“The Church used to be a life boat- to rescue the perishing and now she’s a Cruise Ship rescuing the promising”. -I said forwarding a little picture on Twitter.
Bishop Mike replied and asked “Why not both?”
I thought for a while not sure quite what to say, and certainly not sure how to fit it into 180 characters.
For me the idea of a ‘cruise ship’ is something that worries me, a Cruise ship carries passengers and dignitaries… yet the idea of the Church when it is functioning as it should is “all hands on deck” -we all serve, or as John Wimber put it, “everyone gets to play!”.
The idea of “recruiting the promising” has made me think a lot since posting it.
Two stories I am reminded of:
The first was when Samuel went to anoint a new King to succeed Saul, he was shown a good number of gifted young men, but ended up choosing the youngest guy who is overlooked by his own Father as is looking after the sheep and is used as a “bit of a go’fer” taking people their packed lunches.
The Second, Jesus refused to lower the bar of discipleship for the Rich Young Ruler even though he was a guy of good standing, religious and sympathetic to the cause, Jesus looked at him and loved him, yet still didn’t compromise his call.
So, the question with recruiting promising people is by what criteria are we judging ‘promise’?
There is an interesting little piece in Penny Franks book “every child a chance to choose” where she dismisses all Jesus’ 12 disciples as a waste of time except Judas Iscariot who had real promise. Her point was that often the people who turn out to be the promising leaders often don’t look that promising at the beginning.
Most of the greats of scripture in Hebrews 11, didn’t look that full of promise, but ended up achieving great things for God’s glory…As have many in Church history, failed baptist Pastor William Carey ended up being the Father of modern mission. Luther and William Booth both suffered from depression and yet changed the world for Christ.
Whilst I was at college I over-saw the youth and kids work (and some of the kids were an absolute nightmare!) and I remember saying once “In your group you may have the next Archbishop of Canterbury, so make sure you are nice to her!”.
Patrick Regan the founder of the youth project XLP, entitled his book “the Conspiracy of the Insignificant” as it is the overlooked, the marginalised, the disenfranchized and the ostracised that is where God’s heart is found, and in these unlikely places, come unlikely leaders, the people of promise.
I think with my life, someone who probably looked like a walking disaster area, not promising at all, and yet some wonderful and faith-filled people took a risk on me.
Even those who we look at, and look up too, the promising and gifted, close too have cracks, someone once told me “never trust a leader without a limp” -(from the story of Jacob)- someone who has struggled and wrestled with God, and whose life and walk hasn’t been plain sailing. There is a weird biblical paradox about finding strength in weakness, and in our weaknesses he (Christ) is strong.
Perhaps I am splitting hairs?
I think there is something massively important in recognising peoples potential, realising their calling, releasing them into that, taking a risk on them, and seeing them flourish.
I remember on Sunday night, Regan a lay reader I have been journeying with did an awesome session on “Why Did Jesus Have To Die” and feeling so proud of him.
I want to see wonderful people doing great and wonderful things to make our Saviour known across this nation, and certainly when I move on, I want the person who comes after me to be someone who will really be a blessing to the people I have given my heart to serve.
I wonder too, if there is a something of a reverse prejudice here, I would rather be led by an ex gang leader from the inner city, than a bankers daughter from Eton?
Surely the good news must be good news for all, not just the least, last and lost? Someone must be called to plant Churches in Surrey (I just hope and pray that’s not me!) and Stockbrokers and bankers, and ‘musli-reading guardian eaters’ all need to hear about Jesus. In fact people can be lost and heart broken whilst surrounded by the trappings of wealth and power.
The question is when looking for promise, do we look with the eyes of faith, seeing not “the outward appearance” or the external, but at the heart led by the spirit with the gift of discernment.
So, perhaps it is just semantics, recruiting the right people to the right place so that the Kingdom of God can grow and flourish, people who are full of love for Jesus, standing on his word and filled with his spirit. People of integrity and courage to fight to see God’s glory break into tough and dark situations.
Yet, I fear too we may be living in a generation of Samson’s, where we have many bright and gifted people who squander their potential. People of Calling, Competence and Charisma but without work of our character, it produces catastrophe. Two of the brightest students I was with at my theological college both crashed and burned in the worst way possible. Let’s not neglect the Holy Spirit’s work on our characters, and the long and unglamorous job of faithfully serving Christ.
Scripture reminds us on several occasions that “God opposes the proud but lifts the humble!”
So, as we think about recruiting people of promise, we need to see people with the eyes of faith, not as the world sees but as God sees.
We do not do it from a Cruise ship, but a rescue boat or battle ship.
And the final challenge, we don’t pull people out of drowning in the sea because of what they may contribute to us, “I’ll save the millionaires”, “I’ll save the blue haired and blonde eyed models!” but rather we save those who we are nearest, whom God brings across our path, seizing the opportunity to share Christ, rather than asking whether or not they are worth saving, the truth is we probably weren’t worth saving, but God (and the people he called to encounter us on our journey) saved us anyway.
So, let’s keep on rescuing.
Let’s seek to recognise, realise and risk seeing the potential and the promise of God in peoples lives, even if it comes in some unlikely places.
And let us never allow the Churches we are part of to become Cruise Liners.