While purchasing my chicken bowl at Chiptole my eyes fell upon the business cards at the register. Next to the expected General Manager’s card was another card, the GM Apprentice. I was more than curious. I’m not looking for a new career path but I notice when other companies take seriously the lost art of discipleship.
On Chipotle’s career page it reads, “(the apprentice) works shoulder-to-shoulder with the General Manager to prepare for the General Manager role as his/her next position with the company.” They even have a strategy for upward mobility. Why? Well, Chipotle wants not just more stores but they want stores that carry the marks of Chipotle quality and values, offering food with integrity.
Do you have a strategy for those who want to serve more and reach more and climb the ladder of influence and value in God’s kingdom? Could you put a business card out for others to see reading “pastoral apprentice”? How much could your church accomplish if you had more leaders that lived out kingdom values? Get an apprentice. Let someone walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you. Develop a strategy for leader multiplication. Shouldn’t your church set the example of leadership with integrity?
“Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived…The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey…” (Acts 16:1-3)
Aiden, my middle son, is a runner. When he gets hurt he bolts and Aiden is fast. It is common to hear the front door slamming and see Aiden running down the sidewalk because one of his brothers hurt him. I put on my shoes and head off to find him. Why? He is my son, part of our family. I want him home; he needs to be home.
The members of your church will get hurt from time to time. Painful events can cause them to scatter. Part of your responsibility as a spiritual leader is to get your shoes on, find those wounded and hurt sheep, and draw them back to the safety of home. Wounded sheep are more susceptible to attack, further injury, and more quickly stolen.
Make review part of your ministry flow. Who haven’t you seen in a while? Who do you need to track down and call? Who is starting to pull back and needs your calm assurance? This is not about finding the lost- this is about gathering the scattered. And don’t take it so personally. Sheep scatter; that is what we do! If you have found your self personally away from the flock, then it is time to come home. You aren’t safe, come back.
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
The gospel work of the church is viral and adaptive. It infiltrates and subverts established powers. It is a winding, weaving, rooting, climbing, spreading vine that can crack bricks and choke out competition. There is connection enough to get nutrients out to the farthest tips of the next burgeoning vine and leaflet. It isn’t a complicated structure; roots, vines, leaves. The New Testament picture of the local church was chaordic, a tenuous balance of chaos mixed with just enough order to keep it together. If your church becomes structurally heavy then you minimize your gospel effectiveness.
Bureaucratic committees with sub-committees reflect American political ideologies and Wall Street power grids but not the local church’s raw, ever-branching spread-ability. If you have to error between simple and complicated then fall to the side of simple. Simplicity is the faith step that releases individual members to be led by the Holy Spirit freeing them to contextualize the gospel message. Leadership and organizationally heavy churches stifle the very work they are trying to rally. The church is an open field and the gospel a seed. Hold it and you will choke it; release it and watch it grow.
For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field… – I Corinthians 3:9
Rest in what you don’t know or rest assured God isn’t in it. The faith factor is a gentle assurance that the leader doesn’t have it all figured out. God is too big, his plans are too vast, his involvement is too unpredictable. Do your due diligence and dot every “i” you know about. Gather all the information you can about the decision at hand. But, infuse the current moment with prayer. You can’t ever see everything. You can’t know everything. You can’t anticipate every contingency. You cannot be ahead of the ball at every point. You would be a faithless leader.
Let God cover it. Go where you cannot go alone. Do what you cannot do without God doing it through you. Moses was completely hands-off in the mismatched battle against the Amalekites. The battle raged beyond his direct supervision, outside his communication lines, and past his immediate jurisdiction. Instead, Moses was hands-up. The more Moses stayed out of it and lifted his hands over it the more God was free to cover the battle with victory.
As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning… – Exodus 17:8-16
Help people align what they feel underneath what they know; help them wrestle with what is happening in their heart with what they perceive in their mind. The caring shepherd must address this discord or their sheep will scatter in disillusion. This is why most people struggle with the question of pain, “If God is loving why do I hurt?” What they know of God and what they are feeling does not line up. Pastors must feed their people’s minds or the flock will follow their unsettled heart right off a cliff.
They will follow their heart before they will follow you. When they do follow it is because they have learned that the shepherding presence calms their anxious heart, but it is still the heart that rules.
Pain and hurt and struggle and strife are important parts of life. Tribulation is necessary, it is a valley to get through and not try to get around. Everyone must learn to think through what they feel.
When their mind and heart are not aligned, ask:
1) What are you feeling right now, describe the valley of emotions?
