Friday, November 12, 2010

Don’t Waste Your Mediocrity

This is Part seven of a series on Godly Leadership.

You may be wondering what a teaching on mediocrity has to do in a set of teaching on leadership. While it’s true that there are mediocre leaders, one would wonder why all such teaching wouldn’t be geared toward making leaders great. While we should want leaders to be great, and we should want to be great leaders, we should understand that most of us will never be great leaders no matter how mature we become in the faith. Maturity in the faith and great leadership abilities are not synonymous.

Look at 1 Corinthians 12. Throughout the text we see that different people have been gifted for different things. Some have gifts that appear more honorable than others (1 Cor 12:21ff). For a reason not all the gifts are the same, or of the same honor or strength. God intends the Body to have equity, but we all know that that’s not the way it pans out. Imagine the most worthless person in your congregation. There is the person who has the medical condition or bad attitude and can’t seemingly contribute positively. Now think of the leader in your church you admire the most. God intends for you to care for each of these the same (1 Cor 12:25). But you don’t, do you? None of us does like we should. And yet here is Paul’s clear teaching on it that we conveniently ignore.

Does God know that we ignore this? Yes. In fact He had Paul acknowledge that our perceptions are skewed (1 Cor: 12:23). The point is that we each have gifts, but some are greater than others. Paul also mentioned this in verse 31:

But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31 ESV)

Notice what we are to do here in this verse. We are to desire the higher gifts. The higher gifts, like prophecy, edify the church more than the lower gifts, like speaking in tongues. But will all be gifted with prophecy? Decidedly not. So here we see that the Bible tells us to do something that will never come to fruition: all of us are to desire something that most of us will never receive. I don’t know if it’s more depressing to do this or to realize that most Christians don’t do this.

If you really do this, then what must you think when you won’t ever have the higher gifts that you are commanded to desire? You know that you can’t not desire it. You know that even though you may never have the gifts that you desire, you are supposed to be cared for as though you did, for the lower gift that you have is Biblically just as important. You also know by experience that you will not be considered by people who possess higher gifts to be as important as they are. Those who have more humility may give some lip service to your ostensible importance, but you also know that they likely don’t know what it’s like to not have a higher gift. And when it comes to honoring people, you know that you can do nothing that anyone considers particularly important. It can hurt.

And it doesn’t apply only to when you have no skills. You can have many skills, but no opportunities. I have a pretty broad skill set. However, there’s little opportunity to use most of my skills and virtually no opportunity to use some of my more exotic skills because ministry strategies tend to mainstream the more abundant gifts. As I hinted in my last article, God has not provided for me to use many of my gifts. Therefore, I am relegated to mediocrity in the use of my gifts. I function as one with lower gifts.

But it’s this mediocrity on which I focus. God can do anything and he can use me greatly in the future. All I have are the likelihoods to plan on and it’s likely that I will take untapped skills to the grave. When I see people who are either not able to use the gifts that God has given them or have not been encouraged to grow in their ministry I ache for them. I see in them the potential to serve God in a mighty way and I wish I could help them somehow to grow in this.

What I notice is that people who are mediocre will either tend to seem overly content, not desiring the greater gifts, or will desire the greater gifts. For those who tend to be content the message they are given is to get up and do something. But that doesn’t address their over-contentment. For those who desire the greater gifts, the message is most often platitudes that are meant to encourage them to try.

What I don’t see as a message to these is a call to desire the higher gifts. But I do see a low value placed on those who have lower gifts. That is, they receive no honor for their seemingly unimportant gifts but rather are implicitly expected to honor those who have higher gifts. The message should be that while we may desire the higher gifts, it is important that people have lesser gifts, and those people are indeed important to the Body of Christ.

Next lesson: Mentoring the Next Generation of Christian Leaders

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