Archive

Archive for July, 2015

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 243

  1. “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

Simple evidence. To love a leader is to follow their direction and fulfill their commands. Love between Master and servant cannot be demonstrated satisfactorily with words. Only when we obey do we demonstrate our real commitment. Now other relationships can show love via gifts or sentiment, but when you follow someone, you can only demonstrate your allegiance by following. That surely doesn’t mean there is no place for words, for expressions of praise, for communicating passion. But these should be added to obedience in the form of attitude–one that demonstrates we are fully devoted to Him in our obedience.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 242

  1. “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14).

While some might want to see license given here for any selfish ambition, the context reveals Jesus’ words are more about relationship than about receiving blessing. He has just described the connection He enjoys between the Father and is now explaining that theirs is a similar connection with Him. He has been doing the will of the Father and they will be doing His will, obeying His commission and commands. So, anything that is needed in that effort will be given. He isn’t promising to supply a self-focused agenda, but expects them to obey His voice, just as He has obeyed the Father’s. God is not a candy machine with knobs to pull based on one’s sweet tooth. Instead, He is fully the fuel for the mission. He will equip them with everything they need as they fulfill His will.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 18

For several weeks now, we’ve been walking through the five questions every local church needs to be asking to bring new energy and life to their congregation.

Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!

Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.

Next, we tackled–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Here, we looked at both the content and the settings where discipleship teaching is delivered. You must have a plan for people to engage, and then, of course, you’ll need to encourage them to engage that plan.

Our fourth question asked, How will we help them find a place to serve? Here, we worked our way through helping people find their gifts and find a place to use them, how we will go about training them and providing the evaluation that can help people find real success and satisfaction in their ministry efforts. And, we made a final stop considering what it’s like to be on the team–a discussion that focused on how we are investing in them and their ministry experience.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve engaged our final question by looking at two essential steps for pursuing God–to stop pursuing everything else through solitude and Sabbath and to connect with what God has already spoken through Bible reading and reflection.

Now, the conversation with God would seem to have two additional elements. If reading our Bible focuses us on what God has already said, then it makes sense that we would also want to know what He might be saying now. Then we’ll be ready to consider our side of the conversation.

But what of this question about God’s current efforts to speak with us?

I may have lived in a different world than you, but it seems to me that the majority of teaching on prayer focuses on our words to Him. Certainly our practice of prayer has us doing most of the talking, with perhaps a moment or two pause to see if God wants to interrupt. But, listening to God somehow ends up lower on the priority list. How can that be?

Indeed, the first element of our praying should be in response to what God has been speaking to our lives. So, before we respond, shouldn’t we have to listen?

It should come as no surprise that many, if not most, Christians are unsatisfied with their “prayer lives.” Conversations that are as one-sided as our non-stop chatter and nearly endless list of requests can hardly be engaging. I have to admit that when I encounter someone who talks but never listens, I seriously doubt their interest in a real relationship. Prayer, as many of the great writers of previous generations try to tell us, is a response to a conversation God has already started. When we are listening for Him each day and paying attention to what He might be showing us, our moments of prayer become simple and meaningful celebrations of what we are learning.

Part of the problem in our times of prayer is that we’re not really that aware of God through the rest of our day. When we take 5-10 minutes to pray and then rush to our predetermined schedule of activities, we’re really not engaging God in a true relationship. To think that we can briefly pause our rat race and give Him a few seconds to chat us up seems unworthy of the One who died to demonstrate His interest in connecting with us.

So, in this key question of church health, how will we help people move beyond prayer as a checklist item or a chance to babble our way through the list of our family members or the names of every missionary we can remember? How will we show our people how to give God their attention when they’re actually living and not talking? How can we teach people that a real relationship with God is possible so they’ll discover how amazing such connection can truly be?

I’m intrigued that two of our first three ideas for helping people connect with God encourage us to be quiet–solitude and listening. But, that makes sense when you realize that He is the focus of this relationship and not me. He gets first place and I just rejoice that I’m even allowed in the room. He’s God! And He really deserves our fullest attention.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 241

  1. “And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:13).

