Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference (IGRC) or its predecessor bodies, the former Central Illinois and Southern Illinois conferences and their lay, clergy and episcopal leaders have earned a good name around Africa University. With God’s help and yours, we will finish this campaign on time.
From the kindergarten through the eighth grade, I attended a Catholic school run by Benedictine nuns. We learned a lot. For example, along with Catholic kids, Protestant children learned catechism. Catechism was religious instruction about the Catholic faith in a question and answer format. Of the prayers they made us pray, the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary were repeated constantly. I left St. John’s over 60 years ago. But I haven’t forgotten Hail Mary.
As pastors, leading a congregation who willingly serves, loves Jesus, and gives of themselves generously is the goal. Sometimes, when any of us want something (that isn’t happening the way we would like it to) so badly, we rationalize and mislead ourselves into a “people pleasing” thought process that tells us that if we work hard enough to please the misguided sheep, they will see the light. But, that doesn’t necessarily happen. When we move from healthy ‘people pleasing’ to unhealthy ‘people pleasing’ it tends to be because our motivation for saying ‘yes’ has changed.
Stress, and the way we perceive stress, are the primary reasons we aren’t all 100% healthy. Stress can build us up such as with a new baby or a marriage, or stress can be perceived as negative or harmful to us. Harmful stress slowly breaks us down like boulders being broken down into sand whereas positive stress strengthens our foundation and builds us up. When stress breaks us down faster than life can build us back up, we lose function and therefore we lose health. It may not feel like we have a choice in how stress affects us, when in reality, we have quite a bit of control.
Our behavior is driven by our belief system. If we believe we MUST be loved and accepted by others and it is unacceptable to NOT be loved and accepted our beliefs will motivate us to bend over backwards in order to avoid rejection. To change our behavior we must change our negative pattern of thinking.
In ministry, it seems that there are a myriad of people to make happy. Not only does one have an entire congregation, but then there are the supervising administrators. And it is important to have a good relationship with members of your community. We also need to have family and friends who are pleased with us and our decisions. It seems there are a so many people to keep happy. How do you please all these people and still attend to your own needs? Balance.
When Rodney King fielded questions about his legacy from the BBC, he responded, “Some people feel like I’m some kind of hero. Others hate me. They say I deserved it. Other people, I can hear them mocking me for when I called for an end to the destruction (the LA riots), like I’m a fool for believing in peace.”
One can only wonder how history might have changed...or not changed...if those six disciples of Jesus had decided to abandon their prayers, or if those who attended the prayer services had decided to eject the "strangers" who brought new ideas and activism, which put feet on those prayers. It seems both atheists and Christians can discount the ability of God to use our prayers to change the world.
Suppose United Methodists encounter Jesus on the road like the rich young ruler. Instead of eternal life, United Methodists ask our Lord “how can we grow the church?” “Implement the Great Commission,” Christ retorts. With ONE MIND United Methodists reply “Been there, done that.” Undaunted, Christ expects more. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all humankind unto me.” Believing that, which worked in the 18th and 19th centuries no longer works in the so-called Post-Christian era, United Methodists grieve our membership loss as if it were a life sentence.