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You are free to say “no.”


Ephesians 4: 4-13 (The Message) 4-6You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. 7-13But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,   He climbed the high mountain, He captured the enemy and seized the booty, He handed it all out in gifts to the people. Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

Maybe this is peculiar to small parishes (and maybe it’s not!),  but sometimes, because the pool of kingdom workers seems so small we end up pigeonholing the willing into jobs that just aren’t suited for them.  If they have a heartbeat and are quick to say “yes” (which oftentimes they are because they either fear saying “no” or they haven’t learned how yet) they might be given an office/duty/job that does not fit their personality/gifts/passions.  This does not serve the parish OR the kingdom of God very well. In fact, it usually results in less than the desired outcome.  It doesn’t fulfill the believer and it keeps the right person from doing that job.

Sometimes we hear the faithful say about newcomers, “Hurry and get them involved in something so they don’t go away.  You have to ask, you know, or they will think we don’t want them here!”

Trouble is, the new person has yet to learn the lay of the land, they know nothing about the family or how it operates.  They might say “yes” to the invitation to be a Sunday School teacher or the Worship Committee Chair but is that really where their interests lie?  Is that truly what they are best suited for?  Will it be a good fit at all?  Then if and when they unknowingly bump up against the family system (hear “we don’t do things that way”), plus their frustration over doing what is outside of their giftedness, combines with their lack of understanding about how the family system works then all of the sudden (or so it seems) a conflict ensues.  This has been known to drive said newcomer away quicker than you can say, “What are you bringing to the next potluck?”

I would like to suggest that as leaders in the church we make a pact that we will allow people the liberty to say “no.”  Allow them an out, encourage them to say “not things particular thing, sorry” and have the freedom from guilt to do it.  Make it a viable option!  Instead of insisting that they take us up on our valiant offer of a new volunteer opportunity for their life and time, we will instead ask them to pray about current opportunities before we sign them up as Vice President or Youth Leader.  Tell them it is 100% fine to say “no” but that you want them to think and discern what their gifts are and where God is calling them to use those gifts both inside and outside the walls of the church.  If we have folks whose gifts are in music but who end up teaching the Kindergarten Sunday School class even though they don’t really like kids all that much, we are not serving the body of Christ. . . we are not moving the community of believers toward a healthier, more mature way of life together.  If a position doesn’t get filled right now we need to be brave enough (and patient enough) to say, “That’s okay!  The right person hasn’t been called to this position yet.  We will keep praying for her until God shows her and us who is to take this on.”

As pastors we talk about call, but sometimes we forget that each and every job within the parish ought to be one of call as well.  It’s a new way of thinking for many in our parishes.  It starts with helping the baptized to identify their giftedness; when we don’t know what we are good at, but simply want to belong, we end up doing something that does not necessarily help move the community of faith deeper into its life in Christ.

So let’s be kind to the baptized.  Let’s give them the freedom to say “no” when saying no is for the benefit of their own faith journey as well as the whole faith community.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Rev. Keith Falk, STS permalink
    6September2011 10:11

    And, as a follow-up, allow people the opportunity to re-up or bow out of all of those committees. One thing a chairperson did in my last call was, once a year, ask the members of the committee if they wanted to continue.


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