It’s all for a single purpose–to bring glory to the Father. The more you study God’s purposes in the earth, the more you realize there is really only one–to bring glory to the Father. The original purpose of Creation is found solely in God’s desire to be known or to be made evident to those He has created. His purpose in redemption is, once again, the desire to be God with us–to be known. Indeed, God’s very purpose in the eternal plan is to be with us forever. While we can’t guess as to why that is Heaven to God, it is surely Heaven for us. He wants to be glorified (or to be made known) so that we might come to Him and dwell with Him. When you see this motive and how it affects what you ask God for, you can begin to understand Jesus’ willingness to do what we ask.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 240

  1. “He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

Location, location, location–the mantra of real estate proves true in spiritual life as well. Because of Jesus’ location–with the Father–there is power available to His disciples. One might be tempted to think that Jesus with them would be the most powerful positional framework, after all, we cherish His abiding presence with us. But Jesus makes it clear that His presence with the Father is the plan for extending His power throughout the earth. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between the two, given His omnipresence. But these words do give us a clear indication of where the power truly resides and why the union of the Godhead is our key to victory.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Big 5 Questions: Their Answers Will Revitalize Your Church – Part 17

For nearly four months of Mondays now, we’ve been walking through the five questions every local church needs to be asking to bring new energy and life to their congregation. Before we take our next step into our final question–How will we teach people to pursue God?–let’s quickly glance back at where we’ve been.

Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!

Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.

Next, we tackled–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Here, we looked at both the content and the settings where discipleship teaching is delivered. You must have a plan for people to engage, and then, of course, you’ll need to encourage them to engage that plan.

Our fourth question asked, How will we help them find a place to serve? Here, we worked our way through helping people find their gifts and find a place to use them, how we will go about training them and providing the evaluation that can help people find real success and satisfaction in their ministry efforts. And, we made a final stop considering what it’s like to be on the team–a discussion that focused on how we are investing in them and their ministry experience.

Last week, we got started with our final question by looking at the essential first step of pursuing God–to stop pursuing everything else. The idea of solitude and Sabbath is a necessary focus so we can begin to hear what God might be speaking to us and respond accordingly.

Once people begin to give God a bit of their undivided attention, they will need some direction as to how they can engage Him. I think the first way to do so is to dive into what He has already spoken. Yes, it’s that book on the coffee table–the one they might tuck under an arm each Sunday. After centuries where people had no real access to God’s Word, those today who own multiple copies often fail to value this book enough to open it. How will you help your people move beyond such carelessness into the meaningful encounter they truly need?

Be careful assuming that even the long-term members of your congregation know how to do this. Many don’t. While they may have accumulated a few favorite passages, understand the differences between the testaments, and gained a basic knowledge of core characters, few have managed to locate a daily impact for their lives.

One practice that can help would be a reading plan we can engage together. Many churches post Scripture passages for daily reading in their weekly bulletin or on their website. If you add some follow-up such as preaching from these passages or an accountability/celebration plan for those who are reading with you, you can enhance their participation. Just telling people to open the Book each day presumes they are confident enough to decide where to read and understand what they are reading. A few less-than-satisfying experiences can begin to shape a too-hard-for-me attitude toward the Bible, so build a plan to help.

If and when Western-world people read, their goal is typically to gain knowledge. But we know that the Bible can do far more than just add content to our brain cells. As you get your people reading this amazing book, help them develop new patterns of response. If they’re reading the Psalms, have them identify the feelings they sense in the writer, and even in the reader. If a historical passage dominates today’s reading, help your people imagine living in that moment or consider how they might have responded in such circumstances. The Bible isn’t just a textbook or story book. It’s designed to be engaged at the deepest levels. But, most folks will need some help if they will learn to respond in that way.

Finally, share how God’s amazing book has transformed your life. Be specific! Don’t let generalized platitudes about the Bible dominate your encouraging words. Share the real stories of your own engagement. Express how a passage has affected you. Reveal some of your own devotional discovery and how you connect the dots to daily living. Be honest about hard passages. Be authentic concerning your own challenges. If you paint yourself as a super Christian who shouts and dances over every verse, don’t expect your people to find much in your apparent experience that might encourage theirs. Remember that the goal is to pursue God–not you or your level of experience.

Bible-reading believers are growing believers. If people become solely dependent on your weekly exposition for their spiritual growth, there won’t really be much of that. God wants to reveal Himself directly to them too and grow them in their real-world impact as well. So find a few ways to encourage the pursuit of God through His Word and you’ll begin to see a new level of “fruit” begin to burst forth from the lives of those He’s given you to guide.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 239

  1. “Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:12).

What does faith look like? According to Jesus, those who have faith will do the works He is doing. They will love people, help the hurting, teach the truth, and champion the cause of the oppressed. Faith is never a self-focused thing. Those who see faith as a means to get things, don’t understand the very idea of faith. Faith works, and it works for the good of others. Those who live such a life are blessed, not by their abundance of possessions, but by the love and admiration of those who see such kindness in their eyes. Faith can never live for itself. It only lives for the good of others.

Categories: Leadership Journeys