Letting go

Published 12:56 pm Saturday, May 23, 2015

by Andrew Book

I don’t consider myself to be a perfectionist or a “control freak,” but I do like to see anything I am in charge of go well. If I am planning an event, I want the event to be a success. If I am working on how to make a positive impact in Courtland, I want whatever we are doing to truly impact the community. If I am creating a worship service, I want people to be able to encounter God in the gathering. These events, projects and services don’t need to be perfect — but they do need to be good.

I have found over the course of my time as a pastor that there is a pretty easy way to ensure that something is “good” — I can do it myself. The old saying often holds true: “If you want something done right then you have to do it yourself.” It is easy for me to fall into the trap of doing anything and everything that is “worth doing” myself. There are quite a few problems with this way of living though.

First of all, none of us are gifted and talented in every area of life. When we look around us, we discover that we are surrounded by people who are gifted and talented in many ways that we are not. As a result, if we insist on doing something ourselves (even when we are not gifted in that area), we might be able to put together something that is “good,” but we leave behind the possibility for something “great” which we could accomplish when others join us. The Apostle Paul talked about the various gifts of people in the church community by comparing the church to a body and each person to individual body parts.

17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. 19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” — 1 Corinthians 12:17-21

You can see how absurd it would be to try to smell with your ear or hear with your foot, but we often do that when we say “I need to do it myself.”

The second problem that comes from insisting on doing everything of value ourselves is that we lose the opportunity to train others and encourage their passion for the things that matter to them and to us. Having an opportunity to get involved and be successful teaches people how to be involved and encourages them to try again. The Leadership Team at Courtland United Methodist Church (UMC) talks about creating “easy wins”— easy opportunities for people to get involved and make a difference even if it is their first time being involved in a ministry. We need to create space for others to succeed to help them learn how to live out their passions!

The third problem that arises when we insist on doing everything ourselves is that there is only one of each of us. Inevitably, a time will come up when there is a conflict between two things we want to see happen. If we have not planned for anyone to step alongside us, then one of those opportunities is going to fall apart. There is no way around it.

I had the great opportunity to let go of my desire to “do it myself” last Sunday as the eight youth in our confirmation class planned, prepared for, and led the entire Sunday morning worship service at Courtland UMC. It wasn’t easy for me to step back and serve as coach rather than lead the service myself, but I am glad that I did. Those youth led the church in worship in ways that I could not have done by sharing their unique gifts. They had the chance to experience what it means to point others towards God and are prepared to do it again. Last Sunday provided the chance to express the truth of all three reasons why we need to let go. I am going to do my best to let go more often — I hope you will do the same.

This Sunday at Courtland UMC we will be celebrating the “confirmation” of the youth who led our worship time last Sunday (time where they “confirm” their faith in Jesus and commitment to the church). It will be a great time to see what God is doing in their lives and reaffirm what God is doing in us. We would love to have you join us if you are looking for something God is doing to celebrate!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.