Hold on to Your Why (Part 1)

We now know we have a why…an internal motivation that gives our ministry meaning. This why serves as our anchor when we are faced with the inevitable desire to quit, throw up walls or just go into auto-pilot. To often, that why gets lost in the urgent, monotonous or discouraging things we encounter as we serve. How can we keep our why front and center when all the white noise is looking to push it to the sideline?

Over the next couple of posts, we will take a practical look at some things we can do to elevate and re-embrace our why.

First, Identify your why.

Hold up-don’t we know our why? I can’t start on that assumption. Personal experience has shown me that when discouragement hits, I often have to rediscover why. Why am I serving even though no one seems to care? Why am I investing in people when no one is investing into me? Why am I putting in hours (that, let’s be honest, we don’t really have) only to have no one show up? If we are asking why questions, chances are we need to go back to the beginning and reunite with our why. How do we do that? Take those same why questions and instead of asking them in a reactionary way, ask them in the future tense. “Why would I be willing to serve even if no one cares?” “Why do I want to invest, even if no one is investing in me”?, etc.

For many of us, the answer is: People. For those called to ministry, it is liking having a beating piece of God’s heart deposited in yours. We want to see people know Jesus. We want to see them walking in victory and in the fullness that God has planned for them. We want to see a God centered community formed that then impacts the city around us and glorifies God.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the contrary. If you why isn’t centered on service and glorifying God, it may not be a why that will keep you going. I can say that I want to change my eating habits to look good. But that motivation, that why, may not be enough for me to withstand the immediate gratification associated with a yummy bowl of ice cream. My why has to be bigger than me. As a mom, if I say I’m going to change my eating because I want to make sure my son grows up with healthy habits-bam, I have a why bigger than me.

Ministry was never meant to be about me. I have found personally, if my why has become askew, my what and how become labored and trying.

So, for this week-identify your why. If it is off, realign it and start fresh.

Next Week: Why be accountable?

Have you experienced a why that was off? Share in the comments. Let’s learn from one another. 🙂

Photo creds: paulmadson.com

Hold on to Your Why (Intro)

It amazes me  how intertwined our lives are. As mentioned in a previous blog, whenever I learn about a new app at work geared toward organization or collaboration, my first instinct is how I can I use this at/for church. As a new mom, it is encouraging to see this overlap yet again.

When I was pregnant with Caeden, I had a goal of a natural pregnancy and birth. I refused drugs to help my horrendous morning sickness and turned to ginger ale and Altoids instead (to all my ministry mamas out there…Altoids = God send). I enrolled in a Bradley birthing class, which my champ of a husband attended with me for twelve long weeks. At this point, many of you may be asking why? Which is my point today.

Why?

A friend of mine once said, “If you lose your why, you lose your way.”

Why was I able to endure the worst kind of ongoing sickness I have every experienced for over three months? Why was I able to embrace a pain that society has raised me to fear and do everything within my power to negate? Why? Because of my son. Because I wanted him to have the best start to life that I could give him. Because the importance of my goal was bigger than my momentary desire for relief. My “Why” was firmly in place.

After walking this path, I am amazed at how much the birthing process is like ministry. With a heart full of love, we embark on a journey, armed with dreams and hopes for the future. We dream of people being reached and God being glorified. Inevitably, the sickness comes. We endure, we go on, but we eventually get tired and become aware that there is an option to find relief-be it quitting, putting up walls or giving in to our now jaded vision. For the bi-vocational, this is doubly the case.  In the middle of it all, it is easy to lose site of the end goal, the dream we embraced as we started down our path. If we do, eventually, we will lose our “Why”. If we lose our why, it is only a matter of time until we lose our way and drift from the course we have already given so much to travel.

In the middle of labor, I had to remember my why.

As you are birthing the dream and calling that God has placed in you-remember your why. Remind yourself regularly. Don’t be content to just go through the motions, because when push comes to shove, only your why will deliver your destiny.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Over the next few posts we will explore some practical ways to hold on to your Why.

