Speed Bump Syndrome: The Spiritual Discipline of Staying Out the Way
Some Christians’ vocation is to be a gratuitous speed bump on any and every ministry freeway they stumble upon. Like barnacles on a hull they latch onto any nuance they can disagree with, hoping their minuscule interference can curb the inertia of another’s ministry.
Anyone who has survived the soul-numbing serfdom of waiting tables knows that the best way to help a fellow waitron is not to join in their table-banter but to stay out of their way. Competing for tips leaves the whole crew disgruntled, and poor.
Yesterday we looked at the problem of “friendly fire” in the church. This is when Christians of various pursuasions spend more aiming flak at their own team mates–other sheep– than they do defending the faith against wolves.
Part of the solution is what I call the spiritual discipline of staying out of the way. We think of prayer, Bible reading, serving, fasting, etc. as spiritual disciplines. But sometimes the best thing you can do for the ministry is to stand clear of those doing the work.
When someone criticized Billy Graham for the methodology of his evangelistic crusades he replied dryly, “I still prefer my method of doing evangelism to your method of doing nothing.”
For those of us who struggle with the temptation to criticize others’ ministry, there is a powerful little passage packed with the remedy of our Lord’s wisdom in Luke 9:49-50.
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
Let’s go easy on the pre-Pentecost dirty dozen Apostles for a second. They were still basically church interns with Jordan moisture behind their ears.
And although Jewish Ghostbusters (like Sceva’s boys in Acts 19) were common, Apostles with legitimate franchise rights to exorcism had not yet established a recognizable market share in the spiritual ganglands of Judea. So their speed bump syndrome is understandable.
Then the Twelve unexpectedly encountered a propitious troupe of unlicensed demonologists toting a generic dose of divine power as effective as their own FDA approved version. They were naturally a bit suspicious, even anxious—like when discovering the “Others” in LOST.
The truth is that they didn’t know what to do with these newbies. So they pull rank: “Hey, this is our turf, and no one casts out anything in our stomping ground without our say-so. Word?”
This scene that plays in my mind’s eye as a kind of “The Exorcist” meets “Westside Story” (equally disturbing entertainment options in my opinion).
Then they smugly trot off to report their coup to Jesus, no doubt high-fiving as they go. Can you imagine the dialogue that followed?
Jesus: “Were they casting demons into people?”
Jesus: Were they doing it in the name of Beelzebub?
Jesus: “Were they charging fees for their service?”
Judas: “Now that would have been smart; but no.”
Jesus: “Exactly what is your beef with them?”
Simon the Zealot: “They weren’t with us.”
Jesus: “What are you, the Bob Jones University hall monitor? Let me tell you something boys, if they aren’t against us, it’s because they’re on our team. God’s just using them to mop up where you missed a spot.”
Get on with your ministry contribution, help those you can help, but if you can’t help, do you best to get out the way.
Perhaps Navpress should get Donald Whitney to stick a brief chapter in his next book titled, “The Spiritual Discipline of Staying Out of the Way.” I’d read that. And I’d either give a favorable review, or if I hated it, I’d be silent.
What about you; ever encounter speed bumps in your ministry?