Half-hearted ministry is killing us. Every bit as much as half-hearted living leads us into dead ends, half-hearted ministry is leaving congregations adrift and clergy and other church staff looking for, as more than one pastor has said to me lately, “a ticket out.”
This half-heartedness is decidedly not of our own making, most of the time. It is not because pastors don’t care, nor because congregations are apathetic. This half-heartedness is much larger.
When we cannot be whole-hearted about our identity as those created, formed and called by God, God’s work in the world seems so much more like a task list—and so much less about living out the passion and engagement of our faith formation.
When we cannot be whole-hearted about keeping sabbath, we are so much more cogs in a machine of production—and so much less God’s beloved, with the Spirit’s wind at our backs, seeking to be the kind and gracious and generous people we are created to be.
When our half-heartedness infects our striving for justice, we find ourselves – and our faith communities – caught in joyless, graceless cycles of guilt-promoting, scorekeeping, and burnout-inducing work. If justice is not our whole heart and our whole identity, we will not be able to sustain the work that is required for equity and equality.
And, how do we learn to love leading change? How do we enter into a whole-hearted embrace of shifting paradigms? There are thousands of books on leading change. But whole-heartedness means loving leading change. That is a high calling and a strong challenge, especially with the stiff resistance that comes, often within congregations, to differing identities, and the exhausting divisions that arise at the mention of the word “justice,” let alone the word “change.”
This is the moment for churches to re-introduce ourselves to our culture as a source of care, community, connection, depth, and equity. Women and men of all ages and backgrounds are asking questions of themselves and their communities that have not been asked before. People rocked to their core by their experiences of dislocation in the year 2020 are looking inward – and hoping for guidance and nurture as they turn. They are asking questions of identity, asking how to disengage from the “hamster-wheel” of production, how to form and sustain communities of justice, and asking how to not just deal with the change that is coming at us from all angles, but live into it…whole-heartedly.
Whole-hearted faith communities have this unprecedented opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to our culture as a source of care, community, connection, depth, and equity. But half-heartedness won’t cut it – only whole-heartedness can meet this moment. And whole-heartedness is the capacity God created in each of us and it is what God provides, especially for moments like this.