Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Sunday morning worship, Sunday school, small groups, Wee Ones, ladies groups, seasonal choirs, men’s retreats, women’s retreats, ski retreats, Noah’s Park, Jr. high trips, high school trips, camps, VBS, mission trips, girls trip, vision meeting, WOW, youth group, children’s ministry, nursery… Sounds like quite a club – there’s a lot going on around here!
But Jesus didn’t die to form a club. He has called us to be a people of action, not merely activity. Being like Jesus means meeting needs, not just attending meetings. The world cannot afford for the church to be like the priest who was so caught up in his own religious duties or personal life that he “passed by on the other side” when a man needed his help so badly.
The flurry of activities involved in being a part of the church can become a distraction if we let it. If I don’t pay attention to God’s vision for my life and remain constantly aware of His mission to redeem His Creation, I can be lulled into the deep sleep of routine.
Satan tricks us with a lie that says, “Just be faithful in attendance and you’ll grow spiritually – and that’s what matters.” But simply showing up doesn’t mean I’m doing anything useful for the Kingdom – I may just be growing spiritually fat. What matters is Jesus – am I living my life like Him? Do people see Him when they see me? When they bump into Mike, do they notice that they’re loved by the Maker?
If you haven’t lately, take some time out from everything else and ask God to remind you of His mission in your life. Ask Him for His vision of who you are…
Then be still.
Know that He is God.
Then (and only then)… pick up the tools He’s given you and go to work for His mission.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
"If you are consumed with the tension between what is and what could be... if you find yourself emotionally involved... frustrated... brokenhearted... maybe even angry about the way things are... if you believe that God is behind your anguish... then chances are you are on the brink of something divine, something too important to abandon."
This was very timely for me to read yesterday, and the thought has been bouncing around my cardio-cranial edges all day. I am consumed with the tension he's speaking of... I am frustrated with what is and the comfortable satisfaction therein... I am brokenhearted for those who will never know what could be because my/our comfort has robbed them of us sharing the hope we have... I'm even angry at systems and complacency that keep thing the way they are...
The question then, is whether it is God behind my anguish, or only me? I wonder sometimes if I'm the only one so frustrated... and if so, then what?
I don't think I'm alone... so, now what?
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Not sure exactly how the various sites are listed or ranked. I think right now, my blog is like the second to last one at the bottom of the page, hanging out below Eric Bryant (one of the leaders at Mosaic). Not sure if the positioning is static or how exactly that's decided.
Friday, January 16, 2009
One of the most challenging aspects of the book is Kimball's desire to get Christian leaders "out of the bubble". I must admit, I spend a lot more time in my office than in the world.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
They were desperate and turned to a God whom they did not recognize as their own. "Pray to your God..." Generations had drifted so far that the people of Judah didn't even recognize the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (their ancestors) as their own.
But God continually reminded them of His desire to be their God. He promised a new covenant unlike the first covenant that they had broken. He offered His law written in their hearts, not just on scrolls and tablets. In Jeremiah 31, Hosea, Ezekiel 37, 2 Corinthians 6, Hebrews 8, and Revelation 21 - scripture uses the same language to describe a day when "They will be my people, and I will be their God."
Today in the church, the people of God, it seems there is a great danger of a generation adrift failing to recognize God's desire to be their God. Anecdotal evidence points to a very high percentage of young people leaving the church as they enter young adulthood. It seems that though they've connected with their peers in youth group, they've not connected with God Himself or the wider Body of Christ. Their faith is perhaps only a thin veneer, subtly stripped away by the questions of life.
I believe that we can do a better job of connecting young people with their Creator who loves them desperately. We can help them see that God is not only the God of Grandma and Grandpa - He desires to be their God as well.
Sadly, the people in Jeremiah 42, though they promised to do whatever he said, put their trust in another nation instead of in God. They disobeyed yet again, and were destroyed in their false refuge. May God lead His people today to connect young people to Himself. May His people follow His lead.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
In Mark 10, the people following Jesus were scared. They had good reason to be. Jesus kept telling them he was going to die. "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."
He had just told the rich young ruler to go give everything away, then come back and follow him to eternal life. I wonder if we're too comfortable? Are we too used to the way things are to see the victory on the other side of our fear of uncertainty? Have the "warm fuzzies" of the contemporary church deadened our senses to the point where our response to Jesus is to sadly retreat into our comforts?
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I talk with a lot of young adults, especially, who seem to drift away from the church, not because they don't believe in God, or want to explore other world views, or even because they want to be 'free' to live however they please... they're drifting because they're bored. Their faith is covered in bubble wrap - safe and secure, but suffocating.
