Tag Archive for: prayer

We do a lot of talking about mission, especially the mission of the church, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” My perception is that you, as a leader, keep that mission in mind in most of what you do. My question is, do you feel connected to the mission? Do you feel what you are doing really makes much of a difference? 

You might be doing all the right things. You love the people entrusted to your care. But you just don’t feel the spark any longer. What’s happening? What’s going on? 

Bring Meaning to the Mission

What I am learning is a sense of fulfillment is needed to bring meaning to the mission. The question is, what brings that sense of fulfillment? 

You might think of it this way: goals are good and necessary. You can define and track your goals and you can show how you have reached your goals. Yet, you can feel disconnected from a larger sense of purpose. Chasing goals day after day, week after week does not bring the engagement needed to bring a sense of fulfillment. 

Interrelated Leadership Models

Over the years, I have identified and defined at least three models of leadership. Each model is needed to be an effective and courageous leader, but it is only when the models are intertwined and focused upon the mission that they are effective. Refining your leadership skills in each area will help you become the missional leader needed today. 

Qualities of the Leader

One model of leadership is defined by the qualities of the leader. Are you a person of integrity, transparency, and empathy? Do you inspire loyalty, communicate clearly, and develop relationships? These qualities are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can learn all the right qualities and do all the right things and still feel disconnected and unfulfilled. 

Servant Leadership

A second model of leadership is servant leadership. It is best seen in how you care for the needs and interests of those entrusted to your care. Have you developed an environment of support in which people can flourish? Are you providing what followers want from their leader: trust, compassion, stability, and hope? These qualities of servant leadership are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can care for the needs and interests of people and still feel less than fulfilled as a leader. 

Missional Leadership

A third model of leadership is missional leadership. When grounded in a mission, people become both leaders and followers. They lead by living into their strengths and by offering their expertise. People follow by learning how to work in partnership with others. They share the values of the group and share a mutual sense of purpose. Missional leadership is an integration of servant leadership and the qualities of the leader. The three together provide what is needed for leading in the times in which we live. 

Many of us do well in leading by the criteria of models one and two. We offer clear direction and guidance, stay connected with people, and care for their needs. Yet, in midst of all the good work, we do not feel fulfilled. We can articulate the mission with little connection to it. 

More to Explore

You will find these blogs to be helpful in becoming a missional leader.

 Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church

Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church-Part 3

Mobilize for Ministry

So, what do we do? Below are seven questions that will assist you and the leaders of your church to brainstorm, reflect, and mobilize for ministry. They will require prayerful reflection, dialogue, and discernment. Some of the questions will require you to move beyond the walls of the church building and to talk with people in the community. Others will require you to explore the areas of overlap between the mission and the responses to the questions. 

These questions are simple and challenging. I can promise that, when you take these questions seriously, you will find meaning and purpose in your leadership. For a more detailed explanation and direction click here.

The 7 Missional Questions 

1.      God’s Presence: Where have you witnessed God’s presence in your community? Neighborhood? 

This is a good question to ask at the beginning of every meeting, with small groups, and at the end of each day. It is one of two foundational questions that contribute to congregational health. People who follow Jesus should be able to articulate God’s movement in their lives and identify God’s presence in their communities. 

2.      The Church’s Mission: What is the mission of the church? 

This question is not about mission projects or service opportunities. The question is about purpose. What is the purpose of the church? Does everyone know the mission? Do they not only repeat it but embody it? 

This is the partner question to naming God’s presence. Recognizing God’s presence and embodying the mission of the church are essential for healthy disciple-making movements. 

3.      The Mission Field: What is your mission field? 

Your mission field is the geographic region in which your church is located. Once you have decided your geographic region, define who lives within the mission field. After you know who lives there, define their habits and interests. Listen to their stories. Pay attention to their symbols. What do you need to learn about the people in your mission field, the people entrusted to your care? 

4.      Assets: What are the assets of your community? 

Make a list of the assets of the people who live in your mission field You are identifying skills, resources, and relationships. Other assets to explore include property, service, businesses, a community focus or physical attributes like a beach, a park, etc., and financial assets. 

To identify assets, take a walk through our community and meet the people in your mission field. Ask people this question: “What do you love about our community?” Neighborhood? City? 

5.      Needs: What are the needs in your community? Neighborhood? 

Make a list of the needs of people in your community. Remember that food, water, and shelter are the most basic needs. These are followed by safety, love, belonging, self-esteem, and respect. Recognizing and realizing your potential, learning, faith, and service round out your list.

To identify needs, when you take your walk through your community and meet the people in your mission field, ask this question, “What do you love about your community?” This question follows the question you asked in #4. 

6.      Relationships: What relationships exist with leaders in your community? 

Who are you and other church leaders in relationship within the following areas of your community: education, business, government, social agencies, first responders, faith/religion, arts and entertainment, health (hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinics)? What relationships need to be nurtured, reconciled, and re-established? 

