Kamis, 29 September 2016

Are You Really Doing What God Wants You to Do?

Are You Really Doing What God Wants You to Do?

Does this question keep nagging at you, too?
What God Wants You to Do?
This year I’ve felt a bit wobbly in my calling. I’ve kept right on doing what it is I’ve known for sure in the past I was to give my time and energy to, but sometimes it feels as if I were to pull one little string of uncertainty, the whole structure of my life might unravel. There are some things that I know for sure: I am to be a student of Christ, an attentive wife, an engaged mother and, of course, those meals won’t cook themselves. But it’s one question that nags me: Am I really doing what God wants me to do?
That question encapsulates all the others that pop and fizz inside…
….like when someone tells me how God is leading them and I wonder if I should be doing that really great thing too.
….or when I am weary from the monotony of doing pretty much the same things I’ve been doing for eight years and I dwell too long on, “What for?” and “What does it matter anyway?”
…or when I struggle to hear God’s voice and wonder if I’m somehow missing Him.
I’ve prayed over and over for clarity from the Lord, but He clearly has to wade through a lot to speak to me, not the least of which is my lack of my faith and my lack of confidence.
The truth is that I’m more than clear where I’m called by Him to be giving my time and energy, but my confidence is too often shaken because I look to the wrong things for confirmation of that calling.
I think we all do this to some degree. We have crazy ideas of what God’s calling on our life will look like or feel like, so we end up walking through life with fear and trepidation rather than boldness, looking to the wrong things for our confidence. What are the things we look to for our confidence instead of looking to the Lord?
We look to others for a sense of confidence in our calling. This is so dangerous for so many reasons, but primary among them is that all of us looking each to the other creates a homogenous church. We start believing that we must fit into a mold or our calling is not valid. We have a fear of being different or misunderstood or even judged. Our fear of people is far greater than our fear of the Lord. This is not only idolatry, but it also hinders us from the joy of walking behind God’s leadership.
We look to our circumstances. We live by sight rather than by faith. When we don’t get results right away or when people don’t pat us on the back or when it gets hard or monotonous, we think we’ve missed how God is leading us to use our gifts.
We look to those who are confident in their calling. We turn to the left and to the right and see other people boldly using their gifts and think they don’t ever deal with uncertainty or setbacks or criticism. It would be easier to be them and to have their calling. As a result, we believe either God is unfair or we are inadequate for God to use us, or some combination of the two.
I’m preaching to the choir here, friends. This is what I myself do.
2 Corinthians 3 tells us where to find our confidence:
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and and among those who are perishing….And who is sufficient for these things?”
Paul goes on to say that he doesn’t have to drum up anything to make himself look good. He doesn’t have to prove himself to anybody. He’s not comparing himself with anyone else. Instead he says this:
“And we have such confidence through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers…”
What strikes me here is that confidence comes with knowing that God is the primary actor.
God leads us in triumph. He takes us where He wants us to go. (This is good news for those still trying to discern God’s calling on their lives.)
God diffuses a beautiful fragrance through us as we go.
God makes us sufficient for where He takes us. He makes us into bold ministers.
I want so badly to please the Lord, but I don’t as easily trust that He’ll lead me. I tend toward believing He’s more of an evaluator than a Good Shepherd. Sometimes I do trust Him but I’m looking to Him for some lifeless formula—do this, don’t do that—rather than believing that following Him is more like a joyful triumphal procession or diffusing some attractive fragrance. In my mind, it’s all gloom and doom if I don’t get it right. In God’s mind, it’s already right because of Christ. I think our calling is mostly about enjoying and conveying the triumph and the beauty than it is some wacky formula. Short of rejecting Him, I can’t mess that up.
Talk about a confidence booster.

