If you are like me, last week's post hits pretty hard. What do you do when you realize that what you are doing/have been doing, is so complex it is almost impossible to train others how to do it? There are many responses. Some may start by ignoring this realization with thoughts or comments like, "every other ministry I know is like this, this evaluation cannot be right." Or go all the way to, "I am going to stop everything I am doing, and start all over. It will cause some carnage on the front side, but it is worth it to get simple." I believe that all of us in some form or another need to think through our responses very carefully. In fact, I would encourage each of you to spend at least a week or two in devoted prayer specific to potential changes before you endeavor to make any change.
If you read closely last week, the two words that drive us as followers of Jesus were "Abide" and "Obey". Abide deeply in the vine (John 15:4) and do what Jesus tells us to do (John 15:10). My intent in the two posts about Evaluation was not to make modern leaders feel bad, or to cause guilt, it was simply to have leaders look at how we are doing things and realize how we hinder gospel growth with all of our complex systems. I understand that this is the method that has been passed down to us. I understand that is what makes most of us very comfortable. For many of us, it is all we know!
When I added the picture of the desert above, I thought about how this might seem to us today. Jesus says, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." This powerful invitation was a turning point for each person who responded. Their lives would never be the same even though each of them probably returned home from time to time. Some even picked up their old jobs after Jesus died. What they had seen and experienced with Jesus altered their existence, their understanding, even their future. Most who responded to Jesus’ invitation pursued His purpose in their life for the remainder of their years. Most paying the ultimate price, laying down their very lives for His cause.
So today we look out across the landscape of modern, comfortable, culturally normal Christian faith and wonder “how does this look to us today?” What do we as Followers of Jesus need to do, "to make disciple makers for the glory of God among all the Nations?" Here are my encouragements! 3 dos and 1 don't:
Do #1: Praise God for what He has done! Let us realize that God is moving today! He has been ever since the creation of the world. He has been working in our experience and thus inside the systems that we are now part of, even trained in. Just because the systems are complex, it does not mean that Jesus has not been glorified, and it does not mean that the systems are inherently bad. Let us be careful not to make hasty, guilt driven changes that could further damage what God is doing today largely through our complex churches and leaders.
Do #2: Let us realize that we must simplify! The modern institutions are beginning to crumble. We must see that our current reality is not sustainable for much longer. Let us look into the future 10 years or so and see a movement of God that is not bound to large budgets, buildings, and professional clergy. Let’s begin preparations for the next generation to lead with large relationships, networks, and community driven missions. Let’s look at these evaluations to start the process of deeply abiding and searching God's word for answers in the how do we...?
Do #3: Lead with Vision! Let those of us who currently are blessed with Christian employment, and trusted with leading God's people, lead our ministries with great vision! Let us invest in those around us who can help us lead as these times change, and as these paradigms begin to change. Let us to look up to the horizon and see Jesus... He is there saying, "Trust me. I am with you to the very end of the age." He beckons us to take the first step into the unknown. Following in the only footstep He has left for us. We "pick up our cross"... this burden of leadership... this expectation of the faithful... this mantle of those who have gone before us, and we step out.
Don't: Ignore our Evaluation! We cannot run the other way like Jonah. We cannot hide our talent like the wicked servant. We cannot ignore that the world is changing quickly. We cannot expect to do the same things our grandparents did to get the same results. These institutions protected us, trained us, supported us, and for the moment continue to hold us up. But that time is passing, and our ability to sustain the same type of institutions and organizations is coming to an end.
We must set our sights on what is ahead and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Look at the picture above, all of the way down the sandy path, in the middle, between the rugged hills, where Jesus is...that is where we need to be! What is it going to take to get there... only He can tell us!
So are you ready? Are you prepared for the faith journey ahead? Can we simplify so that others can run with us? Can we build networks of faith to support the coming harvest? Can we discipline ourselves not to be overwhelmed or paralyzed when our current systems cease to be effective? Can we truly believe that Jesus is with us?
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."