Life Together

I read a quote recently that got me thinking and it may do the same for you in your ministry as well.

“There is no life change without life exchange.”

The more I ponder this, the more true I think it is.

Consider two passages of scripture.

“God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,”

2 Corinthians 5:21

In other words, Jesus’ life for mine. This is the heart of the Christian life (see also Galatians 2:20).

But ponder more of God’s words.

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us,”

1 Thessalonians 2:8

Let’s look at these one at a time.

With whom do I need to exchange my life for salvation according to 2 Corinthians 5:21? Trusting Jesus is really trusting in his life for mine as a perfect substitute.

With whom do I need to share (exchange) my life with to see spiritual impact according to 1 Thessalonians 2:8? The short answer is those whom I share the gospel with. In other words, it’s sharing at a deeper level than just a few truths. It’s sharing in a practical, personal, and intentional way. And it’s about sharing the gospel and life with believers and unbelievers alike. It’s not one or the other.

And so it seems if we want to spiritually impact others, one way we do that is by sharing life with them. Not little snippets or trite sayings, but the intense, tough parts that get to the heart of life, who we are as people, who we are called to be as Christ followers, who God is, and what he has promised to do. It seems serving others is about sharing hours together, not just 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there. Really sharing life is more like a crock pot and less like a microwave.

So chew on these ideas for awhile. And if you want to impact others and lead them to all God has called to them, throw open the doors of your life and share it with those God puts on your heart to influence.

If you want to go deeper, what are one or two new ways can you share life with a believer or unbeliever this week? Think about that, then put it down in your life to do it.

 

 

Ministry for the Long Haul

I have been chewing on something lately.

I recently taught on some passages where Jesus did ministry with the disciples, equipping them, and then directed them to minister and serve others. Some have called this the. “Showing and Equipping” model or the “lecture/lab” model. But whatever you call it, there is an undeniable pattern of Jesus modeling, equipping, and directing his followers in ministry.

Now I have had quite a bit of exposure to pastors in church world. Whether it’s at pastors conferences or in my local pastors network or friends in full-time ministry, there is a common thread or theme if you will. And that is, “I’m tired of doing ministry alone. We don’t have nearly as many volunteers as we need.”

So let’s put those two thoughts together. What if, as church leaders, we took time where we do ministry to take some of the people we want to develop with us. They see us loving and leading people and then we equip them at some point to do the same. After this, we lead them to serve on their own.

How might God expand our influence and ministry because of this?

How could God use Jethro’s words to Moses in Exodus 18:17-27 to inspire us to action?

How might we implement the equipping that God calls pastors to in Ephesians 4:11-12 into our daily and weekly habits?

What a difference it might make. It could be used by God to be the difference between burnout and meaningful, fruitful ministry.

Something for us all to chew on.

The Transforming Work of Christ

jeffgoldblum

“Change your apartment. Change the world.” fictional commercial character Brad Bellflower (played by Jeff Goldblum) sputs on T.V.

This over-sensationalized slogan is meant to be funny and at the same time not.

In a world of over-sensationalization, generalization, platitudes, and hype, I purport that God changing us can change the world.

First, let’s get our thoughts firmly grounded in something super fluid, our culture.

Reinhold Niebuhr has written about several ways we can view culture as developing Christ followers.

  • Christ against culture
  • Christ of culture
  • Christ above culture (Niebuhr, Christ and Culture)

Author and theologian D.A. Carson has taken these designations, fleshed them out, and summarized them by saying our lives as Christians aren’t so much about Christ against culture, but about Christ transforming culture (Christ and Culture Revisited).

As God changes us (Romans 8:28-29, 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:16-17), since we are transformed spiritually and we are in the world but not of it, the world has changed. It’s about spiritual transformation brought about by Jesus in us and by us being smack dab in the mtransformationiddle of contemporary culture.

 

Dennis Prager recently gave a talk to college graduates
challenging them to, “Battle yourself, not culture.”

We don’t need the right person in office, first we need the right Person on the thrones of our hearts. We need to let God lead us right in the middle of this culture.

As God transforms us, others will see it and may be curious about how this transformation happened.

What If…

Just a few, quick ideas to get you thinking.

