I have a friend in ministry who comes from good sporting stock – his dad was a pro. World-class. The son inherited the drive, stamina, energy levels, determination that make a medal-winner, and as a young, single Christian he had astounding levels of ability to get stuff done, and to do so with pizzazz. The guy never seemed to get exhausted for a second. He’s a born leader and achiever. He’s a Chieftain.
Then take another friend of mine in ministry, who is permanently relaxed, smiling, with time for anyone. He’s friendly, worry free, and seemingly produces his (very good) sermons from fifteen minutes’ thought on the back of an envelope. The guy never seems to break sweat for a second. He’s Chilled.
Those are the two extremes of the Chieftain/Chilled spectrum most of us us should find ourselves on. Most of us will be distributed somewhere in the middle between the two. That’s normal. Most of us are average. That’s what average means.
I don’t really care where you find yourself, chilled or chieftain, but it is important that you know where you sit. For three reasons.
First, don’t compare yourself with anyone else. If I compared myself with my sporty mate, I’d feel instantly inadequate. He’s clever, too – it means he’s going to get way more done than I could, and at a higher level. I can relax about that, because I’m not accountable for his gifts.
By contrast, comparing myself with my chilled friend could lead quite quickly to pride and laziness – pride because of what I can get done, and laziness because I don’t have to stretch myself to do more. If that sounds immature, it is. What I need to do is realise that I am accountable for the gifts I’ve been entrusted with.
Then there’s envy – envy because I’m not the high-achiever, or envy that I’m not the cool one. There really is no end to the self-centredness of sin.
There really is no end to the self-centredness of sin.
So work hard with all the gifts God has given you – whether you’re a focussed completer-finisher or a cool relaxed type. And, as Paul says, For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Rom. 12:4).
And be aware, too, that circumstances change. By high energy friend found that life changed when he married, and then became a dad. It changed wonderfully, but he achieved different things. My relaxed friend faced a crisis, and we suddenly saw that he could move with great speed and tenacity.
Second, realise that there are snake pits at either extreme, outside the spectrum. Highly able, gifted people can tip into being guilt-driven, perfectionist workaholics, who can be toxic on a team because they make everyone else feel guilty (sometimes, by design). Relaxed, chilled people can tip into being dial-it-in merchants, who do only just enough work to avoid being voted off the dance floor.
Theologically, the healthy and wide spectrum resonates with grace, but one end tips into being motivated by guilt, and the other end tips into inertia. One denies the gospel, and the other takes the gospel for granted.
So know where you are you are on the spectrum, and identify the nearest snake pit (they can change daily, by the way). Pray that through, and think hard about your priorities for tomorrow.
Strength and weakness
And finally, as I’ve written this I’ve recalled a number of friends who for various reasons are extremely weak – physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and who can hardly engage in any Christian ministry without paying a high price. The chances are that you will know (or, can imagine) the tension that causes, wherever you or they sit on the chieftain/chill spectrum. Like I say, I know lots of people like that – although I only know one super-stamina super-star, and one admirably chilled. It shouldn’t surprise us that in God’s economy, weakness is more common than strength should it?