A good place to start building relationships beyond the walls of the church building is with the principal of your local elementary school. 

7.      Collaboration: What is one way you can collaborate with another church? 

Develop relationships with other church leaders. Listen to their stories and how they express their mission, and what disciple-making loos like in their faith communities. Even though theology and practices might differ, you are on the same team. How do you join together to cover the community with God’s love? 

What Overlap Exists?

Now, here is where your missional leadership is most needed. What is the overlap between the mission and the responses to the other six questions? 

Your overlap might be where you see God at work in the lives of children, or in community leaders of in service organizations. Begin to tell the stories of God being at work in your community and invite people to participate in what God is doing. 

You can also go to the LeaderCast podcast for helpful information. Here are episodes that will help in becoming a missional leader. Purpose and Presence  Set the foundation for missional leadership with these two questions. Needs and Assets Bridge the needs and assets of your community with these questions. Relationships and Partnerships Leverage the people and connections of your community for kingdom impact.

It is time to move from talking about the mission to becoming the missional leader needed to have influence in the world today. I can promise you and the people entrusted to your care that once you are focused on the mission of the church, you will find the meaning and purpose that has been missing in your life and in your church. 

It is my hope that you can and will begin to build a file of resources that assists you in becoming the leader that makes a difference. 

Remember, who is are is how you lead.

How are you dealing with stress these days? Stress can take a toll on the best of us. No matter how strategically or effectively you lead there is always a level of stress. As you juggle multiple demands to meet the needs that keep your church or business running smoothly, the stress gradually builds. Before you recognize it, your body and mind give way to sleepless nights and high doses of caffeine. Without your attention, the stress finally takes its toll, and you are left in a mess. 

Busy or Stressed?

Many of us are reluctant to admit it when we are stressed. We usually choose to answer that we are “busy” rather than admit that we are overwhelmed or do not want to deal with the workload. Our reluctance to talk about how pressure is impacting us has reached the point that some of us are ineffective in our ministry, and we don’t admit it or recognize it…at least publicly. 

High levels of stress can have a negative influence and ruin your effectiveness as a leader. It is easy to slip into the stress trap as you work to resolve day-to-day issues while dealing with difficult and disgruntled church members and not to mention doing your best to reach new people. Add to the list family dynamics and lack of personal care, too much stress causes unnecessary and often unnoticed anxiety and worry. 

I don’t need to continue down that negative path. You already know that stress keeps you up at night and irritable during the day. You already know the symptoms of being tired, sad, and disinterested, as well as poor eating habits and the general dislike of certain people. 

Not all Stress is Bad

But with all of that, not all stress is bad. 

There is healthy stress. When you are healthy as a leader, you search for answers to problems, connect with others, effectively use resources, and creatively use your strengths, talents, and skills. Keep that in mind, because when stress is not healthy, it overwhelms, isolates, and paralyzes. 

As a leader, you will feel pressure from all sides. Whether it is to meet certain expectations from supervisors or to address the needs and wants of the people entrusted to your care, there is pressure. The question is, how do you transform the pressure or stress into effective and courageous leadership? 

There are respected physicians and consultants who can and do provide effective plans for dealing with stress. I’m not attempting to take anyone’s place. I simply want you to consider how you can name your stress, face it, and transform it as a healthy leader. Below are four things to consider:   

Be True To Yourself

The greatest internal cause of stress is trying to be someone you aren’t. Knowing yourself frees you from living inconsistently and enables you to live within your values. It strengthens your ability to withstand pressure from others. 

It is not unusual to give up personal time and to work as many hours as needed to get the job done. But to be an effective leader, you must know your limits, set your boundaries, and care for your emotional, mental, and physical health. 

Take time to exercise, to pursue a hobby, to be with the people you love. You know what energizes you and what brings you joy. You can and will transform the stress you experience into effective and courageous leadership when you are healthy and in sync with yourself. 

Focus On Your Purpose

Another cause of stress is saying yes when you should say no. One of the causes of stress is that you do not keep your purpose clearly in focus. You are out of focus when you fear saying “no” will cause people not to like you. As an effective and courageous leader, you learn to prioritize both people and work. You don’t have to say “yes” to have people like you. 

A common mistake leaders make is trying to do it all. When you lose focus, you invite more stress, and when you are more stressed, you are counterproductive. Learn the strengths and abilities of the people with whom you work. Delegate tasks. Set people free to be who God has created them to be. Trust that they can do their jobs well and avoid being a micromanager. 

Keeping your focus allows you to get more done in less time. It transforms your stress into effective and courageous leadership. 

Adapt To Changing Contexts

Another cause of stress is trying to control things you can’t control. You can control what you do. You can influence what others do. But you can’t control the situations or the circumstances in which you and others interact.

