, and even baby sit their kids. Only to have them leave the church altogether, and I find out they have left, through the gossip grapevine or more often than not through a very eloquent text message. A text, sent to my personal cell phone, lovingly informing me in great detail, how the church is no longer meeting their personal or family needs and God has released them go elsewhere.
Getting burned typically causes me to go through a sequence of four responses.
The first gut reaction is,
This isn’t worth it. This isn’t what I signed up for. I could do so many other things with my life. I’m out of here.
The second thing that happens is,
The pain of the few causes me to forget the joy of the many.
When I get burned, if even only for a short time, all I see are the few people that left. I totally forget about all of the people that have stayed. All the people that love. All the people that serve and all the people that want to live life in community.
The third response to getting relationally burned is that I begin to,
Put up emotional walls.
When people that are on the inside leave, I naturally want to build a wall around me, so no one can get close to me anymore. I will be here. You will be there. We will work together. We will worship together, but that is it. No on comes inside. You and everyone else can only come so close.
The fourth response is the one I so easily gravitate toward and that is,
I’ll show you.
Oh … the messages weren’t deep enough.
Oh … the youth ministry wasn’t good enough for you.
Oh … the church wasn’t friendly enough for you.
OK - I’ll show you. We are going to take this thing to a whole new level. I am going to prove you wrong. I’m going to make you wish you would have never left. I’ll show you.
The truth is, all of those responses are broken, Because all of them, I quit, I’ll build a wall, the personal pain of the few, and I’ll show you, all lead me back to ME.
I am alone with my thoughts.
I am alone with my hurts.
I am alone with my ideas.
I am alone.
On the outside I’m surrounded by people, but on the inside I am all alone.
The Third ship I often sail is - Pride
I know why I’m here. I know what I’m called to do. I can do this on my own. I’ just work harder. Which then causes me to, work more hours, ask fewer questions, and say yes to way more than I should. All of which cause cause a crash. An emotional crash. A physical crash. A spiritual crash. An organizational crash. In some way a crash will come.
I think I read in a book somewhere that Pride comes before a fall.
We all know this. I mean I know it. I know that pride comes before a fall. I know the dangers of doing the wrong thing when I get burned. I know that playing the comparison game is at best a losing proposition. But even after knowing all of thee things,I find myself once again sailing on the ships that lead me to the island that I vowed I would never go back to again.
So how do we fix it? What do we do?
I wish getting off of and staying off of Isolation Island was as simple as step one - step two - or step three. But it’s not. In fact I don’t think it’s supposed to be. The writer of Hebrews once wrote ....
Since we are surrounded by such a great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which so easily besets us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
There is a pattern to this passage. There is a point that the author is trying get across to us as we not only read but more importantly strive to walk out this text. Let’s look at it again.
Since WE are surrounded by such a great a cloud of witnesses, let US lay aside every weight, and sin which so easily besets US and let US run with patience the race that is set before US, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of OUR faith.
This foundational passage of the Christian life, is not written in singular form but plural. There is no I. There is no me. There is no mine. But there is a whole lot of we we, our, and us.
So how do we work together without comparing ourselves to each other? How do we heal each other after we’ve been burned? How can we not walk in the pride as we walk out our passion?
I have to be honest and say that I don’t really know, but maybe we can figure it out together.
I think that’s the point.
I think we are supposed to follow Jesus. I think we are supposed to figure this thing out … together.
Questions to ask ourselves:
1 - Do you ever visit or live on Isolation Island?
2 - How did you get there? Comparison? Getting Burned? Pride?
3 - Do you have a true community of people that love you just for you?
4 - Who are they? Do you let them in?
4 - What changes do you need to make to not be an isolated leader?