"What an amazing event!" That was my reaction this morning as my family and I helped out at two of our four 2011 Gift Marts. In this interview you will hear from Kirsten Strand, Community 4:12 Director who along with some friends started this Gift Mart 9 years ago. The first Gift Mart had about 100 volunteers and 800 toys donated and we gave back to the school about $800. And this year at just our two Aurora Gift Marts we will have more than 1000 volunteers, 8000 toys donated and give back to the schools about $10,000. Those numbers will increase dramatically when we get the totals from our other two Gift Marts in Joliet and Chicago. But perhaps the most impressive number to me is that we have apprenticed several other churches and there are now 15 Gift Marts across the country making this kind of impact in thier community.
When is the last time you asked God for a miracle? For the month of Decemeber at COMMUNITY we have been in a series titled, Christmas Miracles where we have dared to ask God to do what only he can do in our lives and the lives of those close to us. As an encouragement to ask big check out this story sent to me by Lane Hunter. Lane is on medical disability. Doctors told him he should have died years ago. Lane experiences excruciating pain every single day but it doesn't stop him in reaching out through email to many of his corporate business friends and acquaintances and asking God for a miracle. With his permission, I’m sharing with you the e-mail he sent me yesterday: "A man who used to work for me on the east coast was recently let go from his job, it was a shock to him after 28 years to be told he was out of a job and there would be no severance. He and I have been emailing back and forth sincemy disability. We have often talked about our faith, but he never took the step of faith; something always came up.When he let me know he was fired I told him to take it to God in prayer and if that did not feel like it was working, he should pray out loud, “God's will be done.”He took my name as a reference and interviewed at a few companies, the interviews went well but he was up against other people and it was close to the holidays. They told him they would call him on Monday morning. He did not get a call. Yesterday he was in the car driving and suddenly started praying out loud, “God your will be done.” Ten minutes later he received a job offer. He accepted. I told Mark that he should share his story with others and that he must remember that he was taken care of by God, and should now ask what can he do to serve God andothers. I believe this was a Christmas miracle happening to a man who was 54 years old and afraid of losing everything after a lifetime of hard work. Not every story ends like this, but this is one I felt like I should share." Are you asking God for something big this Christmas. Why not. He does the miraculous.
My good friend Bob Bouwer was having lunch with the campus pastor of COMMUNITY a couple weeks ago when he said, "Everyday at the top of my journal I write these three letters: E (emotional), P (physical) and S (spiritual) and then give myself a 1-10 rating." He went on to explain how this daily routine of rigorous self-evaluation helps keep him in a healthy place.
As I heard Bob talk I was inspired to do the same; but to use a tool that is a regular part of our coaching of leaders at COMMUNITY and explained on page 120 of Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement. We refer to this tool as "checking your RPM'S." This tool is based on Luke 2:52 that says, "Jesus grew in wisdom (mental) and stature (physical), and in favor with God (spiritual) and men (relational)." So for the last week on a daily bais I have put at the top of my journal these four letters: R (relational), P (physicial), M (mental) and S (spiritual) and given myself a 1-10 rating. I am already convinced that using this tool on a daily basis, rather than just during coaching sessions may be one of the most powerful self-leadership tools around. I would strongly encourage you to try it for yourself. Let me briefly explain each of these and give you a few questions to ask in your own daily self-evaluation.
RELATIONAL: Our relational world typically includes the people with whom we interact on a regular basis: our immediate family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and small group members. Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
How are my relationships at home?
What about my marriage, dating, or family life is going well? What’s not going so well? What would I like to change?
Who do I consider my closest friend? How is God using that relationship to grow me?
What are my relationships at work like?
Which of my relationships give my energy and life? Which are the most challenging or draining?
PHYSICAL: Our physical well-being is often the most overlooked aspect of a leaders life. Yet diet, exercise, sleep, and rest are all vital to our ability to lead effectively. If we are serious about developing as a whole person, we have to take seriously our physical well-being. Here are some good questions to ask:
Am I getting enough rest?
How is my current energy level?
What am I doing to maintain good health when it comes to exercise and eating habits?
Is there anything about my physical health that I'd like to change?
MENTAL: Another often-overlooked aspect is the development of our minds. In order for us to stay sharp and be a lifelong learners, we need to be challenged. Here are some questions we can ask to see if we are developing mentally:
What have I been learning lately?
How am I applying what I are learning?
What magazines, books, or websites do I read or access?
What thoughts have been dominating my mind? Are they drawing me closer to God? Are they pulling me away from him?
SPIRITUAL: It is also imperative that we discover and act on whatever it is that helps us grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus. Here are some questions we can ask to see how we are developing spiritually:
How would I describe my relationship with Christ right now?
What does it look like when I am feeling closely connected to God?
Which spiritual disciplines seem to help me draw closer to Jesus? Prayer? Journaling? Worship? Solitude?
Who is holding me accountable to practicing these disciplines?
What has God been saying to me lately through his Word? The Holy Spirit? Other Christ followers? Prayer?
The longer I am in leadership the more I am convinced that the most important leadership we can offer is self-leadership. Use this tool everyday and lead yourself!
Great stuff from Tim Keller and other church planters on Acts 1:8, church planting and reproducing. This video was originally shown at one of our Exponential Conferences a few years ago. A couple of my favorite lines from Keller are when he says, "Church planting should be a part of every church...and as normal as every other ministry" and then he ends with, "If you can plant a church, you should."