Being true to yourself and focusing on your purpose is essential in keeping what you cannot control in check. So, keep yourself focused on what you can control. When you need help, ask for it. Effective and courageous leaders know what they need to get the job done. Working collaboratively is what makes a good leader a great leader. It is shortsighted to think that you can do it all without support. Knowing what you can and can’t control takes the pressure off you and helps develop the strengths and skills of the people with whom you work.

This might come across as stating the obvious, but you cannot control what is happening in Ukraine. You might not be able to influence the Ohio State legislature regarding concealed weapons or voter redistricting. You might feel helpless in what is happening in the United Methodist Church. But you do have control over how you will lead in the midst of what you cannot control, and you have influence over how the church responds.

Adapting to what you can control leads to effective and courageous leadership. You can transform stress into effective leadership by being true to yourself, keeping your purpose in focus, and leading through the chaos and confusion of what can be controlled and what cannot be controlled.

Surround Yourself With Trusted Leaders 

Another cause of stress is a lack of trust in the people with whom you work. You can and will relieve yourself of stress when you develop and trust the strengths, talents, and skills of the people entrusted to your care.

Effective leadership is not a matter of authority or position, it is a matter of emulation. The people with whom you work want a leader they can trust. When you cultivate an atmosphere of trust, you find yourself in the midst of highly productive and hope-filled leaders.

Effective and courageous leaders are content to see the honors and rewards of hard work go to their followers. When people know that you trust and respect them, they trust and respect you.

Effective and courageous leaders are loyal to those entrusted to them. When people know that you have their backs, they are free to live into their full potential as leaders.

Effective and courageous leaders live by the words of Jesus, “The greatest among you shall be the servant of all.” This is a truth that followers respect the most. 

There is so much more that can be said, but you get the point. Stress is a real and important issue in relation to effective and courageous leadership. As the leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that your stress levels do not impact the people with whom you work, as well ensure that their stress levels are kept in check. 

Stress and Christ-Centered Leadership

Allow me to conclude by reminding you of a familiar passage from Scripture and the pattern of read, reflect, respond and return. 

Read Matthew 11:28 

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” 

Reflect 

Jesus is speaking to all who are stressed. The words are spoken to people who are burdened with obligations that keep them from being in communion with God. In the case of stress, people who are burdened with situations that keep them from being who God created them to be. 

The invitation to rest is not an invitation to a selfish life of ease, but of deliverance from the artificial burdens that cause stress. 

Jesus is offering true Sabbath rest or the invitation to be true to yourself and to God’s love and care. 

Respond 

Where will I experience stress today? How will I address it? With whom will I share my stress? 

Return 

Where was I weary today? How did I respond to my weariness? What would I do differently? For whom am I grateful? 

O God, I give you thanks for what I have learned today and for the people who have helped me through my stress. Thank you for the rest you have provided.  Amen 

So, how are you dealing with your stress these days? Remember, who you are is how you lead.

This past week I read a quote by Pope John Paul II, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” The quote comes from a sermon he preached in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1995. In the sermon, he shared his passion for human rights. He referenced Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln’s dedication to freedom and equality for all people. He referred to himself growing up in Poland during the rise of the Nazi party. He said that “a true expression of freedom is not acting on selfish impulse but committing our lives to serving the greater good and standing up for what is right.”   

As I have reflected upon his words, I have been thinking of you and your leadership. You have been given the opportunity and the task to lead during a time focused upon personal freedom, often referred to as “rights.” Whether it has been the right to bear arms or the right to not wear a mask, the right to worship or the right to say what I want to say, you have navigated stormy waters of entitlement. 

I have also given thought to what it means to be a leader who is a follower of Jesus. What I have learned is freedom, particularly Christian freedom, is necessary for leading. When freedom is applied to leadership, it emphasizes the truth that everyone has the ability to make his or her own decisions, as well as the responsibility for those decisions. 

What I have experienced is most people think leadership works better when the leader has control instead of applying responsibility to freedom. It is as simple as emphasizing rules over relationships. Please understand that I am not downplaying rules, but I am emphasizing the development of relationships in regard to working for the greater good. Too often we take the path of least resistance and instead of standing up for what is right we give into the selfishness of personal rights. 

Freedom

In a time of entitlement, how do you model freedom and the responsibility of freedom? 

The reality is the way you live, the things you say, the attitudes you develop, the lifestyle you adopt, the people in whom you invest continuously produce either positive or negative results in your church and in your community. You are not detached or uninvolved in the trauma, turmoil, or tension of the day. In fact, you might be contributing to them. 

How you exercise your freedom, as a follower of Jesus, makes a difference. In an atmosphere of antagonism and an environment of hostility, you have the opportunity to lead with love and peace. The question is, will you live for yourself, or will you live for what is good and right for the people entrusted to your care? As a follower of Jesus, you have the right to live as the person God has created you to live. 

