Here is a link to a message I gave recently regarding the importance of engaging people at the deeper level of their worldview.
I am usually speaking out against leaving ministry too soon and finding that much of the foundation laying involved in establishing good discipleship is missing as a result of a “too soon” departure. It happens far too often in modern day church planting work.
However, in this post, I want to entertain the question of “staying too long”. More significantly, what are some of the signs that the long term ministry in one context has begun to hold back the growth and development that was its very purpose in the first place?
Sign #1 is obvious. You have stayed too long if your on-site presence is holding others back from taking initiative, responsibility or getting involved in ways that would help them to grow to greater fruitfulness. It’s tricky because they may be holding back for reasons unrelated to your presence OR your presence could be (unintentionally I might add) creating an atmosphere of hesitation for fear of “messing with a good thing”. Or you could be outright possessive and limiting people because of some horrible things like jealousy or fear of failure being reflected on you personally.
Sign #2 is complacent faith. You have stayed too long if you have grown overly comfortable in your role and find yourself being able to manage it well with comfortable systems that seldom stretch your faith muscles. It’s really case of too much of a good thing makes us soft and lazy. It can happen even in growing ministry contexts. All Christian leaders and church planters need a significant amount of faith stretching courage in order to keep growing toward maturity. Sometimes this need is answered by moving on from a ministry and taking on new challenges as led by the Spirit of God.
Sign #3 is a double bladed sword. You may have stayed too long if you find yourself surrounded by unexplainable conflict. The key I think is understanding divisiveness and having a willingness to move on if your continuing role is potentially divisive over non-Biblical issues or issues of personal preference. However, you cannot afford to move on without spending significant time openly with other leaders and before the Lord asking for wisdom to see it for what it really is. “Lord, are my attitudes and actions contributing to the conflict?” “Am I being consistently humble and teachable?”
So how do you know when it might be time to move on and how often should you ask the question? I’m not sure, but I think that there is wisdom in having accountability with others in leadership around you that help you process the question and make sure that you are processing the question from the right perspective. It’s way too easy to deceive ourselves into thinking our motives are other than they really are.
PS. Some potentially bad reasons for moving on from a ministry context are: boredom, frustration, greener pastures, or weariness.
A mediator is someone that offers to take a position between two parties and negotiate a settlement that both sides can accept so that the dispute between them is settled in a fair and equitable manner. In order for a mediator to perform this service, both parties usually agree before hand, and in good faith, to place their case in the hands of the mediator to negotiate on their behalf.
Hebrews 9:27 promises that everyone will one day die and then face a Judge. That Judge is none other than the Holy, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Powerful and Perfect Creator God of the universe. Knowing what we know about ourselves, we should all be very uncomfortable about the prospects of being stripped bare before Him. His holiness demands nothing less than that from His created people.
So my question is simple. Who do you plan to have as a mediator at that judgement? There really is only two options:
- Argue your case by yourself. You can try to explain to the All-Knowing and All-Seeing Creator about your intentions, your attempts at self-control, your seemingly minor slip-ups, the plethora of good deeds that you thought might give you some credibility before Him. BUT, He will accept nothing less than perfect obedience. He will rightly and eternally judge every wrong-doing. Because He has to act consistently with ALL of His Character. That means He will not be either unholy, unloving or unjust. His holiness will require holiness to enter His presence. His love will remind you that He has offered a different solution which you refused. His justice will require that every sin be fully penalized.
- Accept the offer of the Mediator. BUT, you must accept that before you die. Afterwards there will not be a second chance to do so. The offer of the Mediator is simple. He is God Himself – The Promised Redeemer – sent into the world to be the only acceptable sinless sacrifice for all of sin’s consequences. Once He finished His redemptive act – dying on a cross to pay for all of your sin, He was resurrected to go back to heaven to sit on the side of God’s throne to be an eternal Mediator. That is where He currently sits and awaits your time to be judged. (He does lots of other good things for those who have chosen Him as their Mediator.)
