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"Tony Robinson is one of the most active church leaders in the United States, greatly in demand as he teaches congregations and denominations about church life. His work has a deep theological underpinning, which many congregational-development gurus don't have."

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author of The Gospel and the New York Times and And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament

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Posted May 2, 2016:

Making A Difference

We all want, one way or another, to make a difference. We want our lives to matter. And we would like to see “results” for our efforts.

As a young minister I paid attention to things like worship attendance and membership numbers. They would confirm (or de-confirm) my efforts, whether I was making a difference. It’s not that such indicators are meaningless -- they do tell us something. But it’s hard to keep the ego from getting hooked by such things -- with its usual distorting effect.

At this stage of life I am incredibly blessed to have regular experiences that remind me my life and ministry has made a difference. And they mostly come as a gift and a surprise.

The other evening, for instance, I ran into a woman who was active at a church I served. She hugged me and said, “Do you remember when you went with me to first AA meeting?” I really didn’t, but she clearly did. “I’ve been clean and sober now for thirteen years,” she said beaming. “Thank you.”

This kind of thing is worth a lot, much more than some kind of success by the numbers.

The odd thing is that most of the time I really don’t remember the thing I did or said that has made a difference to someone. But they do. Still, at this age and time of life, these gifts come as some sort of crop of lovely, unexpected fruit. A sweet surprise.

Sometimes, perhaps often, the differences we make are a long time coming. They come on a schedule not our own. In this culture we are terribly short term and focused on “the metrics.” But I’m guessing the things that really count often take years to come to fruition and the fruit they bear may be different than we imagined or expected.

These encounters and expressions of gratitude and meaning are also a testament to the pastoral life. It is and remains a privilege to be an instrument of God’s grace. Sometimes we are that because we have intended it. Sometimes we are such instruments more in spite of ourselves. God chooses to work through such flawed instruments as me and you. Don’t you forget it!

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