What is your why in ministry? Share it in the comments and let’s pray and encourage each other while it is still today 🙂

3 Resolutions Everyone Should Put at the Top of Their List in 2016

Ever feel like January is a bunch of Groundhog Day’s stitched together…like an iPod stuck on replay?

Perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder why so many are still hopping on and off the resolution bandwagon, scrambling to find the right short-term fix for their long-term “needs”.

If you can relate, then hear me out. ‘Cause today we’re going to talk about how we can better fine-tune our resolutions1 by focusing on three practical “heart goals” we can all aspire to in 2016.

  1. Pray…more.

Okay, okay…I know this is a “chalk” point2; however, it’s still worth mentioning considering it’s the most powerful form of communication we can experience.

Think about it: God loves us so much…He gave us a limitless lifeline (i.e. prayer) so we can dial into Him at any time…and join Him in making a difference.

I don’t know about you, but I find this [very] encouraging…knowing we can pursue God through prayer and partner with Him in His work no matter where we are or what we’re going through.

Granted, as bivocational believers, there will be times the enemy tempts us into thinking our prayers are less effective (compared to full-time ministers)…and distracts us into less frequent, circumstance-driven prayer.

However, the truth is: we can pray boldly and effectively because we’re made righteous through Christ (James 5:16)…and are equipped with a purpose and a plan that no one can strip away.

Thus, it’s important we take time to consider how God wants to use us through the power of prayer in 2016, whether it involves healing the brokenhearted…opening closed doors to advance the mystery of God…and/or shedding light on the truth of who God is (Colossians 4:3, Ephesians 5:13).

2) Memorize…more.

To be honest…I’m not the biggest fan of memorization; not because it’s a waste of time3, but because I’m simply not that good at it…it’s somewhat rudimentary (as a learning technique)…plus I’m perfectly content being familiar with as many things as I can.

So it should be no surprise when I say I don’t often involve memorization when studying the Word, considering I’d rather get the concept than the verbatim.

However…this doesn’t mean memorization doesn’t have a place in our spiritual walk…or that I’m even correct in my overall assessment. In fact, I’d submit it’s one of the most underrated forms of spiritual preparation (abiding + equipping).

Consider 1 Peter 3:15: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

IMG_5667At the sake of sounding cheesy, whenever I hear “being prepared to make a defense“, I immediately imagine a 19th century cowboy minister being able “draw” the words of God on demand…like John Wayne, except instead of a Winchester Model, you have powerful words of two-edged truth.

But though Peter isn’t emphasizing a particular apologetic discipline here, it can be said memorization is a worthy component to any readiness strategy, given its tendency to root head faith deeper into heart faith.

My advice? Don’t hesitate to memorize more…and take advantage of the fact there’s an app for that (See “Fighter Verses” app (right screenshot); Jeff Ling’s post for more insight here).

3) Reach out…more.

Whenever we hear “reach out”, it’s easy to think go on more mission trips or go to the soup kitchen every weekend. But in this case, when I say “reach out”, I’m talking about confidently pursuing life-on-life opportunities…in the flesh. Person-to-person…face-to-face. Yes, there is a place for online community and virtual relationship (as I wrote about a few weeks ago); however, with more of our social interaction taking place by “i-Products” these days, it’s important we commune intentionally, especially if leaving a Kingdom legacy matters to us.

Case in point: A couple years back, my wife and I talked about this issue…and at the end of our conversation, she challenged me to initiate three hangouts/phone-calls (outside my normal routine) a month for three months.

At first, I had my reservations…especially since we were in the middle of a relationally dry season. But as I started to carry out the charge, it wasn’t long before I realized this is what I was made for; this is what I should be doing more often!

I’m telling you…simply putting myself out there was a game-changer. In fact, had I not gone into “challenge accepted” mode, I wouldn’t have been able to listen, encourage, and pray God’s will/best into action the way God had for me.

You see…often times, we think we have something to lose being vulnerable and available, but once we realize this kind of withdrawal mentality doesn’t come from God, we can take it captive and ultimately discover the pure thrill of reaching out on purpose.