2) What do you know about God’s promises?
3) Ask for faith to bridge the gap.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for (I know) you are with me; – Psalm 23:4
We used to camp using old canvas tents with two wood poles. I was confident they were handed down from the Army Corp of Engineers in the 1930s. The challenge was getting the tension right on the guide lines that held the poles in place. When the lines were right and the tension balanced then the poles stayed upright. When the tension was wrong the poles leaned and the tent eventually collapsed. Alignment came from balanced tension.
God gave 5 types of leadership to the local church; missionary leadership, discerning leadership, proclaiming leadership, caring leadership, and teaching leadership. We identity these styles and personalities in Eph 4:11-12 as apostles/missionaries, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Each leader is given to the church as a gift. These are not spiritual gifts like Romans 12:6-8; the individuals are the gifts. Each leader is there to help the church grow into maturity but each leader operates in tension with the other four. Missionaries want to go for God; prophets want to listen for God’s guidance and direction. They can pull against each other at times. Evangelists want to reach more for God; teachers want to take more deeper for God. Prophets want holiness; shepherds want love.
Make sure your leadership is tempered by all five voices. Without the tension the structure can lean, ministries will get out of balance, and the organization can collapse. Find the various gifts/leaders inside your church. Give each God-ordained voice a place to speak into what God’s church is doing. Oh, one more thing. When camping, bigger storms could only be weathered with ample lines pulling against each other in balanced unity. Bigger wind needed more tension, not bigger ropes in one or two places.
Our three sons did not merit a trip to the zoo today. Recent behavior has been rather embarrassing. Back biting, arm biting, talking back, manipulating, punching, clawing, growling, stomping. Yes, the behavior of three alpha apes living in the same cage but not the type of behavior we want to flourish in pastor’s children. So, we took them to the zoo and dropped them off with a park ranger. Tempting! No, we took them to the zoo, not because they deserved it but because they needed it. We even took them for Frogurtz frozen yogurt sundaes after.
We don’t deserve purple-orange sunsets, fragrant spring flowers, and epic ocean-scapes. What about the way flavors pair together at dinner and the comforting sound of music and the warmth of a fire with friends? We don’t deserve any of the graces God lavishes on us and so often fail to recognize and appreciate. We give God the same ape-ish antics my sons gave me. I took my children to the zoo not out of their merit but because their father loves them and told them he loves them no matter what. Heaven forbid my sons think they merit grace in their life. I would need to cage them like beasts. (I wanted to earlier)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
You can’t teach people to trust God in the most practical and minuscule aspects of life. You have to model it. Reveal a life of dependence witnessed in your disciplines of simplicity and solitude. Manifest practical faith seen in your work ethic/Sabbath tension. Western culture drives our people to drive more, push harder, reach farther forgetting the prevenient presence of God that calls us to a life-rhythm of dependence and rest.
We are sheep not hamsters. Model a life that lives in fields of God’s grace and provision.
“For we who have believed enter that rest…” – Hebrews 4:2-3
American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition. None of these marks is remotely biblical. None is faintly in evidence in the gospel story. All of them are thoroughly documented diseases of the spirit. Pastors are in great danger of being undetected carriers of the very disease we are charged to diagnose and heal.
Peterson, E. H. (1989). The contemplative pastor: returning to the art of spiritual direction (Vol. 17, p. 58). Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.
We are tempted to insert people where we have the most pressing holes. “We need nursery workers. No one showed up for tech!” Filling gaps is a short-term fix that leads to burn out and under-utilizes the spiritual capacity of the Body. It is no better than filling potholes with basketballs, or china plates, or rosebushes. The goal isn’t filling the hole but bridging the gap with a sustainable resource designed for the problem at hand. Take the time to get people where God has appointed them. It will infuse your ministry with a spiritual power and connect volunteers to their ordained purpose. How?
- Know the gifts in your church and who has them. The seven motivational gifts in Romans 12 are equally important but not equally distributed. 30%-40% of your church will have the gift of service. Less than 5% will have the gift of teaching.
- Filter your programs and volunteer opportunities through the gifts. Don’t filter workers based on your programs.
- Create an open document that lists the gifts in connection with places they can be most readily expressed and utilized.
- Get in the habit of helping people discover their spiritual gifts early. Start here. Make it part of your membership/ assimilation process.
- Pray for gifts in connection with your ministry needs not just workers based off your program holes.
- Remember it is your responsibility to help people connect with their divine ministry.
God gives the church the missionaries, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the members for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… – a paraphrase (Eph 4:11-12)