Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The "Grand Adventure"

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.
Matthew 9:9 (NIV)

Are you ready to go on the journey?

Many people desire the nobility and prestige of "ministry" but are ill equipped for the adventure of it. So often we eagerly desire the destination of the Grand Adventure, but pay little thought to the journey.

Are you ready for the journey?

On the journey you will be challenged. On the journey you will be changed. On the journey you will have to let go of stuff. On the journey you will be healed. On the journey your life will become fulfilling. On the journey you will become the best "you" you can be, the "you" you were created to be. On the journey you will come to know Jesus like you want to...on the journey, you will have to.

Are you ready for the journey?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Problem With Time Travel

I love time travel movies. Some are done well, some are just bad, but I enjoy the mental gymnastics of the whole thing. The preminse is almost always the same: there's a problem, someone has to travel back in time to fix the problem, hero fixes problem, future disaster averted.

Along the way the inevitable questions always come up: "But if we travel back in time and fix the problem, won't that correct the time line and thus make us unaware of the problem in the past that we have to travel back and fix, making the problem arise again? Or will the corrected timeline continue as the "real" timeline? Which one then is the "true" timeline? Though physicists tell us it's theoretically possible, there's a problem with time travel.

"What does this have to do with ministry?" you say. Sci fi fantasies and pop-culture physics aside the same problem exists for those who use words like "called" or calling".

Though much goes into considering a "calling" and there is, at the time, a fair amount of confirmation of that "calling", it's unfortunately far too easy to travel back in time and change the past.

We go back, we revisit...and sometimes we rewrite.

A "calling" as we will talk of it, is a specific request or command of God for a specific action. All Christians are called to surrender their lives to God, those who have a "calling" are saying that they recognize that God is asking or commanding something specific of their life and particular to them as a demonstration of the general surrender of the Christian.

A life spent following Jesus is not easy. The road is not always smooth and just because the road gets a little bumpy doesn't mean God has not called us.

One particular attack the enemy uses to thwart "calling", even against those who have seemed so sure of it; is the ability to travel back in time.

"Are you sure God said that? Are you sure you didn't just want that? Are you sure it wasn't that influential person in your life who convinced you? Why did you think that anyway?"

Times get hard, the road gets bumpy, the skies get a little dark and we go back and try to revisit the past...and suddenly we're not so sure. It's the enemy's attempt to alter the timeline. As in the movies, the question inevitably comes up, "Which timeline is the 'true' timeline?"

Effective leaders have closed that door of attack to the enemy. They have limited his ability to attack them at way by guarding their "calling". Here are some suggestions to do just that:

1. Journal. Not everyone is a journaler but you should find some way of accurately recording your past and most especially the life changing moments in which God has spoken into your life. We find in scripture that Abraham would often set up altars, monuments, to memorialize when God spoke to him. We need the same kind of reminders. An accurate picture of the past is a protected past.

2. Refuse to be a Revisionist. Going back can be useful. Many times it can serve to encourage us. It's the revision of the past that's dangerous. No calling is absolutely certain; every "calling" has an element of faith attached to it. Ultimately this is what the enemy seems to make his primary target. We read times in scripture when the apostles and disciples thought God wanted something from them and acted on it and God corrected them, rebuked them stopped their movement. God will protect your heart and faith that way. If your heart is right He won't let you walk ten years down a path that's wrong for you without telling you. Walk by faith.

3. Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say. Those who are most prone to this attack are those who are all too ready to say "Thus sayeth the Lord..". Be careful of what you consider a "calling". Be very discerning, and conservative on what you say God has "called" you to. Don't call it a "calling" unless you are as sure as you can be. God's calling is not always the voice of your desire.

4. Don't Be So Quick To Jump Ship. Once you are as certain as you can be that God has "called" you to something, a ministry, a position, a lifestyle, a church, etc., etc., let God guide that path. Know that it will present challenges as the path of our calling is also one of the mechanisms of our personal transformation, and that will include hardship. "The testing of your faith develops perseverance." Once you are as sure as you can be of a "calling" do not leave it until you are as certain as you were getting into it that God is calling you out of it. Don't let circumstances, feelings, hardship or personal desire be your guide. It's God's calling let Him be its Director too.

