Tag Archives: church

Surrounded

A few weeks ago we took our staff on a road trip for a conference and it was a great day.  While I learned a lot, my biggest takeaway had nothing to do with the workshops or sermons I heard.  It had everything to do with the company I was in.

I sat at the conference and looked around at our team.  I thought about each of their journeys, each of their giftings, each of their callings.  I was overwhelmed– at the faithfulness of the Lord in each of their own lives and His faithfulness to our church in bringing them to us.

I stood silent before Him thinking about the great lengths He’s gone through to raise each of them up for such a time as this.  I am proud simply to be counted among them.  When I consider it’s my job and honor to lead them, it’s completely mind-blowing to me in a way that I will never be able to describe and will likely never be comfortable with!

Don’t get me wrong.  Many days I bang my head on my desk and shout, “WHAT IS THIS DAY??!!”

I get crazy emails and annoying requests.  I have meetings I don’t want to be in to discuss problems that should have already been solved.  It is not easy being a leader and certainly not any easier being a leader of leaders in ministry.  What is easy is seeing all the cracks and blemishes and mistakes and gaps and balls being dropped.  If there were a degree to be had in scrutinizing, I’d have a doctorate by now.

But it’s a beautiful, I dare say holy, moment when the Lord allows you to see things the way He sees them.  When He enables you to see people the way He sees them.  When He delivers you from walking by sight.  When He lends you His perspective.

That was the kind of moment I had that Thursday.

I am surrounded by sons and daughters of God who desperately long to see His Kingdom come and His will be done.  I am surrounded by their compassion, their faith, and their perseverance.  Our church and our city testify to their labor and creativity.  Today I testify to all of those things, as well.

I have watched each of them stretch and grow.  We’ve prayed together and laughed together, and Lord knows we’ve eaten a lot together.  We’ve car danced together, cried together, and played together.

Sadly, we’ve hurt each other at times but we’ve certainly helped each other, too.  We are the better for all of it.  Perhaps much like Flannery O’Connor, we “can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

I am surrounded and I am kept by these leaders.  They inspire me and give me courage.  They share their faith with me when mine seems to be in short supply.  Each of them is a gift to me and a reminder of God’s goodness, day in and day out.  Even the days when my inner monologue would make a sailor blush and even in the moments that make me find something hard to bang my head against.  Even then.

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numbers, stories, & altars.

Someone asked me recently what role I think metrics (or numbers or data as I will use interchangeably in this post) play in healthy church growth.  I love the question more than I love the answer I’m about to give.  I generally love the questions more than the answers, though.

Data matters in our church.  And in life in general, but I’ll stick to the original scope of the question.

Here at Renovatus our leaders set goals for the church. And because goals must be measurable in order to be actual goals, we use metrics and we collect data.

Setting a goal to “grow the church” is not a goal.  Setting out to increase Sunday morning attendance by 25% by the end of the year is a goal.  At the end of the year I can measure our attendance and see if accomplished what we set out to do.

Setting a goal to “support world missions” is not a goal.  Committing to raise the funds for a $25,000 church building in India in 2013 is a goal.

That being said, I have done this just long enough to know that growing a church isn’t just about setting goals and measuring things.  Not everything that is good and healthy and beautiful and Spirit driven can fit in a nifty acronym or in tidy boxes.  Trust me.  I’ve tried really hard to make it so.

Data and metrics tell us a lot.  They help us plan and forecast and steward our resources wisely.  They tell us when we may need more children’s ministry workers and community life group leaders.  They raise good questions like “do we need to re-evaluate the parking lot between services?” and “can we afford that gear right now?”

But data isn’t everything.  More precisely, it isn’t the end.  It’s simply the means.

Researcher-Storyteller Brene Brown aptly proposes that “maybe stories are just data with a soul.”  I love that idea for so many reasons.

Any time we’ve tried conventional church growth models on at Renovatus they simply don’t fit.  Much like David attempting to wear Saul’s armor we eventually learned to be comfortable with our own slingshot.  One of our rocks is a deep conviction and commitment to building altars.  So much so that we put it in our manifesto.

It says this:

We will build altars in the world. We will collect and tell stories. We will celebrate and honor the people, places and things that God chooses to use.

So we collect the data and we measure the things as a means to build altars, as a tool to help tell stories.

