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Horton Hatches an Egg… in the church?

October 8, 2014

Dr Seuss Horton hatches eggHorton – the Dr Seuss character in Horton Hatches an Egg – may actually reside in a congregation of believers near you.

Think about Horton for a minute. He graciously offers to sit on Mayzie’s egg for a short time. He never intends this task to be more than few hours. Yet Mayzie is glad to dump this tedious task off on some willful volunteer and literally “flies the coup.” Horton’s committed to caring for the egg and so his famous quip is often repeated while he hatches the egg for Mayzie:

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful 100 percent.”

He endures seasonal changes with all their challenges, becomes the interesting site to see, then the object of scorn and ridicule, and eventually a sideshow that travels the world for people to gawk at. The large elephant keeps sitting on the egg and repeating his mantra, seemingly oblivious to the fact that rather than being recognized as faithful he has become a freak. When the egg finally hatches, the result is hardly unexpected – a baby elephant with wings.

In congregations across North America, many with busters and increasing numbers of Baby Boomers, Horton is still hatching an egg. There are people who offered to serve in a ministry in the church 20, 30, or 40 years ago and have never let go of the job. Even more troubling, they sincerely believe they are demonstrating the Christian principle of faithfulness and so cannot understand others lack of gratitude and even frustrations (or worse) with their ministry. Their kind offer of help has turned into a hardship for the rest of the congregation. Their initial desire to be faithful has developed into an obsession that is freaky! And no one – not a pastor, not a friend, not someone who has worked in the ministry with them for 5, 10 or 15 years – can get them off the egg!

Of course, when the person finally dies and someone else gets to pick up the task, it has little resemblance to what it did years ago. The “faithful” person may have taken a once effective ministry and sucked the life out of it over time because of their unwillingness to share it with others or let the ministry be carried out in a different format or style. If there are any people left who care about the ministry, they may not be willing to take it up because “I could never do what Horton did.” The other reason it may be hard to put the baton in someone else’s hands is they are not ready to make lifetime commitment to this volunteer opportunity like “Horton.”

As a leader asking someone to take up the ministry now that Horton has finally passed on, because the language of Christian faithfulness was used by Horton to explain why the ministry was never shared, one will need to explain Horton’s understanding of faithfulness is not a biblical explanation of faithfulness. Along with mutually agreed upon time expectations, it will be important to reiterate the purpose of the ministry and measure its effectiveness with that goal clearly in focus. Otherwise, you may have another flying elephant in the church!

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