Why You Might Need to Have Lunch With a Heretic

Why You Might Need to Have Lunch With a Heretic

When I shelter myself from people with a different understanding of God, my thinking becomes very shallow.
Lunch With a Heretic
I recently attended a heresy luncheon. That wasn’t the official title, but I’m pretty sure the speaker would have been burned at the stake in another age. Doctrines such as original sin, substitutionary atonement and election were tossed aside along with inerrancy of scripture. This was the Super Bowl of revisionism. One of the wrappers for the belief system espoused was “alternative orthodoxy,” which is a little like “modified monogamy”; I’m fairly sure the alternative to orthodoxy is apostasy. By the end of the meeting my conservative nerves were frayed from not shouting, “The Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it.” (Which is a phrase I hope to never utter out loud.)
Since the luncheon I have been debating the speaker in my head. I’ve read every Wikipedia article about him and his core philosophies (because I’m just that deep), and I’ve googled everyone who has written an article calling him a heretic. The reality is he’s way smarter than I am, so I’m looking for intelligent people to affirm my shock and dismay. I fall asleep debating him, I wake up having triumphed in my pretend theology match. I didn’t argue with him face-to-face, but I’m 10-0 in my imagination.
At the same time I am digging deep into his theological arguments. I am reading and re-reading scripture depicting Christ as the sacrificial lamb. I’m examining the difference between what I know and what I think I know about original sin. I am revisiting the tension between:
2 Cor 5:15 (NIV) And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Acts 13:48 (NIV) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
I haven’t been this engaged in theology since my freshman year of Bible college when I found out the KJV Bible wasn’t handed directly from God to Paul. (Council of Carthage? What???) Nothing brings doctrine to life like someone who completely disagrees.
What I’m realizing is that when I shelter myself from people with a different understanding of God, and label them heretics, my thinking becomes very shallow. From a distance it is easy to put others in boxes without wresting with my own understanding of the universe and how it works. When, however, I sit across a lunch table and listen to understand, rather than refute, I can learn and grow.
The bottom line is I need more heretics in my life.

10 Common Misperceptions of Young Leaders

10 Common Misperceptions of Young Leaders

“We don’t like denominations” + 9 other misperceptions.
Misperceptions of Young Leaders
In the past, I’ve written about misperceptions of missionaries and misperceptions of pastors. Because of my love of young pastors, I’ve interviewed and surveyed some of them to learn what they believe are misperceptions of their generation. Here are the primary findings:
1. “We are only interested in change.” They’ve grown up in a world of continual change, and it’s in some ways all they’ve known—but they genuinely want to lead change for the right reasons. Change just for the sake of change is not their interest.
2. “We don’t want older mentors.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. These young leaders deeply want an older leader to walk beside them, to hear their heart and to give them wisdom.
3. “We don’t care about the history of our church.” Sometimes the speed with which they move may suggest that’s the case, but they really do want to hear and appreciate the stories. They know they ride on the shoulders of others.
4. “We only want to climb the ministry ladder.” Some young leaders walk that way, of course, but not all. In the words of one young leader, they may have “holy ambition”—but that’s not the same as vocational ego.
5. “We’re lazy.” Most young leaders I know work hard, often working multiple jobs to take care of their families while doing their ministry. Those who are lazy typically don’t last long in ministry.
6. “We think we’ve figured it all out.” Even if they sometimes act that way, they know better than that. Every day they learn more about what they don’t know, and they welcome input from leaders they trust.
7. “We’re all Calvinists.” That’s simply not the case. Many are, but many aren’t. Many I know who are don’t want to carry that label.
8. “We aren’t interested in pastoral care.” The problem is not that they don’t care; it’s often that they’ve never closely seen pastoral care done well. Think about it—counseling, hospital visitation and funerals are anxiety producing when you’re a new pastor.
9. “We don’t care about evangelism.” It’s fair to say this generation is deeply committed to discipleship, especially since they’ve seen the product of several undiscipled generations in the church. They may do evangelism differently, but to say they don’t do it is wrong.
10. “We don’t like denominations.” Indeed, young leaders recognize the importance of partnerships more than some older leaders do. They simply want to work in partnerships that are effective and efficient.
Young leaders, what other misperceptions would you add? Older leaders, do you agree or disagree with this list?

Why the Gospel Needs Generous Creativity

Why the Gospel Needs Generous Creativity

Your plant has the ability and the God-given creative gifts to shape culture, rather than merely reacting to it.
Gospel Needs Generous Creativity
Outreach
I live in the Northwest. It’s known for coffee and microbreweries, for political independence and for keeping some of its cities (think Portland) “weird.” It has been described as one of the most unchurched regions in America.
My wife and I were called by God to move from Orange County, California, to Bend, Oregon, to plant a church—which we did in 2006. We desired to start and nurture a new church culture rather than simply inherit an old one. And we chose the name Antioch because the ancient church there was likewise committed to reimagining the good news of God’s kingdom in response to the Lord’s prompting.
The New Testament city of Antioch was on the trade crossroads of the Mediterranean; it was densely populated and ethnically diverse. It was the church at Antioch that first broke the mold of sharing the news of Christ’s redemptive death and life-giving resurrection to Jewish people only. At Antioch, they realized that the Holy Spirit was working in new ways to reach the Gentile culture in which they found themselves, and so they began to target and reach out to those outside the traditional ethnic and religious structures of Judaism. By the time Paul arrived to shepherd this fledgling community, he found himself in the position of needing to shape a radically new kind of church culture that blended together men and women from very different backgrounds and experiences.
But in addition to being ambassadors of God’s reconciliation to their own diverse neighbors, the believers in Antioch were also the “sending church” of most of the missionary endeavors described throughout the book of Acts. It was largely through this church that the early Christians began to fulfill the Lord’s charge (recorded in Acts 1:8) to take the good news to the ends of the earth.
We began to ask ourselves early in our church’s life, “Might God use us in a similar way?” We dared to believe that perhaps God could use us to carry his message and to shape culture in and beyond the small city of Bend, Oregon. We felt the need to avoid copying any other church, and to instead discover and lean in to the Holy Spirit’s particular plans for the time and place in which he had uniquely placed us.
We expected that this would require flexibility, creativity, imagination and innovation. It has, but along the way we came to realize that creativity is found in each of us, as part of the “image of God” in which we were created.