I read annual church survey results to my staff so they know what they are doing is working and that it matters.

I compare this year’s offerings to the last 3 years so that I can tell our congregation what they’ve accomplished and how their generosity has enabled some pretty incredible Kingdom work.

I keep up with the number of people we baptize and I want to see monthly ministry budget reports.  Sure, I am nerdy enough to find some satisfaction in simply counting things and making line graphs and spreadsheets out of numbers.  But the numbers aren’t the headliners- the people they represent are.

If the data can help us honor and celebrate what the Lord is doing, we’d be remiss not to collect it!

Building altars in the world is the objective.  Data is simply one of the tools in our toolbelt.

So, measure away.  Set goals.  Draw up plans.  Have at it.  Just use it all to help tell a good story.

A Leader & A Woman

Being a woman ain’t easy.  Being a woman in church leadership, well that is a whole other thing.  However, this is no pity-post.  Because while there are significant challenges to talk about, there are also significant opportunities to be seized, as well.

Here are some thoughts on both the problems & possibilities I encounter most regularly being a woman in ministry, and specifically in leading leaders:

Leading Other Women

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” -Madeleine Albright

Challenge:  This one is probably really shocking to everyone.  At first pass, we’d all think that women would be the biggest supporters and fans of other women in leadership.  Sisterhood and all that.  But we can get awfully territorial and jealous and insecure and threatened by each other at times, unfortunately.  And even in the best of cases where there is no suspicion or mistrust, there are relational sensitivities that plague us, especially in the face of conflict.

Opportunity:  Women can get a lot of stuff done once we are on the same page and committed to the cause/person.  It can just take some work to overcome initial roadblocks (see Challenge A above).  Women can be very protective of each other and care for each other really well.  Because many of us do invest emotionally and relationally in everything that we do, there is an all-in mentality that makes working with women really fulfilling and highly productive.

Facing condescension  and hypocrisy with grace

Challenge:  I work in one of the most egalitarian and supportive church environments a woman could hope for.  Still, not everyone in ministry and if I’m honest with myself, probably not everyone within my own church, has acclimated to women in church leadership.

My favorite is when my Pastor introduces me to other ministry leaders outside of our community.  They are all very kind and warm when he starts with “This is Tracey Rouse, my Executive” and then he finishes his sentence, “Pastor” which they immediately translate into “Assistant” until they realize those 2 words don’t sound anything alike and that they heard him incorrectly.  They quickly try to either mask their shock that a woman would have the second highest seat of authority in our church and play it cool OR they play up their shock in an attempt to provide some levity in the awkwardness.  Sometimes there is a bit of “girl power” rhetoric like women’s suffrage happened 5 minutes ago and we are so radical.

Pastor Jonathan: “This is Tracey Rouse, my executive pastor.”

Traveling evangelist:  “Executive PASTOR?! WHAT?! You go, girl!”

Me to myself:  “If he tries to fist bump me I might punch him.”

___

Me:  “Hi, I’m Tracey Rouse.  I’m the Executive Pastor here at Renovatus.”

Visitor: “So, you and your husband do that?”

Me:  “Nope, just me.  He stays home with our 2 daughters and also runs a theater & film company.”

Visitor:  Blank stare.  Long pause.   Does not compute.  “Oh… that’s great!”

___

Opportunity:  What an enormous exercise of grace & faith!  Grace for the ignorant- some people have honestly never conceived of women in pastoral roles, let alone met & worked or cared for one!  Grace for the close-minded- I wasn’t the one to close it and am not responsible for opening it either.  Grace to believe the best in others.  Sure, sometimes the condescension is overt.  But most of the time it is unintentional.  People don’t usually recognize their own preconceived notions of gender roles and while women in leadership isn’t novel or new for the corporate world, it is for the Church, which is typically a few decades behind the broader culture anyway.  There will always be generational hurdles to jump, theological minefields to cross, and social expectations to handle.  In those times, I want my response, both in my heart and in my speech, to be full of grace.

I walk by faith in my calling because I know and trust the One who called me.  I am convinced that the Lord alone is my Justifier.  Each time I face condescension I have a choice to make.  I can either attempt to defend and explain myself OR I can trust that the Lord alone qualifies me and let that be more than sufficient.  I will believe that I am included in the “we” referenced in 2 Peter 1.3 and that I have been granted all things that pertain to life and godliness by my gracious Father.  What else do I need?

