What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7, NIV)
Nine years ago I entered the world of “disability ministry” without apparent qualification, experience or connections. I was merely an obedient, clueless servant. I had felt the need to be served, but God clearly spoke to me, “No, you go do it! I sent the Son of Man not to be served, but to serve.” I received the two-by-four of discipline enough from the Lord over the years than to argue with him. So away I went, establishing a group for parents of children with special needs. And to this day I will contend that I was exactly who God wanted so I wouldn’t get in His way with all my pride, education and human qualifications.
Shortly after I entered the national disability community, it became evident to me that there were others in this area of service who had far more experience than I. There were adults living with disability or those who served a broad spectrum of individuals and had been doing so for decades before I came on the scene. They had theology degrees, masters in education, connections in our nation’s capital, and the like. I was all ears wanting to glean as much wisdom as possible from these warriors who went before me in this field.
Sadly, it also didn’t take long for me to see a pervasive flaw in my Christian brothers and sisters. Several of them were very much of the opinion that newcomers ought to be joining their existing ministry and not encroaching on the existing organizations. There was a protectiveness, a territorial mentality that made these individuals hold other would-be leaders at arm’s length. There was a reluctance to mentor new leaders and see them succeed. I hate to say this, but I even encountered this stubborn sense of pride where people seemed to want adulation from others.
It didn’t end outside our new ministry either. As the years have gone by, I have also witnessed this sort of attitude in some individuals who serve under our umbrella. Volunteers have become disgusted when they didn’t get the recognition they felt they were due. Individuals have become overly concerned with photos of themselves. People have been wanting to turn the focus on what they’ve done or written versus what the ministry has put out there.
Now, it’s not to say that we shouldn’t be one another’s cheerleaders or give volunteers proper thanks, but dealing with the pride of ourselves and peers can be exhausting and take the focus away from where it should be. It’s been said, more gets done when nobody cares who gets the credit. And that’s how I’d like to encourage each of us to operate in the area of special needs ministry.
Friends, there is enough work to be done without any of us needing to get territorial. God has equipped each of us with different gifts and skills to serve in our unique ways. And there are areas where each of us to recognize we have a personal deficit. Willingness to work together, learn from one another and spur each other on is what we are admonished to do in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (cited above). After all, it is not any of us who truly deserve the glory. It is the God we serve!
Take the time to study the sin of pride as part of your personal growth as a leader. This is something we contend with continually in the earthly roles God has placed us, because some of the very things that make us strong leaders can also get out of hand and become a stumbling block to us. I, for one, will be battling this in myself until the day I take my last breath. Let us strive together to pray in earnestness “He must increase, but I must decrease,” as we direct all the glory to Yahweh in serving those with special needs.