Over the last 18 months at COMMUNITY we have made strategic moves in order to mobilize all (yes, we mean ALL) our people for mission. Part of that process has been to clearly articulate in a simple way our mission and how we will carry it out. The mission is "helping people find thier way back to God" and the way we will accomplish it is throug the 3 R's. What is below is the script from a voice over I did for a video to explain in a concise way the Jesus mission at COMMUNITY.
MISSION: At COMMUNITY we have accepted the mission of Jesus and simply say it like this: "helping people find their way back to God." This mission is made up of three tasks:
REACH. First, we must reach people far from God. The Western Church is observing a dramatic shift from a Christian culture to a post-Christian one. It is now suggested that 60% of the people we want to reach will never enter the doors of our current forms of church. If that is true, we then need to allow our imaginations to be profoundly shaped by the biblical notion that God is sending us as He sent Himself in Jesus. Matthew 28 says to "Go!" and we are challenging ourselves to be the church who will reach people who are far from God.
RESTORE. We must also restore God's dream for the world. A common perception among pre-Christians is that Christ-followers talk about poverty and justice issues, but that we don't do much to address those issues. But Jesus expects us to change that perception. "He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free." (Luke 4:17-18) It is our mission to be a people who restore God's dream for the world.
REPRODUCE. We must then reproduce the mission in others. If we are called to go to "Jerusalem...Judea...Samaria... and to the ends of the earth," we have to find a new way of counting that results in rapid reproduction and exponential growth. This new math counts on you and your friends to start a missional church movement. Every movement starts with one person. When you and your friends follow the biblical example to become apprentices of Jesus, (2 Timothy 2:2) the result can be the beginning of a missional church movement. Through these apprenticeships, we will reproduce the mission in others.
Time Magazine compiled a list of the 10 best commencement addresses ever. This list included speeches by Winston Churchill (Harrow College, 1941); John F. Kennedy (American University, 1963) and even Steve Jobs (Stanford, 2005). Also on the list was Stephen Colbert (yes, that Stephen Colbert!) and his 2006 commencement address at little Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Colbert, who Knox had just awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, closed his address with a challenge about the power of saying, "Yes": "When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City, there was really only one rule ... When you improvise a scene with no script ... you have to accept what the other improviser initiates ... Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what's going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say yes. And if you're lucky, you'll find people who will say yes back. Now will saying yes get you in trouble at times? Will saying yes lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don't be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. Yes is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes."
You may or may not like Colbert’s politics, but either way if you want to lead your church toward mission, you’d better listen to his words of wisdom and lead with a "Yes!" The one thing every leader possesses that every follower needs to engage in mission is permission. And permission always comes in the form of a "Yes." Leaders, if you want to see missional engagement in your churches and ultimately a movement, you must lead with a "Yes" to your people's creative ideas. If your followers can’t get permission from you, then they may never be engaged in the mission. The great temptation is to respond with questions of how. But questions of how need to wait. If we respond with “How could you do that?” we immediately begin to sow seeds of doubt by responding to the individual’s vision with a question about strategy. If we ask, “How much would that cost?” we are responding to their vision with a question of tactics. The questions about “how” will come later on, but the reflex of an innovative leader needs to be "Yes."
Ever been around someone who has to be the focus of attention? And do you remember what it feels like being around that person? It feels like the person is needy and something is lacking so he/she is grabbing all the attention they can to compensate for something that is lacking.
Ever been that person who has to have all the attention focused on you? Remember the feeling? You feel empty and selfish. It's a self-serving experience to make sure you are the focal point.
In the wisdom literature of the Bible it reminds warns us, "Don't call attention to yourself, let others do that for you." (Proverbs 27:2) If we live a life that is constantly pointing to others, people will notice and be attracted to us. Who doesn't want to be around a person that let's them be the center of attention.
One of the great paradox of life is this: focus your life's attention on others and the attention of others will be drawn to you.
If a rediscovery of mission will bring new life to the church in the west; then consumerism may be it's death. The church, if it goes unchallenged will consume great Bible teaching; it will also consume community, serving experiences and even worship. But now an important question is emerging, "How do we keep churches from consuming mission?" It is not a ridiculous question! Who doesn't like to be a part of a cause greater than themselves? Don't most people like to think they are making a difference? Doesn't being on a mission appeal to an intrinsic felt-need that is in all of us? I believe the answer is "yes" to all those questions. And beware - after mission is consumed, if it stops feeling good, worthwhile and meeting needs, people will quit the mission! So back to our important question: "How do we keep churches from making mission one more product they consume?" Two suggestions:
Missionary As Identity - If we want the people in our churches to engage in mission we must make sure they understand that being a missionary is not something you consume, it is your identity. We must help them do the kind of spiritual formation that understands we worship the Missio Dei, and this missionary God sent His son, and His son sent the Spirit, and the Spirit of God sends us. If we can help the people in our churches see that we are missionaries, then mission will not simply be another program to consume, it will become their identity.
Missional Practices - To reinforce our identity as missionaries every church needs to teach and hold their people accountable for simple missional practices. At COMMUNITY, we are teaching our people five simple missional practices that are based on Genesis 12 that "we are blessed to be a blessing." These five missional practices are an acronym that make up the word B.L.E.S.S. (more to come on these practices soon). These missional practices will not only reinforce our missionary identity but also create a missional culture within a church.
I believe that the church in the west must rediscover it's mission; but at the same time we must be aware of mission becoming one more product for the church to consume! What else do we need to do to keep our people from just consuming mission? I would love to hear your thoughts!