Sunday, September 27, 2009

After talking to lots of people who are struggling in life I have developed a formula for successful living (RIGHT........).

How to live a powerful (or overcoming) life in 5 easy steps:

1. Be committed to your relationship with God - even when the going gets tough, you must stay committed to Him. Commitment to God looks like trust and obedience. If you don't trust, you will not obey. If you don't obey, you will not be connected to the source of power.
2. Fill yourself with God's word. This is the powerful, offensive weapon that God has given us.
3. Walk by faith. Don't listen to your emotions or to your reason; listen to the Spirit as He teaches you which way you should go. (Your emotions and logic can fool you into believing something that is not truth.)
4. Persevere in the midst of trials. Your power will grow.
5. Give glory to God through everything. Your relationship will the power source will grow.

These steps will connect you into the powerful and victorious life God desires for you. A gross over simplification, but these are the main points. More to follow......

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I had a chance to talk to the people ministering in our Family Ministries area yesterday. Looking at their faces told me they were tired - worn out by the toils and stresses of ministry. I had some "good" news for them: Isaiah 6. I am not sure why God led me to this passage (probably because I wanted to get to Isaiah 40 by way of chapter 6).

The area that I landed on was God's response to Isaiah's question "How long am I supposed to go to the Israelites?" God response will not win the "cheer of the year" award:

ISA 6:11 Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?"
And he answered:

"Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,

ISA 6:12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.

How is that for a rallying cry? How is that for motivation? God's answer did nothing to charge me up, encourage my spirit or rally me toward greatness. It was downright depressing.

As I thought of how this translated to leadership and followership, I understood on a deeper level that God is not asking me to produce results. He is asking me to open my hands and heart (here am I send me; 6:8b) to be His servant. He is asking me to be His hands, feet and voice to a lost and dying world; to represent Him. He is not asking me to produce anything - He is going to take are of that (besides, if I produced something than the glory will go to me).

I need to keep this in mind when the person I am talking to about obedience to God chooses to move away from God rather than to Him; OR when someone who I have invested many hours of time finds victory and takes huge steps of faith. God simply wants to use me as His vessel (not that I abandon the emotions of grief and joy over these situations; just gain some perspective when they happen). This gives me a perspective on what to expect, or rather what not to expect, in ministry. Thanks Isaiah for doing the hard work and recording it so I can learn!

Monday, September 14, 2009

We completed a long day of planning on Thursday. There were several take-aways, but the one has really stuck in my mind as I have meditated on our work was "form vs. function".

What does that mean (and why are you thinking about that in the first place)? Kind of cryptic, I know, so let me see if in a short blog, I can define the terms a bit. (OK, it turned out this was not a short blog; my mind started racing.....sorry.)

Function - the core reasons that you exist (basically your mission). Form - the methods that you choose to use to meet or perform your core function. Function should be immutable; it should never change. Form should appropriately change to address needs, changes in culture, etc.

This is especially poignant in church work. The core function/mission of the church should never change - it always should be about making more and more obedient disciples (there is a whole lot of discussion that can be had on other things that people have moved into the core functions of the church as an organization that I really don't think are Biblical, but we will leave that for another time). What should change are the methods (forms) of how we use to meet our mission/core function.

The problem is that sometimes people turn the "form" into a "function". The function of the church is to have weekend services, the function of the church is to have small groups, etc. No, those are forms that we use to meet the core function.

It is appropriate to stand up for, argue for and even die for the core functions of the church, because they are rooted in Biblical commands from our Savior and Lord. However, when we move a form to a function and stand up for, argue to and even die for, we are mis-informed and our zeal is mis-appropriated (think Pharisees here).

Worshiping forms (a form of idolatry one could say - ouch), results in a couple of things as I see it:
- The devil, who is a pretty smart guy, changes his strategy and we begin to lose ground because we are using an old form to combat a new strategy.
- People begin to leave the church because because they begin to intuitively understand that truth and life is not found in forms and they cannot connect with our mission through old forms.
- Arguments erupt over keeping form of ministry the same year after year.

We have all seen it; a church that had a vibrant ministry 50 years ago is dying because they are using out dated forms that don't connect with the culture they are trying to reach. It is a sad reality of many churches that are unwilling to change because they have too much invested in a particular form - they are dying. The devil has moved on to a new strategy: they haven't.

Just an aside; Paul changed his form of ministry. When he was in a Jewish synagogue he used one teaching strategy (rooted in the Old Testament); when he was in a Greek place of learning, he used another strategy (see Acts 17). He made an emphatic statement: to the Jew I became a Jew, to the Greeks I became a Greek in order to save some. He understood that he had to change his form in different settings in order to meet the mission of making disciples.

OK, here is the tough part. Where am I (and you) worshiping a form of ministry? What program, strategy or tactic are we holding onto as sacred because we have so much invested in it? Are we destined to repeat the mistakes of our past where our forefathers held onto a form of ministry as a core function, instead of constantly looking at the core function and openly and honestly asking the question "Is this form the best method to accomplish the core function?"

I am afraid to ask this question sometimes because it could, and probably should, rock my comfortable and historically defined church world as I know it now.

OK, more hard work and something to keep in front of me so that we can remain effective in our ministry.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

There are a few verses in scripture that kind of scare me..... Both James and Peter quote this verse from the Old Testament: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The first part of this verse is really quite scary - God can stand in opposition to me. Not a good place to be - in opposition to the God of the Universe. I think that this should be enough to keep me humble.