Run for Your Life!
Some of you are in a season of life where ministry is rewarding, fruitful, and fun. The staff is gelling, the difficult decisions you made last year were the right ones, and you have a renewed sense of passion and focus. Your spouse even likes your sermons lately. Life is good.
If that's you, I'm thrilled for you. Ride that wave. I hope it lasts a very long time.
But this piece is not for you.
This is for those of you who want to run for your life.
This is for those of you who woke up Monday morning to an email that ruined the rest of your day, and it has a good shot of ruining the rest of your week.
It's for those of you who are dealing with a thorny staff issue, which is turning out to be an energy-sucking sinkhole, and it isn't getting better.
It's for those of you who sit at Starbucks and pray that your appointment won't show up, so you can have an hour (or seven) to yourself.
It's for those of you who feel defective after slogging through another book highlighting the importance of vision, because you are utterly blind these days, and you're wondering how long it will be before others notice.
It's for those of you who can't stop that thing you know you need to stop, and can't start that thing you know you need to start.
It's for those of you who feel hyper-criticized, under-appreciated, over-worked, and inefficient.
It's for those of you who feel dangerously close to doing something stupid.
It's for those of you who have already done something stupid.
If you are in a season of ministry where you want to run for your life, you are not a terrible pastor, or person. In fact, you just might be at the threshold of transformation.
One of the most helpful books I've read lately is Invitation to Solitude and Silence, by Ruth Haley Barton. In it, she chronicles the dangerous and liberating story of Elijah, who not only wanted to run for his life, but actually did.
It started with a victory.
You know the story. Up against 450 prophets of Baal and a feckless king on Mount Carmel, Elijah calls on God, and God comes through. Stones and wood and sacrifice are all consumed in an apocalyptic fireball, and all the people saw it. And then, rain finally fell on the parched ground, signaling a victory for God and for Elijah that would be talked about for the next several thousand years.
This is the pastor's daydream, which never happens: your enemies are vanquished, you are vindicated, and everybody sees it.
It was a very good day for Elijah.
But it was followed by one of his worst days.
Jezebel, the manipulative power behind King Ahab, sends a message to Elijah, promising to kill him before the day is over. Apparently, Jezebel has a history of making good on these kinds of promises, because in an instant, Elijah is gone.
I've gotten some nasty emails. I've received some letters that elicit fear and self-loathing. But I have not yet received an email from someone who promises to kill me before sundown.