Posts tagged Character Development

Squared off to Bunt (part six)

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The Christian life, your Christian life, is to be lived “all in”.

54 Babe RuthAll of you all the way IN the life God set up for you.

What if the challenges, perplexities, opportunities and disappointments your life presents have been orchestrated for you to take Christ into? [Romans 8:28-31]

When you know God is with you, you can always be “all in”.

This morning I read Acts 15. It opens with a dispute erupting in the fledgling church about whether Gentile Christians must keep the Mosaic Law to be saved. Paul and Barnabas throw themselves into the center of the dispute, arguing unsuccessfully, on the side of freedom; freedom procured by Christ.

Unwilling to collapse on their convictions and unable to win the war of words in Antioch, they travel three hundred miles – more than ten days on foot – to Jerusalem.  There, they convene a council of the most notable Christian leaders, and dig into the details of the dispute until they all get clear. Peter speaks. Paul and Barnabas contribute much, and James makes a ruling. The conclusion is put to writing that Paul and Barnabas carry back to Antioch. On their arrival they convene a meeting of the believers, deliver the Jerusalem council’s determination, and remain there ministering to the saints.

Barnabas and Paul live all-in.

54 debateTroubled by the posture of the legalists, they weigh in—passionately. When they fail to persuade the pharisaical believers, they don’t go ‘passive aggressive’ like most church people. They don’t just shrug their shoulders and hope things work themselves out. And they don’t wait for someone else to act.

They sacrifice their comfort, time, and reputation. In Jerusalem, ‘though they’re not in charge, they give themselves until the issue gets resolved. Then—rather than take several personal days to recover from the strain of the ordeal— they step up to deliver the response to the Syrian believers.

They are all-in.

Later in this chapter, Paul and Barnabas have it out over whether John Mark should accompany them ministering to the churches in Turkey and Syria. Instead of ‘giving in to get along’ or ‘playing nice’, they have a full-blown argument in front of everyone.

There’s no back room deal to “spin” the story, to clean it up, to whitewash the mess.

They’re all-in in their breakdown, as in their ministry collaboration.

They hit big or miss big.

You?

Coaching distinctions #54.doc

Squared off to Bunt (part two)

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This is the 50th blog entry on distinctions I often make in coaching. For close to a decade, it’s been my privilege to coach pastors, primarily. Invariably, our conversations center on leadership. And, because of the inseparable link between the two: on character.

Pastors who lead well do so because of who they are.

Who you are—especially in the midst of crisis and difficulty—is a product of the way you’ve trained yourself all your life long. In times of calm and storm, you are training yourself for the challenges you can’t yet see. Those that await in the future.

Christian Leaders who’ve been given great responsibility have developed the capacity to rely on God in their own crises, and to stand with others in theirs. The more faithful they are, the greater the tests.

50 WorkoutHave you noticed?

A pastor marveled at the intense off-season regimen of an NFL player who trains at his gym. “Do you need all that muscle development to play your position in football?” he asked in disbelief. “No. I need it to survive the physical beating I take every Sunday.” Every day, he strengthens muscle fibers in anticipation of the opposition his body will encounter.

In Squared Off to Bunt, I invite you—as I do my coaching clients—to consider the posture of your life.

50 CabreraWhether the challenges you now face are intense or mild, are you training yourself to take big, commanding cuts at the ball?

Or, are you crouched to bunt?

  • How clear are you about where God has you leading your congregation?
  • How compelling is the vision you’re calling your people to?
  • How great is the sacrifice you challenge your members to, as apprentices of Jesus?
  • How bold is your trust in Christ for the miraculous in your ministry?
  • How desperately do you cry out for the power of God’s Kingdom to break in on your city?
  • How diligently are you training yourself to recognize the voice of God, then unflinchingly obey?

Should the political and cultural opposition to Biblical Christianity continue to strengthen, we may find ourselves ministering in a far more challenging climate.

In Lystra, as Paul is preaching Christ a mob stones him, drags his body outside the city, and leaves him for dead. Believers gather around, he rises up, and goes right back into Lystra.

Why?

Paul is “…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” [Acts 14:22]

Who lives like that?

Someone who’s not postured to bunt.