On a bad day, all of these things, all of these scenarios can make me see red.  They can make me question my gifts and vocation.  Luckily, those days usually happen in the company of the most amazing staff who encourage me and follow me faithfully.  On good days those stories become good laughs.  I wrote a post a few months ago called Reluctant Pioneer.  It’s my actual life title.  Some people get to end their signatures with things like MD or PhD or Esq or DMin.  I’m going to try out Tracey M. Rouse, RP.  I’m not the first woman to be in church leadership and there are godly women in ministry facing far more daunting circumstances than anything that I will ever come across.  But nevertheless, it still feels like pioneering out here and the wild west doesn’t know quite what to do with us “little ladies” who are leading with strength and conviction.

A leader and a woman.  It’s intimidating, I know.  But you’ll see soon enough that the proof is in our work and our worth is not found in the hands of man, but in the face of Christ.

Amen?

 


Executing

The other day I determined that the biggest challenge for me about being an Executive Pastor (or any leader really, I suppose) is in the executing.  It’s much easier to talk about executing; to sketch out gameplans and org charts about what the execution would look like; to troubleshoot said hypothetical execution; to mull it over, consider all options & angles.

But alas, at some point a trigger has to be pulled.  At some point the calculated risk becomes actual risk.

The hard part is in the execution, is in making the call, in owning the call you’ve made–come what may.  And you’ll make some bad ones.  And you’ll have to take responsibility for those.  The good ones won’t move you nearly as far up the field as you hoped and it won’t be nearly long enough before something or someone else needs you to make another important decision you feel underqualified or unprepared to make.  Such is the nature of leadership.

Analysis is incredibly important.  Thoughtful decision making is an art.  I can roll it around in my brain for weeks and come to a conclusion too late.  A good decision that is no longer needed or valuable or relevant is pointless.

I don’t like being wrong.  I strongly dislike learning lessons the hard way.  I LOATHE preventable mistakes.  You can see how difficult this is when your job is making decisions- big and small- every day.

“What if that flops?”

“What if there’s a better way I’m not thinking of?”

“What if people don’t respond the way I think they will?”

Some days the “what ifs” get the best of me and paralysis and worry sets in.  Other days I muster up the courage I need to lead with some semblance of strength & confidence.

Those days I can usually find some courage in a few faithful places:

My pastor (and boss)

…who believes in me enough to entrust this really big, important job to really little, often indecisive me.  I trust that he isn’t maliciously setting me up for failure, throwing me in the deep end to watch me flail about. (Though some days I’m still not so sure!)  I trust that he won’t let me make too big of a mess and that he will support my calls publicly and correct me privately.  I trust that he is for me.

My smallness in a big, big world.  

That same pastor once shared with our team this quote from Tolkien’s The Hobbit

“Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

At Renovatus we talk a lot about the gift of smallness, the gift of obscurity.  In our culture, obscurity is often seen as punishment and a thing to be escaped.  But a lot of good and important stuff happens in obscurity.  Character is developed, skills are sharpened, faith is built, a solid foundation is poured.  Here in obscurity I can learn a lot even while leading.

It’s a gift to recognize I am just one person amidst billions of others.  I am one pastor among millions around the world.  I run an organization that is one of millions.  I am not nearly as unique, my circumstances & challenges not nearly as unique, as I’d like to think.  Recognizing my smallness ironically gives me confidence to embrace the new adventures that the Lord brings.

My God Who is able.

I take an awful lot of comfort in knowing that the Lord is infinitely more concerned about His church than I ever can be.  He will honor my humility and sincerity.  His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted…even when I make a bad call.  The Lord managed long before I came along and He will do just fine long after I’m gone.  I choose to believe that the Lord is sovereign and good.

______________________________

Leaders, by all means, let’s do our homework.  Let’s think critically and prayerfully and be prepared.

Let’s just not get stuck there.  Let’s execute.

Chaos!

It was a tough week. I can’t point to a lot of specific incidents or situations that made the week so difficult, but the overall tone of the past few days had been a low rumble.

Everything felt chaotic. Nothing made sense. Things that should be simple and straight-forward seemed cloudy and difficult. All I could see was disorganization and gaps and question marks.

Like many people, I can be my worst critic and that I was, relentlessly so, this past week.

