There are times when ministry is filled with obstacles. Every lay person, clergy person, and church has faced their fair share of those hurdles that have to be overcome in order to fulfill the ministry for which we are called. Admittedly, there are those obstacles that stop us in our tracks. We know God can and will equip us to overcome all things, but we are often more aware of our personal limitations than we are of God’s limitless power.
On Saturday, October 10, three Western Pennsylvania United Methodist pastors -- Scott Gallagher of Garden City UMC in Monroeville, Justin Judy of Trinity UMC in Trafford, and Dennis Williams, associate at Garden City -- embarked on a journey of overcoming obstacles and giving a visual witness that "not only should we depend on God’s strength and our personal ability, but we should learn to depend upon each other to overcome those obstacles."
These pastors prepared, as best they could, to run the Spartan Sprint, a 5-mile extreme obstacle course that promises to challenge the body, mind and spirit as the racers traverse rough terrain, mountainsides, streams, ponds, mud…and more mud...and intense physical challenges. In the end they persevered and finished the race in a better-than-average time. They did so by being a team!
The second obstacle is a 10’- high wall. The wall had no footholds or means to grab on. Williams darted forward, lunged against the wall, and thrust himself upward to get a grip on the top of the wall. But then, he found himself hanging on. Gallagher and Judy stepped underneath Williams and lifted him up until he was able to straddle the top of the wall. Next came Gallagher, for whom a 10’ high wall is insurmountable. "I ran as Dennis lowered his hand down to pull me up the extra height to get up on the wall," Gallagher said. "Justin ran over as Dennis and I reached down to help guide his legs over the top. Obstacle conquered, because the team worked together!"
Sometimes we take the harder way around obstacles and burn more time and energy that God planned (like burpees) simply based on the fact that we do not ask for or accept help when we need it. In the end these pastors defeated the Spartan challenges and celebrated a true team victory. What if we as lay persons, clergy, and churches could do the same? Sometimes we are too proud to ask for help. One day we are going to realize that there are persons around us who are available for help, from the Holy Spirit, to our congregation and colleagues, and to our Conference staff. When we face an obstacle, we need to realize our ability and limitations, set aside our pride and make the call for help.
Sometimes we need to get over our culture’s teaching that accepting help is a sign of weakness. America has many great teachings, one of which is not extreme independence. We need each other. Admitting that we need one another is the greatest sign of strength that a person can possess. As Christians, we are called to live in community, which means that we are in relationship with another to care and support one another. The more we accept the reality that we need each other and through that acceptance our community will be stronger.
Sometimes we need to realize that we are a team. As Methodists we make being part of a team complicated when we call teamwork connectionalism. But is that not the foundation of our connectionalism…simply being a team? It has possibly been over said, but there is no “I” in team. However, the is a “me” in team. The only problem with getting to the “me” is that you have to take “team” apart and rearrange it. To get to the “me” you have to destroy the “team”. Once the team is broken up...success if far from possible.