You have been called.
Not just to be good. And not to be religious.
To be the ‘you’ God intended. To have the impact for which Christ has given you life.
You’re destined. Which is to say, there’s a destination for you. A unique, God-honoring difference that you’re the ideal person to provide for the world.
You get to pursue it—with your whole being—not knowing exactly where it is. As you give yourself in the pursuit of it, God makes that destiny more clear and certain.
And, all along the way, God is working to refine your character.
In I and Thou Martin Buber writes that one must proceed toward that destiny: “with his whole being… He must sacrifice his little will, which is unfree and ruled by things and drives, to his great will that moves away from being determined to find destiny. The free man has only one thing: always only his resolve to proceed toward his destiny.”
See, life conspires with your ‘little will’ to determine you, to define you, to limit you, to shackle you to a meaningless life.
A meaningless life?
It’s a life driven by the capricious desires of the ‘little will’.
I want to vacation in Spain.
I want that boat.
I want botox for my face.
I want to make partner.
I want those amazing shoes.
I want to see her pay.
I want to get rid of the boat!
As you’re satisfying these whims, another half dozen arise, and you’re off in pursuit of them. What you’ll notice about the meaningless life is that you are its focus.
All the while, those around you are hurting. Suffering. Isolated. Heartbroken. Lost.
Do you notice?
At the dawn of 1865 more than four million Americans were held captive by slavery. If the movie Lincoln is an accurate portrayal, the President—probably hundreds of times—sacrificed his ‘little will’ to achieve that for which he was destined.
His ‘little will’ no doubt longed to be free of the struggle to amend the Constitution, to mourn the death of his son, to bring relief to his disconsolate wife, and to end the awful bloodshed for which he was blamed. When his cause faced its most strident opposition, when resisted by those in his own cabinet, when his allies waivered in their commitment, and when his body shuddered under the strain, Lincoln’s ‘little will’ would have cried out for relief.
Trusting God to provide what Lincoln could not, he and his resolve moved in pursuit of that destiny with his whole being.
You and I get to do this, too.
Coaching distinctions #43.doc
Our example is the Duomo di Firenze: an architect’s vision of a majestic cathedral with a dome so immense that it could not have been built when he conceived it.
At 142 feet it would be larger than the domes of the U.S. Capitol, St. Paul’s in London, the Pantheon in Rome, and St. Peters in Vatican City. When it was finally constructed, it remained the largest dome in the world for almost five hundred years!
More than eighty years after construction commenced, a goldsmith named Filippo Brunelleschi was born. In his 20’s he moved to Rome. For three years he studied architecture with a buddy named Donatello. If you watch the History Channel (I don’t) you’ll know that name. Brunelleschi studied the Pantheon, the largest dome then in existence. How it’d been built was an architectural and engineering conundrum.
Brunelleschi made several significant discoveries. Returning to Florence, he convinced the builders that he had a method to put di Cambio’s dome on the cathedral. This solution was ground-breaking on several fronts. The innovations Brunelleschi employed, however, are not our focus today. What is, is the commitment to the completion of this cathedral by generations of people who’d never see it with their own eyes.
Leaders are not those with the best ideas or superior methods. Leaders have developed the strengths of character and the capacity to self-management so that they sustain movement in pursuit of what God’s called them to without giving up.
And, they do it in a way that motivates and mobilizes others in the pursuit of that great vision.
More than 2,000 years ago Jesus did this too. He laid out a vision of the Kingdom of God in ways that people could grasp.
Lots of ways.
In scores of demonstrations of God’s mercy, supernatural power, the stories he told and word pictures he used, and an occasional sermon. Most often, Jesus proclaimed the coming Kingdom by the way he lived and moved among the people.
This is our great and noble task today. To live in such a way that the Kingdom of God is demonstrated over and over in ways that people get.
My invitation is to join with those who’ll do this to their last breath and will have prepared a couple generations who’ll follow just as passionately and powerfully for as long as they have breath.