The apostle Paul faced a similar dilemma in Galatia. For Paul, Christian freedom was freedom to walk in the life of the Spirit. He understood that the unbridled passions and desires of our fallen nature were opposed to the passion and desires of our true and created nature. To put it another way, the passion of our hearts is opposed to the passion of God’s heart. To be led by the Spirit was to follow the direction of God’s purposes of love and peace. 

Paul knew the distinction between his desires, his rights gone astray, and the fruit of the Spirit through his own experience. His life had been in chaos. He had lived in rebellion against God. He was at war with himself. Then came the reconciling love of God. In Jesus, love for God and love for others came together in his heart and in his living. It all centered in the unifying love of Christ. 

The evidence of your integrity, as a leader, is witnessed in your obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. This is especially true as you lead through these challenging times. Paul said it this way, “I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other. Galatians 5:16-17, 22-26 

The impact of your leadership grows and is expressed when you willingly place your “rights” and your entitlements second to the new life you have received through Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is the outward expression of Christ living within you. Regardless of your position and power, giving yourself over to the direction and power of God’s presence in your life helps you become the leader needed for these difficult and challenging times. Whether with a world at war, a denomination in turmoil, a church in distress, or your own personal dilemma, the Spirit of God works to transform your life and leadership. 

Pray for Restraint

Fred Craddock tells the story of being asked to speak at a president’s prayer breakfast. At the time, the prayer breakfasts were held not only in this country but around the world. He said, “I got a letter from Washington asking me if I would hold one of these. The place was Seoul, South Korea.” 

“The general in charge, and my host, was four-star General Stilwell. He gathered officers and enlisted people in this large room. We had a nice breakfast and then we had prayers. It was not just prayers in name only. The general’s assistant, a colonel, had the soldiers there enter a period of sentence prayers. They had prayers for mothers and fathers and sisters and babies and for my wife back home and for peace in the world. They were emotionally moving prayers. 

“There was a young private from Formosa who played ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipe before I spoke. The general sat there with tears in his eyes. He said, ‘I love that song.’” 

Craddock said he gave his talk. Then, there was a benediction, and the room began to empty as the soldiers filed out. He shook hands with the general and thanked him for his gracious hospitality. The general said, “I want you to remember us in prayer.” 

And Craddock said, “I will. You know I will.” 

Then the general said, “Pray not for more power. We have the power. We could destroy this whole place in one afternoon. Pray that we have the appropriate restraint.” 

Craddock continued, “It was such an unusual request. ‘Pray that we have restraint.’ He knew his history. He knew he was American, and restraint is built into our history. Why do we have executive, judicial, legislative branches except to build in restraint? Why is it said that we shall allow a person only two terms as president? Restraint. Why do we say that the commander in chief of all armed forces of this country will always be a civilian? Restraint. 

“The general knew that the mark of a civilized society is the restraint of power. The mark of a civilized human being is restraint of power.” 

Every time I read or hear someone say, “It is my right” or more specially “My God given right,” I stop and say to myself, “Of course it is. But is it right and good for you to exercise your right in relationship with the people around you? 

When Craddock left the room, everybody was gone except the general and his aide. His aide asked, “General, shall I bring the car around?” 

The general replied, “Not now, I want to sit here awhile.” In the silence of the moment, he asked the private from Formosa to stay and play on the bagpipe. 

Craddock looked back as he left the room. There was the general seated alone with the private in front of him playing “Amazing Grace. Craddock said, “Now isn’t that a picture? Four stars shining, listening to a voice of restraint.” 

Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” The true expression of freedom is not acting on selfish impulse but committing our lives to serving the greater good and standing up for what is right. 

In a time of entitlement, how do you model freedom and the responsibility of freedom? Try living with the restraint of doing what you have the power and position to do. Then, live in a relationship with the people around you in expressions of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Your leadership will reflect the love and peace of the One who gave you the power in the first place. 

Reflect on Your Rights

Today, take a moment to reflect upon your “rights” as a leader.

Would you say your inner life and outer life are integrated?

What are the barriers in your personal life that keep you demanding your own way?

Who do you need in your life to assist you in producing the fruit of love and peace?

Are you willing to be held accountable to loving others as God in Christ has loved you? 

The true expression of freedom is not acting on selfish impulse but committing your life to serving the greater good. Restraint is love’s submission to integrity.

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

You have been leading through difficult times. I don’t have to tell you how difficult it has been or what you have had to navigate. But I imagine that about the time you are ready to take a breath and to get some traction, there is a war breaking out and denominational turmoil unfolding. So, how are you doing today? 

If you are wondering if there is any hope in the midst of all the difficulties, chaos, and confusion, I can tell you there is hope.  Hope centered in Jesus. Hope for our future. I’m sure of it. 

It has been my experience that in the midst of change, whether I want it or not and whether I like it or not, God has something new and exciting on the other side of the difficulties and confusion. 

Remembering Hope

Take a journey with me today that will lead to remembering the hope that God has offered to us in and through Jesus. As we start this journey, there are several things you can do.  

