Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ramblings of as I think about life...

I began this blog under the name “Thoughts of A Reluctant Leader” and after some feed back I changed it though it is still there somewhere. I meant it from the perspective I never sought out leadership role. And as it was thrust upon me I did not grasp it as if it were a perfect fit. Like all leaders you do have to find your own armor to put on…Saul’s will not work for you. For many of us John Maxwell’s way might not work either…you have to find your own way. As you find your way you look back to see if anyone is still following. I do think I have perfected the Jesus leadership or crowd control method. One time a friend of mine said he was coming to our church to check it out…I think I talked him out of it. Man, was Barb angry with me;) Jesus would look around and if the crowd was pretty big He might teach something difficult and then say something inviting and including like, “Let him who has ears hear.” Then shut down the meeting…how inclusive is that? Seeker sensitive? I digress.

I tend to think it is kind of arrogant for me to put out there my thoughts on leadership…and yet I know there are others out there that do get what I talk about. I do think you can lead from a position of humility, you can lead without knowing all the answers. You can lead when you are only a half step ahead…you can. My favorite prayer in scripture is Jehoshaphat praying in a desperate time of his kingship. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”  2 Chronicles 20:12 I am pretty sure he prayed this out loud! The freshness of having a leader confess his weakness and depending on the Lord. What might it be like to hear one of our national leaders confess they did not know what to do…but were fixing their eyes on Jesus? For sure he would be roasted in the press… but would we rally around them knowing God would be faithful to respond to such transparency and humility? Ahhh…I can dream. 

I was taking with friends yesterday from another country and they were so taken back by our U.S. model of church where we have turned to business models to run the local church. Hiring search firms to hire new staff…hiring outside the tribe we belong to for our new leaders. Like our values are not important as long as the person give a nod towards them in agreement. “Sure, I believe in that too…no I have no experience in that area but I believe it.” We want to see the test results from all the personality, IQ, gift mix, and a multitude of other tests that I am sure help but do they answer the big questions. Yes, the gift mix is awesome…how are he and God doing? Can you discover their character in a test? Passion? Because he passes our eye exam do we know they will fit in our church body? Sorry…I know I am a bit outdated…but I have seen enough over my 40 plus years of being a believer to know…the guy who passes all the tests…many times does not fit. Sorry…look around…search out the results. 

Man I am wondering around a bit…I think as I turn this corner of life knowing I am racing towards the finish line I have thoughts and concerns for the Church. I am in a season where our church has shrunk a bit…transition is all around me…I feel the pain of rejection deeper than I used to. I hear all the talk of the new churches around us that are hot and happening and tend to think I am not that hot and happening leader for sure. It seems to me that every time I take a step forward and dare to be bold another bomb explodes nearby…one of my adult kids in pain…maybe both. Another marriage in the church is in trouble…another disease diagnosed. According to the books I need to walk through all of this like I am coated in teflon and things just run off because I’m the man of power for the hour. In my prayer times I cry out for relief and help…I do keep moving forward…as Rich Nathan would say, one step at a time. “Right foot, left foot. Do it again…right foot, left foot…repeat.” I know that will never sell a book or inspire someone to get on board but to be transparent that is leadership…you keep walking…one foot in front of the other. 

Recently I was listening to a recording of our worship team from a Sunday morning. My daughter is now leading our worship and as I was listening to her and the team lead us in worship I was struck by one thing…I noticed she was belting out the songs. Even a brand new one she just let it rip…and I sensed the Lord saying to me, “You need to listen to her, Bill…really listen. You know all that is going on around her and yet she is leading with absolute abandonment. You need to join her in that abandonment…don’t hold back…don’t focus on the stuff going on around you. Let go…lead with abandonment. Lead with passion…lead with freedom.” Yes, I can learn from my adult children…shoot I learn from my grandkids! Some day I will venture out and talk about what a joy it is to work with your spouse and your kids…not today. 


Friday, January 15, 2016

Did you know Jesus had a Plan?