A Bit More of Our Story

Early on, Antioch was entrusted with a local Bible college and, in the fall of 2008, the Kilns College was born with a mission to change the world one student at a time. The vision was not simply to provide vocational Christian education, but to birth an innovative school that married a classical approach to education with a missions and social justice focus.
Through the college we hosted two successful citywide apologetic conferences. We brought in leading apologists from around the country, and together we offered a powerful defense of the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, the historicity of the resurrection, the reconciliation of science, and the Bible and Christianity’s uniqueness in explaining reality and human experience.
During that season, the Lord convicted us that contemporary evangelicals had been failing to articulate—for at least most of the last hundred years—one of his essential attributes: his concern for justice. So rather than planning another general apologetics conference, we gathered a variety of Christian scholars, teachers, pastors and leaders, nongovernmental organizations, field workers and laypeople from every walk of life for a conversation about the theology and practice of social justice.
In February 2011 we partnered with World Relief to host the Justice Conference in Bend. We were awed and humbled by the response. In 2012, the Lord greatly multiplied the number of attendees and the overall impact as we moved the conference to Portland, Oregon. The Justice Conference has now become a worldwide conference with events in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Hong Kong, Melbourne, and upcoming in New Zealand, Holland and South Africa. It was the first evangelical conference to bring attention to justice through the lens of theology.
We found ourselves on a God-ordained journey to help change the conversation surrounding the issue of social justice in the evangelical church. And again, it required imagination and innovation. Our experiences reaffirmed for us the importance of creativity both in the message of reconciliation and in the currency and vocabulary of cultural transformation.

Why the Church Needs Creativity Today

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
God creates. And he created us to be—like him—creative. Therefore, when people say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” it is not only untrue; it is a denial of the image of God in us. Please understand this: Whereas artistic ability is a talent that some possess, creativity is part of what it means to be human.
Creativity is about responding to God’s image and call, and through that response exerting a creative influence and leadership that the world desperately needs. I believe that creativity is for all of us, and I think it’s one of the tools God has given us to carry out his purposes for the world. God made us creative so that we could navigate threats and challenges, laying hold of the possibilities around us.
Have you ever counseled a friend? Taught a child to search for animal shapes in the clouds above? Cultivated a garden? Named a dog? All of those things are creative acts, reflecting the creative image of our Creator.

Creators Versus Copiers

I believe there are two kinds of people in the world: those who create and those who copy.
Those who use their creativity blaze trails, take risks and try new ways. They ask, “Why not?” They innovate. They respond to challenges, not with fear, but with imagination.
They lead.
Those who settle for copying seem to believe that the only way forward is to find someone to emulate, to seek only proven strategies or doors that have already been opened. Copying collapses possibility. It doesn’t dream. Copying doesn’t lean into imagination or creativity. It defaults to pragmatism.
The distinction between those who would create and those who would copy is no small thing. I truly believe there is a wealth of untapped creative energy available to people if we could break the chains of the copier mentality, find courage in our creative identities and unleash the power of imagination.
Think about it: Every apocalyptic movie that wants to show humanity as enslaved paints people as robotically following and copying. They don’t think for themselves. They don’t dream or imagine. They are lifeless masses trapped in a posture of automatic mindless behavior. The hero in these futuristic movies is the one person who breaks the mold and awakens people once more to their humanity—to their creativity!
Much of creativity can’t be separated from copying at the action level. Of course there’s nothing new under the sun. But there is a significant difference in the respective mindsets of a creator and a copier. Copiers don’t use the creativity within to engage what’s around them. Creators, by contrast, explore their God-given creativity with eyes of possibility on how they can shape culture and glorify God.