You can remember the past. 

You can think about how things used to be and yearn for something that is never coming back. You might be thinking of your congregation during its “glory days” and are convinced that with the right leadership, (young pastor with a family), your church could get those glory days back…just as you remember them.   

You can remember the present. 

You can think about how things are now and enter survival mode. You are realistic about the uncertainty of the future, not only of the denomination but of your own congregation. People are getting older, there are fewer and fewer young people, so let’s go into a holding pattern and “wait and see” what happens. 

You can remember the future. 

With the mission as your guide, you can think about what is possible at the moment with the resources you have been given. 

Revelation

The writer of The Revelation of John remembers the future.  He “pulls back the curtain” of the future and presents a vision of hope. 

So, this is what I want you to do. Take a day this week, or better yet, take the days of this week, and READ the scripture, REFLECT upon one aspect of it, RESPOND by focusing upon that aspect during the day, and RETURN at the end of the day to reflect upon and assess what you have experienced and learned. 

Participating in the practice of Read, Reflect, Respond, Return, can and will lead you into remembering the future with hope. 

READ: Revelation 21:1-7 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  

I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  

I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end. To the thirsty, I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters. 

REFLECT 

The world in which John and the people entrusted to his care have been living is in turmoil. Their lives have been interrupted and what they have known as normal has been changed. John is writing to give them a vision of the future. The image that comes to mind is, “he pulls back the curtain to the future” and he tells what he sees.  

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth…”  This is a way of saying that he saw a new day, a new order, a new life. He sees healing and hope. 

“The former heaven and the former earth had passed away…” He is saying that what has been known as normal is gone. There is good news in that statement because what has been normal was separation and chaos.  His next statement, “and the sea was no more” is a hope-filled statement. The “sea” was a symbol of separation. When he says, “the sea was not more” he is saying that there will be no more separation or that in the new day there will be reconciliation, a bringing together of the people who have been separated from one another.  

“I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…” He is saying that in the new day there will be a shift from being good enough to get into heaven to God getting heaven into us. And it will be as “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Those words are words of intimacy and relationship. God has come to be intimately related to us. It will be God’s relationship with us that gets heaven into us.

“I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” John is saying what he just said in another way. He is telling his followers and us that God is with us. We are his people. We can trust God for this new day. 

Then he quotes scripture to tell us what is going away, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” It is a new day in relationship to God. What has been normal, including the terror of death, is behind us. There is a new day, new life, a new order. 

Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters.” John is trying to get his point across to the people he loves, the people entrusted to his care. He repeats what he has been saying, again, in a different way. 

God is making all things new. We are God’s children. God will provide for us. 

By pointing out the future, John is offering hope to his people. 

RESPOND 

Take one of those themes and live it out each day this week. 

  • Day One: Where will you experience new life or a new order? Where will you experience healing and hope? 
  • Day Two: Where will you experience change or transformation? Where will you experience reconciliation?  With whom will you experience reconciliation? 
  • Day Three: Where will you experience God’s presence today? Where will you see Jesus? 
  • Day Four: Where will you experience being so close to God that you will stop and give God thanks for God’s presence and love? 
  • Day Five: Where will you experience God’s healing and wholeness today? With whom will you experience love and peace today?  
  • Day Six: Where will you experience new life today? Where will you be renewed by God’s grace? 

RETURN

At the end of each day, take time to look back over the day and reflect upon the experiences you have had, the encounters you have had with individuals, and the places you saw Jesus, God’s love, at work. Give thanks for the new life God is giving you. Give thanks for the people God placed in your life today. With whom did you experience forgiveness? Who might you need to forgive? 

As you come to the end of this part of our journey, remember God is doing a new thing in our midst. John pulls back the curtain of the future to let us see the hope that God provides as we step into the days, weeks, and months ahead. It will be different.  But with God with us, it will be just what we need to be who God created us to be. 

You are a beloved child of God and a hope-filled leader with Jesus at the center of your life. Pull back the curtain and catch a glimpse of what God has in store for you. You were created to lead at this time in history. Be the hope-filled leader God created you to be. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

You’re invited to pray every day at 8:46 am and 8:46 pm.

We’ll post prayers each evening at 8:46 pm on the Transforming Mission Facebook page. They’ll be simple sentence prayers with the hope that you’ll repeat the prayer into the evening and throughout the next day, pausing specifically at 8:46 am to pray. (Hint: Your cell phone alarm is a great alert system!)

Why 8:46?

The time represents how long now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used a knee to pin George Floyd by the neck on the pavement. As you know, Mr. Floyd died soon afterward.

As we unite in prayer, may we have eyes to recognize the evils of racism, the heart to be open to the necessary changes, and the will to confront the injustices of this world. Join us on the Facebook page at 8:46 pm. May prayer change us so we can change systems that perpetuate racism.

