A few years ago, Jan and I were living aboard our old wooden sailboat, Santa Teresa, in San Diego Bay. We were moored about a quarter-mile off the beach by the San Diego bridge. It was Saturday, and we were busy sanding and varnishing Teresa. It was a beautiful sunny summer’s day. At that point in my life, I was teaching computer applications for a company that provided education to businesses, and life was good. San Teresa was a grand old girl, 40 feet long, and she weighed sixteen tons. She wasn’t fast, but she could take you anywhere.
She wasn’t in a hurry, and I was where I wanted to be the moment I set foot on her. Then my boss came roaring up in his powerful speedboat. Four outboards graced his stern, and he raced around and around us. White foam rocked us as he shouted arrogantly, “Hey! McKeel! Wanna race?”
I looked up and replied, “Sure!” That surprised him. Then I suggested, “Let’s race to Hawaii!” I will never forget the look on his face as he roared away to the boat ramp.
The point today is “Work from strength, not weakness.” That’s especially true for churches. Instead of groaning about what we don’t have, open your eyes, and count your blessings. What has God given us? Rabbits aren’t the fastest swimmers, but they can run like the wind. Dolphins are pitiful when they are stranded on shore, but they are faster than torpedoes under the waves.
The strategy for one congregation probably isn’t going to apply in a different situation, so we need to carefully consider how God has blessed your church. The best place to begin is with the people – they are the church after all – but you will need to be careful. It is tempting to ask people what we need to do, and they will likely tell you what they think you need to do! A better question is to ask them what they want to do.
Sadly, people may be thinking in church-speak. They will probably think of churchy things to do like preaching, teaching, and leading singing. Instead, help them explore their passion and then think of ways to glorify God with that passion.
I once had a young man in my study, and I asked him that question. “What are you passionate about?”
He replied, “Well, it’s not leading songs, that’s for sure. Other than that, I can’t think of anything I can do at church.”
“No,” I said. “I asked, what are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?”
A skeptical smirk came across his face. “Fly fishing,” he answered. “I like to fish.” He thought he had stumped me.
“That’s great!” I said.
“Wait a minute, preacher. I know where you’re going with this. You want me to sing songs with my fishing buddies and have a Bible study by the river when we get there!”
I laughed. “No, no, no. I expect you to do guys things: tell bad jokes, lie about the fish you’ve caught, and complain about work.”
He raised his confused eyebrows.
“Look,” I explained. “You’ll be on the frontline for the Lord. One day one of your buddies is going to be hurting. He may have trouble at home or at the shop. He’s not going to call one of the elders or me. He’s going to turn to his fishing buddy – you – and ask for help. There are times in everyone’s life when they have to face the big questions, and God will have put you there to help him find the answers.” He started nodding. “God is using you. Let your light shine – and remember – I really like fresh trout.”
What is your strength?