Andrew Hodges is the Team Leader for our ICM team in Indianapolis at the campus of IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis). He and his wife, Samantha, as well as their beautiful children have been ministering in Indy for years and reaching out to the campus for the most recent of those years. Andrew is a driven and committed minister who leads a high-octane and "excellent" outreach. However, he is also shaped by the grace and way of Jesus. I knew that his thoughts about this tension would be worth reading, so I invited him to write this installment for our PULL UP A CHAIR series.
One of the things I’ve struggled with more than anything in ministry is the balance between excellence and compassion. For example, picture me feverishly working away on tasks in my office. In walks a college student last semester wanting to show me a cat video on YouTube in which the cat is speaking what I believed to be Russian. Do I really have time to watch the cat video? Do I really want to watch the cat video? No is the answer to both of those questions. Yet there is a third question to be asked in the midst of that scenario. How can I afford not to watch this video? By watching this cat-speaking-Russian video, I will be able to connect with the student on a deeper level and this will lead to even more opportunities for discipleship. A week later, that same student was then able to trust me enough to ask for my advice about a fraternity brother who was struggling with suicidal thoughts.
All from a cat video?
I recently read the following quote from Rick Warren: “You may have heard it said, ‘If it can’t be done with excellence, don’t do it.’ Well, Jesus never said that! The truth is, almost everything we do is done poorly when we first start doing it—that’s how we learn. At Saddleback Church, we practice the ‘good enough’ principle: It doesn’t have to be perfect for God to use and bless it. We would rather involve thousands of regular folks in ministry than have a perfect church run by a few elites.”
I believe this is where excellence and compassion meet.
Two examples in our ministry at IUPUI that immediately come to my mind are our Worship Team and our Student Leaders.
When we first moved toward a fully-student-led band for our worship times on campus, I nearly had a mental breakdown. What songs would they choose? Would they sing in the right keys? Can we really have two violins playing at the same time? Was that the right chord?
Yet the teams we’ve had since then have done an incredible job leading.
The students have loved it.
I have loved it.
I did not have a mental breakdown, entirely.
We valued the worship team over their ability to play or sing, while at the same time encouraging them to step into a place of serious preparation for each night of praise to God. The good enough principal has been used in full effect.
It was during our second year on campus that we started to have student leadership positions. These students would assume more responsibility and help us disciple other students. At first I really didn’t know what I was doing (I still mostly do not), but what they allowed us to do was to be organized in our effort to Pursue, Model, and Teach in so many more areas to so many more students. We’ve expanded into vision casting, service projects, intentional hangout times, small groups, intramural sports, worship, art, social media posts, and so much more.
My prayer was (and is) constantly, “God, help me not to underuse them, but help me also not to overuse them.” I’m not sure I’ve figured out where that balance is yet, but I know that the more I care for them and their souls, the more God reveals that sweet spot with both excellence and compassion.
The more I’ve invested in the few, the more God has allowed us to invest in the many.
What we will find is that discipleship requires both excellence AND compassion.
We let people see glimpses of what they are capable of (through God’s power) and we give them affirmation all along the way.
To do something with excellence is to do something “according to your ability” (see Ezra 2:69) and to do something with compassion is to “see the huge crowd” (Matthew 14:14) the way Jesus did before he fed the five thousand.
Ultimately, we are stepping into the very footprints of our Savior, Jesus.
I leave you with this last thought from Philippians 2 that lays out our mission and purpose so well:
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.