Listening to: Frozen Soundtrack

Reading: Boundaries

Writing about: Drawing the line, then kind of hating it.


Source Material, lost to the ages.

In College I read an article that changed my life.
It was called On Saying No
It started something like this:
“If I were an Old Testament prophet,
I’d tie a rope around my robe,
step onto my soap box,
shake my finger,
and yell NO !”

I’d love to cite it, but it was a 10th generation photocopy,
I have no idea what the source was.

It was the first time in my life that I had considered the idea that saying no to things,
could be a holy and moral act.

That was a very big deal.
Career and Character defining, for me.

Professional Nice-Guy, Apparent doormat

I currently lead the missions department of my church.
I regularly lead teams of volunteers working on
Community Outreach
Benevolence / Charitable Giving
Discernment and stewardship of donated money
All manner of issues related to poverty
The wild-west of international missions and missionary funding

I often feel like I am the worst person in the world for this job.
I say that exact phrase all the time.

For a guy tasked with leading the part of our church that looks most like the church,
I say no to a LOT of great things,

I say no to people with real needs
I say no to ministry ideas and side projects
I say no to missionaries, who are doing great things

I don’t like doing it.  It gives me no joy.
But I do it anyway.  And I don’t feel bad about it.

When I imagine the ideal mission pastor,
I imagine a hugging machine.
The kind of person who always waits to hear the whole story.
I imagine someone who would lose a lot of sleep,

Shortly after they ran out of money.

The Personal No:

Quick Side note:

All of the same principles that make me an awkward fit for my job
Make me kind of a bad friend, and generally a cold-hearted jerk.

(A cold-hearted jerk who is very happy with his time management and family life, so eat that!)


In my Defense, Kind of
(warning, it gets a little

This week I said no to 5 kids who wanted to ride the bus to Vacation Bible School
Tears were shed (not mine…though I did really hate it).
Want to know why?
Our busses were full, and I am responsible for the safety of the kids we pick up.

I regularly have folks who get turned down in our benevolence office come find me.
The volunteers send them to me at the: “Let me see your manager” schtick.
When they come to me, I say no to them.
Want to know why?
Because our volunteers work hard to maintain policies
that don’t contribute to systems that keep people poor.
Also, they know their “clients,”
I don’t.
Who am I to overstep them?
They are working hard to give hard answers.

I truly believe we (especially ministers) are conditioned to cringe at NO
But every time we say yes, we are implicitly saying no to something else.

Yes, I can pick you up and get you a place to stay tonight  —  No, I will not be home for dinner.
Yes, we will keep your lights on  —- No, we are out of funds.
Yes, I will be responsible —  No, you do not need to be.
Yes, I am your savior and provider —  ok, so that was a little heavy handed, but you get it, right?

And, here’s the rub:

One day, in my proud and cavalier boundary setting.
Apparently…perhaps inevitably
I will say no to Jesus.

Or at least that’s how he puts it.

sheep goats