• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

I don’t trust the plan

I have been reading the book, Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and Power, by Rose Marie Miller, with several colleagues.  It is the story of Rose Marie’s lifelong journey to see the Gospel worked out in very tangible ways in her everyday life and character.  Her honesty is disarming, but also strikes to the core of what plagues us the most: self.

At one point, she makes this short but telling statement: “She needs faith that God has a good, the plansovereign, wise plan for her son and the rest of the family.  Our basic problem is this: We don’t trust the plan.  We are taught by our flesh, by Satan, by our culture, even by other Christians, that we must do everything we can to avoid suffering.”

We delight in ‘being the masters of our fate’ and grate when the Lord uses situations to remind us us of how much we trust in the flesh.  We don’t like it when God uses others to re-align our plans with His.  We struggle to follow a decision our team has made or to respond graciously to a request from leadership for needed information or statistics.

Now I’m not denying the fact that some of the life situations we face, or the decisions and requests made might be worth challenging.  However, our normal reaction to these events is to question the heart intent of those involved in causing those events or making those decisions.  We reason that we would have made a better (read: ‘much wiser and smarter’) choice.

Many of us can probably remember a time when a leadership team or colleagues made a decision that we needed to get additional experience and training before moving into a new job or ministry that had been proposed to us.  We probably chafed at the ‘lack of understanding’ of these people.  However, if we look back now on that life event, we realize we struggled to ‘trust the plan’. In the long run, I’m sure that decision actually had nothing but major beneficial impact on our life and future.

In ourselves, we don’t know what is always best. However, God has given us His Spirit and He has placed you and I in a community where we can learn to discover His will for each moment and boldly walk in it.

What happened to our passion?

I do my best to run three times a week.  It is part of my effort to be a good steward of my health in order to better minister to others and to ‘run the [ministry] race’ well.  When I head out early in the morning for a run, it’s a time I can also set aside to pray for others and our ministries around the world.  Unhindered by phone calls or emails, I can spend the time to pray.

However, in recent weeks I have noticed a slippage creeping in.  Rather than three times a week, it’s been more like two or just one time a week.  The night before one of my runs, I was trying to ‘work up’ the desire when I realized that the problem was just that: my 155600-159730desire or passion was waning and none of my great efforts were helping to make that desire come back.

Ministry or missionary passion can go through the same life cycle.  There are times when the motivation and passion are seemingly there.  There are other times when the question keeps ringing in one’s head: what happened to my passion?

Like slippage occurring with my running, the answer is not found in ‘working up’ that passion again.  Rather, the remedy is found by turning away from self-fascination to consideration of the God who is our Father and who called us into this work.  “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!  I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” (Psalm 40:5)

Our loss of passion for ministry can often be an indicator that something else has taken the place of Jesus and holds our charm.

May we be passionate about God so that we might be passionate then about the ministry!

Take your time

Last week, I shared a diagram about the different processes that team members might use to work through a decision (see the post: “Dig deeper”).  A question came to mind later: is it more biblical to take your time in making a decision?  In other words, are ‘quick’ decisions lesstake-the-time-fi well thought through or sustained by less prayer?

The answer is not a simple yes or no.  It is much more nuanced and shaped by the following elements:

Time

In any decision, we need to begin by asking the question as to how much time is needed to make the decision.  Deciding what restaurant to go to as a team for a team outing should not take a week of discussion.  However, deciding to change the strategy and direction of the ministry cannot be determined by an hour long discussion.  Establishing the time boundaries of any decision helps focus our energies towards making the right decision in the right time frame.

Opportunity

A decision may be motivated by a unique opportunity that presents itself to us.  This opportunity is time bound in some ways.  If we take an inordinate amount of time to process, it could mean that we would miss this divine opportunity.  However, an opportunity allows us to ask the question as to whether we should or should not respond to that opportunity.  The refugee crisis in Europe would be an example of such a divine opportunity that presented itself to many workers and teams in Europe.  Some of us ‘missed’ the opportunity, while others chose not to respond to the opportunity because it wasn’t where the Lord was leading them to invest their resources.

Heart Conviction

A decision, in our context, is always processed with prayer.  Prayer is a vital part of any decision making process.  However, when have we prayed enough to be able to move forward or make a decision?  Once again, this is not an easy question to answer. However, the question can call us back to our need to ‘go on’ in prayer for God’s wisdom and leading, if the heart conviction is not there. On the other hand, the question can also ferret out a spiritualized attempt to stall a discussion or decision.  This is where decision making can get ‘tricky’ as we need to listen well to others and seek to discern our heart convictions.

Decisions (made slowly or quickly) are an opportunity for God to work on our hearts and change us as we seek to ‘change the world’ around us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Collaboration?

Collaboration is often a ‘buzz word’ in mission and nonprofit circles. It is another term to describe working together or joining forces to see a project launched and accomplished.  However, we can certainly talk a lot about collaboration without any real collaboration occurring. meusyou

In their insightful article, “What Leadership Shadow Do You Cast?” Larry Senn and Jim Hart describe how many agencies long to live by their guiding principles and ministry framework, and yet consciously give a counter message. They sum up their findings by saying: “The central finding is that, over time, organizations tend to take on the characteristics of their leaders.”

