I love the TV game show “Cash Cab.” In this show Ben Bailey asks people trivia questions while taking them to their destination in his cab, and part of the game is that they have two “shout outs” that they can use to ask for help. One is a phone call that they can make to anyone they know, and the other is a chance to pull over in New York City and ask a helpful stranger for the answer they need. So many times people forget to use their shout outs! Even though the host reminds them, they forget and for some it costs them the game.
How often do we think that we have to be the solution to the problems around us? And even more, how often do we shoulder burdens that are way too heavy for us to carry because we think that we have to be able to help everyone solve their problems.
Maybe you’ve not struggled with this as much as I have, but I know that it runs wild in the pastoral community. Most pastors don’t go into ministry because they feel a deep longing to be underpaid and overworked; if that was their aim, they would enlist in the military or work in retail! (both of which I have done, FWIW) Most pastors aren’t egomaniacs looking to wield power over people or mama’s boys who want everyone to like them. No, most pastors go into vocational ministry because they love Christ and love people and want to help people know and love Christ like they do. They’ve seen the transforming power of God in their own life and want to share with others the grace they’ve received.
The problem that many pastors run into, and that many loving Christians who aren’t pastors share, is that in our desire to love one another and help people see Christ we try to offer answers that we don’t have and help that we don’t have the ability to give! And when we do that, I always get a flashback to the only Tom Cruise movie that is worth watching:
I can just picture God looking at us and saying, “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!” I see this all the time, and have run across it in my own life rather pointedly.
- I have students and church friends who have friends struggling with self-harm, and come to me asking for advice on how to help their friend stop.
- I know people whose family is making poor decisions and have been asked how to help them change.
- I’ve been asked how to open the door for someone to change and not be angry with God anymore.
- I’ve seen people struggle with personal past issues that spill over into current relationships and have both personally desired to help them have healing and had others ask me how to help them get back on track.
- Recently someone laid their finances out for me and asked me how to overcome their family swindling them out of their retirement and their income.
- I had a friend come and complain about their church and how broken the church is, and in frustration ask how to start a better one.
This past year, God has really, really shown me the folly of thinking that as a shepherd, friend, pastor, professor, etc. that I can fill all of these needs in someone’s life. That’s a lesson He tells us all in 1 Corinthians 12!
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7, ESV)
God never said that He gave one person all of the manifestations of the Spirit, but that He has given each one a manifestation or gifting to serve the body of Christ. And that means that we can only do that which we are called and equipped and able to do. To do more is working out of our area and is terrible not only on them but on us as well! In 1 Cor 12 Paul goes on to talk about the church using an analogy to our bodies, with different organs serving different functions. Lungs don’t digest well; think about the last time you inhaled a drink of water or a bite of food and how that worked out for you!
Likewise, in the body of Christ when we try to do that for which we are ill-equipped it harms us and the body.
Let me put a fine point on this. Lately especially I have seen people trying to carry burdens for others that they just can’t carry. I have done it myself, so I am not pointing the finger! Instead of carrying that burden or trying to be someone’s Savior, love them, support them, and give them a strong nudge to get the help they need from a part of the body that can help them.
- I told my friend with financial distress to go talk to our Crown teacher at church and a CFP that I know. They know finances and can help!
- For many of us, a good and helpful start is to encourage our friends to go talk to their pastor about their spiritual, emotional, and relational struggles. They at least have SOME training in helping in these areas, so encourage others to get help!
- Pastors need to recognize their limits as well, and not try to be counselors or psychologists. I have learned the hard way that it is far better to encourage someone to seek out better help than to try to muddle through with my limited abilities. And I thank God for the men and women who are professionals in the field of behavioral health who can offer assistance I can’t!
So do yourself and your friends and family a favor and use the “shout outs” that God has placed in your life! Be a good help, but don’t try to be everything.
How about you? Have you had to use a “shout out” recently? How has that gone?