BACK IN MARCH, DAN CRAIN HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF SPEAKING AT DESIRE STREET’S “THRIVING LEADERS SERIES” HTTP://WWW.DESIRESTREET.ORG/PARTNERS/THRIVING-LEADERS-SERIES/ . HE SPOKE ON A TOPIC CALLED THE “UNDERBELLY OF SERVICE: WHY THE FALSE SELF PLAGUES SO MANY MINISTRIES.”
YOU CAN WATCH THE PRESENTATION HERE: HTTPS://VIMEO.COM/219781733
THIS IS A BLOG SERIES BASED ON THE CONTENT HE PRESENTED AT THIS WORKSHOP. WE HOPE YOU FIND IT BENEFICIAL AS YOU LEARN TO SERVE THOSE ON THE MARGINS WELL!
YOU CAN REACH DAN AT DAN@REMERGE.ORG OR ON FACEBOOK AT DAN CRAIN – FACEBOOK.
THE COOKIE EPIDEMIC
There’s a cookie epidemic in our culture. I have seen this cookie epidemic happen in many different contexts but I mostly see it in the ministry world, particularly among myself.
This cookie epidemic started between a joke my wife and I have with each other. After one of us will do something around the house whether it be cleaning a room, painting a wall, cooking food or something as simple as making cookies, we will ask the question; what do you think of the cookies? Are they good?
But we really aren’t asking if the cookies are good are we? We are really asking the question of each other, am I good? If the cookies that I made are good then that means I am good. But the reverse is true. What happens if the cookies suck? Does that mean I suck?
Unfortunately this can also be true about the ministries that we lead and have influence over. I see it in myself and have seen it many times in the largest of churches and the smallest of ministries; how our identity becomes wrapped up in the thing we are called to steward.
I first saw it when I was a youth pastor fifteen years ago. When we would have a good Wednesday night gathering of youth and eighty kids would show up I would be really excited, but when only fifty kids would shop up the next week, I would get really depressed and discouraged.
Why? Because my goodness was tied to what I could produce. Recently I was discussing this with my wife, Adrienne and she said, “The gifts that God has given were never meant to be a source of identity.”
I believe that we struggle with this cookie epidemic because we are loving and serving out of our family of origin. My family of origin was that I was never quite good enough and so I needed to prove myself by performing for others and myself. If I produced good things, then I was good. I wrote recently about the father wound and urban ministry here; Father Wound and Ministry.
Pete Scazzero in the Emotionally Healthy Leader says, “Unhealthy leaders lack, for example, awareness of their feelings, their weaknesses and limits, how their past impacts their present, and how others experience them.” The past is always impacting the present, particularly in our efforts to produce something, whether it be cookies, cleaning the house, a project for work, etc.
At its core is codependency. Codependency is simply the idea that you need something external to make yourself internally feel at peace. We need people to say how good our cookies are so that we feel better about ourselves. We need people to affirm the thing that we are giving life to so that we feel better about ourselves.
Certainly we are called to stewardship and to constantly review and be faithful to what Christ has called us to, but our goodness is not wrapped up in what we do or can produce. As followers of Christ our goodness is wrapped up in Him. He is good, therefore we do good.
This is no way takes away from encouraging people and affirming someone for their gifts and abilities. What it does check is our motivation for doing such things and always seeing for the approval of others. If our driving motivation is to prove something or to find a sense of affirmation, then it’s codependent and needs to be brought to Christ.
Recently I’ve been meditating on Philippians 3 in which Paul says, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him,”
Do I consider what I can produce so that I feel good about myself as a loss for the sake of knowing Christ? Am I detached from my cookies enough to rest in the fact that God loves me simply because I’m his child? Scazzero also says in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, “Detachment is the great secret of interior peace. I break free from the need to attach myself to accomplishments, things, or people’s approval to feel okay about myself. I experience the gift of being Abba’s child.”
Howard Thurman’s uses the language of an “Island of Peace within one’s own soul.” He says in Jesus and the Disinherited about finding our true identity in God and God alone; “The awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego, and results in new courage, fearlessness and power.”
Howard Thurman is a hero of the faith that lived through Jim Crow, segregation and mentored Martin Luther King Jr. and his theological thought is where the Civil Rights find it underpinnings. I absolutely love the language of an “Island of Peace within one’s own soul.” I cannot even begin to fathom the strength Thurman had in his soul in the midst of such hate simply over the color of his skin. I struggle when someone critiques even the smallest of things that I produce. I am learning to develop an island of peace within my soul through Christ and not finding my identity in producing good cookies.
Recently a brother in Christ that is giving his life to ending sex trafficking, Drew Merritt said, “I used to think my purpose in life was my calling. I thought my purpose (my calling) was to help put an end to Commercial Sex Exploitation. But now I know my purpose in life is to be a son of the Most High King and to rest in that relationship. And from that I join my Father in the great adventure of raising awareness against Commercial Sex Exploitation. It is so much more freeing. I am not the hero of my story…but simply a son who loves his Father deeply and wants to tag along.”
In Christ we are the beloved child of God and it doesn’t matter if the cookies we make are good or bad, he still loves us.
Rest in the finished work of Christ brothers and sisters.