My commitment to my community was ­questioned the other day. People wondering whether or not I was ‘all-in’ were finding it tough to entrust me with some influential positions. It was diplomatically posed: if you’re not here (present) with us, how do we know if you’re really with us (committed)? The exact phrase was ‘people have the sense that if you’re not doing something here, you’re not always around’. The subtext: how much of you being here is about us, and how much is about you?

Right across society, it’s usually those who demonstrate their commitment and loyalty that earn the right to be influential. Our commitment to being present is a show of loyalty. Particularly in churches, there are lots of ways you can be involved, but you have to be ‘all-in’ in order to have influence. But what does ‘all-in’ really mean?

It’s how we test Ambition. People want to know how much you’ll give before you want or need to get something back. Most people want influence and power. In the church, that looks like positions of authority, which usually come with microphones.

Think about it. People who demonstrate how ‘all in’ they are, tend to wind up in influential positions. We’ve created a culture where you have to earn your way into those positions; for lots of reasons.

Good reasons

  • If you’re going to be endorsed or giving a position of influence, you’ve to got to be trustworthy
  • We don’t want you to influence in an unwise direction

Bad reasons

  • Those with influence don’t always like to share
  • People don’t like to be outshone or overshadowed
  • To maintain the chain of command
  • No chief wants to give influence to anyone who might not be loyal

We create systems to ensure that trustworthy people make it through the hoops and untrustworthy people fall out. The trouble is, it’s easy to abuse those systems to make sure that only people who’ve proven their loyalty sufficiently make it through. But loyal to what? You ask me if I’m all-in, but what do you want me to be all-in to?

What does ‘all-in’ really mean?
I’m all-in to the purpose of making a good change. I was raised to make a difference and I take it pretty seriously. I’m all-in to being the best I can be, in the place where I’m likely to make the most difference. And often, I don’t find those places inside the Church. For lots of reasons.

Here are 5 times I was All-In

  1. I was preparing to take teenagers to Eastercamp instead of the church prayer event.
  2. I was at the 21st of a young person who’s like family instead of church conference.
  3. I went from the Maundy Thursday service to the corner bar and talked about the meaning of Passover with friends
  4. I helped a single mum and her 4 small kids move house instead of being at church that weekend.
  5. I had a house full of teenagers watching movies and making food, instead of being at Sunday night church.

I don’t spend much time actively pursuing the pulpit. I’ll never turn it down, but I don’t intend to chase it. I’d rather have my life and actions speak of meaning and purpose. Because I love to communicate, I relish the opportunity to share my observations and conversations with others. I’ll spend my time engaging in meaningful conversation, always prepared to do my bit for the Church, but I won’t be there for the sake of being there, if my sense of purpose is beckoning me somewhere else.

Here’s the truth – there are hundreds of people in the pews every Sunday, Thursday and Friday who will give their all to the Church at the cost of places where they could be more meaningful. Church services are often club sessions for people who feel comfort from being with the like-minded to be encouraged, affirmed, you name it. It’s a good thing. But it shouldn’t be the ultimate expression of our faith.

In fact, I’d go so far to say that the goodness I want to bring to the earth, has little to do with my church affliation and much more to do with the fulfilment of my identity as a whole person. I’d hate for anyone who has known me to reduce my actions on this earth to “well, that’s what those Church folks do.” Because there are not that many church people living how I live or doing what I do.

I spend my time pursuing people. People at my dinner table, people in the important stages of their lives, people in trouble, people in the world and sometimes people in the pews.

  • The Church encouraged me to be in the world, making a difference. So I’m out there.
  • The Church taught me that it’s important to serve. I did dozens of tests to figure out my gifts. I’ve been made to serve, so working is both giving back and fulfilment of all I was taught to be.
  • Busyness is also an answer to loneliness. Being present with nothing to do highlights my loneliness in ways that don’t help me. Doing something meaningful with my presence is good for me.

I’m all-in. Are you?