Are You Chasing a Phantom?

During my first year on Cru staff, ministry leadership detected a troubling pattern.  They realized that many staff were pursuing phantoms.  Well, not multiple specters.  Only one they dubbed “The Phantom.”  This mythical creature was not the typical ghoul that populates horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, but instead was a composite, idealized, nearly perfect Cru staff member.  Here’s how it worked.

Cru attracts some of the most committed, talented disciples in the Christian world – people willing to make vocational sacrifices and pursue the formidable task of support team development.  This determination typically carries over to other aspects of their spiritual lives:  prayer, Bible study, evangelism, etc. 

The Body of Christ concept teaches that God uniquely gifts believers and places them in various kingdom-furthering roles.  My responsibility is to faithfully fulfill that calling and rejoice as others do the same.

The problem Cru leadership detected was that some staff were gazing at their peers and, rather than celebrating their talents and faithfulness, felt convicted that they didn’t measure up.

·         Bill is one of the most outgoing people I know and takes every opportunity to share his faith.

·         Chelsea is a prayer warrior, typically rising at 5:00 a.m. to spend an hour praying.

·         Chad is a Bible scholar who studies diligently to bring fresh insights to his disciples.

·         Cheryl has the gift of hospitality and uses her apartment as an incredible ministry platform.

·         Jason dearly loves the people from his home area who support his ministry and somehow finds time almost every month to send each one a personal note.

What admirable, commendable traits!  The problem comes when I move from admiration to berating myself I don’t measure up in all these areas, a fairly wide-spread trend the Cru leadership detected.  

Essentially, these well-meaning rank-and-file staff were taking the best characteristics of various friends and created The Phantom – the idealized staff member who exists only in a mythical, over-spiritualized universe.  What they were missing was that even though Bill has the gift of evangelism, his apartment looks like a war zone, and he almost never communicates with his support team.  Chad may know the Bible inside-out but would be the first to admit that his prayer life suffers from extreme flab.   

We should always strive to up our ante spiritually and admire the best traits of others, but, rather than getting down on ourselves for our shortcomings, we need to do so in a way that embraces the path God has me on.  

So the take-aways are:

·         Admire other believers for their gifting

·         Stop short of becoming unduly self-critical

·         Seek was to appropriately serve as encouraging role models to others as we serve from our strength areas.

This reminder is especially apropos at this time of year when we pressure ourselves to orchestrate the “perfect Christmas.”   I recently commented to my wife that somehow the Magic of Christmas loses something when you are the magician.  Let’s do our best to keep this in mind during this holy season, remembering what Christmas is really about.