I have had so much positive feedback from so many of you on the theme of responsibility from this past Sunday’s message. I am glad this theme resonates for you.
I was deeply appreciative of one comment: “You talk about challenging and hard things in encouraging ways.”
I cannot tell you how much I want to be able to do that. There are many challenging and hard (but always good) things in our Christian faith. I want us to have crucial conversations about the things that matter most, like responsibility, but to do it in a way that does not get bogged down in guilt and shame. I want these conversations to take place in a way that encourages, motivates, and empowers us to become fully alive and flourishing in the grace of God.
However, I want to make an adjustment to something I said on Sunday. By itself, it could be misunderstood. And by itself, it is not sufficient to explain how I understand my own responsibility for you.
I have a pretty high sense of responsibility for people. I have always liked Paul’s words in Romans 1:14: “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks.” In other words, Paul has a sense of obligation, duty, and responsibility for everyone when it comes to the Gospel. Paul never met a person about whom he did not have a sense of obligation. For everyone he met, Paul had the sense that he was their keeper (see Genesis 4:9-10). While I may not have that sense for everyone I meet, I sure have it for most of the people I meet.
I also understand the personal experience Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29. Paul had a deep concern for the spiritual life of every church he started and every person he knew. I feel that as well.
Positively, I experience it this way. I long for everyone at Living Word to flourish. It is my great desire that everyone experience more and better, real and eternal life in Christ (John 10:10, The Message). It hurts when I see people struggle and flounder in life. My role as lead pastor is to lead a great team of staff, Board, and ministry partners for the flourishing of as many people as possible. It is my role to set a vision of flourishing, create a spiritual place where we can flourish, and set the direction and pathways to flourishing.
I also have a very high vision for what you and I can be in Christ. I see what it means to be fully alive, renewed in the magnificent image and likeness of Christ. Our potential is truly staggering. There is more. There is much more for you. The Best is Yet to Come for you and for all of us. So, again I feel the responsibility of doing all that I can so that as many people as possible will flourish.
On Sunday I said, “I am not responsible for your Christian growth.”
I was trying to overcome the common mentality in our culture that puts responsibility on others, and that often minimizes our own personal responsibility. In my pastoral experience, too many Christians do not take seriously enough their personal responsibility for prayer, Bible study, lifelong development, worship, service, and the many other spiritual disciplines that are the very means by which they will grow.
I was trying to overcome the mindset that thinks Christian growth happens on Sunday morning. Christian growth is launched on Sunday morning. Whether it continues depends on your response Monday through Saturday.
But, as true as that is, and as important as it is for you to take responsibility (Philippians 2:12-13) here is what I should have said:
“I am responsible for your Christian growth, but I am not fully responsible.”
“I am responsible, but I am not solely responsible.”
“I am responsible, but I do not even have the most important responsibility for your Christian growth.”
Together, we are responsible for your Christian growth. I am responsible. Your friends and family are responsible. Your small group is responsible.
But, if you do not take your core responsibility, all of our additional responsibility will not be sufficient. When you take responsibility, then all of our responsibility will make a great deal of contribution to your Christian growth.
I hope this clarifies the “better way” that I did not adequately describe on Sunday about OUR responsibility.
P.S. You know you are also responsible for my growth as well!