My temperament makes me particularly appreciative of predictability and order and routine. A bit ironic considering I am the executive pastor at a young, Pentecostal church! (Regardless of vocation though, in my experience, a life following Jesus is never predictable, amen?) As I head into my sophomore year of leading leaders, I am more certain than ever before that the chaos isn’t going anywhere!

A degree of chaos is a thing to be anticipated, not to be surprised by so much. (Someone remind me of this point in about 48 hrs. My short-term memory is less than impressive.)

Therefore, the name of the game is not eradicating the chaos, but learning how to manage it. Chaos has taken up permanent residence in my life to some extent. However, what I’m coming to believe and remind myself of on a daily basis is that its presence in my life, in my church, in my staff, isn’t necessarily always a reflection of my leadership skills or lack there of.

Its presence can’t change the unchangeable.

Chaos is not always a bi-product of poor planning or bad decisions.

Sometimes it’s just flat chaotic. Sometimes no amount of planning would have prepared you for that phone call. No pros & cons list would have warned you of the results you just got. You can read all the leadership blogs and attend all the conferences you want- they can’t teach you to banish the chaos. (At least not in a way that doesn’t make your system your god.)

Even ‘managing’ the chaos might be more ambitious than is reasonable or possible. Perhaps a better way to say it is making peace with the chaos. I’ve decided it’s a bit like bull-riding (which I clearly know a lot about?!). The goal isn’t to domesticate the bull or teach it how to sit or roll over. The goal is to stay on that angry cow for eight seconds!

(That’s hilarious. Angry cow of chaos. That’s my new name for it.)

Weather, traffic, power outages, sleep deprivation, hunger, a flat tire, a lack of leadership, selfishness, incompetency, mistakes– the number of things that contribute to the angry cow of chaos we found ourselves riding are a bit irrelevant sometimes.

Hang on. The round will end. A reprieve will come. It won’t last for nearly as long as you’d like, but it will be enough.

Enough to rise to the next occasion.

Enough to keep you dependent on your Maker.

Enough to remind you that grace is the only thing that keeps you from being trampled to death by the ever-present wild beasts of chaos.

the wonderment of baptism

Every baptism service we have at Renovatus is extraordinary. We’ve baptized in a borrowed Baptist church, a hundred year-old elementary school auditorium, a shopping mall headed into foreclosure, the Atlantic, and now years later in a traditional sanctuary of our very own.

Let me be clear: the scenery isn’t what makes it extraordinary. The baptismal we most commonly use is a glorified bathtub wrapped in wood and on casters! The time slot isn’t what does it-we’ve baptized on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights. (Though last year we baptized by candlelight at Midnight on Easter and that actually was a pretty memorable timeslot!)

Pastor Jonathan baptized me at our first baptismal service over five years ago. Since then, each time I help baptismal candidates line up with their towels and their nervousness to wade in deeper with the Lord, my heart races a bit. I smile really big as they are brought before the congregation. I hold back the tears as they share a bit of their story with us, and then I cheer like no one’s business when they come up out of the water and hug their pastor.

The old being put to death and the new coming to life in such a clear, demonstrative way is nothing less than remarkable. The bodies are as unique as the stories embedded in them—diverse in age, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status. But the baptismal water is no respecter of persons; it is the great equalizer. Neither male nor female, slave nor free, rich nor poor—the old markers and old stories are now submerged into one story: the story of death and resurrection.

While we encourage people to sign up in advance and to bring friends and family to witness this mysterious sacrament, we also leave room for the Spirit to move in real time during service. If someone wants to be baptized on the spot, we are always ready & willing! Much like the eunuch in Acts 8 who said to Phillip, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” In other words, why not here? Why not now?

I certainly don’t want a lack of preparation on our part to hinder anyone from being baptized! That’s why we stock up each time on t-shirts and shorts and flip flops and underwear and ponytail holders and towels a plenty. (It’s a really awkward trip to Target, let me tell you!)

A missionary from our church who works in a part of the world that is closed to the gospel just shared with us about a friend of hers becoming a believer and the subsequent baptism in the bathtub that came with it. How beautiful is that?

Baptism is brave and weird and awkward and messy and breathtakingly beautiful.

It is the mystery of death and life summed up in single moment that changes everything.

