My family goes to a small multi-ethnic church plant in the most diverse area of San Diego. It's a funny mix of yuppies, college students, and immigrants from 60 language groups around the world. It's one of those places in life that shouldn't work, because logically those people shouldn't worship together, but in our context it works and is beautiful. This mix makes for a quirky worship service that is easy to fall in love with. Going to Harbor has taught me a lot about my walk with Jesus. One thing I've learned is that there is great joy to be found in my own quirkiness. Now, I've always known that I had quirks. Unfortunately, for most of my life in ministry I felt that my quirks were a weakness to my leadership. As a result I did my best to either hide them or downplay them. But here is my point: God has been teaching me that my unique quirks are merely a part of the tapestry which enriches our church community.
Last week, in the confusion of getting settled into our seats for the worship service, Kristen and I sat in the wrong order. I sat on her right– which meant that our writing hands would force massive elbow bumping during the message. During most of my adult life, sitting down to listen to a sermon makes my mind erupt into a brainstorming session. With one ear on the message I am often given to writing down ideas, concepts, things to reflect on later, etc. My wife is much more disciplined. She typically listens intently to the message and fills her bulletin with notes, personal reflections, Bible verses, and drawings. (I know this because sometimes I look over her should, don't tell her!) With one lefty (me) and one righty (Kristen) you can see that sitting in the correct order is a silly but necessary part of our comfort during a worship service. Just before Stephen got up to preach we made our move. We quickly stood and did a quick awkward dance to change seats. We had hoped that no one would notice what we were doing. Unfortunately for us, most of our friends from our small group were seated a row behind us and saw the whole thing. They knew exactly what we were doing and found our Sunday version of Dancing With the Stars hilarious. It was our quirkiness on display for all our friends to see. Rather than be embarrassed by our oddity, we looked back a row and told our friends to shut up! Sat down and had a good giggle, than moved on.
There are a couple of things to learn from getting comfortable with ones quirks. I think they apply richly to a life in ministry.
1. Being comfortable and secure in who you are instead of pretending to be someone else respects God's design. (Assuming your quirks aren't sinful!)
2. Exposing your quirks makes everyone more comfortable with your presence.
All of us are unique. Jeremiah 1:5 famously reveals how intimately God knows each of us. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Reading through Genesis you see over and over again that God helped parents name their children after what would become their personality. This paints a picture of a God who not only knows our personalities, but celebrates and utilizes our quirks for His purposes. As we mature in our relationship with God we have to learn to celebrate the unique quirkiness that God has given to us and figure out ways to use them for His glory.
Next, all of us face the same reality. For whatever reason, when we tell a student, parent, neighbor, or anyone in our community that we work at a church… our position puts up a wall. The conversation always changes, always gets more awkward when someone hears you are a pastor or minister. What I've learned recently is that allowing my quirks (imperfections) to come through disarms others and communicates my humanity. We know ourselves well. We know that “Pastor Adam” is just a title. But if that title or position somehow puts a wall between yourself and your student, than you need to actively build bridges. For me, that means I need to allow my silliness squeak out. Into the most inappropriate situations I have had to learn that it's just “me being me” to crack a joke or facial expression. I know what you're thinking. “That's cute Adam, but that's really not biblical. You're just trying to make excuses for being immature.” That's where you are wrong. (Well, I'm immature enough to love working with students!) While we don't have the space to fully explore this just take a look at Jesus' disciples and you will discover a group of people who were quirky. Among them were a group of zealots, tax collectors, fishermen, and other regular Joe's. Their quirks were on display for all to see and the New Testament records their folly. Quirk away youth workers!