Let Go and Lead

This week we’re learning about being selfless leaders, and I’d like to take this opportunity to propose stepping into lifeGroup leadership as a great way to practice selflessness.  Will you consider giving up to Jesus any apprehensions or concerns about time commitment, and leading alongside a group of people who are also learning to be more selfless?  


As I think about selfless leadership, I want to share a bit about Between Sundays, a book written by Karen Kingsbury that tells the fictional story of an NFL Quarterback who realizes that the most important victories are won off the field.  I read the book this summer and I kept thinking about our lives as Jesus followers.  What really matters is how we live our lives “between Sundays.”  It is good to come together as the family of God and worship and praise Him on a Sunday morning: we are encouraged from His Word and our faith is strengthened.  But then what?  What we do with what we know “between Sundays” is what matters.  With whom do we share what we learned?  How do we put our love into action?  Where do we use the gifts that God has given us?  How do we live out what we learn?  With whom are we building relationships?


lifeGroup is just the place to practice what we have learned on Sunday, to check in with one another and see how it is going living out what we have learned.  We can put into practice the very things that we have been asked to do. It is more than just another meeting we go to to fill our calendars.  It is where we help each other follow Jesus.


Lately we have been hearing a lot about 1more leader, and have been asked the question, “Will you choose to lead?”  Perhaps that word doesn’t sit well with you. You might say, “I’m not a leader, I don’t have those skills.”  Or, “I’m too shy to be a leader.”  Or, “I just don’t know enough about the Bible to be a leader.”  The truth is, we all have different styles of leading, but we are all people who can influence another person.  Without people stepping up and saying, “Yes, I will lead a lifeGroup,” we will stay at the same number of groups, reaching the same number of people.  Healthy groups are designed to grow and multiply.  I am thankful for the many people who have said, “Yes, I will step out and lead,” and the new groups that we have.  Most of those people at one time were unsure about leading a lifeGroup.  What they have discovered over time is that they can do it.  It is much more about facilitating a discussion and asking questions than it is about having answers.  It is about walking alongside of others and sharing life together, and discovering how to follow Jesus.  There is shared leadership in the group; it really does not fall on just one person.  


The last words that Jesus shared with his followers before he ascended into heaven were not about just going to church on Sundays; he said, “Go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19-20).  We need to do more than just “church” people: we need to disciple them.  Who do you share life with that is close enough to you that they can see how you handle a stressful situation, hear how you pray, actually read God’s word with you to learn how you ask questions of what God is showing you?  Who can you share your story with, and share the good news about the abundant life that is waiting for them as they trust in Jesus?  Don’t wait for someone else to step up; you can do it, you can lead.


To start the conversation, I’d love to know: where you have you led in the past, and what was that experience like for you?

 

What is Real Work?

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”  

1 Corinthians 10:31


What gets you out of bed in the morning?  And perhaps more importantly, why does it motivate you to put your feet on the floor and move forward?


In Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Timothy Keller (with Katherine Leary Alsdorf) argues that work is integral to our fulfillment as beings created in God’s image. God designed us from the beginning to delight in the work He gives us. Our first vocation, in Eden, was to garden. As Keller observes, gardening involves cultivating the raw material of the world, shaping, arranging, and limiting it in order to create more beauty, draw more food or coax more usefulness from what was there.  As God worked creatively and joyfully, we were made to work creatively and joyfully.


Does any of that sound like what you do, or aspire to do?


We are often vexed by this.  We long to achieve an ideal, a vision of beauty or order, of goodness and usefulness, and can never quite get there.  We experience frustration and friction in our work and relationships. We get tired. We struggle to find meaning in the endless “maintenance” jobs of life, or to find meaningful work at all.  


God’s original plan – a delightful relationship between us and our work, each other and Him, was undone by sin.  In the world we inhabit now, nothing is untouched by sin, including work.  But Jesus came to redeem the world: soul and body, work and creation, living and dying.  He came to make all things new.  As Keller says, “If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.  That is what the Christian faith promises.”


