It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes.
I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods.
I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually.
The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me.
In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with.
This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me.
Paul wrote a couple letters to the church in Corinth instructing them on the ins and outs of their faith. Paul came under heavy criticisms from this church, a church he labored long and hard with. Paul was attacked by false leaders who had come into the church after he planted and began to fill the heads of the Christ-followers there with misguided thoughts and beliefs. Paul was attacked by false leaders. Leaders who came to the church with less than reputable purposes. Paul’s ministry was attacked by these false leaders. They attempted to lead the Corinthian believers astray and discredit Paul in the process.
The false leaders attacked his character, his influence, his calling and his humility, claiming he was not called to lead. They claimed he was inadequate. They claimed he was not worthy of the task to lead the church he had planted. They called into question his integrity.
Paul countered with several arguments, the first of which was he compared being in ministry to a celebration ceremony of a king who has defeated his enemies. He connected the idea of the king who celebrates his victory with his life being used as a vessel to spread the Gospel message. As a king enters in celebration he has aromatic incense spread before him signifying life to those who have been victorious and death to those who were defeated. Paul says we are like the urn that spreads the incense. It is the message of life or death to those that hear it. Furthermore, as the urn we are not worthy to be in the celebration because we did nothing to celebrate except be the vessel that spreads good smells. None in reality are worthy to partake in the celebration and triumph. I think this leads us to an important piece of being a good leader. A good leaders needs to be implicitly aware of their own insufficiency, being aware of their need for the grace of God.
Paul also responded by not abdicating his leadership. He didn’t back down from his assertion he was a leader. He realized people are fickle and sway easily when they hear lies from others about their leaders. He wasn’t willing to walk away from all his hard work and the people he built into for years. A little bit of hardship and difficulty weren’t going to be enough to sway him from his ministry to the Corinthians.
The critics asked for letters of recommendation, he claimed his credentials for leadership were the lives of the Corinthians. A leader’s influence is measured by the impact they have on the lives of those around them. Paul in effect said, I don’t need letters of recommendation because you know me. You have seen me, my life. You have seen the changes made in the life of the people around you because of the message of Christ they heard from me. Paul appealed to the changed lives and the impact he had on those around him as his letters of recommendation.
Paul was very sure about his calling. He never vacillated. Those who are unsure of their own vocation cannot possibly be effective leaders. Nothing is more debilitating than a leader who has self-doubt. When we question and doubt where God has placed us and the work he has set before. When we are certain of the mission and purpose God has set before us, we will view everything we do as a privilege and a part of accomplishing the purpose God has set before us. We have to have absolute confidence in what we are doing or else every trial, every hardship will threaten to derail you. I have been there before. I have lacked vision and clarity on where I was and what I was doing and every speed bump became a mountain.
We must have confidence in our calling, but at the same time understand there is nothing about us that makes us intrinsically adequate for the task God has called us to. Realizing our weaknesses and shortcomings allows us to rely on God for strength. God calls us to work for him not because of something we have a value for him, but he calls us for the work that he can do in us and through us. God makes us worthy of the calling he puts on our lives.
Photo by: John P. Nordin
This morning as I am praying, meditating and listening to God verse 8 stands out in my mind as something I need to hear today: O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me. The second half fees particularly relevant to me as I am searching the path God is laying before me. My family is embarking on a new chapter in our journey right now. It has become clear to me the pastors at h2o church and I are not on the same page when it comes to leadership and overseeing splash. Through this discussion it has become evident to me, God is asking me to step away from my responsibilities there. This is scary for me. I am not sure what is coming next. In June I began working with a nonprofit in Kissimmee in child welfare. I enjoy this, but I also feel a calling to serve God in a local church. I am not sure what that will look like as we move forward. God is making his path straight before.
This current season of my life feels very transient and changing. I can’t place my finger on what or why, but I feel like a significant change is about to occur in the life of our family. It could just be the shift which is inherent in me stepping away from h2o (because this in and of itself is a big transition). It could be the follow up plans I have to begin working as a registered intern in addition to my work with Grace Landing (that nonprofit) I mentioned. I don’t know for sure what the path ahead looks like, but I am confident that God is laying it straight. I am saddened by the impending departure from h2o, but I am also peaceful about it because I know the timing is right. I know this is the next steps God is leading me to take.
