At some point in my Bible college career (earlier rather than later, I think), someone (I no longer remember who) gave me this advice: “Never resign on Monday morning.” What that long-forgotten person meant was that 1) Sunday can be discouraging for ministers and 2) Ministers should not act too quickly on that discouragement. Most times, they shouldn’t act on it at all.
This advice was repeated and reinforced to me many times over the years, both by those ministers (almost always older than I) who simply said it to me verbatim and by those ministers (again, usually older than I) who didn’t follow it themselves, those ministers who let Sunday’s discouragement result in Monday’s premature resignation. It was so common, I thought for sure I’d find some Internet meme about it. I didn’t, but I did find this article from Thom Rainer which alludes to the idea:
This came to mind this Monday morning. I was driving (to an active shooter training session led by our local police department, of all things) and as I drove I was thinking about the discouragement I suffered during yesterday’s service. That service was greatly discouraging for several reasons and, despite what I’ve been taught over the years and how well I was taught it, I was beginning to think of resignation.
As I thought about that, though, three phrases came to mind.
The first phrase was “making it”. As I thought about resignation, I thought, “I’m just not going to make it in ministry.” By make it there, I was referring to becoming what my home church would call “a big name pastor” or “a big man in the brotherhood”. It is a celebrity minister, in other words. We do live in an era of celebrity ministers. I don’t know that we always did. I don’t know that we always didn’t. I don’t know when this thing of celebrity ministers came to be. But I know it is now, and I know we’re living in that era now, and I know that most if not all of my fellow ministers believe that they need to/should be one. I know that most if not all of my fellow ministers believe (whether they will state it directly or not) that they will be a failure if they don’t become one. And I believe that as well. I believe it subconsciously yet still actually. I believe it should happen because I believe I have a message (a way of understanding The Faith) that should be heard by as many people as possible. And I believe it should happen because I’ll be a failure if it doesn’t; that will be proof that I have chosen the wrong path in life. And I’m beginning to believe it is not going to happen. Unlike these people, I have developed the ability to see that I might not “make it”.
The second phrase was “getting through”. As I sat there in my car, I thought, “If I can’t make it, maybe I can just get through it.” That is, maybe I can just get through another twenty or so years of ministry, maybe I can survive long enough to build up a retirement and then get out. That wasn’t the happiest thought I’d ever had. I’ve always felt life had to have some purpose, some goal, some meaning. “Getting through” seems to me to be the opposite of that. “Getting through” seems to be a capitulation to the “fact” that it doesn’t have any of those things, or at least to the fact that those things are never going to be achieved. “Getting through” is just “getting by”, “passing time”, a slow, sad death. It’s like what The Beatles describe in “Eleanor Rigby”:
So those were the first two phrases I hit on: one that seemed positive to me but also seemed unattainable, the other that seemed negative to me but also unavoidable.
But then another phrase came to me. That phrase was “blossom where you’re planted”. I first heard this phrase through a picture that the folks at the church I served while at college gave me when I moved off to start my first ministry.
Or maybe it was “bloom”; I can’t remember and I’ve lost the picture. Either one works.
And it seemed to me that this is more what the Lord is wanting from me, more what He hopes for me and from me. I highly doubt “making it” is as good as it seems. In fact, I highly doubt “making it” has any real place in the Kingdom and the life of faith. It seems much more like a worldly idea to me, no matter what Christian skin we put on it. I equally doubt “getting through” has any real place in the Kingdom and the life of faith. While perhaps humbler, it is worldly in its own way. No, the Lord/Kingdom/life of faith clearly want me to do something more like “blossom” or “bloom”. They clearly want me to produce fruit or be fruitful.
Jesus talked about such fruitfulness at many times in His ministry, and Paul wrote about it often in the Epistles. But perhaps the best reference to it comes from the Parable of the Sower (also called the Parable of the Soils). There Jesus described three people types, all of whom reject or lose the Kingdom seed in some way. Then He described a fourth people type, the type that not only accepts and keeps the Kingdom seed but multiplies it. An interesting thing about that multiplication, though, is that it was never the same. For some it was 30 times, for others 60, for others 100.
There is no indication that the 100 times multipliers were any better or any more right than the 30 or 60 timers. No greater or lesser favor seems to be shown to the multipliers here. It is just the way it is. Some did 100, but some did 30 and some did 60. They all bloomed differently, but they bloomed where they were planted. That’s what the Lord seems to be looking for. Not the quantity of the blooming, but the simple act of it.
That’s an encouraging thought for me. That’s something I can do. It is something I am doing, even though I’m not making it and probably never will make it. It is something I can do which makes getting through so much more than getting through. It is something which keeps me from resigning on Mondays.