Fired - thrive UMC Official Blog

Fired

10 I laid a foundation like a wise master builder according to God’s grace that was given to me, but someone else is building on top of it. Each person needs to pay attention to the way they build on it. 11 No one can lay any other foundation besides the one that is already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 So, whether someone builds on top of the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, or hay, 13 each one’s work will be clearly shown. The day will make it clear, because it will be revealed with fire—the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work survives, they’ll get a reward. 15 But if anyone’s work goes up in flames, they’ll lose it. However, they themselves will be saved as if they had gone through a fire. 16 Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person, because God’s temple is holy, which is what you are.

18 Don’t fool yourself. If some of you think they are worldly-wise, then they should become foolish so that they can become wise.

 

            Starting from a very early age, one of the things I hated most about church was ‘dressing up.’   Every other day of the week, I got to wear what I wanted to wear, but for reasons far beyond me, on Sundays I had to get up, put on a shirt with way more buttons than I had patience, I had to keep my hair looking nice, and I had to wear stupid grey pants that I couldn’t crawl around on the floor in. Or worse, I had to wear corduroy pants that made me sound like a walking zipper.  I was awful.  Not only were the clothes uncomfortable, but I got scolded pretty much every time I play, because I might ruin my nice clothes.  Then, on top of all of that, there were these ladies in church who used to come up to me and tell me how cute I was, and then they’d tussle my hair.  And that, in turn, was some kind of secret summons for my mom, who suddenly appear out of nowhere, licking her fingers, unsheathe her comb from her purse, and roughly try to tug my hair back into place.  Just so some other elderly lady could come over and mess it up all over again. It didn’t make any sense.

            So I used to complain to my parents every Sunday: ‘awww, why do we have to wear nice clothes to church?”

            And over the years, my parents must have tried about a hundred different explanations for why it was important to dress up for church. Everything from, ‘we have to show God our best,’ to ‘it’s a sign of respect to our tradition and our elders’ to ‘Jeremy if you don’t put those pants on in 5 minutes, you’re getting a time out.’ 

            And clearly none of their justifications stuck. 

            But while I still don’t think it’s at all necessary to dress up for church, I do at least have a sense of appreciation for where the custom came from.  It came from the Puritans –who I think were totally bananas- but I get it.  And, really, what it all comes down to is that appearances matter. 

            And nobody appreciates the fact that appearances matter more than Enneagram type 3s. [Slide]  Type 3’s are called ‘the Achiever’ and their most basic, driving desire is: to feel valuable or worthwhile.  And their gift is that type 3s make things happen!  They get stuff done, and they always push toward excellence.

            Here’s a quick description of the Achiever:

  • Threes are self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, they can also be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement. They are diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with their image and what others think of them. They typically have problems with workaholism and competitiveness. 
  • At their Best: 3s are self-accepting, authentic, everything they seem to be—role models who inspire others.

And if you’re wondering if you might be a 3, here are four sentiments that 3’s generally tend to be on board with [slide]:

  • I try to present myself to others in the best possible light –but doesn’t everyone?”
  • “I often strive to be the best at what I’m doing –if I can’t be outstanding at something, I generally don’t bother with it.”
  • “My feelings have tended to be foreign to me –I feel things strongly for a little while, and then just get on with things.
  • “When I am insecure, I can be rather aloof and cool with people.”

Again, the gift of the 3s is that they get stuff done –and all of us need 3s in our lives.  If you want your business, or church or your personal life to be successful, then you need to find yourself some 3s, because they will get you to where you want to be.  Almost by default, they excel at reading the room, gauging expectations, and devising tactics to make it happen. And best yet, they will do it.  3s are doers, and they feed on excellence. So when a three is at the head of a project, they will give their absolute best to make it great.  Just make sure you don’t have more than one 3 in the room at a time –because that will likely set up a contest where everyone loses.

             Now, personally, I love 3s. I have a great appreciation for them and their gifts –mostly because they are so different from my own.  But just like every other type on the Enneagram, there is potential for their gift and their strengths to completely go off the rails when they operate out of a state of insecurity.  And this is, I think, one of the most profound insights of the whole system: the source of our particular strength is also the source of our particular weakness.  It’s all grounded in our deepest desires.

            And for the Achiever –the 3- the driving desire is to be valuable.  And again, this is something we all crave, right?  Everybody wants to be valued and appreciated –the only difference for 3s is that this drive has the volume turned up.  It’s the one that has the steering wheel most of the time when they’re acting and making decisions. 

            But then when we operate out of a desire to be valuable, we become image-conscious, don’t we? We almost can’t help it.  It’s not enough for us to do the valuable work, but we also have to be seen doing it.  And we have to receive the recognition for our accomplishment. After all, what good is success if nobody turns around and tells us just how successful we are? 

            Now let me clarify: it’s a good thing to be image conscious, because the impression we make upon others absolutely matters.  As a church, we have to be aware of that, especially today –because our livelihood and our future depends on whether or not people want to be a part of our community. Right?  So we have to present ourselves as a good, successful church.  Because if we’re not good at what we do, and if we’re not healthy, then there are other options out there!  And when guests come to visit us, they will base their decision on whether they want to stay with us, or keep on looking based on how we appear to them.  They won’t have direct access to the love that lives in our hearts, so they’ll have to go by what they can see, and how they feel when they’re with us. 

