One of my family’s favorite movies (and there are many) is Remember the Titans starring Denzel Washington. It’s about how a football team for a southern high school handles integration in 1970. As the players are at camp prior to the season, they are going through all the bumps and lumps of learning to get along. In one scene, two of the defensive players — one black and one white — are having a heated discussion about the struggles on the defensive side of the ball, each one blaming the other. One lectures the other about his selfish attitude on the field, and the other responds with, “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” Ouch.
It’s true. Even in a church setting. We need an attitude check because the attitude of leadership will impact the attitude of the fellowship. That’s the nature of leadership, isn’t it? Leaders influence the direction of others. If we are frustrated, discouraged, or discontent, then we cannot be surprised if the membership of our church seems to be the same. I had a pretty strong gut check in this area fairly recently, and I wanted to share it with you in the hopes that you also may be challenged and encouraged.
I was reading the parable of the soils again. I was led to reference it in a sermon on a different passage, but I was rereading the whole thing to be sure I was using it in context. We all like to assume we’re good soil, especially those in ministry. After all, we wouldn’t be doing this unless we felt called by and connected to Christ. With a Master’s Degree, I could get a much better paying job, so I must be in God’s will. This, by the way, was the kind of thoughts I was wrestling with that day (one of my moments of weakness for your judgment). I got to the part of the parable where Jesus says that the good soil “produces a crop a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown” and that is when God hit me with a little conviction.
I want to be that soil that produces a hundred times what was sown. Don’t we all? Bigger is better, right? If we’re really faithful, we’ll be more fruitful. But what if I’m appointed to produce thirty? Will I be grateful for that thirty? Will I be as zealous and faithful to produce thirty as I would be if I were the sixty or a hundred? If the answer is “no,” then there is a problem at the fundamental level of my faith — I’m no better than the “wicked, lazy servant” who buried his talent in the ground. Do I gauge success by faithfulness, or by results? Are results under my authority, or God’s? Don’t get me wrong, I want to spend myself for the cause of Christ and be as faithful and productive as I can be. The question is, will I take my foot off the gas and mail it in if I don’t get the results I expect, or will I remain fervent in surrender and joyful in obedience regardless?
Maybe this is a question you need to ask yourself too. If your ministry seems to lack vitality and enthusiasm, then maybe the attitude of your church reflects that of leadership. If so, then maybe some confession and true repentance is in order. Let me be clear here: resolving to do better and vowing to change is not confession and it certainly isn’t repentance. It’s the idolatry of relying on self. Anything good in us comes from God. We need to receive from him, not pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. You won’t find a single scripture that suggests that. Confession is to agree with God (homolegeo – “I say the same”) and to repent is to turn away or change course. In this case, we are turning away from ourselves. Accept these gifts, position yourself to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and receive from God a new vision and attitude from which you can lead the people of God whom he has entrusted to you.