So the very good news is that today in 2017, if you are still reading this blog post, you can choose to trust the work of God’s Mediator. It really is the only choice that makes any sense at all if you are honest with yourself. Self-mediation might work ok with people who are easily cajoled into some kind of easily pacified “I’ll pretend I didn’t see that” act of pseudo-grace. But it won’t work with the Creator. He is too Holy and Perfect for that.
Everything is perfectly settled by accepting the solution He has provided.
I learned a new term this morning. I am what is called a “digital nomad”. I guess that it means something like “someone who instead of working in a traditional brick and mortar office, chooses to work in a nomadic manner and depends heavily on digital formats and devices to work productively”. That is my very own, made-up definition based on what I have read about it.
It really describes several things that we have found true of ourselves in the last decade. 1) We really can live without a permanent or long-term house that would store lots of stuff we really seldom use or have a need for. 2) We really can be productive every day just by developing routines that we can practice no matter where we happen to wake up. My daily routines do not change all that much except when I am dealing with severe jetlag. 3) We really feel free to pick up and move from here to there depending on how we see God moving us and what He is prioritizing in our life at the particular moment. That does not mean that we don’t plan ahead or prepare. But we have that down to a fairly easy process now.
We enjoy our life and the flexibility that we have. We realize it is not for everyone but it sure suits us and the work that God has given to us.
I wonder if you ever thought about the definition of an “engaged Great Commission” worker. We usually have other titles that we would use to describe someone like that – “M’s” with a variety of terms is just one of them.
Is everyone that witnesses for Christ to someone, in whatever environment, classified as an “M”? In general terms, that is a very logical and Biblical perspective. After all, the Acts of the Apostles chronicles the lives of everyday men and women who lived out their witness in some very challenging situation. Many of them served faithfully in ethnically and linguistically similar contexts. If you are one of those committed believers who is actively engaging in everyday witness in your professional and social community, I applaud you and admire you for your faithfulness. Please don’t stop doing that! Please don’t consider that to be a “lower calling”. It is praise worthy.
I think that, for practical reasons, it is important to distinguish between the ordinary, everyday, hard work of evangelism and witnessing to people in whatever context we face as part of our daily life, AND the intentional efforts by groups of people (not just individuals) to take the message across significant cultural and linguistic barriers. We are talking about the purposeful encountering of significant challenges and barriers that will need to be overcome with careful study and preparation before significant impact on the people group might be realized. We are talking about the work of cross-cultural discipleship that will entail significant language learning challenges and worldview challenges that are not necessarily considered part of normal every day ministry of every believer, though maybe in some cases even for our local impact, such issues should be considered. Generally speaking, for that purpose there will be some special training and preparation required.
My main point here is to give huge kudos to those believers who are doing every day work to bring relevant, impactful, Gospel discipleship to the world around them AND to challenge us that, without purposeful cross-cultural engagement, there will still be many places where the Gospel does not easily flow. The intent of the Great Commission is to continually challenge our hearts with the realities of cross-cultural barriers to the message so that we are alway looking for the means and resources to move beyond the natural flow of the message to those places where intentional, cross-cultural, linguistically different, and ethnically challenging proclamation of the message and hands-on discipleship is needed. When we look at the map of Gospel influence, it becomes obvious where some of those places are and it seems reasonable that the Church worldwide would be compelled to work together to influence the Gospel influence map.
Don’t you think we have that responsibility?
I have a lot to learn about sacrifice in 2017 but here is a place to begin. Can I adopt the attitudes of one of my many heros of history?
If we, in our generation are ever going to have the impact needed on our world, we will have to begin with a commitment to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. It begins with everyday commitments.