In light of this, my encouragement to you, friends, is to keep the foot on the gas pedal this year…to keep doing the good things you’ve been doing…just more of it.

Seriously, just imagine if we all got in on this…how many more lives would be impacted…

Footnotes

  1. As January fades into February…I find the transition to be a great time to reevaluate my resolutions. After all, when we aim to cling to what is good, we should also want to cling to what is necessary…and appointed for such a time as this…so at the end of the day, we may reach the prize to which we’re running towards
  2. “Chalk” point = an obvious statement worthy of mention
  3. Though I’d say otherwise if it’s used as a primary means of retaining knowledge
Photo credits: themogulmom.com

3 Ways to Overcome Loneliness

Have you ever felt ‘home’ locationally yet far from it relationally…

…secure in the journey, but perhaps insecure in community?

No question, it’s an awkward emotional dichotomy…to feel in love where you’re at yet estranged at the same time.

Perhaps you’ve wondered what do when you feel like you’re not connecting or what to do when you feel God isn’t honoring your obedience with the right relationships.

If that’s you, then heed my words…

…’cause truth is: I’ve been there…

…and in some ways, I’m still there.

And I’m sure for many of you reading this…you can say the same.

With that said, here are three ways to rightfully cope with the contradiction.

1)      Live and breathe God’s wholeness. 

No doubt, God is enough. The question is: do you honestly believe it?

Consider Jeremiah…a prophet whose calling meant to be alone, as evidenced by his directive not to marry, go to weddings or funerals, be in the presence of feasters and merrymakers, etc.

When we study Jeremiah’s narrative, it shouldn’t surprise us to find him often discouraged and depressed. After all, Jeremiah was entirely human…and to be without friends is one of life’s greatest challenges. But though Jeremiah carried certain “love deficits”, this didn’t keep him from finding satisfaction in God, as noted by his tendency to open prayer with “sovereign Lord” and conclude it with a reference to His steadfast love and/or power. Though Jeremiah lived without companionship, God was able to use his singleness and isolation to fulfill His purposes1 through him in ways that couldn’t have happened had he shared dependence.

1352897081As for us, there may be seasons when God temporarily detaches us to cultivate greater dependence on Him, as He did with Jeremiah. But while these seasons may be arduous, we can still find contentment in knowing God always has our best in mind and always sees the beginning from the end.

Hence, it makes perfect sense to receive God’s wholeness since it not only helps us cope with our deficiencies, but provides spiritual nourishment to keep going…all the while, renewing our trust in His providence.

2)      Pray the Word over your location. 

Let’s be honest: It’s easier to pray for people you know than those you don’t, right?

…especially considering we live in a compartmentalized culture where our concept of the world is essentially our concept of ‘our world’.

However, let’s say God repositions you in a foreign place or season. Would the change be enough to diminish your prayer life or would you stay persistent regardless?

While prayer can certainly benefit from sound company, truth is: the tempo of our prayer life should not be dictated by our social life2 or lack thereof.

Why? ‘Cause at the end of the day, it’s God who orchestrates our connectedness!

Thus, if we’re feeling dissatisfied or desolate, we should feel compelled to turn to God without hesitation and seek his direction, considering if anything is in the way, it’s likely a stronghold of man.

So next time you find yourself disappointed by the hardness of your heart and/or surroundings, pray the Word over your location…and choose to make intercession your default as opposed to withdrawal.

Again, it may not be easy, but you can, at least, bank on finding fuel even when you’re running on empty.

3)      Focus on opportunities to serve.

As mentioned before, we all want to belong…and find our place.

However, though the desire itself makes sense, the problem is often how and where it’s prioritized.

For instance, if the desire is overly prioritized, then we risk engaging community as a means to an end, where on the flip side, if the desire is not prioritized enough, we risk relationship being a nonchalant concept, dependent on chance rather than intention.

But if we truly want to bridge relationships organically, why not focus on opportunities to serve and invite God into the process?

Seriously…it’s not like we have anything to lose yielding to the Spirit’s leading.