To put it another way, there needs to be a close alignment between what we say we value and what we actually do; how we work and minister. The World Team Ministry Framework has a great graphic attached to it for explanation. However, if the Framework simply stays as a graphic and doesn’t cause some ‘realignment’ in the way we currently work together, then the ‘shadow’ we are casting is one that communicates: “Do as we say, not as we do.”

Working together, joining forces together begins by reaching out to other team members in other parts of the agency to ask for their help and input. We have several good examples of this kind of collaboration recently.  Let’s work towards a whole lot more examples.

Dig deeper

A couple of months ago, in a conversation with a leader coach, we discussed several ways to understand how different members on a team function. This coach shared with me the following diagram.

Decision process

The diagram captures how people on a team can process and make decisions. For example, there are people who are rapid in processing the elements of the decision, but are slow to ultimately make the decision. It’s not that one column or way of processing and deciding is better than all the others.  The ultimate purpose of the grid is to help a person on a team learn from others and know how best to manage or navigate the  decision making process with others.

This is where the insight came for me. Rapid processors and rapid decision makers can digdeeperlearn a lot from ‘digging deeper’ into an issue through the help of those who process more slowly and take more time to make decisions.  However slow processors and slow decision makers can learn a lot from being ‘moved along’ in the journey towards a decision by those who process more rapidly so that a ‘divine opportunity’ is not missed because the team took too long to come to a decision.

Obviously, there is a lot of give and take needed in such a discussion. If we add in the other cultural elements in play from various members of a multicultural team, then the discussion can look extremely complex. However, that should not keep us from moving towards each other to learn from one another. A lot of times it begins by simply asking good questions to learn how others are processing a decision, and then seeing how that could impact our journey in the decision makingi process.

What’s in a name?

I’ve been reading through 1 Chronicles the past few days. Beginning with the first chapter, the author leads us through a seemingly unending series of names. It’s the kind of text that you often ‘speed read’ or skim through. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of importance to these lists of names.

Lists and lists of names, what we call ‘genealogical research’, can be interesting G-best-genealogy-siteswhen we want to know more about the family history. However, our Western cultures can blind us to the deeper significance of genealogies for the people of Israel (and others). For the people of God, genealogies served the function of defining who individuals were in the larger community, and recognized the people who had a part in building that identity.

Looking back, we could say is a way of giving direction, purpose, and identity for moving forward.

Not only do we, as Christians in the 21st century, have an identity which has been built on the sacrificial work and grace of Jesus on our behalf, but our identity has been and is being built by the impact of other brothers and sisters on our lives each day.  Many of us can give testimony as to how God used the influence of another to point us in the direction of missions.  Many of us can give testimony as to how God used the words and counsel of another to strengthen our ‘weak knees’ in the midst of difficulty or doubt.

What’s in a name? A whole host of history that gives meaning to where God has placed us at this moment.  What’s in a name?  The reminder of the special love that God has placed upon us.  What’s in a name?  The assurance that He has placed us on His path and will use others to build into our lives.

The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub, and Shimron, four. The sons of Tola: Uzzi, Rephaiah, Jeriel, Jahmai, Ibsam, and Shemuel, heads of their fathers’ houses, namely of Tola, mighty warriors of their generations, their number in the days of David being 22,600.”  (1 Chronicles 7.1-2)

Why three good players are better than one star player

Those of us located in this part of the world have been taken up with the various matches of the Euro 2016 football championship over the past few weeks. European ‘football’ is what we call ‘soccer’ in some other parts of the world.  From the various groups or ‘pools’, sixteen teams emerge to play single elimination games leading to the final this coming Sunday.

People have been surprised by the rise of several lesser known teams who have gone ‘deep’ into the tournament. One of those lesser known teams actually played one powerhouse of the European football world to a tie, and beat another one to advance to the next round.

At that point, everyone began asking: “How could this team beat such a highly favored one?”  In part, the Dimitri-Payet-answer lay in team-work.  A solid group of good players, with no star, drew on the resources of everyone on the team to be able to defeat a powerhouse whose lineup contained a number of star players.

One of the reasons for including ‘teams’ as one of our guiding principles (see the World Team Ministry Framework) is to emphasize how God calls us to work and minister. When God calls us to Himself, He calls us into a body or community of believers. God does not look at us as individual ‘stars’, but as members and workers of a larger community that acknowledge their need for one another.  As a community, we pool our gifts together to create a greater dynamic than we could accomplish by ourselves as individuals.  All for the glory of God’s kingdom.

The apostle Paul put it is this way: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  (1 Corinthians 12)

How might you demonstrate this week the team principle that ‘three are better than one’? What can you ‘bring’ to your next team meeting that will empower and strengthen the other members of your team?

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