1. Set an infinite value on immortal souls.
2. Gain all the information you can about “the snares and delusions in which these heathens are held.”
3. Abstain from all English manners which might increase prejudice against the gospel.
4. Watch for all opportunities for doing good, even when you are tired and hot.
5. Make Christ crucified the great subject of your preaching.
6. Earn the people’s confidence by your friendship.
7. Build up the souls that are gathered.
8. Turn the work over to “the native brethren” as soon as possible.
9. Work with all your might to translate the Bible into their languages. Build schools to this end.
10. Stay alert in prayer, wrestling with God until he “famish these idols and cause the heathen to experience the blessedness that is in Christ.”
11. Give yourself totally to this glorious cause. Surrender your time, gifts, strength, families, the very clothes you wear.
Listed in Christian History, Issue 36, page 34.
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Our life-long purpose is to disciple~equip~partner in the Great Commission with those who are living on the Gospel edges. These edges or borders are places where the tender shoot of the Good News has sprung up and is making an impact all around it. It’s spreading.
And it is, or is likely to stir up some controversy. It could turn into hostile responses by a few who do not want its presence in their community. You see the unsettling, mind-boggling, soul-stirring and life-changing message of the Gospel has always been like that good news to those who want to hear it and troublesome news to those who reject it.
And in some communities, there is a strong political and/or social push-back against those who embrace the message and those who are seen as in some way responsible for its entrance into their world.
We are not trying to be there for a weekend. Disciple-making is not about a 3-day retreat on the beach (although I will take that too). Discipleship is long-term, relationship-heavy, pressing on to maturity in Christ. The Great Commission and a commitment to living it out is an essential aspect of that maturity.
That maturity demands full allegiance and growing commitment to living in the light of His Word. It requires allowing the new source of life found in and through the Gospel to become the source of all energy and activity. It requires that we find our identity in Him.
It’s nothing short of a miracle when the Gospel breaks in and cleans house and it affects every area of life.
Journeying Together in 2017,
Thank you for dropping by to read this post. It’s going to be short and “to the point”.
Every time a New Year rolls around, we are compelled by culture and something deep within our selves to look at it as “new leaf” time. If my 2016 was filled with some wasted time, wasted money, wasted energy, wasted calories, or wasted anything, everything will scream at me to do something about it in 2017.
The problem is that I probably do not have the self-discipline that it takes to make a serious life-style change. I may want the results of such a change, but probably will not be very happy when I have to start saying “no” to many things that I prefer in order to achieve those result. I am way too weak and undisciplined by nature.
So I need something outside of myself to carry me through the necessary changes. I need accountability and I need to look outside of myself for the strength and purpose to make different lifestyle choices. I need to know that the reason I would make such a commitment is because it is the only way for me to grow to be more like my Master.
The truth is that a resolve to engage more fully in the Great Commission – the command to “go and make disciples of all nations”- is one of those many lifestyle changes that probably will be hard to make. Everything within our comfortable selves will react to the least hint that we are considering a sacrificial commitment to this. Our ego may want to be more involved, want to give more and pray more, BUT our enemy will not want us to do more than what is self-serving and prideful. To really sacrifice and earnestly pray, and to seriously consider our responsibility for it every day will make him very angry.
So here we go. We need to realize that the entrance into 2017 with a deep commitment to the Great Commission is an entrance into a battle-field. It may cost you much more than you would have imagined and it may get very uncomfortable before it is over. But what if in spite of knowing that potential cost…
- you say “yes” and you follow through on your commitments
- you say “no” and realize it is nothing less than disobedience
- you say “yes” but then later under the pressure of the moment your eager “yes” becomes a “no”
God in His grace is very willing to accompany you in your “yes”. He will not necessarily remove the hardships that are created by your “yes”. He will promise to be “with you always even to the end of the age”. He is looking for those who will exercise faith – because that “pleases Him”.
This is my message to myself in 2017. I am very prone to look for something easier. But I know that giving of myself to see people “reached with the Message of hope” is still the “way of the cross”. I still need to “pick up my cross and follow Him daily”. I know from experience that there will be difficult days in 2017. I will have to face those days with courage and determination to keep on following.
Blessed journey in 2017.
Your Fellow Sojourner,