From my vantage point, I can account for all the logistical elements that go into a baptismal service. There is nothing mystical about the mechanics of filling the pool or buying the shorts or folding the towels. But what I can’t see, what I cannot account for, is the enchantment of deeper and holier things that take place in the water. I cannot account for the sense of awe that lingers long after the moment is passed.

What I can testify to is the baptism by-proxy into wonderment I receive time and time again.

The Reluctant Pioneer

When I’m old and wise and have life stories to tell, I think I’ll call my memoir The Reluctant Pioneer.

Until then, I’ll just use it for a blog post.

I think I was born to pioneer.

(To be clear, not in the traditional “settler” or “frontier woman” way- I don’t know how to sew or ring a chicken or mill wheat or milk a cow or anything.  But in the ever-exploring, “building something new” kind of way.  Hopefully you see the distinction.)

And I say ‘reluctant’ because pioneering is not something that I seek out.  It’s not even something I particularly feel gifted in.  I am not the fearless, risk-taking type. By nature, I love order and predictability.  I love knowing what to expect and I like rules!  I also really hate to fail.

My idea of a pioneer is a daring dreamer who thrives on chance and defying odds.  No part of that sentence describes me.

Even so, despite my very precise picture of a pioneer, it seems I am eternally curious and like a good challenge more than I care to admit. Thus, I always seem to find myself somewhere new, working on something new– creating, establishing, shaping.

I’m not a true pioneer, but I apparently get pretty inspired by them and can’t seem to resist joining the team!  How else could I explain how I ended up as the Executive Pastor at Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC?!

My husband Nathan and I moved from Columbus, GA to Charlotte, NC in 2006.  We had some dear friends who we deeply believed in that felt called to plant a church. Years prior we promised that when that time came, we would pack our bags and follow them wherever they started this new work.  We began our plans to move with no idea where we’d live once we got here or what jobs we’d find to support ourselves, but we were up for the adventure.

Renovatus was officially commissioned that year and there was a lot to do.  Pastor Jonathan asked me to be his administrative assistant and run the church office on a part-time basis.  I was his first hire.

So, here we were a new church with 2 employees; the Lead Pastor who has never been a lead pastor before and an admin assistant who had never assisted before.  Oh, and a host of volunteer staff who also had no prior direct experience in the areas they were serving.  It was QUITE a learning curve.  It was a long season of pioneering on every front.  We were making it up as we went as best as we could.  As my friend Mat likes to say, we were building the boat while out at sea.  And that’s not the easiest way to build a boat, my friend!

Since then, every season of growth thereafter for the church has brought about new endeavors to pioneer.

Some we receive with joy and exuberance.  Others with more reluctance and discomfort than you can know.

In some we soar.  In others we flail about just trying to get off the ground.  In all of them we learn.  (As an aside: Sometimes I think learning is enough.  But in more than one of those occasions I’d maintain that learning is overrated!)

Planting a church, growing a church, being the church is non-stop pioneering.  Almost 6 years in, I’m still learning to embrace it.  I’m still learning to lean into the adventure and walk by faith.

Here are a few beautiful things I’ve reluctantly learned about pioneering along the way:

1.  Pioneering is quite the crucible!  New challenges are refining and developing.  Character is revealed.  Leaders and ideas emerge from unlikely places.

2.  Pioneering keeps you open.  Keeps you expectant.  Keeps you curious. Every idea is worth exploring and every option is entertained. Everything has potential and possibility when you are a pioneer.  In this way, pioneering can often foster humility & imagination.  It can also help keep cynicism & close-mindedness at bay.

3.  Pioneering keeps you dependent.  I once heard Dallas Willard speaking on the subject of dependence upon the Lord.  Someone attempted to challenge him and said, “We can’t always live at the end of our rope, though, right?”  His reply was simply, “I don’t know where else you’d live.”

Pioneering is the perfect means by which you reluctantly take up permanent residence at the end of your rope and hang on for dear Life.

The Discipline of Becoming All Things

We have a document called the Renovatus Manifesto. It’s our code, our culture in written form. It hangs on our walls, it’s on our website, it’s part of our language. One of the themes throughout is the emphasis we place on diversity. It’s really important to us that we honor people of all kinds.

The difficulty in doing that well is that each of us sees the world through our own eyes. We lead from our perspective, our strengths, our convictions. And while I fundamentally believe that to be good and wise, I’m starting to realize the potential blindspots we create by only leading from our own perspective, our strength.

