• 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!

Out of Weakness

Awhile back, one of my good Australian friends gave me the book, The Message of Mission, by Peskett & Ramachandra, and which I have just recently begun to read.  In the preface, the authors summarize what they consider to be one of the key elements of mission: “We must also emphasize that Christian mission leads us again and again to the foot of the cross: all Christian mission must be shaped by the cross; the cross must never be behind us, but always in front of us.  For this reason, we have drawn attention again and again to mission from the underside … and to the importance of mission out of weakness, which has been the way mission has been conducted through most of the history of the church.”  My heart resonates with that statement.  Yet I have often wondered how weakness practically works out in our lives, our ministries, and the mission to which God has called us. 

Forgive me for quoting a rather lengthy piece from Bauckham’s book, Bible and Mission which I referred to in a previous post, but I think he sets us on an interesting path towards reflecting on this question in practical terms.  It’s found in a section entitled, “To all by way of the least,” where he reflects on 1 Corinthians 1.  He writes: “In this passage and its context Paul does something rather remarkable.  In the first place, by echoing the Old Testament, he identifies a consistent divine strategy, a characteristic way in which God works, to which the origins of the church at Corinth conform.  The God who chose the first Corinthian converts is the God who chose the least significant of all the peoples (Israel) for his own (Deuteronomy 7:7).  This is Hannah’s God, who exalts the lowly and humbles the exalted (1 Samuel 2:3-8), just as he is also Mary’s God, who fills the hungry and dismisses the rich (Luke 1:51-53).  This is the God who chose the youngest of Jesse’s sons, David, the one no one had even thought to summon (1 Samuel 16:6-13).  This is the God who habitually overturns status, not in order to make the non-élite a new élite, but in order to abolish status, to establish his kingdom in which none can claim privilege over others and all gladly surrender privilege for the good of others.”

Living out of weakness (perhaps another way of talking about our value of interdependence) would at the very least call us to lay aside our self centered desires in order to work in community with others, to “gladly surrender privilege for the good of others.”  Now that would be hard.  Then again, that’s why we need Jesus.

7 Responses

  1. Ironically, one of our chief weaknesses happens to be that we aren’t aware of ourselves: In this case, it’s very possible that we believe we are habitually surrendering privilege for the good of others when we are not. We need others to communicate with us when we appear to be grasping for privilege and power at the expense of our brothers and sisters. We need each other to foster this “weakness strength”.

    Your post brings me to some age-old leadership-in-ministry practical/application questions: How can we habitually abolish status when we depend on it structurally? How can we surrender privilege when the privilege is the status? We can’t have reciprocity in all things. I believe the answer is at the heart level – the mindset, the motivation.

    Practically speaking, the Body of Christ exhibits weakness in submitting to Christ, affirming His authority and following His lead. It is a powerful exhibition. It is the exhibition of the cross. We glory in our weakness within this context, according to this definition. We don’t glory in incompetence. We don’t become weakness exhibitionists, either. We lay down our purposes, not for display, but in following Christ’s lead.

    This post has reminded me that we follow the lead of Christ when we habitually – at the heart level – “have this mind among [ourselves], which is [ours] in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:5-7).

    It is only when we have this controlling mindset/inclination that we naturally “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [ourselves], each of [us looking] not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:3-4).

    Personally, I am “Body-checked”: by this post: If I attempt to exhibit Philippians 2:3-4 – the anti-rivalry/anti-conceit do-gooding – without the mindset/attitude of 2:5-7, I will accomplish something mutinous: The exhibition of weakness and humility with rivalry (competition) and conceit (an unduly high opinion of one’s own abilities or worth) remaining at the heart of it all. Simply put, the worst sort of hypocrisy grows from a self-naïve application of the “strength in weakness” imperative. I need the help of the Body to ensure this “strength weakness” stems from the proper soil.