The six specific cages that Batterson lists are: responsibility, routine, assumptions, guilt, failure, and fear. Of these, I'd say that I've struggled with the cage of routine most lately. Early in ministry, everything was an adventure. We'd left behind friends and family, moved to a place where we didn't know anyone, and chased the Wild Goose to the greatest place in which I could have started ministry. Lately, my ministry has taken on a much less adventurous demeanor and become much more routine. It's been driving me nuts, but this book helped me see a little more clearly what's going on. My routine still needs to be shaken up. (The difficulty is when you're leading a ministry and you shake up your routine, it also shakes up the routine of others. Pray for this to happen in a healthy way.)
One section of the book that really struck me was when he wrote about life goals. A lot of people don't accomplish much in life because they've never decided what they want to accomplish. I've had some vague notions of what I want to accomplish, but I think I need to be more specific about some of my goals. One of those is writing. I like to write, and I've had a number of people respond positively to things I've written (yes, all three of you who read this blog and several others). But I don't think I've put that passion to its' fullest use yet. I want to write stuff that will strengthen the church beyond the borders of my circle of fellowship. I want to write books. I have no contacts in the publishing world or anything like that, so I'm not sure how to get it done, but one of my goals right now is to find out and do it.
Chase the Goose!
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Painful Circumstances can also cause us to rely on memory/autopilot for ministry. Hurting people hurt other people. In ministry, often hurting people hurt those in leadership. Church splits, miscommunicated messages, death or illness... these things hurt church leaders deeply and when we hurt, we can tend to rest in places we already know are safe - reducing the risk of further injury.
But you can't do ministry from a shell. Ministry requires our hearts to be exposed in order to touch those around us. Instead of resting in the comfort of the cocoon, however, we need to lean into the blows that will come our way. Perhaps it's a fleshing out of the proverbial "turning the other cheek." You've given yourself in ministry and been hurt. You could withdraw into a mode of ministry that keeps you insulated, but that also renders you ineffective. Or you can choose to offer yourself again and again to the wolves who will snipe and bite at everything from your intelligence to your electric bill to your availability, to your character...
It doesn't sound very appealing to just say "I'm going to give myself in ministry to people who will take me for granted, chew me up, and spit me out." Honestly, it sounds pretty stupid, and my mind tells me that the people who would cause me pain don't deserve my efforts. Thank God that Jesus has a clearer mind than mine!
The imagination of Christ tells him to die so sinners can live.
The imagination of Christ tells him to open up his friend's tomb and tell him to come back out - after he'd been dead for several days!
The imagination of Christ tells him to pick up a cross and go where God is leading, even though it seems that God is not there.
I'm not advocating pastoral abuse here. There are plenty of stories of ministers who've just been emotionally and spiritually beaten up. It's not ok. But if you're in ministry (or any other type of leadership) there will be some painful circumstances that come along. Don't let them derail the holy imagination that God has placed within you. Don't let them dull the mind of Christ, creatively living within you. Play hurt when you need to. Make time for rest and recuperation. But don't give up hope.
Monday, January 05, 2009
"One of the great dangers of leadership is this: we stop doing ministry out of imagination and we start doing ministry out of memory. We learn how and forget why. We stop creating the future and start repeating the past." - Mark Batterson
Another obstacle to doing ministry out of imagination instead of memory is the tension between Past Success and an Uncertain Future. If a particular part of our ministry has gone over well, it's tempting to not fix what isn't broken. The logic is sound. But what if my ministry now needs a rocket instead of my good-enough-as-it-is bike to get where God is leading?
If you've ever dealt with stocks, you've heard that "past performance is not a guarantee of future results" or something similar. Just because something worked once, doesn't mean it will work again, or even that we need it to work again.
But it's tempting, when something went well, to rinse, lather, and repeat without thinking about why it worked in the first place. It's comforting to know that "it worked before, so we'll do it again." The problem is, when it doesn't work anymore, we're often too slow to realize/admit it. "We just need to do better." "We should have promoted more effectively." "We just picked the wrong date." All these (and more) can be ways to excuse ourselves from facing the reality in front of us that what once was our shining moment, has now become... something less.
Doing ministry out of imagination requires us to use past success as a vehicle that will launch us into tomorrow instead of a bed upon which to rest or a wall to prop us up. Even the best of our ministries/events/activities of today will not be sufficient to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Take some time to think about your ministry, whatever that is. What are you doing because it's just what you do? What may be losing effectiveness and energy because it's lost purpose? Begin to dream of what could be... Search the heart of God - ask Him to reveal His dreams for your ministry. Then, do whatever it takes to help Him turn His dreams into reality.
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