It never ceases to amaze me who we choose to elevate as heroes. For most of us we have a hero for virtually every activity or position to which we aspire. As a kid, my hero was a Brazilian soccer player nicknamed Dr. Socrates. I had his poster on my wall and tried to mimic his creativity and ball distribution. But I knew nothing of his character, family, or faith – and I didn’t really care.

As I grew older, my values for my heroes changed but I still found myself elevating different characters that had no character. Instead of abandoning our heroes we find ourselves defending our hero’s deplorable behavior and attacking the heroes of others. We call it loyalty, but is it possible that we just want someone to defend us?

I understand the importance of heroes and modeling our lives after those who have gone on before us and certainly mimicking their path to success. But how we define success will determine our role models, which in turn will determine our success. The problem is that we have poorly defined success in the church and have therefore chosen poor role models.

I was asked recently about whether I would recommend someone as a special speaker for a conference. This person had written a couple of books and pastored a large church and is generally perceived as a successful Christian leader – at least he is asked to speak regularly around the country and around the world. The problem is that those who know him best would never think of asking him to speak at a conference. Why? Because to them his life demonstrates a life of failure more than success.

I was at a conference where a panel of pastors was asked, “Who do you read?” The young pastor’s response resonated with me, “I only read those books written by authors that have finished the race well.” Though I agree with this premise, I certainly believe that there are heroes among us with whom we rub shoulders and from whom we can learn. But we must be careful not to elevate them for the wrong reasons.

In light of this, I need to recognize some of my heroes; people who have demonstrated a commitment to the Kingdom of God and the Church. These individuals have given a great deal to the ministry of HarvestDowntown over the past year. I have seen so many give of their time, talents, and treasure to the church. I have seen a young mom serve with the toddlers week after week and a young man who works with the kids though he has no kids of his own. I have seen the grandma who serves by spending her Sundays holding babies in the Nursery and having spiritually significant conversations during the week. I have seen a man show up every week with coffee while another makes sure communion and the sanctuary is put together. This is to say nothing of those who pick up trash, hand out bulletins, and make sure all the various gaps in ministry are filled each week – even plunging the toilet.

I have seen our facility director spending hours trying to figure out electrical problems and a youth director sitting in the cold watching a cross country race. I have seen our music director train new musicians and leaders, and I have seen our elders take on ministries that are crucial to the life of our church. I have seen a pastor increase participation in Compass Groups by 25% while at the same time serving our military community. I have seen another pastor serve our children and their teachers while trying to staff a full children’s ministry with limited number of teachers and still seeing that ministry grow dramatically in attendance. I have seen my assistant keep track of the giving of the church along with branding our website, brochures, and herding the cats who write articles for the worship magazine.

I have seen a church launch a new bridge into our neighborhood that helps people get a handle on their finances. I saw our church expand our influence through an art show and interactive nativity. I saw our deacons take care of the needs of many who were struggling and a board of ministries who made sure we stayed on track financially and used our resources responsibly. I saw women who took on the responsibility of helping us celebrate well and men who gave hours of labor to take care of the facility.

Too often the heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes are the ones who should be celebrated while those who get honored are the ones who were in the right place at the right time. I am grateful to pastor a church of unsung heroes who value the Kingdom of God and the Church of Christ above themselves. May God bless each one of you for your service and may you hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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