I remember it well. We were early on in planting City Campus Church. And we had a cookout at a park and met some folks. We hit it off with a family that was there. I have a unique 6th sense that can read people pretty accurately and I sensed that the family was Mormon.
It was either the 6th sense or the fact that all 6 of them had Utah shirts on and the kids were the most well behaved kids at the park.
But we hit it off and ended up having dinner with the parents a few weeks later. And Shaina and I were pretty sure they were Mormon and wouldn't be interested in planting C3 with us but we were hopeful there could be friendship.
We got to the restaurant and exchanged pleasantries and inevitably the "what do you" conversation came up and I shared that I was a church planter pastor. And the rest of the night turned into what I can best describe as a Mormon apologetic. Whatever evangelism training they'd ever received, they began to implement in hopes of converting us to their faith.
In an instant, we became an agenda.
To be fair...if they started asking questions about C3, we wouldn't have withheld our story and an invitation to join what God was doing...but I remember very distinctly leaving that meal with a bad taste in my mouth about being viewed as a project or a pawn rather than a person.
Church Planting has been a blast. I feel like at the moment of being hired, a list of 563 tasks was unleashed that needed to be accomplished. My specific wiring is all about tasks, so this process has hit a sweet spot for me. Do this. Accomplish that. Knock this out. Finish these. Have an agenda and git r dun.
What happened from there was that ever so subtly, all my relationships became tied to cost-benefit analysis. If they could help us, I'd invest. If we could help them, I'd invest. And every meeting, every connection, every get together was packed with purpose and plan. If someone did not seem interested in helping us tell the story, their value decreased. Of course I would never say that out loud, or perhaps even think it. But I communicated it with the access I gave them, the relational equity I'd give (or not give out).
The thing that made me an effective church planter was the thing that subtly and toxically was stealing my soul.
Every relationship I had was filled with agenda.
Could they be a leader? Could they serve on a Celebration Team? How do I challenge them? How can I encourage him? How can I pray for her?
And the startling realization was that the way I viewed the world was the way I viewed my relationship with God.
Transaction. He scratches my back. I'll scratch His. I even operated under the auspices of God's agenda...His kingdom...and thought that I could justify my role as the King's servant. And felt perfectly satisfied maintaining this role.
The kicker? Churches hire people who are really good at this. If you can get stuff done and accomplish tasks and reach goals and make the dream become a reality, you're going to get hired to grow the thing, launch the thing or revitalize the thing. Church world (too much like business world) thrives off agenda and transaction.
The pressure that this generates is immense. And it dawned on me that treating people as pawns (even God's pawns) was stealing from them the essence of their humanity.
We weren't meant to merely be servants. We are called to be sons.
We weren't meant to only do. We are called to radically be.
This shift has saved my life.
It's ok just to be. To enjoy company. To delight in friendship. To meet someone and get nothing done. It's ok to just sit in God's presence and not ask for anything or report on duties.
It might be even more than ok. It might be the way to life.
It's a better way.
I'm living proof.