Think of it as a cathedral of great, influential human lives.
Coaching distinctions #40.doc
We’re considering the idea that each of us is an invitation. We’re always inviting people toward us. They come for what we offer. Many times, we have no idea what that is.
If not, you might want to re-do your invitation.
So, how do you decide what to invite? The answer lies in what you’re for. Why are you living, breathing, taking up space? Why did God put you on the planet at this moment in history?
It’s absolutely true that you were made to glorify God, through Jesus. And you get to love your family faithfully and establish the way of Christ in your home and relationships. Beyond all that, each of us gets to bring a unique brand of “good” to the world.
Ephesians 2:10 is clear. You’re created in Christ to do good works that God prepared before hand. There’s more to life than working, eating, sleeping, entertaining ourselves, and attending church. As God’s workmanship, you’ve been prepared to bring good that the world around you needs. Knowing what that good is, and who it’s for, you’ll be able to determine the invitation you want to be.
CRM reFocusing developed two workshops to help people do just that. Anchored in the bedrock of Eph 2:10, the Awaken & Activate Workshops provide a step-by-step process to determine God’s unique calling. You’re invited to examine your most influential life experiences.
An inescapable truth is that we’ve all been shaped by our experiences. All of them. Curiously, the painful ones often shape us most powerfully.
Awaken invites an interpretation of those experiences via a biblical view of God. Instead of interpreting your painful past through the lens of a distant, disinterested creator or a punitive, angry monarch, you’re supported to consider that a loving Father, aware of your life experiences, desires that they work for good [Rom 8:28].
- What’ve you learned?
- How’s your character been refined?
- In what ways has God been faithful to you—even through the hardships?
- What goodness has come?
- How’ve the passions, longings furies, and desires of your heart been ignited?
These considerations hold clues about who you’re called to influence and the difference you’re equipped to make in their lives.
Imagine this. In Awaken you realize you care deeply about the impact of job stress on law enforcement professionals, growing up with your mom, a correctional officer. While struggling with alcohol in your teens, you learned a lot about substance abuse. A decade later, you enjoyed satisfaction in the field of counseling. Suddenly, you recognize that training as a substance abuse counselor will allow you to capitalize on your relationships with local police.
You begin to invite them toward health and freedom.
Coaching Distinctions 37.doc
The concept we’re examining is being an invitation.
Everyone you’ve ever met is an invitation.
So are you.
For pastors and Christian influencers it’s a great advantage to determine: what is the invitation that you will be, from now on. In other words, what do you intend to invite?
The clearer you are, the more effective you’ll be making the difference God made you for. And, clarity about why God made you is the best way to determine what to invite.
If you’re in ministry, you get to bring people to maturity in Christ. It’s one of the very few most important things that ministers get to do.
Have you noticed that Christians in the US live statistically indistinct lives?
While we’re more generous with our time and money, we also cheat, divorce, declare bankruptcy, commit adultery, sue people, and get arrested about as often as the general population.
Pastors often lament shallowness in their congregations. No surprise that many have confused growing people to mature Christ-likeness with teaching them religious ideas.
The invitation seems to be “come and listen”.
Were pastors an intentional, unmistakable invitation to grow up in Christ, much would change.
Churches, for example, would be smaller.
For a while, anyway.
And they’d be more godly, fruitful, distinctive, and influential in society.
Could America benefit from more of that?
Let yourself imagine what will happen if we don’t.
Pastor, if you’re in the disciple-maturing business, I invite you to become an invitation to that. With seasoned church members and your next-door neighbor be an invitation to grow up in Christ.
It’s a lot easier to invite people into the game you’re already in. To join you in what you’re fully invested in. It’s so much more effective to invite people into what you’re living and modeling for them. It’s authentic. Sincere.
