Even after over 30 years of living a life of service, I’m still learning new things, lots of them actually. Jesus said that teachers of the kingdom should “bring out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” My paper called, “Learning Leadership Lessons From 2 Corinthians” (https://musingthemysteries.files.wordpress.com/learning_leadership_lessons_2_cor.pdf) would be my best effort to date on “old treasures.” But the things I share in these brief posts represent more of the “new treasures” that I’ve been blessed to acquire in the last few years. Since three decades of planting and pastoring churches, the forms of service in which God has been merciful enough to include me these days have taught me some things I guess I couldn’t “see” when serving as a shepherd of a local church.
This is no bullet-point list that for anyone’s “ministry success.” Honestly, I’m not really a fan of “success,” at least of what the term implies in our success-crazed Christian culture. I’m not really shooting for success, but just simple obedience to God. If doing what he wants me to do were to lead to an achievement of one sort or another – so be it. But what floats my boat these days is simply doing what I think he wants me to do.
Oh, and please don’t be offended by my use of the term “mantra.” I’m not using it in the eastern meditation sense like a chant that produces inner-tranquility. I simply mean these “mantras” as “mottos” that describe my own life of service to God and people these days. If I were to boil down the things I feel called to do in this season of my life, the following things capture my heart’s aspirations.
These “mantras” of mine have all become key to my thinking in the life of service in which I’m currently involved. Since they’re all kind of new to me I can only tell you what I understand about them so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to elaborate on these as life and time transpire, but all I can do now is tell you what I understand today. So, here goes…
I’m just trying to make friends with God…
There are two pieces to this. My friendship with God is the most important thing in my life, and I’m really trying to remember that in everything I do. I want to be like Abraham, whom God called his “friend.” I don’t think he has “favorites,” but he does have his “intimates.” That’s what I’m shooting for.
The other piece of this has to do with how much I love going out with God (my best friend) on a mission to make other friends for both him and for me. That’s what “ministry” – boiled down – is to me these days. With God and along with God, I’m just trying to make friends. Together we’re on a “friendship quest.” He was on this quest long before I came on board (and became one of his millions of friends). He decided to include me (and you), and now it’s my pleasure to go out into the world to make friends for the both of us. Sometimes when I walk out my door I can almost hear him say, “Let’s go make some friends!”
I’m trying to simply follow and follow simply…
When I say that I’m his “friend” it’s not like this is any sort of egalitarian relationship. He’s the Leader and I’m the follower, so by “simply follow,” I’m under no illusions that, though we’re friends, we’re equal partners. I’m not his equal; I’m his follower.
But to add to that, the way I follow is “simple” following. I want to “follow simply,” which means that I’m pretty adamant about keeping my friendship with him and my life of service to him simple. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much over the complexity, complication and clutter in western Christianity. It doesn’t have to be like that. Jesus was able to boil it down to loving God and loving people. It’s not that it’s “easy,” but it is “simple” – if you get my drift. These days I’m opting for the most direct route while on the friendship quest. I try to not waste a bunch of energy or time or money on what doesn’t actually forge friendships with God and people.
Jesus came simply, lived simply, and served simply, so why can’t I?The way I’m choosing to “do ministry” these days is in the least pretentious of ways. Don’t you think it’s weird how we take his simple story and make up complex theories about it that only the professionals can help us sort out? And then – if that wasn’t stupid enough – we create complicated, expensive, and elaborate ways of conveying the simple story!
When someone asks me what I’m doing these days I usually say something like, “I’m trying to live a simple life of service.” What I do in service to God these days doesn’t tend to have so much of a “professional” air about it. I’m not a “professional” anything. I’m just a simple guy on a friendship quest.
The simple ways have their utilitarian benefits. For one thing it’s good for me personally, because I’m not so stressed out about the mechanics of “doing the ministry.” It’s less nerve racking since it doesn’t require lots of “attractional ministry” bells and whistles. Since I’m not trying to impress anyone or manage any sort of ministry machine, I’m not so sidetracked from my actual kingdom-advancing ambitions.
Another benefit of the simple is how achievable it becomes for other people to be able to do what I do. Simple is reproducible. That leads me to the next “mantra.”
I am trying to be more of a “pacesetter” than a “superstar.”
In marathons, many of the racers have a pace setter run with them for a while to keep them on the pace they should be running at any given leg of the race. If the pacesetter just flat out sprints at the beginning or the middle of the race, he does no favors for the racer. His pace makes the race unachievable for him. He can’t keep that pace for the rest of the race without killing himself. I wonder if our rock star church leaders unintentionally make the Christian life that they model from their superstar stage unachievable!
Shouldn’t we rather be facilitators of spirituality, making the Jesus lifestyle and life of service more accessible and attainable to our friends? Isn’t that more an expression of love for God and love for people and a more effective method of disciple-making? Mightn’t it be more loving to God and man if we made living for God more accessible?
The more our worship leaders are rock stars and our pastors channel Amway rally speakers the less we’re making what we do attainable for our just plain-folk friends in the pews. What I do is so simple that other people can do it too. It’s reproducible. I’m not trying to outrun anybody; I’m just trying to be a good pacesetter to help them run their own race. To me, that’s what responsible spiritual leaders do.
[My next mantra is: I’m trying to impact people without having to impress them, and reach people without having to possess them. We’ll take a break here and continue in part two…]