Monday, May 19, 2008 Service When You're Not Serving

[This is an article I wrote for that posted a few months ago, but I forgot to mention it or link to it here. It was written at the height of the presidential primary season, so the opening paragraphs reflect that context.]

Service When You're Not Serving

by Al Hsu

During presidential election cycles, a field of ambitious, talented candidates vies for attention. They travel endlessly, deliver countless stump speeches, give interviews, raise money, and engage in debates. For months they battle it out in primaries and caucuses until political realities set in and candidates start dropping out. Eventually party nominees are selected, and in the general election, a winner is chosen.

Of course, any number of forces and factors determine elections. But for every person named to high office, dozens of others never make it—even though they may well be every bit as qualified as the eventual officeholders. And the reality is that only a select number of people can be in the most prominent places of leadership. The majority of us find ourselves elsewhere.

What do you do if you aspire to a position of service and get passed over? I found myself asking this question recently when I was one of six nominees for three positions of responsibility. Going by straight probabilities, I had a fifty-fifty chance of selection. Those aren't bad odds, right? But I didn't make the cut. So naturally I questioned my capabilities. Was I not skilled enough? Likeable enough? Was I unfit for service?

I was reminded of a passage from the book of Acts. After Judas Iscariot killed himself, the early church sought to replace him among the twelve apostles. Two candidates emerged—Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. Both men had been committed disciples of Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, from his baptism to his ascension. That's three years of loyal following. It is likely that both were among the seventy sent out by Jesus in Luke 10. They would have been well-known by the other early church leaders—"networked," by our contemporary parlance. They were both fast-track leadership material.

Two candidates for one spot. By straight probabilities, they each had a fifty-fifty chance. We know slightly more about Joseph Barsabbas. Acts 1:23 mentions that he was also known as "Justus," suggesting that he was a man of integrity and honesty. Maybe that would have given him a slight edge. Then came the moment of decision . . .

[For the rest of the article, go here.]

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