            And by the way, this is actually how the trend for dressing up to go to church started!  As the economy in America really started to boom in the 19th century, as a result of the industrial revolution, a much larger chunk of the population could afford luxuries like ‘nice clothes’ for the first time in their lives.  And guess where they wanted to come to show them off?  At the most publically social part of their week: in church on Sunday morning!  And churches soon encouraged this, because they found that ‘success’ invites further success: so if you have economically successful people wearing nice fancy clothes at church, then that attracts other people who could afford nice, fancy clothes!  And sometimes these people with extra money in their pockets would even open their wallets at offering time!  Hurrah!  And thus “successful” churches developed an image: they wore impractically nice clothing.  And shortly after that started, the trend of building huge, ornate buildings also developed in America –which was a trend that was way, way older in Europe. 

            But even today, some of that stuff still works, right?  I met a business man a few years ago who flatly told me –me, someone he’d never met before- that the reason he goes to a particular church is just to network with other business people.  There is a locus of entrepreneurial power that gathers at a particular church on Sunday mornings, and he didn’t want to miss out on that. 

            Not only that, but many of the church-planting books I read said similar things: if you want to start a successful church-plant, do it in a developing suburb, anticipating where the growth will be.  They’d openly say: don’t start a church in an urban or rural setting where there’s a lot of poverty, because they won’t have the resources to sustain it.  The subtext was: go instead to where the money is first.   

            And hearing that sounds just gross to some of us –at least it sounds gross to me.  Because that isn’t what the Church is about!  That’s the wrong kind of success for us!  We, as a church, should not be in the business of prioritizing the wealthy and the influential in our ministry!  Leave that to the Country Clubs and social organizations of the elite.  Our business is Christ –and if we want to pursue success, then we need to chase the kind of success that Christ himself embodied!  And we should strive for excellence in what we do –but we have to make sure that it’s the right kind of excellence. Our brand of excellence has to come out of our integrity and out of our calling. 

            And this is what Paul is trying to tell the church in Corinth.  They are, ultimately, suffering from an unhealthy image problem: a gap has arisen between their mission and their lifestyle.  There is a disconnect between their core values and their actions.  The calling they received was a high spiritual calling: the Holy Spirit had empowered them to serve the city as Christ alive in them as a whole community together, working in cooperation.  But through their actions and their speech, they had been reduced to a cult of personality –some riding the coat-tails of Paul’s influence; others using the name of Apollos to sway influence their way.  And Paul was having none of it!

            “I laid a foundation like a wise master builder according to God’s grace that was given to me…”  he says. What great line, right?  You might expect Paul to try and minimize his work –but he goes the other way –by the grace of God, what he did was practically flawless.  Because again, what we do matters, right?  And success and excellence are good things  –as long as they’re done with integrity, through a spirit of grace.  And then everyone who acted after him added to the foundation he had laid: some came setting bricks of stone, or gold, or straw. Everyone makes their contribution, right?

            That’s true for us too –whether you just show up and then leave right afterward, your investment and participation shapes our communal life together.  Our church is known by what you do –here and everywhere else.  We are all walking-billboards for our church, because we are the church.

            Perhaps Paul says it best, in verse 16 he tells us: “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you?  If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person, because God’s temple is holy, which is what you are.” And then he circles back to his original point about wisdom: “Don’t fool yourself,” he says, “If some of you think they are worldly-wise, then they should become foolish so that they can become wise.”

            Personal, insecure wisdom craves to show the world how much they know, and what they can accomplish. And our present business world celebrates this quality as a heroic virtue: we love to lift up lone rangers who seemingly pull the whole team up by their sheer will and skill.  But real wisdom –holy wisdom- is aware of the limits of any one person’s knowledge and abilities.  Truly wise people know they don’t know it all, and can’t do it all.  They are in touch with their deep need and reliance upon God and upon other people.  And they live in the assurance of being a strong block –one piece of the larger, grander design, resting on the secure foundation of Christ. 

            This is the struggle of the 3 in all of us: we all want to live as valuable people.  But our peace and our security will come from our awareness that each and every member of our species is precious and needed –not just because of what we do (which is indeed important), but because of who we are, and because of the spirit that can dwell within us and make us holy. 

            Because we were all made to be temples.  We are living houses for the spirit of Christ.  Thus the only thing that matters, is that we open our doors wide so that the spirit can flow through us –in as inspiration; and out as loving service to our neighbors.  Let us do this important work, with excellence!

            Before we close, I wanted to share some spiritual growth tips for the 3s in all of us.  Here are some practices that will help us integrate our personality with the cosmic spirit of Christ:

            [Slide]

  • Practice silence, solitude and meditation.
    • This is an important practice to make sure we stay in touch with our integrity, and to ensure that our insecure craving for recognition isn’t driving the bus –which is the trap we will fall into if all of our energy is invested in doing and accomplishing. Silence is the ‘refresh button’ for our spirits.
  • Challenge your definition of success and craft a new one for yourself.
    • 3s especially can have a hard time selecting their own version of success; they’re much more likely to let the dominate standards of their environment define them. And this is a problem especially when the environment isn’t healthy or centered.
  • Have at least one friend who can love you even when you’re a complete disaster.

This will remind you of the ever important lesson that the real work that matters is us.   It’s not a project or programming or series of events; it’s living, breathing people.  And people make mistakes.  We fail. We give up.  And we need love and acceptance especially in those moments.  So if you don’t have someone who can love and accept and appreciate you when everything falls apart, then you’re missing out on one of the best gifts our neighbors have to offer us.  Make that your next goal: find a friend to love you when you’re a disaster. (Maybe look for a healthy 2!).

Let’s pray.

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