I collect and create epigrams. An Epigram is a one-sentence, concise statement that communicates a truth or principle in a memorable fashion. I have hundreds of these little witticisms memorized and like the book of Proverbs, they often come to my mind when I need to make a decision or just could use some wisdom on a matter. Today, I want to share some of my favorite epigrams (most of which are original with me) that surround a “Nautical” theme. Before I do, let me introduce my topic for today….
The bigger the ministry in which you find yourself, the more frustrations you will have with organization, administration, bureaucracy, red-tape and seeing problems addressed. It is a fact of life. If you let it frustrate you or affect your attitude, you will lose so much of the joy that comes with ministry. Remember that Jesus told us His burden is to be easy and our yolk is to be light. Paul reminded us that he found a way to be content in every circumstance. Circumstances may steal our “happiness” for a few moment, but they should never steal our JOY.
The next time you get frustrated, angry even, with the pace of change or the details of life working in the ministry or particularly in a larger ministry, here are a few “epigrams” to give you some hope and which might just provoke your thinking a bit as well.
1. You can’t sink half a ship.
I have, since leaving college, always worked in a ministry that had myriad facets. I’ve always worked in a Church that also had a day school. In some places, there were other facets ranging from day cares to a cemetery to large missions programs. Frequnetly, I had to remind myself of some truths. We were not simply a school, but also a church. We were not simply an elementary school, but also a high school. We were not simply meeting on Sundays, but Monday through Saturday as well. If one area suffered, it impacted us all. When one area succeeded, it should have encouraged us all.
In any similar ministry, there will be times when the school will need to flex and assist the church ministry and there are times when the church ministry helps out the school. There will be times when we can be a blessing to a particular facet of the ministry and there are times when they will be able to bless us. If we compare or compete with our various “parts”, we will create disharmony and disunity. When one half of the ship sinks – so does the other half and very soon thereafter. (Did you see Titanic?)
2. Big Ships Turn Slowly but they Sink Quickly
The bigger the ship, the longer it takes for changes of course to occur. I mean you don’t see a cruise ship cutting donuts in the Intercoastal Waterway very often, do you? But you’ll see a hundred jet skis spinning and turning. Larger ministries aren’t nearly as nimble as a church with 50 people and a pastor. Conversely, because of the massive amount of resources a large ministry requires to stay afloat – in terms of finances, personnel, space, etc… — they are vulnerable to catastrophes because they tend to sink like rocks. Sometimes frustrations with maintenance, budgeting, hiring, calendaring, etc… grow because it just seems like it takes forever to see problems fixed. But everyday, there are hundreds of mini-crises and decisions that must be addressed and handled and that often slows down the machinery of change and improvement. There are HUGE blessings associated with being part of a larger ministry – but one of the liabilities is going to be that change can’t occur as quickly as we’d like for it to sometimes.
3. When the Tide Comes In, All the Ships in the Harbor Float Higher.
I’ve personally seen with my own eyes, people who work for Christian schools or churches that actively undercut/undermine other parts of the ministry out of jealousy, resentment, tradition, personal preference or pettiness. I’ve seen people on church staffs who I know would rejoice in the failures of others. Some were “prophets of doom” who waited to see their negativity come to fruition so that they could strut around and announce that they “saw THAT coming”. Allow me to use a deep theological term for folks like that — IDIOTS. They cut off their noses to spite their faces. Selfishly and foolishly (not to mention unBiblically) they forget the principle of the Golden Rule, the many, many “One Another’s” we find in the New Testament and the fact that we as believers are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those that weep. We should ACTIVELY work for the success of others so that we can rejoice with them and in turn, we will find that our ministry and opportunities will be built up and broadened. Ironically, sometimes the negative nay-sayers in an organization seem shocked when they are on the receiving end of cutbacks in staff or salary due to a ministry that is suffering because of attitudes just like theirs.
4. When the Ship is Sinking, Don’t Worry about Whether or Not the Deck Chairs are Straight.
If there are problems that need to be addressed, then do what it takes to address them. Gossiping has yet to solve a problem, but it has sunk many a ship. Getting in a snit about some sleight or injustice while people are drowning all around you is selfish and myopic. Arguing over superficial things like esthetics and appearances while there are issues of character and doctrine that need our attention is immature and unproductive. The mission of the local church and the Christian day school is too big for us to be fussing and fighting over minor issues. There are people who are dying without Christ to be considered. There are families that need intervention. There are students that need to be trained in a Christian World View. There is doctrine that needs to be taught and defended. There are people who need to experience the presence of Christ in their lives. So let’s stop bickering over wood, hay and stubble and start focusing on what is still going to matter in a hundred years.
So that’s my “rant” for today. Give these little epigrams some thought and maybe the Holy Spirit will guide your vessel to make some changes that will be good for you, this ministry and most of all, will glorify GOD.