We lose a lot by not disciplining ourselves to consider the perspective of others.

How do you learn? What engages you? What is distracting to you? What do you notice? What do you value? How do you see it?

It is only natural that we gravitate to those who see things the way we do. It is perfectly understandable why we resonate with those who share our opinions and inclinations. But gravity is quite a force and before you know it, our perspective can begin to feel authoritative and superior, as it becomes the only one we acknowledge in ourselves and our like-minded company we keep. We’d never say it that way- no, we’d dress it up in some humble language and explain ourselves using our education, our degrees, our training, our experience, our position.

In the name of protecting the vision or not diluting the mission, we can easily justify our pride, our elitism and close-mindedness, our insecurities and our comfort zones.

We have to see the entire field, consider other vantage points. What is ministry if it’s not a willingness to come alongside someone and walk with them, trying to see from their perspective?

Our worship, our preaching, our programs, our art, our curriculum– all of the church must be built with all of the church in mind. 

Let me be clear: I am not advocating a myriad of ministries to cater to any and every demographic, phase of life, and interest represented in the church.  What I am saying is that the ministries we do have need to stay accessible to the very people for which they were created.

I am also not advocating a futile attempt at trying to please all of the people all of the time. But I’m begging that we are considerate and mindful of them all whenever we can be. I do think we have a responsibility, just as the Apostle Paul did, to become all things to all people in order that we might save some. (I Cor. 9.19-22)

We cannot afford to hold our own inclinations and preferences so tightly that we cannot embrace another’s.

Ministry is messy and self-sacrificing. It requires learning how to speak someone else’s language.  It is incredibly inventive, no matter the “type” of ministry being done.
People worship differently. Children learn differently. We all experience the Lord in a multitude of ways.

For that reason, it is incredibly important that we fight our own personal defaults so that we can be free to think creatively of how we can become all things to all people.  May we cultivate the discipline to pray, learn and try whatever ways we can that lead to effective ministry and the honoring of complex, diverse people made in the image of God.

Shades of Grey

I have a love-hate relationship with “grey.”  The color, the concept, any and every expression of the word, really.

It feels at times indecisive, complex, mysterious, ambiguous, indefinable, unaccountable to me.  Somehow, “grey” can’t be judged on any grounds.  It gets a pass.  It is as if there exists no filters or rules outside of black and white.  I like black.  I like white.  I know what to do with them.  I like the contrast, I like the clarity.

I am surrounded by some really brilliant, beautiful people.  Many of them are gifted artists and creative minds.  They, unlike me, love grey.  They find it inspiring and textured and nuanced and interesting.

I do not.  I want to wrestle it down and make it decide what it will be.  Black or White.  Take your pick, but those are your choices.

My way seems like a much simpler way to live, right?  Except the longer I try to live seeing only in black & white, the more blind I become.  Blind to a world full of complicated, broken people.  Blind to my own nuanced thoughts and emotions.  We are filled with great intentions and mixed motivations.  We are selfish and ambitious and generous and noble.  Nothing stays entirely black or white for long, it would seem.

It is naive and overly simplistic not to acknowledge shades of grey.  Sure, the resolution or decision or action step might be quite clear, but to acknowledge the grey in a given situation, at least for me, is to practice empathy.  It is choosing to enter in to a subjective perspective, often one very different than my own.  It is to affirm the heart of another, even when it might be misguided and camoflaged in hurt or deception. It is to see the world with eyes of redemption rather than judgement.

And I’m no good at any of it.  Empathy is decidedly not my strong suit.  Ask any family member of mine.  Actually, please don’t!  Just take my word on it!  I do not naturally empathize.  I am quite impressive at judging.  I have to work really hard to perceive grayscale at all!  I score almost a perfect zero in gifts of mercy on  a spiritual gifts test.  I am not kidding!  You do not want me making hospital visits, you do not want me as a counselor.  And while it’d be easy for me to leave the “grey” to others better suited for it, to do so would be disobedience.  I am called to see the world as it was intended to be and as it one day will be again.  To settle for anything less would be flatly reductionistic.  And no one, not even I, like to be reduced to the confines of black or white.  There’s a lot of life happening and ministry to be done in all these shades of grey.  And I don’t want to be blind to any of it.