Being a church leader is paralyzing in some ways. At times, it is affirming and uplifting, but on the other hand, it makes attending church feel like a job. Anyone at any time can be upset with you- feel you haven’t done your part, should have done it differently, should have kept your mouth shut, should have helped more, should have helped less… It makes me wonder about the early church and if people felt any resentment towards God and Jesus. Jesus didn’t really talk much about how to run a church. He came and worked towards dismantling the status quo and then left. The letters to various churches in the New Testament indicate that early Christians were learning as they went, making decisions as they came up, disagreeing and agreeing. Some of the disagreements appear to have been more intense than others. Paul and Barnabas were partners and then, for reasons unclear to me, they weren’t anymore. I get frustrated when I hear people say that the Bible has all the answers, because it doesn’t for me. The early church had guidance from those who had literally been with Jesus and that wasn’t enough to provide everything necessary to answer all questions and be assured of doing things just right. I know it might make some uncomfortable to think in this manner, but Jesus was confusing and still is. Following Jesus as he directed, or more accurately, as we interpret that he directed, doesn’t really keep the doors of a church building open. Going to church doesn’t always look like following Jesus and being Christian is now more cultural, more of a social identity, than it is an act or intentional state of being. I can follow Jesus, go to church, and be a Christian while feeling that each is in contradiction to the other. I don’t believe that being a church leader is futile, but I do believe it’s a near constant battle with imposter syndrome. When our efforts are based on years and years of interpretation and adjustment, how can we ever really be sure that what we’re doing is right? When we are chosen to be church leaders because a person is available and one happens to be willing, when what determines who is leadership material is decided out of necessity, how does one ever truly believe that their election was God’s choice? Since becoming an elder in our church, there hasn’t been a day that I’ve felt confident in my work. Some might suggest that indicates that I’m approaching this with the caution needed to succeed. Though that might be true, I’m more inclined to suggest that church leadership eats the people who choose to do it, because of the contradictions I mentioned earlier. When following Jesus, going to church, and being a Christian aren’t the same, being a church leader may feel like being complicit, if not openly engaged, in fraud. Arguably, because I struggle and am not able to keep those contradictions from occurring, I’m not fit for this path. But, maybe I am fit for this path and that’s exactly why it feels like it does. When Paul was in prison, we know he wrote encouragement to others, but we don’t know that he didn’t also scream and cry out and feel anger about how nothing made sense and everything felt meaningless. What if those letters of encouragement had a touch of our modern day need to look perfect? What if Paul felt he had to look ok when he was crumbling? What if Paul felt despair, because how do you run something you have no idea how to run because someone else says they need you to and that you should?
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