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A Sense of Accomplishment

6/17/2013

"A Sense of Accomplishment"

Most of my jobs growing up had a similar quality.  I checked people in at our local community pool, detassled corn, built houses, cut down trees and landscaped flower gardens, collected carts and checked people out at Target.  They were different jobs, but they each trained me to work toward a sense of accomplishment.  At each job there were measurable areas of progress that, at the end of the day, I could stand back and be proud of.

This feeling of accomplishment is good...and one we like to experience in our work.

But then I became a pastor and all the measurable categories where I used to find that sense of accomplishment just didn’t work in the same way anymore.

I remember in my first year as a pastor, the unsettling feeling that I wasn’t really doing anything.  I would come into the office, read, pray, write, talk, listen and plan.  I stayed busy, worked lots of hours, started small groups, a worship service, programs and projects, etc...but rarely could tell if the work I was doing was making any real, lasting difference. 

At the end of the day, how do you look over a congregation and measure if anything is qualitatively different than it was at the beginning of the day?  Measuring the life change we so long to see is notoriously difficult in daily, weekly or even yearly increments.

Many of us, in search of that old sense of accomplishment, begin working toward whatever “measurable” categories we can.  Attendance.  Offerings.  Growth patterns.  Even the district reporting process can be seductive to someone looking for a sense of accomplishment – with the measurable categories all neatly laid out in rows, compared to previous years and bound together with the measurables from other churches on the district. 

Or we go in another direction and start working toward buildings and budgets and staffing.  There are even times, still, when I’d rather paint a room in the church (or even clean it) than work on another sermon...simply for that good old feeling of accomplishment.

But maybe there is another way we can find that sense of accomplishment as pastors.

Instead of working toward measurables, I’ve been thinking lately about the value of working toward calling. 

Maybe that sense of accomplishment is meant to come from our level of faithfulness to the work God has called us to do instead of what is produced out of it.

The results, after all, are really God’s to accomplish. 

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.  I have a pastor friend who regularly keeps this verse in the front of his mind to be sure he stays true to his calling,

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ... – Ephesians 3:8

It reminds him that his calling is primarily to share the good news of Jesus with those who are far from God.  And as long as he’s doing that, no matter what his district assembly page looks like, he feels a sense of accomplishment.

Or I have another friend from Michigan, who used to regularly read a certain scripture before he preached.  It said,

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. – Acts 20:24

It reminded him that he had a very specific work to do.  If he strayed too far from that work, this scripture calling helped pull him back.

Now think about that last scripture for a second.  It comes from Paul, the most successful missionary ever – who had a ministry with measurables off the charts.  And he wasn’t thinking about the next church plant, or missionary journey, or the number of people at the next crusade. 

Because he wasn’t working toward those things.

He was simply working toward his calling of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

If he could just accomplish that with his life, he would feel like he had accomplished what he needed to accomplish. 

And he was apparently content to let God accomplish the rest.

In my own life, I find that I’m a better pastor when I work to carry out my calling to “spend my life telling people about the good news of Jesus” and leave the results of that work to God.  I am more fulfilled.  I have more peace.  I am less anxious. 

And at the end of the day, that sense of accomplishment means more.

So, today may the God who called you in the beginning remind you of that calling, equip you for it, and keep you committed to it so that you may also finish your race and complete your task...a task you can be proud of accomplishing.