• 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.

Handing off the baton

It is a simple statement that gets lost in the larger context of one of Paul’s letter where hehanding-the-baton writes: “and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).  This is the same Timothy who was earlier called Paul’s ‘beloved and faithful child in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17).  This Timothy, Paul’s fellow coworker, is now sent to minister to the church at Thessalonica.

Paul had ‘handed off the baton’ to Timothy.

What that process looked like is not completely clear or written down.  We can see different parts of the process as we read about Paul’s journeys and study his letters to churches.  We can observe that there was a beginning when Paul identified Timothy for development, there was time spent with him in training, and there was a time when he was sent out on his own.

What does all that mean for you and me?  For one, it raises a simple question: where am I, where are you in the ‘passing on the baton’ process?  Are you in the process of training someone?  Or have you not yet taken the first step of identifying someone or some people in whom to invest?

Secondly, this work should take us back again to our Central Ministry Focus: “reach, invest in, and equip others to release them into ministry”.  The Central Ministry Focus is not a one day webinar we host.  It’s a journey of training where we work with others to develop them and release them into ministry.

Another way to put it, that I often heard from a New Zealand brother, was: who is your Timothy?

The myth of being irreplacable

mythbusters1

Bob Vajko, in an article in the recent edition of EMQ, writes that one of the first mistakes a church planter can make is “to wrongly develop dependency in the church we are planting.”  Most often, we err by doing so much in the early start up that community members come to believe that we are the only ones capable of doing the ministry.

By this, we create the myth of being irreplaceable.

It is not our intention at the outset to create this myth. God called us to be part of a community of workers that “establish and go” rather than “establish and stay”.  However, as time goes on, our investment in the work increases and it becomes more difficult to move on or to let go of the ministry and give it into others’ hands.

A few ‘myth-busters’ would serve us well at this point:

Others are capable of doing the ministry.  It’s such an obvious fact, but we can tend to measure capability by a standard that even the best disciple of Jesus would struggle with.  Having a developmental mindset or attitude towards others will encourage us to put others more quickly into ministry situations in order to allow them to ‘try out’ the ministry in a context of mentoring and coaching.

We ourselves entered into ministry in the same way.  None of us jumped from Sunday School into full-time church planting like some high school basketball players have done in jumping to the NBA professional league.  We were nurtured, discipled and trained by others and we grew into the ministry. Why should we expect it to be any different for those who become part of the communities of believers we are part of starting?  However, they need opportunities to serve and we need to give those opportunities to them from the very start.

People often do fine without us.  When the church planter is not present, it’s amazing how a community pulls together and does church.  As long as the church planter is present, some will never rise to the occasion.  However, should an opportunity present itself, those disciples who have been trained will assume their places of ministry.

We are as much a part of the community of believers that we are establishing as any other member.  Our role, though, needs to be from the very start one which develops, trains and releases others quickly into ministry and service.

 

Core Skills and LL3

Each worker/leader partnering with World Team Global will be able to give voice to ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’

This is one of our global priorities which we will be working towards in the coming months.

Several steps will move us in this direction.  First, we will draft the “WT Core”, a common covenant that will delineate who we are as members of the WT community and what we do.  All workers will be asked to affirm this covenant, giving voice to what unites us together as a WT community.

Next, we will select 4-5 key skills of the CPM Roadmap in which every worker within WT will be trained.  Some may feel that they have already grasped these skills, but in order to build a common body of knowledge and skills everyone must go through the same training.  Sharing the story of the Gospel will be the first key skill we will address.

Finally, every worker will assess their competency needs on an annual basis and will be asked to further develop themselves over the course of that coming year.  Training, mentoring, online courses and other delivery options will be offered to assist each one to grow in their competencies.  We will call this “LL3” or lifelong learning.  This cannot be optional as all of us need to grow further in our skills and abilities.

None of this is to the neglect of character development.  However, I am sure that if you stepped onto a plane and the pilot announced that he was a person of moral integrity and fiber, but knew nothing about flying airplanes, you would quickly step off that plane.  Yes, a balance is needed.  Let us apply as great an energy to our competency development as we do to our character development.

Next post: So what about character development?

What Do We Mean When We Say “Church”?

The following short story is another way to open a discussion among us about what we mean when we say “church”:

Jared & Jenna were able to attend one of the last WIN conferences (World Team Institute of Church Planting) that was held.  They learned a great deal about (and experienced) WT values such as community and the gospel.  However, they left WIN with a feeling that something was missing. No one had taught them what it meant to do the job that they were being asked to do (i.e., establish communities of believers).  To their surprise when they arrived on the field, they experienced some dissonance between what they heard at WIN and the values that were actually being lived out.  Again and again, Joel & Jenna probed the team to help them understand what it was they were supposed to be doing with their time.  The answers they received were nebulous and confusing at best. They struggled to get a handle on the definition of the “church” and the elements that constituted a “community of believers”.  They began to realize that there was no common definition of the church among their co-workers, let alone in WT.  As the years past, Joel & Jenna made decisions about what was a church for them.  To their surprise, their field director expressed disagreement with their conclusions.

This story is for the most part fictional, but represents some of the struggle I have heard from different members of our WT community around the globe.  

How do we begin to describe what we mean by “church” so that it provides a common base for all from which to work and which allows the functions of the church to take appropriate cultural forms where the church is being established?