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RTFM

Momentum, showing up, and giving up

An area where I regularly struggle with others is related to momentum. Before I begin, a few caveats are probably in order:
  • When it comes to laziness, if I'm not chief among sinners, that's only because I was too lazy to try.
  • Taking time to reflect and to really think things through are both important and severely underrated practices.
  • Doing anything simply because "we should do things" (particularly "for" anyone else) is lame.
These firmly in mind, it can be frustrating to me to so often need to "push" to keep things in motion and on track. Not only is it disheartening when I feel things grind rather than go, but it also further plays to my insecurities in that I feel less valued and understood when I have to push.

Doing what I do, the biggest factor in keeping momentum is nothing more complex than showing up. When people show up, we keep moving. When they don't, we derail, slow, or stop. Knowing that we all have competing demands and priorities for our time and attention, I can largely make my peace with folks not showing up in circumstantial seasons (if I couldn't have peace with that, I'd go bonkers), particularly when they think outside themselves and communicate their limits. Thankfully, this is often the case.

Likewise, when people bow out purposefully, that's usually a choice that's easy to respect—at Grace, there aren't any "automatic" commitments (including membership, which explicitly includes commitment "to support the church in its worship and work"), and most opportunities to serve or lead have (renewable) timeframes to better care for volunteers by not "locking them in" and/or leaving them with the burden of figuring out when and how to end their service. We've built a heavily and intentionally "opt-in" church culture, in part because so many of us have had rotten experiences in the opposite direction with churches. Part of that is honoring people's freedom to step down—it's important, and failure to honor this quickly devolves into tyranny, the opposite of where the gospel calls us. Stepping down is not abandonment.

Regrettably, however, people sometimes simply don't show up, and that can kill momentum. We affect one another. And it happens—of course it happens, regardless of our best efforts and intentions, and forgiving one another and moving forward is part of who the gospel calls us to be as God's people. Sometimes I struggle with giving that forgiveness, but it's clear that giving it is faithful and withholding it is not.

Further, sometimes not showing up becomes a pattern, whether for an individual or as a norm for a group. That's where my tolerance really wears thin. When that happens, not showing up becomes (or is revealed to be) giving up, which is toxic. It's not the same as stepping down; it's passive-aggressive and ultimately destructive. And sometimes even destruction is necessary to show us, in ways we weren't able to see otherwise, where we don't need to be and what we don't need to be doing.

But in areas central to the church's mission, that entropy needs to be fought before it takes even more territory. It is not good—a status which, as stewards of a creation God has declared to be good and ambassadors of a Kingdom in which our King is restoring and renewing all good things, should call us to action. Giving up is the antithesis of the gospel. We are no longer holding fast to hope we've been given, and thus are no longer being faithful to who He's calling us to be and what He's calling us to do.

And if that's where my tolerance is thin, here's where it's nearly nonexistent: if you can't show up, for whatever reason, then for the sake of all that is good (quite literally), don't get in the way of those who are. God willing, they will keep moving forward, and that may be inconvenient or uncomfortable, but that's because not showing up, for whatever reason, often has these consequences. Or you may feel like your impedance is in some way serving others by "giving them a break," but relief for those serving God should be considered carefully, in full dependence on the one who established the sabbath—which often won't line up exactly with your own preferences.

Hebrews 10:23-25 has what I hold to be the final word on showing up in the worship and work of the church:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Jesus, may you find us thus when you come again, and give us grace until then.

Comments

Great thoughts

Lee, I really appreciate the time you've put in to working this out. I think that you are in a unique position in the church to see how these things go, and I believe it's wise to share them. Thanks for all that you do, and I pray that Hebrews 10:23-25 will catch on in our hearts and minds.

-Randy

Re: Great thoughts

Thanks, Randy—most of the time, I'm so very encouraged by who our church is and how we try to be faithful. That's part of why I wanted to work out why the not showing up and giving up patterns bother me so deeply when they do occur, and writing is one of the best ways for me to get things out of my head for sorting (so hopefully this doesn't read like an indicting gripe-fest on my part!).