    • Good word, Noah. This is one of the reasons why self awareness is such a key element of the Gospel Leader profile which was designed as a learning/training grid for workers within WT. The tricky thing about self awareness, as you rightly point out, is that we need others to help us become more aware of ourselves.

  2. I think this statement strikes me the most in the article… “This is the God who habitually overturns status, not in order to make the non-élite a new élite.” It is actually quite subtle to “lay aside” goals and aspirations that I may have called “mine” in the pursuit of “mission aspirations” or even “community aspirations,” thus abandoning the pursuit of one “élite” for that of another. It´s subtle, but it plays out so easily.

    In one of the Sonship lessons, the lecturer states that the highest goal of the Christian is that of complete dependence upon God. My personal striving for results in the context of ministry has often been based, rather than on full dependence upon God, on a striving for a new élite… a church planting CRACK!

    For me, the challenge is to continue to walk in “weakness,” with a whole-hearted dependence on God. I want to be strong. I want to put my best foot forward. I want to hog the lime-light and the glory. Jesus calls me to dependence, always dependence, re-directing the lime-light and glory to the One who is all and in all.

  3. Thanks David of the reminder of God’s grace in spite of our weakness.
    For years weakness was one of those characteristics which I saw in others. With age & experience although i am seeing more clearly how God uses my weakness for his glory. Dick Woodward pastor, teacher, discipler, prolific author, quadeaplegic for over 20 years and friend, reminds me :.
    I’m not but He is! (and He is in me)
    I can’t but He can. (and He is in me)
    I don’t want to but He wants to. (and He is in me)
    I didn’t but He did. (And he was in me!)

    • For years I have been wondering how to increase the want to in people’s lives. Dick Woodward’s phrase, “I don’t want to but He wants to and He is in me,” is such an encouragement.

  4. Living Out of Weakness . . . . on the surface it seems to be contradictory to what we are admonished to do. I am always fascinated how reading the “Book” from The Message gives me a little kick:
    “10 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. 18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. 19 And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, 20 jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out.” Ephesians 6:9-20.
    If I understand you well, what you are really saying here is the fact that without Christ we can not do anything. So with this, we are total weakness . . . . We only have the “strength” where we take the help in form of “weapon” that God has issued. Where we apply it we are strengthened. Where we don’t, we remain vulnerable. The community aspect is when we look after each other’s vulnerabilities and we demonstrate to others our better applied weapon. It is all Him. Himility, which is the true humility, is the best policy in a strong community. I am reminded of II Timothy 3:16 which is a “community verse” but we often turn it into just a doctrinal verse: 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness . . .
    Training in righteousness is a community aspect more than teaching, rebuking and correcting, although these are also part of the function of the community as we use God’s word to edify one another. The training aspect though is the most neglected part. We love to rebuke and correct but we can’t set aside the time to look after each other’s vulnerabilities. Reminding me of a story of Linda, the Honda civic driver who was on her way to Yellowknife. She stopped at a motel at night asking the clerk to wake her up at 5 am wanting to start early. The clerk looked at her puzzled but said nothing. In the morning, she found out why. The was a thick fog all over the mountainous area. Not showing her embarrassment, she proceeded to have breakfast at the restaurant with truckers already there. The truckers asked her where she was heading which she replied “to Yellowknife”. They exclaimed referring to her Honda on the visible parking lot “On that?” Nobody has done that before.” “There is always the first time” she retorted back. The guys then told her, “We have to hug you then.” “You will not!” she replied back. “Oh no, that’s not what we mean. You see how thick the fog is. My buddy here will drive ahead of you so you can see his two tail lights which you could follow assuring that you will remain on the road. While I will follow you to make sure nobody hits you behind.” the men answered back.
    Community is living our strength from the Lord to display to other how to do it while there are those who watches our back to make sure we don’t fall.
    Living out of weakness . . . all the time.
    Living out our strength . . . by God’s grace for one another.
    Himility in community.

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