5. Err On The Side Of God. Let God be the benficiarty fo your life. Often this requires taking our own name off that line. "You are not your own, you were bought with a price." Live like it. Make decisions that demonstrate it. When in doubt, when both answers seems right, or God doesn't seems to be answering, follow the one that best serves God (which is also often the one that least serves us). This doesn't make it the right answer, it's just the safest.

May God bless you on your Grand Adventure. May your past be sure, the footing of your present steady, and the outlook of your future ever-increasingly brighter. God bless you!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Finding Our Niche

Effective ministers do not seek to change the world, they seek to change their part of it. This is often the difference between ministry and effective ministry.

Too often our hearts are bigger than our gifting, ability, energy and spheres of influence. This generally leads to resources spread way too thin, long days without much payoff, and ultimately burnout.

Effective miinisters understand who God has made them and what He has called them to do; and they pursue it with a singular mindset.

One of the most difficult challenges in ministry is to give ourselves to the tasks God has called us to and only those tasks.

Here are five tips on finding our mission and the corner of the universe God has called us to affect.

1. Join a Church. The church is the body of Christ. It is His arm for doing the work He is at. Don't just believe in the Church, give yourself to one. Don't just go to a church, belong to it. This is God's ordained structure for carrying out His work. He created the Church to be a body and parts are not nearly as effective outside of the system they were created to support as in them.

2. Identify the Need. More than anything else "need" directs our path. There may be things we're good at, there may be things we like, but "need" is the primary directive of God's work. What does your church need from you? What does the world need from you? What can you offer them? Remember that many of God's greatest servants were called to missions outside of their gifting and to missions they had no heart for. God grows servants, leaders are just a byproduct.

3. Identify Your Gifting. What are you good at? What can you do that others cannot? How has God uniquely gifted you to meet the needs of the world and the Church? Gifting allows us to meet "needs" more effectively than someone else might.

4. Identify Your Passion. What do you have a heart for? What is happening in the world and at church that really gets under your skin? Often passion, correctly applied, gives us a glimpse of God's own heart. Our passions identify the aspects of service we are most likely to naturally work hard at affecting. They also often identify those aspects of ministry we are most likely to enjoy.

5. Identify Your Market. Who are you most likely to appeal to, care for, connect with? Our "market" is that group of people that we most naturally identify with and will be accepted by.

When we walk down the list from top to bottom and apply each aspect, we are likely to find ourselves in the sweet spot of ministry; that place where we are, both, most fulfilled by, and most effective at.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Called Leading

One of the tough things to comprehend in any new ministry is the fact that we are the "leaders" of that ministry. It's much easier to wait for someone else to make a decision, point the way, move the pile.

In any ministry it's important to embrace leadership.

Leaders lead, they do not follow from the front. Often we are tempted to say, "Well, when God starts doing something here thats when I'll start moving". The reality is that he has; he chose you to lead!

What we must understand is that even God's choosing of us (we call it a "calling") represents lots of movement on God's part. He has chosen you, gifted you with unique talents and abilities, gifted you with resources, molded your desires and passions, tested you, and found you ready. Lead!

What this means practically is that we are often the drive behind our "movement", that particular mission God has called us to partner with Him in. We should not be discouraged when no one else seems to be on our page...because we are there to write it!

The following are four tips to being a "leader"

1. Target the mission. What is God asking of you? What movement of His is He asking you to partner with Him in?

2. Define the vision. How will you accomplish this mission? What has God uniquely qualified you to do? (Your passion and skill set are critical here. They may be a huge part of why YOU are called to this!)

[to understand the difference between mission and vision, mission is the goal, vision is how you, with your skills, in this time, amidst this culture, will accomplish that goal. Mission is the skeleton, it doesn't change, while vision may be likened to the skin, what the skeleton (mission) looks like]

3. Begin the March. There's an old saying that says you can't steer a car that isn't moving. Start moving. Lead. As you do God will bring "followers", correct your course, add to your resources and clarify your vision. But we mustn't wait around for it to happen. We are the God chosen catalysts of this particular movement and God is counting on us.

