I'm convinced I was the only person who mowed my own lawn when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Everyone else outsourced the job.
I mowed to a) save money and b) see results. You can look at a freshly mowed lawn and actually believe your life made a difference in the world.
I needed this weekly reminder because there is no “scoreboard” when you are a pastor. Life in a church often seems as if you’re never getting anywhere.
But mowing! Oddly and incredibly satisfying… (vacuuming too). So while everyone outsourced mowing, I depended on it for my mental health.
The Bay Area is the most “outsourcing” culture I’ve seen. People outsource everything - lawncare, home cleaning, cooking, laundry, dog walking, etc. A lot of people outsource parenting to their credit cards (think on that one). I knew a guy who paid someone to roll his trash 30 feet to the sidewalk. Wow... I want that job!
What do you outsource?
And… Can you outsource your faith?
The Two Track System
Outsourcing faith to a “more spiritual person” is a common and tragic habit.
It’s easier to attend church than participate in discipleship to Jesus.
It’s easier to listen to a sermon than work hard to understand the Bible for yourself.
It’s easier to be told what to do than struggle in prayer for guidance.
It’s easier to put a pastor on a pedestal than embrace the responsibility of equality before God.
For centuries, the Church in the Middle Ages built an empire off this concept: we’ll read the Bible for you, pray for you, serve the poor for you; just keep donating money and you’re good. But that system, while not as overt, is a current, not just historical reality.
A large swath of the population tacitly embraces, as a mentor of mine calls it, a “Two Track system.”
Track 1: Pastors
Closest to God. Professionals. Leaders of Track 2.
Track 2: Everyone Else
Next tier away from God. Amateurs. Dependent on Track 1.
The Two Track system is a normal part of life in many arenas - taxes, real estate agents, attorneys, etc. We get professionals to do important and technical work so we don’t mess it up. Unfortunately, the Two Track system subconsciously manifests itself in our faith.
Don’t Outsource the Source
Quiz: Do you ever:
Believe your prayers are less important than someone else’s?
Defer to “more spiritual people” to share their faith with others?
Listen to other people teach the Bible instead of learning to read it for yourself?
Check the spiritual box for the week after attending church?
Want a pastor to tell you what to do, rather than seek direction from the Spirit yourself?
Don’t outsource your connection to the Source.
You can pray. You can learn the Scripture. You can get direction from the Holy Spirit.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest,” Jesus says (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus doesn’t say, “Send an expert to me…”
He didn’t create a group of elite Christians to be representatives or surrogates. God has more capacity than that.
Jesus is passionate about knowing you. He’s passionate about seeing you grow. He’s passionate about receiving your love in return. A loving parent will always reject a system that places a mediator between themselves and their children.
OK, great. Should we fire all our Track 1 people?
No. But evaluate who you elevate...
A good pastor is a guide not a hero.
A good pastor generates more questions, not fewer.
A good pastor leaves you hungry, not satisfied.
A good pastor introduces you to someone greater and does not create dependence.
A good pastor calls you to something and does not create a world void of discomfort.
A good pastor will make you mad, not just tell you what you want to hear.
Turning the Corner
Rejecting the two-track system means rejecting an indirect relationship with God.
God has no grandchildren.
And God has a greater adventure in store for you than being relegated to Track 2. Outsourcing our faith puts us at odds with one of Jesus’ most important desires:
You will never teach something you outsource.
“Go into all the world and baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey all that I have commanded,” Jesus said (Matthew 28:19-20).
Those who outsource their faith never “turn the corner” and live into Jesus’ big and final wish for us:
Don’t just be his follower, help others become followers as well.
You can't be a guide to others if you've made the decision to outsource that job to someone else.
I believe the previous sentence is the single biggest reason the Christian faith gets stuck. The world isn’t filled with legions of unmovable atheists; the world is filled with Christians who, due to convenience, fear, confusion or shame, aren’t living into the adventure of helping others know Jesus.
Which begs a scary question: do you outsource your faith to reduce your own responsibility?
If I convince myself Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 is a job for the professionals, I can excuse myself from the discomfort of leadership. Jesus’ call to be a leader is challenging. Let’s admit: no one wants to feel like a failure. But real failure is adopting the life of a Two Track system that robs you from the riskier, and more rewarding, path God has put before you.
The secret of the Two Track system is that it doesn't exist. Jesus envisioned One Track, and we're all on it together.
For those who accept Jesus’ challenge and acknowledge the One Track, there is a final promise in Matthew worth remembering:
I will be with you.
Thanks for reading today! If you benefited from this, give it some love by clicking the heart and would you please tell someone else about this blog? And... let me hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org.