• 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!

Why I am not the centre

Why am I not the centre?  It’s because of people like Manu.centre of attention

Last night, we were participating in the bi-weekly small group from our local church.  My wife & I were actually part of the original ‘launch team’ that got this group started.  Our team prayed for several months about ‘launching’ this group, we then began the group, and it has morphed through several phases.  We are now meeting regularly; with about ten people participating each time.

So who is leading the group?  Well, it wasn’t me last night.  It was Manu.  Manu is a young guy with good skills.  He does a good job in preparing the meeting/study and is open to feedback.  He’s the future of our group, of our local church.

I’m not the centre because we (you and I in each of our ministries) want to ‘release people into ministry’.  So, at a given moment, the ‘spotlight’ has to go off of us and on to someone else.  Someone else has to be ‘equipped’ and ‘released’.  The struggle is that many times we think the person to replace us has to be ‘on the same level as Jesus’ to be able to do the work we do.  So, not being the centre is as much about ‘releasing’ another’ as it is about ‘giving away’ what we love doing.

The amazing piece is that there is such joy when you watch another move into ministry and take your input to heart.  I have watched Manu grow in his ability to lead our meetings and that is such a joy.

The amazing piece is that God gives us multiple opportunities to ‘reach, invest, equip and release others into ministry’.  However, I do have to ‘release’ others if I want to be able to start all over again.

If you are stuck at the ‘releasing’ phase, why not ask someone to come alongside and help you give away what needs to be given away, so that you can begin again.

Humility check

humility-copyLisa corrected a misstatement in my previous post.  I had written: “Up to this point, I have not found ‘humility’ as one of the assessment categories on an annual evaluation.”  However, there was such a category in our old Annual Ministry Review form.

This is what you would have found there:

Christian Character—a godly life which shows evidence of God’s work being conformed to the image of Christ as demonstrated by:

  1. a humble, teachable spirit
  Requires Improvement   Satisfactory   Exceptional
Comments:

 

The rub is that no one would have ever wanted to say that their humility factor was off the charts by checking the box, exceptional.

However, the point of that Annual Ministry Review exercise was to get ‘outside-in’ input from others on the ravages of pride in our lives.  Others help us have an accurate picture of where our trust is more in ourselves than in the Savior.  Most of us are self-unaware when it comes to how deep pride runs in our own hearts.  Jack Miller (Serge) used to say that at the root of every sin you would find pride and unbelief.

Humility, as a foundational principle for CPM, reminds us of how often ‘we’ get in the way of God’s missional work.

For a humility check, try asking several others: where do you see me relying more on myself than on Jesus?  Then be ready to take those responses back to Jesus, asking him to give you the grace to turn again from one’s pride and grab hold of His loving and forgiving hands.

Humility? Really?

So far, I’ve mentioned the following foundational principles in CPM:

(1) “Foundations are forever” – that what is ‘poured into’ a community from the start will dictate how it functions and works

(2) “Nationals do it better” – that our objective as cross cultural workers is to train and give way to local believers to do the ministry.

(3) Community prayer – that prayer is the foundational principle in CPM different-dimensions-of-humility-990x580as we consciously affirm that this is God’s work, not ours.

Perhaps a fourth one would be a humble spirit.

Really?  In looking over the first three principles, I realized that one of the links that tied all of them together was a humble spirit.  It takes a humble spirit to regularly put in question what he/she is laying as a foundation.  It takes a humble spirit to ‘give way’ to others and allow them to take responsibility for the ministry.  It takes a humble spirit to cry out to God that His will be done and that we would decrease while He increases.

There are no six steps towards greater humility.  Up to this point, I have not found ‘humility’ in any of the assessment categories on an annual evaluation.  Yet, we are called to demonstrate humility (James 4:6).  Humility grows from allowing God to search our hearts and drive us back to Him; back to His love, forgiveness, and the honour He bestows on us.  Humility also grows as we open ourselves to the ‘outside-in’ input of others. In other words, by living in close enough ‘community’ (virtually or in person) we allow others to speak into our lives.

Fall on our faces before the Lord

I’ve always been struck by the image in the Old Testament of one ‘falling on one’s face before the Lord’.  One passage in particular that comes to mind is Ezekiel 1 where we read: “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”  (1:28).fall-on-one-face

I often associate such a stance of prostration before the Lord as one of fear.  Certainly, a godly fear or respect is present.  However, the act of falling on one’s face before the Lord is an ultimate sign of submission, humility and total dependence.

One blog commentator had this to say about Ezekiel’s stance before the Lord: “I wonder how our lives would be different if we began to grasp the majesty and holiness of God. I wonder how our churches would be different if, even for a moment, we glimpsed the glory of God as did Ezekiel. Not only might we fall on our faces before the Lord, but we might also be empowered afresh to serve him in every facet of our lives.”

Our mission statement states that we exist ‘to glorify God by working together to establish reproducing churches’.  We exist, we live to glorify God; to fall on our face in recognition of our total need for Him to do anything in life and ministry. That ‘falling on our face’ before Him should then thrust us out into service.