 I am preparing to attend a two day prayer summit in a few days…actually helping lead it. Go figure. Sometimes when leaders get together, well anytime leaders come together, they want to know, “What is the take away?” Good question for busy men and women to ask themselves and those leading the event for sure. Now, I am not always one asking the good question or knowing the answer to the good question. I tend to think, “Let’s just see what the take away might be.” Yeah…no one will buy that tee shirt. “Let’s Just See!” Those hats and shirts will be shipped overseas somewhere or in my garage for my kids to discard of after I go home to be with Jesus. I am surrounded by other leaders, including my wife, so I don’t always have to be the “take away” explainer. Someone else will do that, thank you very much. 

This morning I wrote a devotion that I sent out to our church family and on Facebook. As I began my search for the scripture to work off of I found a very familiar story in the Gospel of John that seemed pretty safe to work from. I quoted these two verses; When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat? He asked this only to test him, for He had in mind what He was going to do.” John 6:5,6 I gave some inspirational words and sent it out. But I could not shake the words and the thoughts racing through my mind. Most of you will recognize this as the beginning of the story of Jesus feeding the multitude. Great story, awesome preaching material. I can see Jesus turning to Philip with a wry smile on His face, “Hey Phil, where is the closest bakery?” Phil swallows his gum and says,”It would take us eight months of offerings to buy enough that everyone could get one bite…one bite!” End of conversation…only I love how John says, “He had in mind what He was gong to do.” Jesus! I am shocked! Now another disciple said, “I grabbed this kids lunch…some fish and bread…does this help?” What
a story!

As I pondered, or it pondered me, I am not sure the order, I could not shake the words, “He had in mind what He was going to do.” Or Andrew offering up someone else's lunch to help out the cause. A friend of mine, a young leader in the city, has this audacious vision, from the Lord, to see 500,000 people come to know the Lord in our region. That is right…500,000. Sooooo you sense the Lord saying 500k. How do you do that? As an older, mature believer in the Lord maybe I should help let him down gently. You know…George…it was probably the pizza you ate. Not sure the Lord would ever have you dream that bi…what am I saying?!?!? 500k? We tend to  want to “save” people from a vision that is very large…too large. I have three words for you: Nin-e-veh! Yes, it is one word, Nineveh. 120k came to the Lord through a very reluctant evangelist. I digress. As I read John’s story today I could not shake off the words, “He had in mind what He was going to do.” When Jesus turned to Philip and asked how they could feed the people Philip’s reply really was…it is impossible Jesus…impossible. In Andrew, Jesus had someone who also thought it was impossible but had seen enough with Jesus to make a small contribution to the party. 

This is ministry! When He called me to be a pastor and plant a church my first response was “No thank you…that is impossible and improbable!” Eventually I had to come to trust, “He already in mind what He was going to do.” Like Andrew I brought my meager sack lunch, and yes it probably was someone else’s and said, “Here, this is what I have.” The Message translates verse six like this, “He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do. Jesus was not tricking Philip…He was stretching him. I tend to respond like Philip a lot, you know, being wise in the ways of the church and all. Practical is another word you could use. With Jesus we need to be Andrew…let’s throw in with Him and see what He is doing. Being practical is not always a kingdom word or thought. The call towards Jesus is a call towards mystery as well as ministry. I don’t know how many times I have cried before the Lord,“I do not know what I am doing! Why would you call me?” Now I can see…He already had in mind what He was going to do. We can beg out…or go all in. As a leader who came to the party kind of reluctantly it has always been helpful to know the story behind the story. Yes, He always calls us beyond our gifts and abilities…and He always has in mind what He is going to do. I hear people talk about “their” ministry…I don’t have one of those…I only have His…because…here it comes…He already has in mind what He is going to do!

As we gather at the prayer summit I do wonder what the take away will be. My suspicion is we won’t know much more when we leave than when we walked through those doors. (Don’t tell anyone;) The challenge is will we be overwhelmed at the huge task of taking our region for Jesus? Or will we throw in our fish and chips and join in with what “He already has in mind to do.” I am thinking this is the bottom line of ministry…of leading…finding out what He has in mind…joining Him.