If I look back on my life, there have been other times I have made similar decisions which were also scary at the time, and also didn’t seem like there was a definite plan forward. Each of those times, God has shown up and proved himself reliable. Each time he has demonstrated he has made his paths before me straight.
My prayer today, and moving forward is that I will seek the wisdom of God daily. I will be patient and wait on him. I am praying I will be his servant and move forward in the ways he is leading. I really believe God is doing something unheard of or unexpected in the life of my family in the coming season. Whatever it is, it feels like it is going to be epic and I want to be a part of whatever it is.
I love this… not the backing down from a conflict, but taking time to retreat away from the normal day life and re-engage to take a Sabbath and rest up to plan ahead for the future.
This weekend, I have the privilege to be at a cabin in Gatlinburg with Jim, John & Steve (the guys I’m on staff with at H2O) to fish, hang out and plan the rest of the year for H2O. We are gathering around casting vision, planning, praying, fasting and inviting the Holy Spirit to intimately be involved in the next steps of H2O.
I am very excited to be in this process. I am excited to be on this team with these dudes. Being a part of a team that values each other and being in our lives together, speaking the Gospel into each other’s lives and genuinely care for each other.
When you live and pastor in Florida, there is no better place to refresh, reload and plan ahead than the mountains.
Pray for us this weekend as we draw closer to God and closer to each other. My desire for this weekend is to not just come away with a better handle for where we are going as a church, but I hope to grow even closer to these dudes that I partner with each week to serve God in Orlando at H2O.
One of the biggest questions we are wrestling with is how to effectively implement a concept called missional communities. We are attempting a dramatic shift in our philosophy in our life groups. We are going to effectively kill our life groups and starting something new. I have the unique opportunity to beta test this concept in my life group right now. This can be the single most important shift we make in the life of H2O. I wanna talk more about missional communities over the next few weeks.
But for now, know that I’m suffering in the mountains where the trout are plentiful and the camaraderie is excellent.
When as a church leadership you decide to take your church on a journey through confirming vision/mission/purpose and doctrine/theology; you have to confirm your own thought and positions. The leadership team (pastors and myself) has begun the journey of discussing where each of us stand on what we have determined to be the essentials.
This has been a tremendous experience because it has forced me to rethink and remember why it is that I hold the positions that I do. This has led to an intense time of study in which I have been reminded of where my positions have come from. Sounds simple enough, right?
This leads me to my next thought… how can you lead when you don’t know where you are going? Obvious answer, you can’t.
As a church leader I have enjoyed rekindling and remembering the why and how of where I stand.
Let me give an example –
Here are some ‘bottom line’ type stuff we are talking through:
- We believe that humanity, both men and women, were created in the image of God and designed to be His image bearers on this earth.
- We believe that our first parents sinned against God and that everyone since is a sinner by nature and by choice. Sin has totally affected all of creation including marring human image and likeness so that all of our being is stained by sin (e.g. reasoning, desires, and emotions), making us incapable of coming to Christ apart from His grace.
- We believe that because all people have sinned and separated themselves from the Holy God that He is obligated to save no one from the just deserved punishments of hell. We also believe that God in His unparalleled love and mercy has chosen to elect some people for salvation.
- We believe that the salvation of the elect was predestined by God in eternity past.
There are a few words in there that upon first reading scared me a little. Ok, scared me a lot.
So what did I do? I went back to the Scriptures, back to sources I trusted and find out why those words scared me and if they should even scare me at all. As it turns out, they shouldn’t scare me. The words that scared me are biblical words used in Scripture to speak of something specific and to describe the work that God is doing in my life and in the life of the rest of humanity.
Why was I scared? Because I had forgotten why I understood and believed what I do. I had forgotten the biblical nature of the words. I had forgotten where I came from.
This is dangerous. I had a bible college professor who used to say, “Don’t believe something because I tell you it is true, believe it because you study the bible and know it to be true.” Excellent advice. It is dangerous for us to take a stand that we don’t understand. It is dangerous for us to assume what we believe is true if we can’t back it up using Scripture. It is dangerous for us to get complacent in our theology/doctrine/beliefs that we forget the why. The book of Jude reminds us to earnestly contend for our faith, which is a call to know not just what we believe, but why.
I am glad that we have been chasing down the essentials. Now I remember why my essentials are essential to me.