Look for openings to provoke those around you to live and love like Jesus. Openings like this happen all the time—when difficulties loom, distress surrounds, and discouragements reign…and when beauty overtakes, blessings mount, and goodness prevails.
Let this be the invitation at your weekend services, youth group, men’s breakfasts, women’s retreat, recovery ministry, and home groups. As you and your leaders get more and more clear about the invitation you are, the clearer those around you will become.
And, in this hour, that’s a good, good thing.
Coaching Distinctions 37.doc
Have you noticed that some people consistently attract what they don’t want? Maybe it’s true for you, too. It’s as if you’re wearing one of those sandwich boards — visible to others, but not to you. And, the distinction between what you invite and what you want may be subtle.
Years ago I attended a seminar called The Clearing. For the first time I was challenged to consider the invitation I am to the world.
What is it that I invite, as people come toward me?
By way of illustration, I have a good friend who’s now a marvelous pastoral counselor. He’s great at helping hurting people get on their feet. It doesn’t matter how deep a hole you’re in, he’ll climb down in and help you up. It’s a gift and he’s developed it well.
Several years ago, he planted a church. Annie and I were excited. We’d been on a church planting team before and longed to gather influential, world-changers who’d commit to transform the surrounding community.
The church kept attracting something else.
Our pastor—and by extension the church—was an invitation for the broken, discouraged, and destitute to find healing and recovery. Though an important and beneficial ministry, it doesn’t invite the kind of folks who are up for building a world-changing church.
Maybe you’ve seen Burn Notice. Michael Weston is a “burned” CIA agent who’s mission is to figure out who burned him and why. As a field agent, he has special skills. Skills to take down bad guys, right wrongs, con con artists, and foil plots against all things noble.
So, while trying to solve his own CIA dilemma, Michael’s an invitation to help people in trouble. He does. It’s great entertainment.
All this brings us to me, then you.
In The Clearing, the challenge was to inventory what we invite. My answer was “advice”. People approached me in a conundrum and assumed I had some experience or expertise by which to advise them.
It was all quite flattering.
And a small, small game.
Rather than strengthening people’s capacity to trust Christ and address their own dilemmas, I invited the parade of people-with-questions looking for free advice. I suppose I could have busied myself for a lifetime bestowing advice and feeling good about it.
But, I believe God wants me to strengthen Christian influencers to live in such inspiring ways that those they lead—and the communities around them are transformed for Christ.
Since then, that’s the invitation I am.
What invitation are you?
A friend challenged me once: “Kirk, you think you’re planting tomatoes, but you’re harvesting beets. And, when you don’t get tomatoes, you just work harder and harder planting and watering and fertilizing those same seeds. Beet seeds.”
Derek wasn’t taking about vegetables; he was taking about my marriage.
Unwilling to examine the seed I’d been sowing in my family, I just upped the ante, laboring more diligently…producing more and more “beets”…
Last night I met a wonderful pastor and the elders of his church not far from Miami. A member of my CRM team and I were there to introduce them to the amazing reFocusing Network Process: a two-year transformational pathway for churches desiring to impact their communities for Christ. Never have I met a more sincere team of leaders, each wanting to introduce the Savior to neighbors who – presently – have no interest in Christ.
Their enthusiasm for the community was palpable, contagious, inspiring. As we were introduced, the pastor spoke confidently of their commitment to engage those outside the church. “We’re very active in the community”, he explained. “We’ve adopted a public school and, when school starts, we provide backpacks with school supplies for the students. At Thanksgiving, we give turkeys and groceries to families in need. And, at Christmas time, we give $50 and $100 gift cards to school families who otherwise couldn’t afford gifts for their kids. We do this with no strings attached; not to coerce them to join our church or to promote ourselves. We do it to love them in Jesus’ name.”
As our presentation began, they were invited to consider that, excellent as their intentions are, they’d been in the wrong game. “See, people don’t need your stuff nearly as much as they need you.”
