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)
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
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
I had the chance to meet with my academic adviser, Dr. Dale Coulter, while in Virginia Beach this week. We were trying to iron out the remainder of my program at Regent. He was trying to help me understand where I fit within Christ’s larger family and realize the blessing of my pedigree. My historical context often leaves me swooning. Follow the time-line:
- Saved at 4 in a KJV-only fundamental church
- Raised in a Seventh-Day”esque”, Old Testament congregation
- Attended a Conservative/ Reformed college
- Trained and ordained by a Holiness denomination
- Pastored in Brethren, Holiness, and Non-denominational/ Baptist churches
- Graduate work at both Baptist and Pentecostal seminaries
I have paddled up many of the theological tributaries in the great river of Christian faith. And, as a history “student” tracked God’s working over the diverse landscape of time. I have covered a lot of ground and here is the result.
I find few things worth holding in a tight fist- theological things, hills to die on. (This often comes at the consternation of fellow church-attenders who have a great deal more “convictions” and feel the pastor should feel as the feel!) I have seen and studied too many Christian leaders, movements, splits, and reformations that chose to hold onto ideas over holding onto people. I have convictions, things that are important to me, and you need to have convictions. Never hold them and present them in a way that repel others. Keep your hands open as much as possible and as long as you can. Only fight over ideas if you can do so without abusing people’s journey towards God. If people trip and leave let it be over the gospel, (which is an incredibly narrow set of tenants, ala I Cor 15:3-4).
Make every effort to do what leads to peace…do not destroy the work of God over (issues)…whatever you believe about these (issues) keep between yourself and God. – Apostle Paul (Romans 14:19-22)
Lucas, my oldest son, and I were walking home from school. The snow was melting but a thick glaze of ice covered our path. Lucas didn’t want to fall so he grabbed my hand. Together we walked, hand in hand, across the ice and back to safety. Some of your people are in an icy spot. They can’t move forward on their own; they are close to falling. Do not underestimate the power of human touch. God has so wired our brains that physical contact with another human being;
- lessens chronic pain
- improves heart function
- lowers high blood sugar
- improves immune functions
Human tough does truly heal! A hand on the shoulder, a hug, holding the hand of faltering family members anchors them in the reality that they are not alone. It connects them to hope. The physical gesture provides an emotional and mental assurance. It is a physical manifestation of the care and compassion of the Father in heaven.
Jesus, if you are willing you can heal me…and Jesus reached out and touched him. – (Mark 1:40-41)
If you find yourself in the in-between, in between the church you left and the church you have yet to find, then the correct questions will be an important guide and filter. Of all the important questions I want to focus on two; where are the seeds, and what are the weeds.
- Where are the seeds? (The Realistic Visionary Question) Identify the points of potential while interviewing the latest church. Find hints of future fruitfulness that your particular gifting and experience can help cultivate. I have years of experience leading and developing the creative/communication/worship arms of a church’s ministry. It is tempting for me to focus on churches that have all those issues ironed out. This would rob churches that need leadership and experience in growing these areas. This is really about discerning what is possible and what is probable. You want probable growth and this comes from identifying existing seeds of ministry.
- What are the weeds? (The Honest Pragmatist Question) Weeds limit ministry and stifle potential. Weeds get in the way of what you are good at, where you are prone to plant, and wrap around your ankles. Finding the weeds takes time and discernment. Yes, in time all weeds can be rooted out but that takes incredible patience and investment. Be honest with your weaknesses and look for clear resistances. They can look like demographics, trends, inverse momentum. Church polity could be weeds. Buildings could be weeds. Neighborhoods could be weeds. Finances could be weeds. And the same weeds present different levels of challenges for different incoming pastors depending on gifts and experiences. Every church has weeds- can you deal with the ones in front of you.
Ask both questions. They help you discern your best fit, where you can contribute the most for God’s kingdom.
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. – Paul to Titus (Titus 1:5)