What Can One Person Do?

I’m only one person. That’s what Moses said – that’s what Jonah thought – that’s what Elijah said, too. It’s me against the world. I can imagine God saying, “Hello? I’m (metaphorically) standing right here?” I don’t blame them; even Jesus asked God why God had forsaken Him. It is easy to believe that we accomplish or fail alone; that we feel abandoned when life goes wrong or exceptional when things are good. We all know – if we are honest with ourselves – that none of us is self-made. Jesus could not have done His work without followers. Otherwise, why did He train and send them out in pairs to do what He had been doing all along? It is the great failure of ordained ministry, that we almost always are solo pastors. We need each other to be accountable and strong.

What can one person do? We can start the process of reforming our community. I have said for my entire professional life that I come to the church with amazing ideas and then hand it over to the larger group. They work on it – give input as a group – and come up with something that looks nothing like what I thought was the finished product. The end result makes my original idea look simplistic and raw. But it takes one person to set the stage. It takes one person to move others. You can be that one person. You can help change the world. What have you done lately to make the world a better place?

For a lot of us, making money and a name for ourselves is enough. We can take the credit and take a bow and feel like we have done it on our own. The truth, however, is that we never do it alone. Moses needed Aaron and Miriam. Jesus needed John the Baptist. Elijah needed Elisha. The greatest athletes in the world have a team of coaches and trainers and supporters who help them improve. Michael Jordan even had a mindfulness meditation coach! One person can do a lot, but we can’t expect to continue doing great things if we always try to do it alone. We all need others to make the world better; what have you done lately?

A professor of mine in seminary once said to us that too many Christians think of their pastor as their “paid Christian”. We pay you to do the work, I was told by one parishioner early on, so stop nagging us to get involved. This lone ranger attitude has led to more clergy burnout than you can imagine, and it happens to laypeople too. It has been one of my great frustrations over the years; the knowledge that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. It is an unsustainable model that has been part of our demise. And showing up on Sunday is great – with all the other things going on in life, it is a great gift to the church when people commit themselves to worship. But worship is just the beginning; it should be the thing that ignites us to do good for the next 6 days. One person can change lives, even in small ways. One person can change the world, one act of kindness at a time. But not alone. You have gifts – you have something to offer the world – what have you done lately to make that happen?

Prayer – Holy God, You have made each one of us special; not for our own enjoyment, but for building the kingdom. Give us the courage to do that every day. Amen.