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The Christmas Two-Thirds

I just read that for two-thirds of us, our emotional health gets worse during the Christmas season.

That would mean that two-thirds of the people you saw coming and going in your church were emotionally—relationally—worse the last few weeks.

And, that would mean that 2 of every 3 of us reading this blog did emotionally worse during the last few weeks!

So, welcome to the New Year 2024!

A quick word, and then some reflections on those two-thirds.

Last week you saw some of the PLI milestones in 2023. Thanks for being a part of the PLI journey in 2023.

And, shortly before Christmas you saw the word about my retirement later this year. Thanks for your gracious words in response.

(I should clarify that Gail will continue to lead Multipli and training the people of God to confidently engage in the Mission of God. It’s just me that’s retiring.)

Now for those reflections on the “not doing so well” Christmas two-thirds.

I never saw it when I was a congregational pastor! I wasn’t really aware. Never named it! If I was excited about Christmas worship, I assumed most everyone else was, too. If Gail and I were fine, and our kids fine, then everyone was fine…with the exception of a few whose spouse/parent had passed away and whose funeral I had officiated. It never really occurred to me that people would be gathering on Christmas Eve for midnight candlelight service and have other dynamics and anxieties going on in their lives or in their families. I assumed a few things…

  • Everyone was there just to celebrate the miracle of the incarnation, that it brought joy and peace and a right relationship with the God of the universe for all who believed in the Christ-child and His Virgin birth.
  • Everyone would get almost as excited as me to sing O Come, All Ye Faithful. (It had been the hymn for Gail and me at our Christmastime wedding.) 
  • If I were ever going to preach a good sermon before the year was out, this was the time to do it because hundreds of folks wouldn’t hear another sermon until an Easter Sunday morning in April.

As leaders, our emotional “not so well” might be more pronounced at Christmas, but it can be chronic—a steady drip, drip, drip of “I’m not doing well” throughout the leadership year. It’s why Barna notes that 31% of pastors seriously considered quitting last month.

A few (hopefully) helpful thoughts:

  • We spend much of our time looking for a “magic bullet” to our church challenges or honing a new skill rather than investing in becoming the leaders God has designed and gifted us to be.
  • We need to recognize the unfair expectations that people place on us to lead our church back to yesterday as a path to tomorrow.
  • Let’s face it—leaders face a steady onslaught of internal and external pressures we are not trained to handle, nor do most people understand.
  • We work on skills and call it leadership development and neglect the deeper work of working on ourselves.
  • We’re mostly unaware of what prompts us to react the ways we do or experience the deeper things we do.
  • There’s a freedom that Jesus seemed to possess throughout the Gospels that too often alludes us:
    • The rich young ruler who chooses not to follow…
    • The 12-year-old Jesus with Mary and Joseph and their anxiousness…
    • The face off with Pontius Pilate in the shadow of his own execution…
  • The greatest leadership tool you possess is you

So, where are we? 

We’re just a week or so away from celebrating the incarnation! The God who made us wanted us back so much that Jesus embodied humanity as God!

As leaders, sometimes struggling leaders, we are humbled by such love!

And we are sent to people that see the church as rules marked with do’s and don’ts and missing that we are ambassadors reminding people that God wants His people back and Jesus is the embodiment of that love!

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