This is another excerpt from my (hopefully soon-to-be-published) book Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes.
Blaise Pascal said, “We must learn our limits. We are all something, but none of us are everything.” Or, as that wise 20th century philosopher Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) said in the movie Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
A key component in being transparent with who you are involves acknowledging what you are not. Admitting your strengths as well as your weaknesses will allow you to be true to yourself, live the life God created you to live, and enable you to say no to those things that are not your calling.
I acknowledge that I am not an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, worship leader, business entrepreneur, engineer, chef or bank president; I’m a teacher of Scripture. I also know I thrive teaching the 18-30 year old group, so I can easily say no to any request to teach children. At the same time, there are people in the church who love childrens work but would be scared spitless if asked to teach the Tabernacle of Moses to a group of twenty-somethings for twelve weeks, an assignment I would relish with only one regret — we couldn’t stretch it to twenty-four.
Furthermore, I understand that God has given me a certain amount of musical ability, and I’ve played piano on numerous worship teams. However, I also know there are many men and women who are better musicians than I am. Although I enjoy playing piano, I know teaching Scripture, not leading worship, is my primary avenue for ministry. The problem for many of us, especially church leaders, begins when we forget Pascal said, “None of us are everything.”
Even while I lived at the Little Portion, my heart’s desire was to teach the Word. Hospitality and service were not my primary virtues, and I had to be taught to be nice to people and look to another person’s needs before my own. Fortunately, my wife tells me I’m gaining in this area. But she has a servant’s heart and rates higher in the area of “pastor” on a spiritual gifts test than I do. For instance, if she receives a gift from someone, she’ll write a thank-you note and send it before “Thank-you” even enters my mind. And then I begin to think, So now what? Is the other person supposed to write a thank-you note back to my wife acknowledging the thank-you note she sent thanking her for the gift? When does it all end? And aren’t thank-you notes, like Mother’s Day cards, just another media invention used to make someone lots of money? When I bring this up to Barbara, she gives me THAT look again.
Everybody has a part to play in God’s Church, but nobody, especially the pastor, is required to play every part. I encourage you to acknowledge your gifts, admit your limitations, and focus on your strengths. When I acknowledged my gift was to teach the word, not pastor a church, I gave up on the idea of trying to be a pastor in the traditional sense of the word. And what a relief it was when I learned to say “no” to those areas that were not my gifts. “But,” some have argued to my face, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” This is true, but God did not strengthen me to be a children’s pastor, throw a ninety-five mile an hour fastball, invent a cure for cancer or write a symphony like Mozart. He DID strengthen me to have faith (Rom. 12:3), love and take care of my family (1 Tim. 3:4-5; 5:8) , consider others better than myself (Phil. 2:3-4), and teach the Word (Rom. 12:7). Holiness is not being an expert at everything you put your mind to; it is being truthful and transparent with who you are while not trying to be something you are not. Furthermore, I’m discovering that transparency and holiness is a gift of getting older, because pride and the need to prove myself successful isn’t the precious commodity it once was.