Redemptive Creativity

Creativity alone is not sufficient for those who follow Christ. Our creativity, like God’s, must be aiming at the proper target. We need redemptive creativity—creativity whose goal is not just success, but freedom; and not just for ourselves, but for others and for the good of creation as a whole.
A fundamental part of Genesis 1:27—that God created men and women in his relational image—is that our similar creative capacity can be used to glorify God as we pursue justice and human flourishing within our relationships. In new covenant terms, our participation with Christ in his mission of reconciling all things to himself will require our following the leading of the Holy Spirit and using the creativity with which he endowed us.
Justice is at the very heart of God’s character and at the core of what he desires from his people. Jesus’ own mission statement  incorporates healing and social justice, and he said that his followers would be recognized by their feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, welcoming the immigrant and visiting the sick and the prisoner.  While we evangelicals have sometimes made the good news all about an otherworldly heaven,  Jesus’s own gospel was of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom on earth.  Paul’s understanding was that Christ’s redeeming work applied to all of this creation, and that his followers—those saved by grace—would be ambassadors of reconciliation,   doing the works of justice to which he calls them.
With every word, decision or action, we each change the world—for better or worse. And in a world whose brokenness and injustices are more varied and insidious than at any time in history, those who would heed Christ’s call to be his agents of reconciliation will need all the wisdom and creativity at their disposal. My experience over the past several years is that the Lord of creation is not just calling his people to this redemptive role but has also equipped us with the necessary skills and imagination.

Creativity, Culture and Reconciliation

Today’s influencers simply can’t succeed without appreciating the role of creativity. We might not all be artists, but we live in a creatively charged world. As Madeleine L’Engle put it, “Unless we are creators, we are not fully alive.”
Life is found in recognizing creativity as a part of humanity, and embracing creativity is about leaning in to our identity as children of a creative God.
Your church or ministry—with a creativity mindset—has the ability and the God-given creative gifts to shape culture, rather than merely reacting to it. By faith, you have the power to conquer fear-based thinking and join in Christ’s redemptive work, where often the last will be first and the foolish things of the world are chosen to shame the wise.
Have you been caught in a rut? Are you in need of a reset? Do you hunger for being a more dynamic part of the move of God’s Spirit?
Take heart. Have faith. Remember you are creative. Begin to intentionally incorporate creativity into your systems and processes. Take some risks. Dream again. Pray that God might grow your imagination.
And begin reminding the people with you in ministry that they are creative beings made in the image of a creative God. Through creativity, we might find ourselves better equipped to shape culture and bring about the reconciliation for which we are Christ’s appointed ambassadors.

2 Things Every Planter MUST Know

2 Things Every Planter MUST Know

I’m often asked what a church planter should know before taking the plunge.
Planter MUST Know
I’m often asked what I would tell church planters or what a church planter should know before they take the plunge into church planting. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here’s what I told them the other day:
1. Know that you (and your wife) are called. This seems obvious since the qualifications of a pastor and elder start with this in the New Testament, but it is amazing to me how many guys think church planting would be fun. Let’s define that. Fun is going to the beach, hiking with my wife, playing with my kids. As one author said, “Church planting can kill you.” It can certainly kill your marriage if you aren’t careful (or called). If you aren’t called, don’t even think about it. If your wife is not called, and she needs to be just as called you are, then don’t plant a church. You are now one, which means you must both be bought in. If she has doubts or hesitations, listen to her as the Holy Spirit may be using her to talk to you.
The reason calling is so important is because the Bible says it is important. There is a reason this is the first qualification in 1 Timothy 3. The other reason is that leadership is hard, and church planting can be brutal. There will be times when no one likes you, they are spewing venom at you, stabbing you in the back, leaving your church in droves, spreading rumors about you; core team members that bail, donors who forget to send a check, leaders who sin and then get mad because you hold them accountable. And those are just Christians. Wait until your church is fully on mission and reaching people who are far from God. The bottom line, on those days (and there are more of those days than any other days in church planting), your calling is the only thing that will keep you going. I can tell you from experience that the only reason Katie and I started Revolution and made it to where we are now is because God called us to it. It gives you the determination, the energy, the passion and the fortitude to fight.
2. Know what you will be, not just what you won’t be. Lots of people plant a church because they are too smart for the church where they are on staff. Every student pastor I have ever met (and I used to be one) is smarter than their lead pastor. Why else would they be the student pastor under the lead pastor? Makes sense. So many guys start a church simply to prove how smart they are, how innovative they are and how if only everyone who had stood in their way would have seen the light, revival would have happened.
Whenever I meet with a guy who wants to plant I ask him, “What will you do, and who will you try to reach?” This answer should take less than 30 seconds to give. Anything longer than this and it isn’t clear in your head. If it isn’t clear in your head, it won’t be clear for anyone else. How can you form a core team who will give up time, money and energy for something that doesn’t yet exist? How will you get churches to partner with you, support you and pray for you if you can’t tell them why they should?