There’s a song some of you may remember from an old T.V. show.

cheers-theme-words

Here’s a thought, what if that place wasn’t a bar, like in the T.V. show; but a church, a gathering of believers?

And what if the song writers struck on some thought and emotion that God placed in each of us, the longing to be loved, cared for, and known?

The Bible is chocked full of examples that show that real community is what mankind wants. And God’s intent for his church is to meet part of that universal need. God created us to connect with him and one another.

Final thought, what if we as church leaders started leading our people to work together and started leading our churches to be these kind of places?

team-community-025

If we did, this idea might not just be a hope, but start becoming a reality.

May we trust God to work in our lives and help us to be who he wants us to be.

Discipling Others

There’s something about getting a critical mass of people.

It’s like when I was leading a student ministry. Teens would show up and there would be a handful of people. Invariably they would ask, “Where is everybody?” as if myself and the other people already there were either invisible, chopped liver, or both.

What they were saying or even thinking and unable to put their finger on was, “Where is the critical mass of people I know that would tip this over the edge to being a great get together?”

Jesus got a critical mass of men that he invested his life into. We call them the disciples today, but no matter what you call them, they were used by God to change the entire course of human history after the resurrection of Jesus.

Consider Mark 3:13-19.

It is there, after a night of prayer, that the Lord Jesus Christ chose 12 men to follow him.

Jesus chose a few. He discipled this critical mass of people and unleashed these Spirit-filled, world changers. And the world has never been the same.

And it was this handful of men, that God used to turn the world upside down (see Acts 17:6).

And we as leaders need to take to heart what Margaret Meade once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

When are we going to start picking some people to disciple? To invest in? To do ministry with?

How should we get started?

Time and eternity will tell the tale of leaders’ lives that were lived following in Jesus’ footsteps.

 

 

Leadership Pipeline

What are you doing to develop people as disciples and develop them as leaders in your current ministry context?

In the Bible, we see that Moses did a good job of developing Joshua, but Joshua didn’t develop anyone.

We see the sad outcome of this in Judges 17:6 & 21:25,And there was no king in Israel in those days, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

So what can we do to avoid this in our contexts?

We can identify people to invest in and then follow through with equipping and developing them.

Then we practice the affirmation and empowering of others like we see in Moses’ life in Numbers 27:18-23.

Lastly, we start today.

In doing this, with God’s help, we can equip the next generation of leaders for Him and His Kingdom.

By establishing these new habits, we can be better together.

(Thanks to Habitudes: The Art of Changing Culture by Dr. Tim Elmore for the thoughts)

Thankful Thoughts

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, being thankful is on everyone’s mind. Are there special challenges for those of us in church world leadership in this area though?

I tend to think there is.

As church world leaders, we can be so focused on leading others that we forget to have thankful hearts ourselves. Or another trap we can have a tendency to fall into is to rush through too quickly in our hearts as we think about what we’re thankful for.

Having a thankful heart often takes time and cannot be rushed. This is true of each of us, no matter what type of personality God has given us. We as church world leaders need to take the time necessary to think deeply about what we’re really grateful for in our lives, our relationship with God, our families, and in our current leadership context.

Maybe we are thankful for certain people. Have we taken the time to tell them?

Maybe we are rushing through our blessings list too fast and being too superficial. When will we set aside time to think deeply about thankfulness?

Maybe we need to step out of the insanity of “local church ministry” for long enough to take stock of all we have in Christ as followers of Him and all that he has done in our lives, our ministries, and our churches.

As church world leaders, we all have a bent toward being frustrated with a lack of progress or growth in some people’s lives. Could it be that we need to slow down and understand that we cannot be grateful for people if we’re so focused on what they haven’t done or how they haven’t grown?

I was at a pastors conference recently where author Jared Wilson was the speaker. He shared a thought-provoking statement that I’d like to bring my thoughts here to a close.

“It’s difficult to love someone you are constantly measuring.”

If we’re honest, we see this is true of ourselves, our spouses, our kids, and people under our spiritual care.

So today and this time of year, I encourage you to put the “tape measure” down.

Let’s all remember to slow down, to think deeply about who and what we’re thankful for, and remember who it is we have to thank for all the blessings in our lives (James 1:17).

Then let’s thank God and encourage others to do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.