A valuable lesson church leaders often have to learn the hard way is to avoid the danger of product living versus process living.
It’s very easy in ministry to be living for another day in the future–for the product or the accomplishment of your next major ministry milestone. And all the while, you don’t even realize that you’re failing to love and enjoy the people and the ministry process of how you’re getting there.
Church leaders often say, “I’ll finally be happy when we have a certain number of people in worship every Sunday.” Or “I’ll be happy when I can raise the financial support I need.” Or “I’ll be happy when we are self-supporting as a church.” Or “I’ll be happy when we’re self-governing with our own elders and deacons.” Or “I’ll be happy when I’ve been able to pass the baton to another leader.” Or “I’ll be happy when I’m not sick anymore”, “When the kids are older”, “When the kids are gone,” etc. etc. The list of each milestone or product never ends!
All the while, church leaders are tempted to fall prey to sinful jealousy of other ministries doing better than theirs. But even those fleeting moments, when you finally reach that long awaited ministry goal or milestone that you’ve been living for and look to for so long, oh it feels great, but like sand through your fingers, it so quickly slips away from you, so that you must look ahead then to the next experience or “high” that will only come when you meet your next ministry goal or milestone.
Author Isaac Rubin writes, “The joy and happiness from the process lasts much longer and can be much more satisfying over the duration of your life. But if you are totally goal oriented in a success oriented culture and if the product is the only goal, you will destroy much of the possibility for true joy and happiness in life.”
This is because almost all of your life is about the process and not the final product!
“If you can’t learn to appreciate and enjoy the process of living and ministry itself, the only thing you’ll lose is…(pause) joy in life” (sarcasm).
If you get nothing out of the doing because you are always looking for the high that will come at the end, you’re in serious trouble. But if you learn to be nourished by the whole process, that result at the end of the road, that milestone, that ministry goal, positive or negative, is not terribly significant. You just go onto the next process. You must learn to understand and appreciate process living because the process is really what life is all about. We’re in process 98% of the time. If you are living for that final 2%, you’re in trouble. The truth is, most of us are in serious trouble.
This story is told when Alexander the Great conquered the entire known world. He wept because there were no more worlds for him to conquer. The opiate of winning the next battle was now gone and he was left trembling in withdrawal, unable to live and love life in the present. If you’re not careful, you will always be living for tomorrow and find yourself robbed of all your todays.
Elizabeth Elliot wrote, “Don’t let your living for tomorrow slay your living for today.”
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