Archives For ministry

The Impostor of Guilt

Erik Cooper —  January 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

Sometimes following Jesus is like having the stomach flu. That internal rumbling in your digestive track. Uncomfortable. Disturbing. I thought Jesus lived in my heart, how did he find His way to my small intestine?

I’ve definitely been there. The summer of 2000, I was avoiding full time ministry like Jay Cutler and the second half of the NFC Championship game. And it was eating me for lunch. We Christians call it conviction. That gnawing feeling inside your gut that is spelling out in no uncertain terms:

God is compelling me to do something I don’t really want to do. Insert vomit here.

But honestly, I’ve learned to welcome this type of nausea.  When we have the courage to respond and obey, life becomes beautiful. The Kingdom of God comes alive in us and around us. We begin to live in the reality of doing things God’s way. Never painless. Never without a cost. But always full of life. Real life.

But I’ve also experienced an impostor.

Rather than wrestling with internal, God-initiated challenges, I far too often find myself embracing the sinister villain of guilt. I wear its heavy strands around my neck like a concrete necklace even Mr. T. would see as a bad fashion statement.

I compare myself to others.

She’s taking a missions trip to Kenya.

He volunteers at the homeless shelter.

They’re adopting a child from Eastern Europe.

He quit his job to start a non-profit.

And rather than allowing the challenge of those we admire to inspire our own obedience to the Father, we become overwhelmed by shameful comparisons. Why am I not doing what “that guy” is doing? Maybe some day I’ll have “that kind” of faith. When will I man up to “that kind” of courage?” When will God be “that proud” of me?

Let me both let you off and put you back on the hook, ok?

Jesus said:

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Matthew 11:29-30

Jesus isn’t asking you to be somebody you’re not.  He isn’t asking you to mimic someone else’s obedience. He’s not placing anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. You can’t sustain that.

But He is calling you to obey. To become who He created you to be. And He never said it wouldn’t be painful. He never said it wouldn’t be costly. He never said it wouldn’t rumble in your stomach at 2am like a bad piece of meat.

So be inspired by others. Be challenged by their actions. But don’t wear the guilt of comparison. The question for you is simple:

What is God asking of you? Are you responding?

No Equity Partner

Erik Cooper —  February 18, 2009 — 1 Comment

An ownership mentality in ministry is a dangerous thing.  Sorry to say but there’s no equity in the Kingdom of God…at least not in this life, and definitely not for you and me.  Part of the purpose of this blog is my own accountability…to write things and share them publicly so that I’m more likely to live them out privately.  As I prepare to partner in the leadership of the launch of City Community Church, I want to go on record now as saying:  the vision may have been co-birthed inside of me, but by no means does it belong to me.

It’s a subtle shift of mindset, yet polar opposite at the same time.  One is selfish, the other selfless.  When I begin to act as if I own my ministry, my church, my leadership, my position, I begin to try and preserve what I have.  It changes the way I teach, the way I treat people, the boundaries I’m willing to push for effectiveness…even my willingness to step away if and when I need to.  Ownership causes me to pull in instead of push out.  To guard instead of release.  To be fear-filled and paranoid instead of faith-filled and courageous.  To play it safe and not to risk.

Ministry is not a career choice, it’s a stewardship.  So my challenge to all of us, whether you’re the full-time pastor of a large church, or the volunteer leader of a soup kitchen…hold it loosely.  It’s not yours.  Now I know you’d never say you have an unhealthy hold on it, but check your heart…check the subtlety of your thinking.  It creeps in unexpected.

Hold onto things loosely enough that whenever God speaks, there’s no hesitation in responding.  Don’t make Him pry it out of your cold, dead fingers.