Posts tagged discipleship

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 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 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

Which Will? (part three)

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We’re examining destiny. You have one. Waiting for you. As Buber says, you must pursue it with your whole being, not knowing where it waits. You have a ‘great will’ that wants to live a noble, heroic, God-honoring, and history-impacting life.

44 looking goodAnd, you have a ‘little will’ that above all desires to:

Look good. 

Feel good. 

Be right. 

Be in control.

These motivations I callThe Formidable Four”.

They show up everywhere.

They undermine a pastors’ resolve to lead clearly, consistently, and courageously. They invite congregations to focus inwardly, even while the community—where they’ve been placed as God’s provision—drifts further from Christ. They motivate elders to gesture at change rather than do the hard work of maturing disciples who bear fruit as a way of life.

In my life, the “little will” dissuades me from initiating conversations about financial support for the ministry to which I’m called. It presses me to downplay the urgency to enroll pastors in new reFocusing Networks, when my momentum begins to wane. It cautions me to play safe in coaching, rather than offend a client by illuminating a character flaw that is undercutting her leadership.  And after an unusually intense week (like last week), it tempts me to blow off writing this blog! 

Buber’s ‘great will’ and ‘little will’ wrestle within us.

Save or spend.

Walk or take the car.

Stand up for what you know is right or compromise to keep peace.

Pander to the preferences of your congregation or lead them to serve others selflessly.

Develop the character of around you or settle for being liked.

We see the conflict between great and little will played out in US politics.

44 rhetoricWhile campaigning, candidates’ towering rhetoric calls to our ‘great will’.

It extols the virtue of selflessness, challenging us to forfeit our petty comforts in the short run to establish or protect or defend something noble and honorable and necessary and good for the generations that follow. It speaks of great accomplishments and great sacrifice and uniting for the benefit of the nation.

Then, post-election, the ‘little will’ takes over.

Its priority is whatever will please the most people now. Minimize pain, discomfort, and anxiety immediately—no matter how it infantilizes the population, rips apart our social fabric, and devastates those who’ll inherit the mess.

This blog is not about politics.

It’s about you.

Which will wins?

Coaching distinctions #44.doc

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