These days, people stay away from church on purpose. They’ve decided Christianity doesn’t have the remedy for what ails them; we don’t have the scratch for their itch. And while it’s not a bad thing to provide what people lack, receiving things from well-meaning people does little to uproot these assumptions.
Regular, repeated, positive, life-on-life experiences with Christians who are postured to love and serve them unconditionally.
As people have multiple, positive encounters with you, they begin to question some of what they’ve assumed about Christ. Over time, you become credible – not based on what you know – but how you live. Eventually, some will trust you with the most important conversations of life.
Coaching Distinctions 33.doc
It’s just that most of what the Church does doesn’t have anything to do with what Christ’s followers are supposed to be about.
It’s not that we’re not working hard or that we’re insincere. Most ministers, elders, and lay leaders I know serve pretty diligently and they’re very sincere about what they’re doing. I’m suggesting that we’re just diligently and sincerely in the wrong game.
And, when we get into the right game, it’s amazing what can happen.
When I met Dave Scott, Pastor of New Hope, a Free Methodist Church a few years ago, he was a very sincere, hard-working guy. And, discouraged. Attendance was stagnant, money was tight. More troubling, through, was the pervasive fatigue inside Dave and his congregation.
New Hope wanted to be an effective, community-impacting church. So they entered CRM’s reFocusing process and, within a few months Dave’s leaders experienced a powerful paradigm shift. During the Awaken and Activate Workshops they discovered that God has been preparing and positioning each person to care for people in their community who don’t attend church. Encouraged, members began strengthening relationships with those outside the congregation.
They examined the makeup of their members and the surrounding community and identified a few focused, consistent, intentional ways to demonstrate Christ to others. Realizing that a number of congregation members work in law enforcement, they began serving the correctional officers at a state prison nearby.
In the next few years, teams of New Hope members put on barbecues and picnics for the correctional officers on their turf, invented creative ways to express appreciation to the guards inside the prison, partnered with them in community events, offered classes requested by prison employees, and made themselves available to serve any way they can.
Along the way, attitudes are changing. The officers—curious about what motivates these regular, genuine expressions of support—are having important, meaningful conversations with Dave’s folks that are becoming easy and common. New Hope members are maturing in Christ and those they’re going to are experiencing “good news” in human form.
Not long ago, an exec indicated that the culture in the prison is changing. Why?
Dave’s people are in the right game.
Coaching Distinctions 32.doc
Last time I suggested that the “game” you’re in determines how you play in life. At the end, we considered two married couples. To shift the nature and quality of their relationship, both spouses need to examine the game they’re in, in the marriage as they’ve designed it.
There are moments when we have little idea why we do what we do—particularly when we regret our actions…or their impact on those we love. It’s helpful to drill down to identify what’s at the core—below the surface, to uncover the beliefs that define the “game” you’re in.
Here’s an example. Many evangelical pastors will say they’re in the “go-and-make-disciples game”. [Mt 28] Yet, they keep score by counting the people who sit and listen and the money they give. And these days—five years into a recession and decades into a societal drift away from church—the scoreboard looks bleak.
Many are wondering what’s wrong. Invariably we discover they’re in the wrong game!
While imagining they’re in the “go-and-make-disciples game”, most pastors and churches are in religious education and entertainment.
How can you tell? See how they keep score.
Last night, Annie and I attended War Horse – a spectacular stage play at the Ahmanson Theatre. It is wonderful entertainment. Beautifully, creatively, and spectacularly artistic. The house was packed—as it always is. In all the ways that theatres and theatre companies keep score, I’m certain it’s a success.
But theatre companies don’t think they’re in the “go-and-make-disciples game”. They are clear about the game they’re in, and this one is good at it.
To be good at the “go-and-make-disciples game”, you’d be paying attention to at least a couple things:
1) are we going?
2) are disciples being made?
The sad reality that can explain much of the malaise of the Church in the West is that we aren’t going to those who don’t follow Christ, and people aren’t growing to spiritual maturity. However, we are educating religious people and we are providing loads of entertainment options for religious types.