Additional Resources

Here are a couple additional articles about addressing racism and becoming antiracist:

The prayers posted are written by Tim Bias, Sara Thomas, and/or adapted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and Sacredise.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “You are an answer to prayer?” Have you heard those words when you did something helpful with a task or listened when someone had a problem?

I have said the words, “you are an answer to prayer” when someone, unexpectedly, has given me support or encouragement at just the right time.

The Harvest is Plentiful

This week, while reading the few last verses of Matthew 9, I was reminded of a special event in my life. The scripture reads as follows:

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
(Matthew 9:35-38).

The event took place when I fourteen. I had told my Sunday school teacher and my pastor that I thought God wanted me to be a minister. I think the words I used were, “I think God wants me to be a preacher.”

On the Sunday after I had made my “big” announcement, my pastor stood and told the congregation that God was calling me into ministry. But he said it this way, “God has answered our prayers and has raised up another worker for his harvest, Timmy Bias.”

Send More Laborers

Since that time, this scripture has been special to me. In fact, in response to what my pastor said, I started praying, “Jesus, send more laborers into your harvest.”

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. I can see it in my imagination. A flock of sheep milling around in a pen. Frightened and confused, stumbling blindly, bumping helplessly into one another, because they don’t know which way to turn.

Can you think of a better description of the day in which we are living? In the midst of this pandemic, we are wandering aimlessly, looking for a leader we can trust.

When Jesus saw the people, he was moved deeply. Out of his compassion he asked his followers to pray, “…ask the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”

Jesus, I pray that you send more laborers into the harvest.

What is your motivation?

The motivation is compassion, and most specifically the compassion you and I have experienced and received in and through Jesus. As much as we need to know and understanding some business principles, we are not a business enterprise. Our motivation is not an impressive bottom line. Our goal is not to enhance institutional pride. Our aim is not to be the biggest and the best.

Our motivation is compassion. There are people outside the walls of your church, people in the community in which your church building is located, who are lonely, confused, hungry, angry, hurting, dying. There are families who are disintegrating, young minds being destroyed by drugs, older people feeling forgotten. The need is almost overwhelming. Truly the harvest is plentiful.

In our scripture, Jesus sees the need and has compassion upon the people. He turns to his followers and says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest.”

Your Next Step

Take just a moment to name someone in your mind right now. Someone you know who is lonely or homebound or in need of care or a listening ear? It could be someone young or someone trying to find his/her way? It might be someone who is struggling with substance abuser or is a victim of a broken family? Who do you know who is down and out or even up and out? Someone who needs compassion and care. Get that person’s face in your mind and their name on your lips.

Jesus, I pray that you send more laborers into the harvest.

Catherine Marshall, in her book A Closer Walk, tells the story of Mary and Harold. They had moved to Chicago and were alone. Even though they had each other, they had no other friends. They were so lonely; they became irritable and unhappy with each other.

One thing they still did together was to read the bible. One night they read the words of Jesus from John’s gospel, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). Somehow the light of that passage penetrated their darkness. They realized that much of their unhappiness was caused by their self-centeredness. They asked themselves, “has Jesus chosen us for some kind of service? And what would it be in a city as big as Chicago?”

The first person they encountered after this discovery was the waitress who served them in a nearby restaurant. She appeared to be frustrated and Mary asked her if she were okay. The waitress said she had just moved to the city and was miserable. Mary and Herold said they would meet her after her shift, and they would be her friends.

A neighbor who was a widower became the second person they befriended. Soon a dozen people were meeting once a week for conversation and prayer. Out of those meetings grew a project called “Adventures in Friendship.” In less than a year, they had people gathering for prayer and conversation and involved in visiting the lonely and homebound in their apartment buildings and neighborhoods.

Mary and Harold became so absorbed in the needs of others that they soon forgot their own troubles. My guess is that they never thought of what they were doing as an answer to prayer. In the name of Jesus, they were simply showing compassion to people in need.

Be An Answer to Prayer this Week

Now, do you have a person in mind? Name on your lips? Someone who needs compassion and care?

Jesus had compassion on the crowd, He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”

Okay. Jesus, I pray that you send more labors into the harvest.

Will you be an answer to my prayer this week?

Some of you are stepping into new appointments in a few weeks. You will transition from one congregation to another, learn the names and lives of another group of Jesus followers, and develop life-long relationships which will bring meaning to your lives.

Others of you will return to faith communities where you are investing your lives in developing relationships, learning the needs and assets of the congregation, and engaging the congregation with the community.

Whether stepping into a new appointment or returning to a congregation, I want to remind you of three basic practices for leaders.

Three Essential Practices Transforming MissionPractice 1: Prayer

The first practice is Prayer. As a pastor, I learned early that most people wanted something from me or wanted me to do something for them. Early in my ministry, I liked the idea of being needed and wanted. The demand-filled day was welcomed. It was nice to be needed. After a while I realized that all requests for my time and energy were urgent. Even the trivial actions were dressed in words of importance.