 

Coaching distinctions #50.doc

Squared off to Bunt (part one)

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In some sectors of the church today there’s great momentum, clarity of mission, risk-taking experimentation, courageous leadership, and fresh reliance on the Holy Spirit for direction, empowering, and transformation.

49 RVQChurches are breaking out of the attractional paradigm and are moving their ministry focus off their facilities and into the community where those who need Christ are. Committed to love and serve people until they ask why, Christians are living the Gospel among the unchurched – and they are responding with surprise, with gratitude, and with saving faith in Jesus.

And, in other sectors, churches, ministers and members are bewildered. Attendance is falling. So is giving. Enthusiasm for church programs is low. Discouragement is high. Anxiety is epidemic.

Denominational systems feel this more intensely. Local churches are less able or willing to send money ‘up the food chain’. Regional and national budgets are being slashed. Programs and staff are being eliminated. Every forecast is more sobering than the last. The Church is aging…more rapidly than ever. Since most giving comes from the more senior members, their mortality portends the same for the systems their generosity built and sustained for decades.

49 bunt bLike a bewildered ball player, thousands of clergy and denominational execs who are “at bat” in this hour stand in the batter’s box…crouched to bunt.

The advantage is if you’re going to bunt, it’s the best stance to be in. The disadvantage: you can’t do anything but bunt from that crouch. And, here’s where many in the Church find themselves today.

Not sure how to stem the receding tide of dollars and attendees, Church leaders cycle from one well-worn, low-risk program to another.

49 bunt aBunt left.

Bunt right.

Bunt down the middle.

Trouble is, the “score” is so lopsided that laying down bunts won’t move us forward fast enough.

What’s needed is to restore apostolic momentum to the Church.

Apostles are “sent ones”. The apostolic Church was a sent church. In contrast to today’s stogy institutions, the early Church was on the move.

Its message: Jesus.

Its focus: heart transformation.

Its method: personal encounters as the redeemed loved, healed, and shared their stories.

For this to recur, our churches need to mature and mobilize Christians as ministers to those outside.

In May, my CRM team will equip pastors, church planters, and lay leader to do exactly that.

49 reFOCUSAt reFOCUS: ATLANTA we’ll introduce tools we’ve developed working with more than 5,000 pastors and churches. Strengthening pastors to lead, Christians to mature, and churches to engage their cities with the lived-and-proclaimed Gospel.

Join us for these three very important days: http://www.refocusing.org/events/

Batter up!

Coaching distinctions #49.doc

Which Will? (part six)

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In many quarters of the Church, the contemporary understanding is that Christianity is lived in the passive voice. 47 waitingWikipedia says: “the passive voice denotes the recipient of the action (the patient) rather than the performer (the agent).”

The assumption is that the Christ-follower empties herself of all ambition and self-determination and simply waits, patiently, for God to move gloriously upon her life.

Problem is, it’s not biblical. It’s Buddhism.

Paul said: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me… Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…” [Phil 3:12-14 NIV]47 agonize

How much ‘straining’ and ‘pressing on’ do you see in the Church today?

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door...” [Lk 13:24 NIV] In the Greek “make every effort” is agonizomai.  Sounds a lot like “agonize” doesn’t it?

Consider Mt 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven has been taken by storm and eager men are forcing their way into it.” [Philips New Testament]

Are these texts familiar to you?

The assumption that Christianity is lived in passive reflection—and our preoccupation with what we’re against—may have contributed mightily to the historic decline in Christian adherence in the West.

Especially among those under 35.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. 47 djangoThe credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who … if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

How well Terry Roosevelt’s words describe the noble and rigorous Christian life!

Around the US, pastors are breaking out of the “please-the-parishioner” mold, and are leading members into their cities, daring valiantly to minister regularly and unconditionally to those outside. Though they make mistakes, the sincerity of their motive procures a response of surprise and gratitude from those outside… and eventually, an openness to the claims of Christ.

And, in their churches some oppose and criticize, hoping to undermine these risky and selfless ministry endeavors.

Cold and timid souls.

 

Coaching distinctions #47.doc

Which Will? (part five)

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You don’t hear much about one’s will in preaching these days.  There’s plenty about God’s love, God’s mercy, and how God thinks each of us is so very wonderful. There’s lots about our allowing God to do this or that— be the center, be in charge, be on the throne, take my life, let it be this or that for Thee.

