The other day I was working for one of my lawn mowing clients. This family is out of town for a while and asked me to keep their pool cleaned out…leaves and trash and stuff. So I’ve been doing that.
When I was in college and graduate school, I worked as a lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor with the Red Cross and YMCA. I have worked at various pools and waterfronts over the years. One responsibility most lifeguards have is cleaning the pool, so I’ve done this before. No big deal.
Well, last Friday was the first time I have ever had to break the ice on the surface of a pool in order to clean the leaves off the bottom! It was stinking cold! My gloves got soaked so I had to take them off, then my hands got pretty cold too! Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long…less than an hour. Now I could have just left it and come back next week. But there would be no guarantee that next week would be any warmer and there would certainly be more stuff to clean out, making the work harder and longer. So I endured and got the job done…breaking the ice and scooping the leaves out along with the broken chunks of ice.
As I’ve thought about that, I realized that there is a lesson for us as pastors, leaders, and church planters.
There are several schools of thought in the church today:
- Some say, that we should take it easy with the gospel. People have a hard shell that takes time to work through. We need to take a subtle approach. I must admit, I bought into that at times, but I don’t see that as what Jesus did. Sure if someone cracks the door of their life giving you a glimpse at what’s under the surface, you don’t drive a bulldozer through it. However, you have to break the surface to get to what’s underneath. Jesus was always “cutting straight to the chase,” not beating around the bush.
- Some say that we should be patient with people. There’s a lot of trash that needs to be cleaned out and it takes
time. Some of the stuff can wait. Sure, it takes time, but the longer one waits to let God clean out the junk under the surface of our hearts, the more stuff potentially will pile up; and the longer its going to take to get it clean. We should be patient with people…the Lord knows how patient and gracious and merciful He has been with me! We should not try and be the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives. BUT that doesn’t mean that we shy away from speaking truth from God’s Word into their lives. When it comes to leadership, we don’t compromise biblical principles and standards of leadership. We can see potential in people, but they still may need time for God to better prepare them to lead. I had a friend who was part of a church plant that folded after 10 years and his number one advice to me was “Don’t lay hands on people too soon.” In other words, don’t put people into leadership positions too quickly before they are spiritually ready. God may still need to clean some junk out from under the surface.
- Some say they don’t want to offend people by talking about tough issues. Listen, we have to talk about tough issues. We have to be uncompromising when it comes to God’s word. If people are offended by the Gospel, guess what? We’re in good company. People were offended by it when Jesus preached it! He said that they would be. Don’t back off of the gospel!
- Some say we should take our time. There is plenty of time…next week, next year. We’ll present the gospel and ask for a response at the end of a certain series. Just as there was no guarantee for me that the next week would bring warmer weather and an easier time cleaning the pool without having to break the ice, there is no guarantee of next week for us either. There is an urgency to the Gospel…I believe now more than ever!
- Some say that it’s too hard, too messy…”I’m cold and tired.” True. But the junk below the surface in people’s lives is killing them and we have to speak the truth in love and present the Gospel…the only remedy for the sin in their lives…consistently and faithfully, no matter how tired we are, no matter how messy it gets. Yes, dealing with lost people gets messy. But that’s what we are supposed to do isn’t it?
- Some don’t want to “break the ice” because it can be painful. Yeah, but until God breaks through the surface, the pain will be greater…the ice can get thicker.
Pastor, church planter, leader…What about your own life? Have you put a nice, slick, shiny coating on the surface and left the trash underneath on the bottom? Maybe its time to get real, break that layer of ice and clean some of that out yourself. Its messy, but God wants to break the ice in our lives too. Then you can get busy breaking the ice and helping clean out the junk in the lives of those God has entrusted to you.