Maybe it was because I was maturing or just getting weary, but the edge of the flattery began to wear off when I realized no one demanded that I practice a life of prayer. Even though I thought prayer was at the heart of my ministry, I was not praying. Oh, I prayed in worship and in public events, but I was not personally listening to God or guiding others into listening to God.

It was only when I began to intentionally focus upon prayer and to develop a life of prayer that I began to focus upon God’s desire for me, the church, and all creation.

As you step into this next year, make it a year of prayer. Please don’t let the urgent keep you from focusing on and listening to God.

Practice 2: Reading, Reflecting, and Responding to the Scriptures

The second practice is the reading, reflecting, and responding to the Scriptures. Again, early in my ministry, I found myself reading, teaching, and preaching the Scriptures more for information than for formation. Although reading and reflecting upon the Scripture was basic to my work, I began to realize that using the Scripture was not the same as listening to God.

Maybe it was because I was maturing or just getting weary, but I began to recognize that I was out of relationship with God and with God’s people. I began to understand that a major part of my work was to listen for God in and through the Scriptures. So, I began to study Scripture more for formation. I began to listen for God in and through the Scriptures. I began to ask God to help improve the acoustics so I could reflect and respond more clearly.

It was when I began to intentionally focus upon the reading, reflecting, and responding to the Scriptures that I discovered more of God’s design and desire for me, the church, and all creation.

As you step into this next year, make it a year of Bible study. Develop a pattern of reading, reflecting, and responding to Scripture. Improve the acoustics so you can hear God more often and more clearly.

Practice 3: Self-Awareness and Self-Leadership

The third practice is to be who God created you to be. Over the years of my ministry, I have wasted too much time and energy focused upon pleasing people. There have been times when I have lost myself in wanting people to like me. My insecurity showed up when I worked harder for compliments than I did at caring and compassion.

Maybe it was because I was maturing or just getting weary, but trying to be all things to all people got old in a hurry. I learned that for me to be my best was to be who God created me to be. So, I surrounded myself with people who loved me as I was but who would not let me stay the way I was.

Through the development of mature and intimate relationships, I learned and experienced God’s love in life-transforming ways. I was encouraged to be who God created me to be which set me free to lead courageously with hope.

It was when I began to intentionally focus upon developing caring relationships that I truly began to trust God and the people around me. It was when I began to be who God created me to be that I began to live the life God desired for me, the church, and all creation.

As you step into this next year, make it a year of getting to know yourself. Surround yourself with people who love you and who will clear a space for you to be who God created you to be. It will be in living out God’s design for your life that you will make the greatest impact upon family, friends, and congregation.

You and I have the opportunity to shape the course of our lives. As you enter this next season of your work, develop a life of prayer; and, read, reflect, and respond to the Scriptures. Let’s grow together in becoming the leaders God has created us to be.

Each of us faces times of uncertainty in our lives. Uncertainty comes with death or disaster. It comes with divorce, unemployment, or retirement. It comes with disappointment, lack of security, or the fear of the unknown.

Personally, I have come through several times of uncertainty. Times of not knowing what the future might hold and being paralyzed in regard to what decisions to make. I have felt I was caught in a place I had never been before.

Recently, I faced a time of uncertainty so great that I could not see beyond the moment. Uncertain about my future, I felt confused, hurt, and alone.

Facing the Future

It was at that point, in my anxiety, that a colleague and friend stepped in to help me face my future. I didn’t get a lot of sympathies, shallow agreements, or unrealistic platitudes. What I did get was a person of faith who allowed me to be me at the moment of my greatest need.

She created a space for me to talk about my disappointments, hurts, fears, and anxiety. Although there were times she did not agree with my assessments, she never passed judgment. She listened with compassion and, at the appropriate time, asked me questions I needed to answer for clarity and healing.

She offered Christ by embodying God’s grace. I began to trust her compassion and look forward to her questions. The space she created and the grace she offered allowed me to move past my anxiety to see new possibilities beyond what I had known or experienced up to that point in my life.

Healing and Hope

Within the process of healing, she provided opportunities to put into practice the new possibilities that were beginning to emerge. Along with plans for reading and reflecting on scripture, occasions to practice the presence of God through prayer and conversation, and the challenge to look beyond myself to see what new thing God might be doing, I was invited to put my faith into action. It was at that point I rediscovered God’s desire, to use me, to make a difference in the places I encountered the people God wanted me to love.

It was in and through her engagement in my life that this Jesus follower helped me experience hope in a time of uncertainty. She did not bring easy answers. In fact, she did not bring any answers.

She did bring God’s promises to bear on my uncertainty. She came alongside me, at the moment of greatest anxiety, embodying God’s love, to journey with me through my most difficult moments, to see what God might have in store for the future. She was an instrument of God’s hope.