4. Nurture the seed. What God calls us to and plants as a vision in us is just the seed. We are responsible for nurturing that seed to a healthy fruit bearing tree. This means selling the vision, instilling the philosophy of ministry, and reproducing this "vision" in others. This is "leader"-ship.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

One Small Step...

Write this down: the greatest guarantee of effective ministry is always the "next step".

What does this mean? It means often we spend much time in ministry thinking about what we can do, planning what we should do, reviewing what we missed, talking about how it could have been better and even being told exactly what to, but much less time doing it.

If we really want our ministries to be effective we must be far more action oriented than we are. We must become "doers" instead of "talkers".

Here are four basic steps to help you engage in action oriented ministry:

1. Review everything. In order to decide on a "next step" you have to know where you've actually been. This happens when we diligently and critically review what we've done. There are 4 basic questions to ask in reviewing something: what was the goal, was it achieved, were we happy with the result, and can we do better?

2. Seek counsel. Often the next step eludes us because we simply can't see it. We are blind to it from our particular vantage point or perpsective. See what other people think. Listen to them. There are far too many Lone Rangers in vocational ministry. The Bible says wise people get a lot of counsel.

3. Develop a plan. Once you have assembled th data decide on a plan. How will you achieve what you think you should be doing? What will make your efforts easier, your ministry more effective, God more glorified, people more connectd to Him, etc. How do you get to your goal?

4. Identify the "next step". It's at this point that we often sputter out. Plans can be overwhelming, goals can seems daunting. Someone once said, "The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step" and the same is true of ministry. Be aware of the goal, but focus on the "next step." What's the VERY first thing that needs to happen next?

5. Take the next step. Now, to quote Nike, just do it. Take that next step. When the reviewing, talking, and planning are done, put action to your plan. Often the next step is miniscule and we wind up putting it off only to never return to it. The world is waitig for you to change it and it begins with the "next step".

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Time, time, time...

Ministry can be a burden sometimes, no matter how much or how little your involved in it...and especially if you’re bi-vocational so I’d like to offer some tips. I’ve learned these things for myself over the years and I think they will increase your effectiveness as ministers and your enjoyment; both of your job and life in general.

1. Try to remember that ministry (your work) is time with God and not time away from something you’d rather be doing.

a. This makes ministry incredibly fulfilling and worthwhile.

b. It also changes our perspective of work (you mean I can get paid to be with God!)

2. DON’T separate “work” from “life”

a. Remember that you have a "calling" not a job. There's a difference. Many pastors will tell you, “try to find a way to turn it off, to stop thinking about “work” after you leave for the day.” I respectfully disagree. In fact I think living your calling instead of working it takes away the enemy’s opportunity to tell you it’s a burden and something you should try and get away from.

3. As much as possible blend life and work.

a. I try and add to my life with the things I think are valuable to engage in as a minister. For instance, I like to eat. I know I will eat. I try, as much as possible to blend what I need to do with the things I like to do (eating, going to the movies, hanging out with people, etc.). I find that not only does this make my work more enjoyable (playing chess with Ben while I mentor him, for example) but it also builds our relationship to be more than just “Pastor – Pastored” to friends. This is extremely valuable when you have to say things to people they really don’t want to hear.

4. DON’T count hours as "days" or "nights"
a. I know we’re all very busy, no question, but I am constantly astonished when people count an hour as a day, or an hour as a night. Here’s what I mean, we have Bible study Wednesday nights. It lasts (for us) from 6:45 until 8:15. That’s an hour and a half. That’s the reality. I think more and more we are prone to say, “Well, Wednesday night is shot!”. Not only is that not true, but it begins to make our days and weeks become so much smaller than they are. We become much less productive and the “work” we engage in begins to seem stifling. Don’t give the enemy this advantage. Count time as it is and you’ll see how much time you do actually have. It’s a freeing experience.

Anyways, hope these help you close a few doors to the enemy Thank you for all you do and God bless you in your ministries and your lives; may they become more and more one and the same.