So…my son, Caleb, is in his second year at Calvin. We have an older model Toyota Highlander that we were going to send with him to college this year. In early August (around the 10th) I dropped it off at the mechanic for a quick brake fix. Today, September 10th, I picked it up – hopefully for the last time right now. In the last month, we have seen more dash lights, felt more weird vibrations, and heard a couple of clunks, I’ve never heard before. Last week, as the shop owner was narrowing down the problem to a sensor issue, but hadn’t seen a broken collar on the axle (which turned out to be the real gremlin), he said to me, “There is a gremlin in this car!” The good news for those of us who are older is that he didn’t declare that my car was a Gremlin. 😉 If he had, that would have been the death sentence for the Highlander. None of us who can remember a Gremlin wants to admit if we owned one!
As I drove away from the shop today, I thought that the last month of “playing whack a mole” with my car was a little like leading the church. I went in thinking I would get a simple repair to take care of a worn part. A month later, after several unsettling conversations and having the car in the shop for most of that month, we’re finally where I thought I would be a month ago. Along the way, I’ve been frustrated and had my confidence in that Highlander tested. A month ago, I really had a lot of confidence in this car to do what I wanted it to do. Over the last month, however, I’ve had moments when I wondered whether it was just time to say, “Enough.”
I’ve had similar moments leading the church. Some decisions and ministries I thought would come together rather easily, and with few questions, turned out to be some of the most difficult and even contentious decisions we faced. Other decisions, that seemed to be relatively low impact, set off chain reactions that led to other conversations I was dealing with much longer than I expected. Along the way in ministry, there have been some weeks when I’ve started the week with tremendous confidence that the church was “the hope of the world,” only to find myself later in the week wondering, “If that’s the world’s hope, the world is in trouble.”
Maybe some of these thoughts sound familiar to you. If not, bless you! If they do sound familiar, then you’ve probably been leading a church. You see, there is a gremlin in the church. It’s called, “sin.” It’s a part of and in all of us – that’s a Biblical truth that reformers call, “Total Depravity.” The church and its leaders aren’t exempt.
I’m not writing today’s blog to erode your confidence in the church. In fact, I’m hoping that by naming the gremlin, you feel a bit of confidence! That’s a little of what happened to me this morning. As I first drove away, I wondered if a light was going to pop on in the next feet, yards, blocks, mile as I drove. But now, I’ve driven my car around town a bit, it’s reminding me once again that it runs well. We just had to confront the gremlin.
As you begin your fall season and ministries, my prayer for you is that you’ll be attentive to the vibrations and sounds that need attention. My sense is that those sounds and vibrations point to the gremlins in all of us. As you confront that gremlin –whatever the warning light looks like or sounds like – my prayer is that you’ll do so in full confidence and faith that our God is much greater than any gremlins you confront and that Christ is the king of the church!
The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.