W hile at the annual Asbury Minister’s Conference this week, I ran into a few old colleagues and cohorts in the ongoing effort to bring change and innovation to the church. Surprisingly, some, in a good natured way, have questioned my decision to work at the United Methodist Publishing House, a denominational agency. One said, “So, you’re in the belly of the bureaucracy!”
I appreciated the comment, and others like it, because they have helped me to think more clearly about what it means to be a change agent.
In some ways, they’re right. I work in a cubicle. The physical environment of my job is difficult to manage. But I am not there for my own comfort. I am there to do a job.
When it comes to ministry, a person really only has four options. You can either work a) in a church; b) in a parachurch organization, including a denominational agency or separate non-profit; c) as an entrepreneur; or d) as a tentmaker in a secular job, volunteering your time.
I have done all four.
None come preloaded with awesome.
God has never seen fit to send me to awesome. In fact, the most awesome ministry environment I ever served in, Ginghamsburg Church, was doing Easter cantatas with processing banners when I arrived. But, thanks to the efforts of some awesome teams of people, not when I left. You’ve gotta make your own awesome.
Currently, at the creaky old United Methodist Publishing House, my unit and I have resurrected a leadership label with a line of great books with innovative hooks, compelling subjects, and sharp covers. We’re well on our way to recovering a $3 million line of products from the dustbin.
This week, I received executive approval for an innovative new line of worship media products tied to our new Bible translation. It took a year to line up the ducks in a row to make that happen.
Being a change agent means you have to be willing to go someplace that needs change. It may mean you may have to sit in a gray cubicle. It may mean that you have to work in a dusty old country church, or a stodgy old city church, or in a crummy day job, or in the belly of the bureaucracy.
In fact, it is best to assume up front that God will never send you to someplace awesome.
That’s your job.