It’s hard to lead at all, but I think it’s harder to lead when you don’t fit in to the typical categories, right? I was saying last week that it’s so amazing that we have a woman pastor leading us in Circle of Hope, when some churches think such a prospect is wrong. Even though we are one in Christ and he gives us an opportunity to overcome our sociological categorization as we find our identity in him, it remains true that those categories, as the world sees them, can still limit us.
More than just gender, race, class, education, wealth—all these things affect how we are perceived, how we succeed, and how we even operate in the world.
Here’s Aziz Ansari talking about that very issue in a funny way with Stephen Colbert.
Aziz is poking fun and I think it was nicely awkward, but he is bringing up a point right? One that a lot of us feel. We have a proclivity toward honoring certain kinds of people in this country and those of us who don’t have the same experience know it. Why is it that certain people get preferential treatment when it comes to leadership and others don’t? What is it about humanity and what should do about it?
I’m not just talking about race, class, and gender. But people who are extroverted, gifted the ways the world sees it, and even of the right age or height are favored in this world. Aren’t you constantly reminded of your limitations and limited experiences? Jesus sees you for more than that. Life in him is better than the corporate one because you don’t need to pad your resume to be known and seen for who you are.
This whole season we are talking about whether Jesus needs us. I believe he does and I don’t think he cares about the limitations the world puts on us. Two of Circle of Hope’s proverbs are based on this very idea:
- One doesn’t need to be smart or completely trained to be a fulfilled Christian.
- Respect for gifts and abilities is not reserved for older people.
The basic point we’re making here is that you don’t need to be old and educated, with a degree and years of experience, to follow Jesus and lead others to do the same. This doesn’t mean we are all equally gifted or something, but it means that our age, education, and intelligence aren’t necessarily limiting factors. You don’t to be perfect. On the contrary, being a fulfilled Christian is all about being redeemed.
When Jesus touched humanity he healed it and he saved it. Now we are his body and he dwells in us. You know what that means? You are the content. You are the demonstration of Jesus. You have the stuff.
I think God has been telling his people this kind of message for a long time. Can we move to Exodus 3 for a moment?
God, in the portion of scripture where he terms himself, “I Am Who I Am” is compelling Moses to go to Egypt, where he is a convicted murderer, to go back to Egypt and Moses feels a little insecure about it. He question is basic: “Who am I?” Why are you calling me? What good do I have to offer? God’s respond is that he will be with him.
The reason we can do it is because God is with us. We aren’t doing it on our own, we aren’t “equal” because of some sociological concept, it’s because of God and who God is making us to be. He doesn’t just give us magical gifts to do anything, we have limitations obviously.
The reason you can lead confidently though is because you aren’t expect to do everything on your own. You’re on a team. You don’t need to be perfect because we are working together. In the next chapter, Moses encounters some of his own limitations. God is using him and empowering him but Moses gets nervous because he’s not a public speaker—of course, not all of us are. He says he’s slow of speech and slow of tongue.
God gives him this grand response: who gives you speech? Go ahead, I’ll be your mouth. But Moses still hesitates and the Lord offers Aaron, his brother, to help him out. He brings someone else. Even though God can empower Moses to really do anything, he provides Aaron. It’s a team effort. We are doing it together. That’s why we can take a risk in leading.
I was 24 when we planted North Broad. I really couldn’t have done it without the team of 50 that we had and the great team of pastors. The reason we can take big risks and hire new pastors, and allow Rod and Nate to capacitive us in different capacities, is because we are a team. We are differently skilled and abled, and that’s good. Different ages, education levels, and proclivities.
Sometimes we can’t rely on the most experienced person and the most ideal person. I’m not saying that a well-educated, well-qualified, well-experienced person isn’t ideal or something. I value education and experience, clearly, but we have who we have and you are who you are. Rather than just excusing yourself because you aren’t perfect, you may be available, faithful, and teachable.
Just because you don’t need to be smart or completely trained doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for growth. I’m in seminary now, which sometimes seems of dubious value, but the things I have learned have been nourishing and effective practically on my work here. The work of our team is great, the lore and experience of Circle of Hope is stimulating, and I bless my classmates with what I have learned here. But I actually went back to school because I hit some professional limits. Formal education wasn’t really a thing in the Bible, obviously, there were no degrees. And some people even think that getting a degree to become a pastor or another leader is questionable. But the reason you can begin your journey with Jesus, and serve in Circle of Hope, despite your limitations is because you’re not done yet. You are growing.
I think we often wait until we are “perfectly cooked” because we take a bit. I’m not sure you’ll ever get there. You’re a work in progress and God is moving with you. Ideal candidates are nice, but just impractical.
You have some stuff and God has given you it. And you are who we have. You may lament that the “median age” at North Broad, for example, is younger than you wish, but rather than just criticizing yourself and your community, be who you are in God. The one church we have in Circle of Hope is bigger than this congregation, for one, and obviously people can grow you and mentor you that aren’t here even if you have found yourself here.
A good question for you then as we end is what prevents you from serving and leading? Why don’t you think Jesus needs you? What is your insecurity? What is the factor that holds you back? How can God fill you with good things to overcome it?