I’ve been out of ‘fulltimepaidchrisitianministry’ now for 2 years. In it for 7, out for 2. I’ve pondered and wrestled with the transition from one way of being to the other. Most of my issues have led me to one conclusion. My problems arise from ladders. Bear with me.
I think in our churches we are trained to believe in the ladder syndrome. I was well schooled in this during my time at University. I went to a large CU with a funny name. As with all large organisations it had a hierarchy and a code and some ladders. The pinnacle of the ladder was the exec (organising committee of the CU). I know, I can barely believe it myself. The pinnacle was the exec. The holy of the holiest. This wasn’t intended. No-one set up the CU to function in such a way, it just meant that some were chosen, others weren’t and a whole lot of assumptions were made. You weren’t a good enough Christian if you didn’t make it onto the exec.
In the cold light of day such thinking seems preposterous. Stupid. We knew that it was wrong. And yet the ladder system grew. At the bottom were the ordinary members of the CU, further up those who did the catering, further up those who organised prayer meetings and so on until the really spiritual ones amongst us got to have a year of their lives consumed with CU politics and the occasional joy of seeing people come to know their Maker and others grow in their love and trust of Him.
The ladder system continues in the church. The pinnacle can often be ‘full time ministry’. There are the people who just turn up to church occasionally at the bottom of the rung, written off for not being committed enough, then those who ‘serve’, depending on your church the more important job is either the coffee makers or the people who pray and read the Bible. Next are those who get to preach, those who lead us in worship, then somewhere near the top are the full timers.
Sometimes we’ve realised this and so have inverted the ladder- now full timers are down the bottom somewhere as people who don’t understand the ‘real world’ and now we place people in 9-5 jobs at the top- they are on the front line of mission after all.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it ends up being all about me, where am I on the rungs? Did I slip down some rungs? Am I now at the bottom, or the top and does it really matter? The ladder needs to be burnt. Life in the family of God can’t be reduced to who is better than whom at this Christian malarkey. We aren’t seeking to climb the ladder of success in the Christian life. Especially as everyone has a different marker of what that success looks like.
Pride most seen in the obsession with self. The worry about where I am all the time. Humility is all about self forgetfulness (it must be – CS Lewis said so). It’s about forgetting the ladder system and getting on with being loved and loving the people around us. Trouble is that’s a whole lot harder than working out where we are in the hierarchy and feeling inferior and superior in equal amounts.
God gives us our worth. Our value. He takes the ladder our from our feet. Declares we are Loved and then kicks us up the backside to love those around us.
What do your ladders look like? Where are you putting people higher or lower than yourself?