by Jocelyn R. Plett
“What would we do without you!”
I’ve heard people say this to missionary colleagues of mine or other family members who do a great job of making themselves indispensable to others. Of course, we are called to work with excellence, allowing the Church to benefit from our skills and gifts.
However, there is a danger, definitely on the mission field, where our indispens-ability can subconsciously go to our heads; and we begin to believe that, “Horrors, what would the people do if I need to leave the country?” Alternately, we can find ourselves thinking, “What would I do if I could no longer lean on so-and-so?” be that a spouse, a colleague, a friend or parent.
Although we love to feel needed, like we’re contributing a valuable resource, this is a heavy load to carry. I know many people who can’t move on to the next place that the Lord is calling them to because they feel the hole they will leave is too large for anyone to fill, and, therefore, the people who depend on them will suffer.
My grandfather, never one to mince words, taught me an important lesson shortly before we left for missions. “You see this?” he said, putting his finger into a glass of water, “This is you. Now watch what happens when I take my finger out of the water.” He pulled his finger out and gave me a pointed look. “Do you see any holes?” he asked.
Ouch! Thanks, Grampa, for making me feel like I’ll have no lasting impact. But of course, that wasn’t his point. It was this: we are not indispensable, none of us.
“What would we do without you?” isn’t a phrase I want to hear about myself, not because I don’t want to serve in the best possible capacity that I am gifted to, but because I want to ensure that I follow what Scripture teaches in training up leaders to follow in this path I am walking.
Malagasy culture is power-selfish in many ways. If someone succeeds in something, the culture is not to encourage him, but to pull him back down to the common level. Similarly, church leaders don’t train up younger leaders to take over. In fact, they purposefully withhold information and wisdom in order to keep them at a disadvantage. This is not only unscriptural, it hurts the whole Church.
We are followers of Christ, not of people. The Church is His Bride, not a tool. We would do well to ensure that Christ becomes greater in us as we become less. It is my own goal to ensure that those around me learn with me to say, “What would we do without Christ?” Never, “what would we do without you!”
I will fail, I will leave, I will get weary, and I will die. But Christ is constant and generous with the grace, strength, power, and love each of us needs in every situation. I can’t compete with that, nor do I want to.