……when you keep making them over and over.
I’m coming up on 4 months in with my congregations at the end of the month. And if I were to sum up how it’s going, I’d say overall pretty good – but with the usual ups and downs that come with getting to know each other. They make mistakes, I make mistakes – we’re learning together and trying to listen to each other the best we can.
But there’s one mistake I keep making over and over: I tend to “jump on them” when they say certain things that seem “out of the box” when it comes to understanding what the church is and what ministry is about.
Let me give you a little background: both congregations have recent histories containing conflict and unhealthiness. They are both experiencing what many churches are experiencing today – declining and aging membership, burnout among those present, limited resources, and little to no children or youth in their congregations. And, like most churches, they are accountable for some of that, and some of it is simply that times have changed and a disconnect exists between the life of their church community and the community that surrounds them. Part of the understanding in calling me to be their pastor is that I might walk with them, and push them as needed, to imagine God’s mission and ministry for them in new ways and to new people.
Because of all this, sometimes they say and do things that don’t make sense, or seem out of line with the wide welcome of God’s grace and love. And that’s when it happens: I make the mistake, I jump on them.
Now, two things: they are pretty gracious with me. They do get defensive from time to time, but they will listen and do their best to take things to heart. They appreciate the honesty, even if it is blunt at times. And, I’m usually pretty quick to apologize, to acknowledge I’ve pushed a bit too far, been too harsh, too insistant. I will usually pull back and say all things are a choice, it is not my way or the highway.
But honestly, I’m tired of apologizing over and over, and honestly, this is a case where mistakes are not good; making the same mistake over and over. It doesn’t matter if I’m right; it doesn’t matter if it’s explained away by my passion for ministry or that I see great potential in an opportunity. It doesn’t matter that I’m in my first call as pastor and that I will make mistakes. It doesn’t matter because it’s void of any love or caring.
So I’ve got some work to do….on myself. Time to start making less mistakes….the recurring ones. Time to start loving a bit more, and being right a little less. Time to start entering relationships with openness, rather than coming in, ready to fight. That’ll be hard for me – I’m hard-headed, and heck, I’m a wrestler, conflict and struggle are a way of life in some ways. But those are just excuses…..
…..excuses that try to dismiss the fact my mistakes are not good. And to keep making them will do a lot more harm than good.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s this – perhaps through sharing my stupid mistakes, you might avoid them yourself. And that would be pretty damn cool if that’s what came out of all this….that, and me not making stupid mistakes anymore.