The ministries that do this best are running up the “score” —at least in terms of spectators and revenues—and may or may not be making any disciples at all.
So, whether you are a minister or a married person: What game are you in?
Coaching Distinctions #31
As a professional coach to ministers I get to invest my life in catalytic conversations. Conversations that produce change. And, change that transcends behavior. It’s a change in being.
Clients have the opportunity to fundamentally shift the way they perceive themselves, their challenges, their ministry context, and those in it.
Many coaches help people do things better. Coach and client move from obstacle to obstacle and from one context to another: office, marriage, staff, elders, family, congregation.
While the client receives benefit, the rate of motion can be glacial. And that’s not good enough.
To support a leader to make rapid movement and to sustain that rate of change over a lifetime, it is helpful to engage on a different level. To provoke awareness and champion responsibility at the core of the client’s self-understanding:
1. Who are you?
2. Why do you think you’re here?
3. What difference are you alive to make?
4. What will it look like when it happens?
In short: What “game” are you in?
See, every one of us gets to choose “the game” we’re in. Clear about that, you can give yourself to your life without reservation. Without limitation.
Imagine twin brothers. Both with Olympic dreams… and Olympic talent.
The other in fencing.
Everything about how these athletes live will be determined by the “game” they’ve chosen: what they eat, how they exercise, the muscles they develop, their physical conformation, vision, stamina, quick twitch muscle development, leg strength, etc, etc. We can know little about what it takes to excel at fencing or shot put, and recognize that the decisions of each athlete will be far different.
The “game” you’re in determines how you “play”.
Now, let’s say your in a difficult marriage. All marriages get difficult at times, and many times these difficulties reveal much about the “game” each spouse is in.
In one marriage, the partners are committed to equality. What each wants is fairness: I do my part and you do yours. We contribute equally. No one gets taken advantage of. It’s the “game” this first couple is in.
In another marriage, each spouse is committed to be a gift of love to the other. Without condition. Without reference to their mate’s generosity, responsiveness, or reciprocation. To be “love” to the other. This is the “game” the second couple is in.
And, the game they’re in, determines everything about how they play.
Coaching Distinctions #30
We’re almost thirty entries into this series examining distinctions I regularly use when coaching pastors and Christian leaders. This is the seventh of eight blogs focused on the very common—and debilitating—human drive to have life make sense…even when it doesn’t.
So, when the events of life don’t make sense, we invent our own meaning and hold it as true, even when it contradicts scripture.
For the last six segments I’ve invited you to suspend the practice of attaching a meaning to yourself, others, and life’s experiences. Now, I want to contradict myself—sort of.
And, God speaks. I believe it and I believe God has spoken to me. I can also attest that when my circumstances have been most challenging, confusing, and confounding God has often been silent.
In those moments when I most ardently demanded that God explain things to me—God was silent.
Oftentimes, later I learned valuable insights that helped me understand some of what God intended by allowing me to experience what occurred. The fourth chapter of Ephesians provides an invaluable frame through which to understand God’s priority for you and me: that we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” [Eph 4:13b]
See, God wants us to grow up before we grow old.
Christ-likeness is God’s aim for you and me. And, God will shape the events of your life to assist your growth toward maturity in Christ, if you’ll submit to its rigor. And, that choice is always yours to make.
Usually “submitting to its rigor” means faithfully trusting when it looks like you’re completely on your own.
If this is true, then your life has been set up for you. Whatever comes, you get to bring your unique brand of “good” to it. It’s what you’re created for.
There’s a calm confidence in Christ that can characterize a believer willing to interpret her life through the lens of Eph 2:10.
So, I invite you to consider yourself the beloved child of an attentive Father who is superintending over your life: drawing you to maturity in Christ and providing opportunities for you to bring your special God-honoring goodness to those you impact.
Coaching Distinctions #28