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Please everyone?

by Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

February 21, 2003

As the WordAlone Network expands and has more local leadership (nine regional coordinators and 43 of 65 synods covered by organizing coordinators) communications increase and the amount of feedback into the office is on the rise. All of this feedback is helpful, but only some of it is useful. Let me explain.

As the Network broadens its base, more and more people are included. More opinions are shared, more viewpoints are considered. When all is “said” . . .not all can be “done.” Is it even possible to please everyone? Has anyone ever been able to fulfill that objective? Not even Jesus, to this very day, can fulfill that unrealistic expectation. Likewise, the Network cannot be all things to all people—no more than the institutional church can or should be.

The WordAlone (WA) Network’s appeal must be to persons seeking Word-centered renewal, reform and theological reflection. The Network’s work will, by necessity, involve it in a variety of current and future church issues. Everyone will not be pleased by how WA proceeds, but that is neither realistic nor is it a Network objective, goal or strategy. Pleasing everyone cannot be accomplished. We strive, rather, to please Jesus Christ by being his faithful followers and confessors of his Word.

Here is a story that illustrates very well the dangers of striving to be people pleasers rather than Jesus’ followers.

An old man, a boy and a donkey were going to town. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The old man and the boy thought that maybe the critics were right, so they changed places. Later, they passed some more people who remarked, “What a shame he makes that little boy walk.” They then decided they both would walk!

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey. Now, they passed some more people who shamed them by saying how awful to see such a load on a poor donkey. The boy and the man said the others were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed a bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.

The moral of the story? If you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your “donkey” good-bye.

“For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thess. 2:3,4)