On Sunday I finished one of the goals that I adopted when I became the South District Superintendent. In my first year I wanted to worship with every church in my District. This is not an uncommon goal. I expect that most Superintendents have a similar goal each year, and especially their first year. I have the advantage that I have a small district, which makes it much more doable. When I started the position last August (I started a month late due to a pre-planned leave), I thought that this would be an easy goal to achieve. I was wrong! It is amazing how many called-charge conferences and celebrations happen! Occasionally, like Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas, I also wanted to go to church with my wife. Then there are the occasional conferences and retreats to attend. There are so many things that look easy—until we are in the position!
I have been around District Superintendents for the last 30 years. I wonder how often I underestimated all that they were doing, and how challenging it was? It appears to me that we have the tendency of doing that with a lot of people. It is tempting to assume that we know what other people are facing in life, without ever taking the time to learn about them. There are so many impressive people all around us! I’m thinking that we need to be quicker about thanking people for all that they do.
At some point in all of my churches someone would quote the old saying that “20% of the people do 80% of the work.” Which side of the percentages did the people making the quote feel like they fell on? I was impressed with the leader in one of my churches who responded by doing a poll to find out how many people were involved in our church’s ministries. The results were astounding! An extremely high percentage of people in our church were involved. Many of them were very much “behind the scenes” and were not recognized very often. The faithfulness that we found when we intentionally looked was humbling.
As I’m writing this article I’m also starting the packing process for Annual Conference. How many people does it take to make Annual Conference happen? Do we ever take these people, and the roles they fill, for granted? Do we ever not even notice all that is being done? I’m going to take one more dangerous step here. Are we ever that person who is both not appreciative of what has been done for us, and who finds something to complain about? I’m going to let you in on a poorly maintained secret. Church people—including pastors—sometimes complain a lot! If we see something that is really bothering us, maybe God is revealing an opportunity for us to volunteer to help.
If you are going to Annual Conference this week, raise your hand (go ahead, raise it). If you are going to church this week, raise your hand. If you are going to a store, restaurant, or other public place, raise your hand. If you are going to be around family this week, raise your hand. OK, you can put your hand down now (people are going to start to wonder about you)! All of these are great places to be an encourager. I guarantee that if we look, we will find people who are working really hard to benefit others—which might even include us.
The challenge that I give you this week is to look for opportunities to thank other people for their efforts. If you want to go for extra credit (anyone here an over-achiever?), go for an entire week without complaining—starting right now! In advance, I want to thank you for making a positive difference. What might seem like a simple word, or an easy gesture, can possibly be a life-changing moment for someone else. Together, let’s be world changers!
Your brother on the journey, Mark