Lessons from Speedy

He arrived slightly bigger than a quarter…but that was eight years ago!  One of my first graders, now a rising ninth grader, found him in a rainy puddle on the way to his grandmother’s house that spring.  Every year, my kindergartners have enjoyed his antics, and during SOME special summers, Speedy hangs out at a fortunate host’s home.  Not so fortunately, they are more patient with his needs than am I, which means that he is from time to time returned in a larger, nicer aquarium (inviting him to grow even bigger).  At palm size now, Speedy (who is anything but except when he’s hungry or angry) depends upon the gift of a lifetime:  his magnetic rock, upon which he perches when he’s tired of the water.  Even yellow-bellied sliders, akin to the ever-popular red-eared sliders common in Alabama ponds, need to dry out from time to time.

This summer, I was the “fortunate caregiver,” and Speedy unfortunately did not get royal treatment.  It all started when one of the magnets that attaches his platform rock in his tank’s corner got lost in the transit from Coosada Elementary to home.  I thought a quick fix with craft store magnets would do the trick, but alas, it did not.  So, like a good eight-year-old yellow-bellied slider owner, I looked for a replacement at the local pet store.  For a turtle Speedy’s size, such an apparatus was edging $50.00!  Don’t get me wrong…I care about Speedy, but I also care about other uses for half a Ben Franklin!  So the search continued to secure his platform economically, right about the time he learned to master climbing it and stay afloat, even leaning!

In the meantime, I bid goodbye to the last of the pair of African dwarf frogs (who I honestly believe took his brother out two years earlier).  As far as I know, he outlived his life expectancy, leaving me a clear plastic cube that jumped out at me as a fix for Speedy’s dilemma.  After a wonderful Sunday worship service, I made it my task for the afternoon to give all of the bettas and Speedy clean digs.  Obviously, dealing with his ten gallon tank made Speedy’s ministry the most procrastinated.  But I did it!  After hanging out in the bathtub while I used all of his old water to fertilize the plants, I put him back in his tank, HISSING (yes, they can, and that just shows you how temperamental he can be!).  I was beyond eager to see him discover that his rock was now steady Eddie…and that he would have to lean no longer.

WELL.  As usual, Speedy seems to reject a new tank, refusing to eat initially and avoiding anything new that shows up in it.  But it was what he did this morning, nearly 24 hours later, that preached a sermon to me that has come at a timely….time.  As I was digging into the seven woes described in Matthew while eating breakfast, prepping for my first day back in the classroom, I want you to know that THIS TURTLE began to attack the clear cube.  He actually bit at it, which mystified the daylights out of me.  It dawned upon me that perhaps he saw his reflection in the cube and thought his territory was under occupation by another yellow-bellied slider.  But the cube was only meant to hold him STEADY…and even HIGHER.  The cube was meant to secure his rock so that he didn’t lose his webbed footing.  But he would have no part of it!

WellSpring is undergoing growing joys…and pains, depending upon how much Speedy is in each of us.  Like a ton of bricks, it hit me that the cold-blooded creature was actually biting the hand that was feeding him!  He saw the cube…whatever he saw in the cube…as a threat, as competition, as an obstacle to his own betterment.  Churches served by staff and volunteers who do not intentionally seek to mentor others and multiply opportunities for them to serve will die.  It’s very simple.  Although each of us is loved by Christ as if there were only one to love, He has spread out gifts and talents, experiences and ideas among us, and He is the dream releaser!  As we share the space, as we see one another as teammates, as we allow one another to lift each other up, there is no ceiling on the view! 

Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, who founded New Hope Christian Fellowship, has written a very ego-painful but greater-good-motivational book entitled Doing Church as a Team.  We saw the book in action this past June on a visit to Honolulu's main campus, but what inspired us most is the way he, his family, his staff, and a core of committed volunteers have equipped teams to send out to plant hundreds of other "New Hopes" across the Hawaiian islands and into Asia. They are able to do this because each person serving in an area is intentional about recruiting another to serve alongside him or her, passing off training at every level.  It doesn't matter the ministry area; like a football depth chart, there is a place for everyone, and every type of service is the Gospel in action.  Parking lot attendants are preaching.  First impressions teams are resounding the Good News.  Those handling the finances are doing so to the glory of God. Singers and musicians rotate in and out to share praises to the King.  Even the nursery department has four subareas that grow down as the church grows large, for believe it or not, some adore reception, some prefer the cleaning jobs, some handle feeding with a breeze, and others do well with check-out procedures.  New Hope and churches that change lives forever do so through working any one individual through a job-sharing...and sometimes, a job handing-off process.  

As President Harry S. Truman wisely shared, “It’s amazing how much can get accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.”  We want to hold our areas tightly, because we forget that our identity and security belong nowhere else except in the arms of Jesus.  None of us---NONE---is irreplaceable.  None of us is even guaranteed the next minute, much less tomorrow.  TEAM—“Together Everyone Achieves More” –is so very true! As Pastor Rick Warren reminds us, there are no Lone Ranger Christians.  The expanded view of hundreds of more souls reached for Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit when we replicate our areas of ministry is magnificent!  No matter the nature of the ministry, each of us is preaching the Gospel the best we know how when we are in service to Christ, and none of us can do without one another as we seek to Christ-confidently set our God-given gifts free for His glory!

This is not easy.  Our areas can become “our babies.”  But it is God’s church, first and foremost, and just as He draws congregations together, He also arranges the members of His local body the way He intends.  I’m not sure Speedy will ever give in to sharing his tank with the one structure that can lift him into the Heavenlies.  God give us the grace to take a lesson from him, do just the OPPOSITE, and welcome the chance to invest and inspire!  

"He must increase, but I must decrease."  John 3:30