Which gets to motivation:  who are you working for?


If our work is redeemed through the gospel, then the attitude we take to work, the way in which we carry it out, and the results of our work can bring glory to God, regardless of our occupation.  How might you walk that out in real life?  The final section of the book discusses this; for example you might:

 

  • learn to recognize and resist the idols peculiar to your profession
  • utilize your Christ-like mindset and worldview in making decisions and relating to others
  • model rest and excellence in your work

 

As we do our work, which God has given us to do, for Him, we are able to work with more creativity,  purpose and freedom.  We know that in the end, we work for a Kingdom and a King that cannot fail.


I’d love to hear from you: what hobby, job, or other endeavor that you engage in brings you the most joy? 

 

Serving Is...

Serving is… SIMPLE.  Not always easy, but simple.

That’s an important distinction: simple is not always easy.  For example, we can be leaders and serve others by being truly present in each moment, fully engaged with the people who are in front of us.  Sounds pretty simple, right?

Not so, for me.  I often feel like I need to rush through things to get to what’s next.  And I confess that as I wrote this article, I was frequently distracted by a little girl who sometimes has much more to say than I think I’m capable of listening to in a given moment.  Ever been there?  It was honestly a real struggle for me to get myself to put the laptop down, let go of work for the two hours left before bedtime, and not worry about how to make the time pass quickly so I could finish my writing.

I had the same struggle while I was with other adults and teens on the mission trip to South Carolina a few weeks ago.  The photo here, which some of you may recognize from my original Facebook post, tells a story -- maybe something like, “You can use a power tool even if you’re pregnant!” -- but it hides an underlying dynamic.  Every time their was a new board to cut, I had to remind myself that it was much more important to let the kids use the circular saw and realize their own potential in building things for the Kingdom than it was to get things done efficiently.  This was a point that our Emily, our Youth Director, mentioned several times, and it was a crucial reminder for me to remain engaged in the moment and remember why we were there, rather than rushing to the next step in our project.

I’ve found that leadership, and discipleship in general, frequently involves such experiences: we want others to just “get it” so we can move on to someone else, or to some other focus area.  Whenever I take the time to reflect on this, however, I remember the truth as taught and lived by Jesus: serving is simple.  Focus on one person, one thing at a time.  Instead of grabbing a water to go, “sit by the well” while you drink and converse with others around you.

Serving doesn’t necessarily have to involve planning a service project weeks in advance, following a set curriculum, or even leaving our neighborhoods.  God designed us to live in community with others, and we’re already situated in communities where we can serve in simple, meaningful ways.

Here are just a few more examples of how simply being present in a moment can allow you to serve others:

  • Commit to spending the hour before dinner talking and playing together as a family or with your roommates, with everyone’s phones and other electronics put away.  

  • Ask a coworker or lifeGroup buddy to get ice cream or a drink with you after work, and take an hour or two to catch up (again sans phones).

  • Read to your child’s class once a week and make eye contact with each child, noticing how their little faces drink in the story you’re telling.  

  • When a friend shares how tired (s)he’s been lately, listen, and offer to babysit his or her kid(s) for an evening.

  • When someone who’s dealing with an illness, work crisis, or other struggle crosses your mind, pause whatever you’re doing and send a text message to let them know you’re in their corner.

Matthew 25:40 The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these bothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 

What reminders or practices have you found that help you to remain engaged in the moment?

 

See How Easily You Can Be a Blessing

Sometimes it seems like we wait all winter for summer to arrive, and then when it does our to-do lists are still there, and the extra time we were hoping for never shows up!  The sunny days are sometimes sporadic and life feels just as busy as it did the last nine months.

