Somewhere along the way I came across a list of “intentionally ambiguous job recommendations.” See if you recognize any of these. First the recommendation and then the translation:
Recommendation: “While he worked with us, he was given numerous citations.”
Translation: “He was arrested several times.”
Recommendation: “You simply won’t believe this woman’s credentials.”
Translation: “She faked most of her resume.”
Recommendation: “You will never catch him asleep on the job,”
Translation: “He’s too crafty to get caught.”
Recommendation: “He doesn’t know the meaning of the word QUIT.”
Translation: “He can’t spell it either.”
Recommendation: “I must recommend this person with no qualifications whatsoever.”
Translation: “This person has no qualifications whatsoever.”
Recommendation: “I’m sorry we let him get away.”
Translation: “We should have prosecuted.”
Recommendation: “She is your average, everyday worker.”
Translation: “Every other day, maybe.”
Recommendation: “He was always asking if there was anything he could do.”
Translation: “We were always wondering that, too.”
Recommendation: “Given the opportunity, I am certain that he will quickly forge a name for himself within your company.”
Translation: “Don’t leave any blank checks lying around.”
Recommendation: “You will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you.”
Translation: “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get him to work for us.”
Recommendation: “All in all, I cannot recommend her too highly.”
Translation: “In fact, I cannot recommend her at all.”
Wherever I think about this list of job recommendations and their translations, I think about the job to which we have been called as ministers and congregational leaders in the church. I hope that the recommendations we receive along the way match with the translations of our behavior and work ethic, much unlike the list you find above. The integrity of the church is at stake here as well as your own personal integrity.
Just before commissioning and instructing the twelve disciples, this is said of Jesus:
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues,
and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and
every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are
few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his
harvest’” [Matthew 9:35-38].
Hear me now. We need leaders in the church who are God-called and exemplify the highest of ideals. We need leaders who will care for the ‘harassed and helpless,’ by embracing them with compassion. We need leaders who will lead by the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than by the wave of a magic wand, or the script of a Magic 8 Ball, or the rub of an Aladdin’s lamp. There is no magic wand you can wave to make everything right for you and your congregation. There is no Magic 8 Ball you can shake to give you an instant prescription for what ails you, only words to the effect that ‘Request Hazy, Try Again’ or ‘Not on your life.’ And there is no Aladdin’s lamp that you can rub to produce your personal genie whom will grant you three wishes to fame, fortune, and happiness in life. There is no quick fix, no ritual hazing, and no slam bang solution. Period.
What there is, however, is Naaman. Naaman was commander of the King’s army. He was competent and respected by all. He was also a leper that was blighted with an incurable disease. Naaman learned about the prophet Elisha and how Elisha could work miracles. He learned this from a young, Jewish servant girl in the employ of his wife. Elisha summons Naaman to his house by messenger with a simple request, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored and you shall be clean” [2 Kings 5:10].
Instead of following the recommendation of the messenger, Naaman becomes angry, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!” [2 Kings 5:11]. Naaman was looking for the magic wand, the Magic 8 Ball, and the Aladdin’s lamp – all in one when all he had to do was to take a bath in the Jordan.
When you are enticed by the quick fixes of congregational life, do otherwise: put in the plug, run a little water, and soak for a while in the bath. And like Naaman, who eventually went down to the river Jordan and immersed himself, your wholeness will be restored and you will be off to a clean start.