Hope in Uncertain Times

It is stating the obvious to say that we live in a time of great turmoil. People are killed not only in the streets but in their places of prayer. We are experiencing the deliberate strategy of fear and hate that has turned into violence. If I had to choose one diagnosis for what wounds people the most today, I would say that the root of the fear and hatred is found in uncertainty.

People lack certainty in their jobs, in the economy, in their children’s future. They are asking questions like, “Will my pension be enough?” “Will my job last?” “Will there be a place for me?” I know that some of you are uncertain about the future of our United Methodist Church. We are trying to hang on to what we know and we are wondering what will happen if it turns out differently than what we expect.

Agents of Hope

I am convinced, that in this time of uncertainty, God is ready for the congregations of the Capitol Area South District to be agents of hope. We are the people to bring the great promises of God to bear on this time and place in history. So, why don’t we become agents of hope?

Let’s create spaces for conversation, where we can talk about our fears, disappointments, and uncertainty. Let’s create places of trust where, even if we disagree, no one is judged for their thoughts, feelings, or opinions. Listen with compassion and offer hospitality even in the midst our uncertainty.

Let’s offer Christ by embodying God’s grace. The space we create and the grace we offer will allow individuals and churches, to see new possibilities beyond what they have known or experienced up to this point.

Let’s put the new possibilities that begin to emerge into practice. And if no new possibilities emerge, let’s just be Christian in our living. Let’s come together as congregations and pray for the people that no one else wants and put our faith into action by receiving the people God sends to us. These simple acts of faith will help us rediscover God’s love and we will begin to love our communities the way God in Christ has loved us.

Engagement Brings Hope

Friends, colleagues, readers, it will be in and through our engagement in the lives of individuals, our churches, and our communities, that we will experience hope during our uncertainty. There are no easy answers. We have not come this way before. But, because of the faith God has given us, we can bring God’s promises to bear on this moment. We can become instruments of hope for this time and place.

Let’s come alongside the people with whom we live, work, and serve. Let’s embody God’s love and journey together through these difficult moments to see what God might have in store for the future.

The people around us, our families, our churches, our communities, are longing for hope to face the future. God has placed in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” It is the power of HOPE.

So, let’s give people what they are longing for. Let’s give them hope in these uncertain times.

 

 

Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.” Over the past 4 months, we have focused upon the great work of prayer. As I stated in the beginning, it is my hope, my desire, to raise up a new generation of Methodists who will do for our day what John and Charles Wesley did for their day.

I am writing to invite you to continue this prayer journey with me. I want to provide you with a weekly prayer and with prayer resources between now and the conclusion of the Special Session of General Conference in February. If you are willing to take this journey with me, click here to receive the prayer for this week. Please enter your first name, email address, and click submit. You will immediately receive the prayer for this week via email. Then, every Sunday afternoon, you will receive a prayer for the week.

Prayer Resources

This invitation is in relationship to Bishop Palmer’s invitation to pray daily for the Special Session of General Conference, February 23-26, 2019. I want to use our Bishop’s invitation as another point of raising up a new generation of Methodists.

Below are several suggestions and resources for your use.

  • Pause and pray daily for our church’s mission and way forward. For four minutes every day, from 2:23 through 2:26 PM, stop and pray for the Special Session of General Conference. (Notice that 2:23 to 2:26 coincides with the dates of the Special Session). I will be providing at least one prayer a week to assist you. You will receive a weekly email with prayers and/or prayer resources.

  • Engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-afternoon.  Those who have health situations making food fasts undesirable might consider fasting from social media, emails or another daily activity.
  • Consider using the weekly prayer calendar that is posted on the UMCPrays.org website. The calendar will be there through the end of February 2019. We will have the opportunity to pray for a unique group of names each week. The names will balance United States bishops and delegates with Central Conference bishops and delegates. It will also include General Secretaries, Commission on a Way Forward members, the Commission of the General Conference and the staff of the General Conference.

If you are ready and willing to take this prayer journey with me, just click this link, to receive the prayer for this week. Sara Thomas and I have provided a considerable amount of prayer and leader development resources for you and your church on www.transformingmission.org. Please let me know if you can’t find what you are looking for.

The Invitation

It is through prayer that you and I keep our focus upon God’s plan and purpose for our lives. It is easy to give into doing good things, even if it is for all the right reasons. It is easy to lose our focus upon God’s call upon our lives. It is easy to switch our allegiance from God to working for the “common good.” It is easy to lose our identity even in midst of spiritual activities and social action. It is easy to give into the “this must be right” feeling when the crowd agrees. It is difficult to speak up and act when it is against the crowd. The power to focus upon and live out God’s plan and purpose come through prayer.

There is a difference between a prayer life and a life of prayer. It is the life of prayer that keeps us focused upon God’s desire for the church and all of creation.

Let us become more who God has created us to be by praying together for one another and our church.