As cross cultural workers, this is our ‘clarion call’.  However, our actions often times communicate something very different.  Our actions sometimes state that we are more about building our own kingdom and value than we are about God’s kingdom.  Our actions sometimes get the message across that ministry is more about us than it is about Jesus.  Our actions sometimes are telling people that we are looking for their praise, rather than encouraging them to give praise to the God of glory!

Falling on one’s face is a picture of submission, humility and dependence.  Falling on one’s face before the Lord is also a picture of the daily repentance needed to lay aside all that in our lives takes away from His glory; it is a repentance that opens the way to receive again all He has for us in Jesus.

Everyone needs …

Someone passed along an article to me last week titled: “7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Ministry”.  Some of the seven things listed by the writer were self-evident, but one stood out for me from the rest.  It simply read: Mentors aren’t optional.mentoring

Here’s what the author wrote: “There has always been something in me that says “you can figure this out by yourself”. I wish I had fought that voice earlier.  Ministry (and life) are complex enough that I wish someone had told me that mentors aren’t optional. I am fortunate to have more than a few great mentors in my life these days. I just wish I had started earlier.”

Mentoring can mean many things to different people. However, mentoring is at the very least about asking someone with solid character and competency to guide you in your own personal growth steps. One’s mentor may have expertise in the area where you need growth the most. Or they may simply be a good listener who has a heart to keep you accountable for where you believe God is asking you to grow.  The overall objective of a mentor is to journey with you in your growth in Christ.

I can honestly say that have profited in many ways from mentors over the past number of years. Yet, the author’s comments at the very end remain a challenge to all of us: “I just wish I had started earlier.”  I wish someone had challenged me earlier in my Christian walk about the need for mentors. None of us likes to ask for help. Mentoring will drive us deeper in Gospel humility and enlarge our view of how God uses others to grow us up more in Him.

Each of us needs a mentor. Each of us ‘needs to take the plunge’ and ask someone to mentor us for a specified time frame and towards a concrete objective. The first step would be to prayerfully seek out a mentor and ask them to help you with growth steps in one area of your life and ministry.

If you would like more help on what mentoring might look like, drop me a note (international.director@worldteam.org) and I will send you some brief notes from Steve Moore about mentoring.

That is not the way we learned

But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.”  (Ephesians 4:20-21)

Our encounter with Jesus has not only taken away our shame and restored the honor God placed upon us, but it powerfully changes how we see others and how we treat them. We may have used our words to cause damage and hurt in others’ lives in the past. Now, in Christ, our motivation and desire is different. That is simply because we have learned a new way of living and loving.what-we-learned-rukkle-620X4002

However, what I find disheartening is that Christians are often among the least likely to demonstrate this kind of love toward one another, and particularly when they are called to work together in teams or towards a common vision. Terms like manipulation, rancor, or self-centeredness are sadly among some of the attitudes I have seen.

We who have been given the privilege of sharing the Gospel with others can be among those most needy for the Gospel. Could it be that our actions are a counter testimony to the ‘way we learned Christ’?

Commenting on this text, Jack Miller once said: “Putting on the new self means going to Jesus more and more to get a life of truth without secrets, and to abandon manipulating others. As you do this, you begin to see the people around you as individuals who are worth a great deal to God, and you are able to treat them with kindness, forgiveness, thoughtfulness, and love.”

How do others ‘experience’ you in day-to-day life and ministry? That’s a question to start with and which might provide greater self-awareness.

We need each other to lift up the mirror of God’s perfect law, that we might see how we fall short. We need each other to take us back again (and again) to Jesus where we receive mercy again (and again).

Why we get pumped up about our ministry

I can put it in a variety of ways when I write to people. For instance, ‘thanks for praying for our ministry’ or ‘thanks for standing with us as we serve Christ here’. God has given each of us a unique and specific calling to the culture and people where we live and among whom we serve.  There are specific indicators to which we can refer along that journey and that serve as ‘ebenezers’ for us when the days get difficult or frustrating.myworldlogo

And such is the way it should be.

However, our vocabulary can also betray the lurking self-centeredness of our hearts. We can quickly make ‘islands’ of ourselves rather than ‘communities’.  When it is ‘my’ ministry or ‘our’ ministry that we talk about most of the time, we can unknowingly distant ourselves from others who have a similar calling.  We can turn the focus away from Jesus and His mission to ourselves.  We can work to mobilize people only to our small part of the world; to ‘our’ ministry alone.

The Jesus mandate was to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’.  Our call then is first and foremost a call to be part of His community. And secondarily to ‘find our place’ in His missional call.  Working out of that missional call, we plead with others to put their faith and trust in Him.  Working out of that missional call, we call others to join God wherever He may send them in the world.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I get excited when someone I have been talking to about cross cultural work decides to go to another people group, another location or to another team?
  • Do I get excited when those I am discipling decide to start a new work 50 km from our church plant?
  • Do I get excited when others build on and better the work we began?

The answers to these questions will be an indicator of the level of self-centeredness stirring in our hearts. The remedy will come when self-forgetfulness begins to displace that self-centeredness.