6 Tips for Holy Waiting

v3 holy waiting
How do we help parishioners use seasons of waiting to strengthen their faith?
Summer is filled with transitions. It is a time to wait – holy waiting. It is a time between now and not yet, a time when we are very aware of what is behind us but not sure of what lies ahead. We wait for new jobs, a new school year, a new home. It is holy because we sense it is both God ordained and God directed. 

Holy Waiting Is Active Waiting

Holy waiting is active, not passive. Don’t sit around hoping God will do something new; actively move forward and listen to God and to others as you shape the new. This is the kind of waiting we need to embrace whenever we are unsure of the path ahead.
With this in mind, let’s look at six aspects of holy waiting.

Community

Holy waiting begins with listening.
  • We listen to God.
  • We listen to our own inner promptings.
  • We listen to the wisdom of community (at least we should).
Community listening and group discernment are often the most neglected aspects of listening in times of transition and change. In many ways, though, these are the most important.  None of us hears the voice of God clearly 100% of the time. Our cultures, our world views, and our leadership styles all get in the way. Friends, colleagues, and consultants provide the checks and balances we need to keep us on track.
But listening in community often seems to slow a process down. We want to hurry along and reach the destination, but healthy waiting takes time.
I am currently transitioning out of leadership at Mustard Seed Associates. The listening process began four years ago. It involved many people both inside and outside the MSA community. At times it has seemed to drag, even grind to a halt. Yet, God has always been at work in the background helping us ask the right questions and reach for the right solutions. Without community involvement we may have moved faster, but I suspect we would have made more mistakes.

Repentance

One of the hardest questions I have had to ask myself as I prepare to step out of leadership is, “What should I have done differently?” Not only is not easy to ask, it’s even harder to answer honestly to myself and to others. To face with honesty and vulnerability the mistakes we make and the wrong steps we take is an important step on the path towards wholeness. Seeking forgiveness from those who have been hurt by our imperfect ways is even more important. It frees us up to move forward and releases those who follow from the baggage we leave behind.

Prayer

Prayer seems an obvious way to spend our time in a season of holy waiting—but often we pray in all the wrong ways. Our prayers become demands for specific answers rather than prayers for God’s wisdom and direction. Holy waiting calls for holy prayers that are more about active listening than talking, more about finding the right questions than seeking the right answers. Keep a journal. Write down the questions that come to mind and the responses you sense God gives. 

Service

Holy waiting is a time for reaching out to others. How can we serve our neighbours, colleagues, and those around us as we would like to be served? Serving gives perspective on our own lives, encouraging us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. It liberates us from the need to be in control, opens our eyes to new ways of thinking, and makes us aware of new possibilities that God wants us to imagine.
Jesus constantly gave up power rather than grasped for it. He wouldn’t allow his followers to make him into the kind of leader the Jews and Romans specialized in, namely leaders who used authority to control and subjugate others. Through word and example, Jesus modelled true servant leadership. He rarely told his followers how to do something; he asked questions that empowered them to reach into their hearts and find the answers God had already placed there. Serving others helps us grow into this type of leadership.

Justice

Holy waiting often bring awareness of injustice in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Sometimes situations that have been festering quietly in our hearts suddenly spring to life. Waiting clarifies truth. God nudges us to see how we have treated others unjustly or been treated unjustly and need to speak out. Listening to the still, small voices that help us make equitable and just decisions is much easier in times of holy waiting.

Rest

“Can rest be active?” you might ask. Yes! Holy waiting means learning to rest in each moment, to savour its beauty, and to connect to the God who is present in it in unique and special ways. This takes intentionality and purpose. Learning not to strive for future success or accomplishment is very countercultural and often seems counterintuitive. Our natural tendency is to forgo reflection, rushing through life with blinkers on. To change that is an act of the will, an act possible only when we wait. It does not come easily, but the rewards are enormous.

A Holy-Waiting Activity

Let’s consider ways to help parishioners identify their places of holy waiting and journal both their questions and God’s responses.
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Collaboration and Multiplication

Collaboration and Multiplication
This week, Exponential took a look at how to work more cohesively with your team and other churches to achieve a greater Kingdom impact. Here are the resources released this week:
  • Collaborating with Other Churches | video from Chad Clarkson | watch here
  • Using Technology to Unleash a Culture of Multiplication | podcast from Daniel Im | listen here
  • Church Multiplication Digital Access Pass | if you missed yesterday's webcast, you can still watch all of the sessions, featuring Ed Stetzer, Matt Chandler, J.D. Greear, and more | purchase here