46 waitingListening to all of this, it’s easy to get the idea that the Christian life is lived passively. The inference is that you just sit and wait, yielded and surrendered until God decides to act upon your life … then suddenly, you do great things for God.

In my observation, people pretty much do what they’ve trained themselves to do. If you’ve trained yourself to live your faith passively, you’re not likely to spring into action when God makes an opening that requires fast obedience and involves risk.

When we sing “Lord take my life and let it be fully pleasing unto thee” I imagine God asking us: “Well, what do you want?

Do you want your life to please God?

Then, tell your boyfriend you’ll sleep with him when he marries you. Not again ‘till then.

Insist that your employer pays you “above the table”.

Gather some friends and help someone who’s needy.  Keep doing it until they ask you why.

Each is an action.

It requires your will to do it.

To drift through the years, living an indistinctive life also takes your will. The will to live like everyone else.

Your friends.

Your comfort.

Your routine.

Your stuff is paramount.

All this, Martin Buber calls our “little will”. He says it’s “ruled by things and drives”. Like our emotions and preferences. The little will never accomplishes anything great.

46 sandAnd, in the US in this hour, so pitifully little seems to be getting done that honors Christ and blesses those outside the Church, that we’d be wise to engage our “great wills” and get after it.

If not, I fear Christianity could be within a few decades of extinction.

Recently I heard an interview with the founder of a Freedom from Religion group. Their purpose is to educate the United States in “nontheism” –ridding society of all worship. 46 GodlessHe relished the amazing progress of their cause in the US and points to Scandinavia where he said fewer than 4% have any religious faith.

A secular utopia.

You can bet this man’s will is fully engaged in its pursuit.

Where’s yours?

Coaching distinctions #46.doc

Which Will? (part four)

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In I and Thou Martin Buber writes of the freedom each of us has to pursue our destiny.

If you’re paying attention, the longer you live the better you understand the unique contribution you are. I say, “if you’re paying attention” because God is communicating. Those endeavors where you’ve had success, failure, frustration, satisfaction, the aspirations that ignite your passion, the injustices that make your blood boil, the people you’re drawn to, and those you find repellant. All these point to the unique ways you get to contribute to advance God’s agenda.

God’s agenda?

Jesus did it pretty well.  “He did good and healed all who were oppressed…”.

So, do good.

Just start there. Do good, lots and lots of good. If you’re not sure what constitutes “good”, avoid the fringes and lock-in to what almost every moral person will agree is good.

45 homerIn the war between your great will and little will, how do you determine which wins?

The one you feed.

So, feed your great will.  Give yourself permission to dream. Big, huge, God-honoring dreams.

Imagine that your life’s been set up. That God’s been preparing you to impact people in clearly beneficial ways. Consider this: you live where you do, have the occupation you’re in, and are connected to the people you are because God set it up this way. It’s all been set up for you to bring good to. Your unique brand of good.

45 mandelaEphesians 2:10 calls them “good works”.  You are God’s masterpiece, God’s “poema”, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God prepared in advance for you. For this to be true, it’s not just the “works” that’ve been prepared.

You have, too.

All your life, God’s been shaping, crafting, honing, and refining the masterpiece God calls ‘you’. And, God’s placed you in a setting that needs the good you bring.

Watch some people and you might think God’s done all this just so they can be enslaved by their puny, obnoxious, comfort-obsessed, self-serving ‘little will’.

Uh, NO!

So, let’s experiment. For the next month, live as if you’ve been prepared to bring good to those within reach. Try “doing good and healing all who are oppressed…”

Drop the lawsuit.

Do good.

Quit stonewalling your mom.

Do good.

Forgive the jerk who betrayed you.

Do good.

Spend a couple hours with that lonely person you barely know.

45 goodDo good.

Help somebody.

Do good.

Offer to pray for the next sick person you see… and five more after that.

Do good.

Get a freakin’ job and quit filching off your family members.

Do good.

Stop feeding your ‘little will’ and its insatiable entitlements.

Then, in a month, decide if you want to ‘re-up’.

I bet you will.

Coaching distinctions #45.doc

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