Maybe your family feels the same way. Maybe this summer you have every good intention of making sure your kids do something productive. Maybe this summer your desire was to have more family time. Perhaps you were hoping to spend some quality time with each of your children. Or maybe, you started off this spring intent on slowing down life this summer. Then the swimming lessons happened, vacations were booked, your load at work increased, the lawn needed to be mowed, and the deck still isn’t stained.

We can have every good intention, but until we are actually intentionAL, life can seem to pass us by. Without a plan and a goal in mind, it can get easy to wade through each day of life, and passing by opportunities to make a life-long impact. So, what is it that you want for your family? More family time? To serve your community? To build friendships that you have been neglecting? To re-ignite a passion for Jesus?

What could happen if your family intentionally decided to make every season a season of blessings? What if each week, you set aside time for your family to be a blessing to someone else? I’d encourage you to sit down with your family and dream about what that could look like. What excites you? Who in your life needs a helping hand or encouraging word? What might you have to give up to make this a possibility?

To get your creativity flowing, here are some ideas for 8 areas where your family could be a blessing ...


B – Block.

• Organize a block party or neighborhood cookout.

• Prayer Walk in your neighborhood.

• Offer to babysit for a mom in your neighborhood.

• Take cookies to someone on the block you haven’t seen in a while.

• Host a Backyard Bible School.


L – lifeGroup.

• Send a note of encouragement to someone in your lifeGroup.

• Not in a lifeGroup? Send a note of encouragement to a friend from the Church or consider trying out a lifeGroup for 4 weeks.

 

E - Excess. Our excess can be a blessing.

• Clean out the closets and donate the clothing or toys.

• Instead of eating out or seeing that movie, use the money to go shopping for food for a local food pantry.


S – Seniors.

• Invite an older adult from your neighborhood to dinner.

• Take flowers to a nursing home and visit with the residents.

• Call the local senior center and ask if they know of anyone who needs some odd jobs done around the house.

 

S – Surprises.

• Do something unexpected for a stranger. For example, pay for someone’s meal or coffee next time you are out or take cookies to a fire station.

• Mow a neighbor’s yard unexpectedly.

• Take a friend’s children out for ice cream.

• Drop off flowers on a friend’s doorstep.

 

I – Inside your home.

Sometimes it’s hardest to bless those that live under the same roof as us.

• Draw names and have secret “blessing partners.” Challenge your children to secretly do nice things for the person whose name they drew.

• Have nightly prayer partners. Take 10 min to pray for your partner each night, and rotate partners during the week.


N – New.

• Take cookies to a neighbor you have never met.

• Meet someone new next time you are at the library or park.

• Start a new routine (reading your Bible, walking, praying, etc.) and invite a friend to join you.

• Introduce yourself to someone new at church.

• Explore a place in town you’ve never been, and invite friends to join you.

 

G – Give your time.

• Volunteer at a local food pantry.

• Read for story time at your local library.

• Organize a food drive in your neighborhood.

• Pick up trash at a park.

How has your family been intentionally living a summer of blessing?  And let me know how you were blessed in the process!

 

I Am Not A Leader!

Why such resistance to the label?

As children we all wanted to take our turn at being the leader as we played follow the leader.

So, what changed for most of us?

What lies did we embrace along the way that left us with the impression that only a few could lead?

What self-defeating talk took root in our minds that led us to believe that WE WERE NOT LEADERS?

I love the way God is redefining leadership at the Church. Everyone gets to play! Everyone gets to lead!

Over the next couple of months we will be challenging our worldly views we have inherited concerning leadership. And, hopefully, we will continue to shift our thinking about leadership from something that is reserved for a select few who “qualify” to “everyone” who has been called by Jesus to follow Him.

You are a leader.

So, with a learner’s mind, let’s lay aside our various preconceptions and embrace the divine privilege of leadership. Our shared mission depends on it!

Take a moment to let this land on you. How do you respond to the notion that you are a leader? Do you embrace it? Do you resist it? If you do resist, what’s makes you hesitant?

Let’s talk about it.