And if you think you got to have friends before you can find your “place,” consider how God prepared the way in Scripture time and time again (i.e. God frequently prepped the territory before tending the inhabitants; see Deuteronomy 1-16, John 14:3).

In short, when it comes to seeking connection, the best approach is to let God be God by consecrating our relationships (present and future; real and hopeful), staying rooted in prayer, and seeking His desire to plant us in the best place possible…in the best way possible.

Footnotes

1) To fulfill his purpose, it was essential Jeremiah relied entirely on God, considering he may have a) integrated a fear of man into his prophecies or b) fallen away completely had he placed his own needs above God’s wants.

2) Or how we feel our social life is

Photo credits: https://blog.febc.org
https://c2.staticflickr.com/

3 Reasons Why Bivocational Ministry is Necessary

Last time out, I talked about three unique challenges for 21st century youth pastors. Today, I’m going to change course a bit and discuss three reasons why bivocational ministry is necessary, especially in the time we live.

1) It Extends Kingdom Power

For those who are in Christ, there’s no greater call than to be an extension of God’s life (i.e. fullness, wholeness, and freedom) to the lost1. Unfortunately, for many churches, such life remains concealed by a culturally-dictated ‘separation of church and state’ philosophy.

Granted, the relationship between church and state has been controversial since the discovery of America. Yet, despite where the 21st century western church is today, I believe the body of Christ must remain fearlessly committed to farm faith and carry the Gospel torch into secular arenas, especially the bivocational.

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‘Cause when we dare to live what we preach, we help chisel away part of the wall between culture and church by giving people within our sphere of influence the opportunity to taste and see that the Lord…is…good (Psalm 34:8).

Now I admit: representing the Gospel consistently in the ho-hum places of the world can be a great challenge; however, if we truly seek to leave a Kingdom legacy wherever God takes us, we’ll not only inspire people through the decisions we make, but also position ourselves to be supernaturally refreshed.

So in short, if we’re faithful to salt our surroundings with faith, hope and love, we’ll not only inspire the broken, but also encourage the saved (through steadfast encouragement and accountability).

2) It Promotes Greater Reliance

Bivocational ministry is complex…especially when you consider we live in an increasingly pluralistic society where more and more ministers juggle multiple responsibilities and work secondary jobs to make ends meet.

While this may sound like the foundation of a stress-laden lifestyle, truth is, there are many benefits to living a life full of personal and financial sacrifices.

For one thing, a bivocational life compels one towards greater reliance upon God.

What do I mean by “greater reliance”?

Well, for starters, “greater reliance” means you don’t have to live in perpetual discouragement when you find yourself wishing you had more time to invest relationally and/or ministerially. In fact, with “greater reliance”, you can simply confess your limitations to God and invite Him into your circumstances, regardless of how they look2.

Note: For those looking for deeper theology here, I know this may sound painfully basic, but trust me…when you put “greater reliance” into practice, you’ll not only strengthen your spiritual walk, but the tent pegs of your faith’s influence as well.

How awesome is that?

3) It Encourages the Saints

I mentioned earlier how bivocational ministry is necessary in the sense it extends the power and influence of Christ’s Kingdom further into secular settings.

While this is undoubtedly true, it shouldn’t overshadow the fact bivocational ministry is also meant to be a place of encouragement for other leaders trying to stay the course.

In fact, I’m submit we should be just as passionate about reaching “the ends of the earth” as taking advantage of the “open door” opportunities God sets up for us to share our testimony with those in similar boats of life.

As far as people thinking this isn’t necessary, especially since more bivocational ministers leads to a more diluted pastoral profession, let me just say this: if we’re serious about expanding truth, then shouldn’t we want to reach those who’ve been given the opportunity to reach more people? Or are we so concerned about our own qualifications we forget God has already qualified the called (Romans 8:30)?

I mean…I confess…I can be a “challenge accepted” kind of guy.

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But as one who doesn’t buy into the ‘pastor is only a pastor if he’s a licensed full-timer’ notion, I believe it’s important for bivocational ministers to realize though the balancing act may involve certain acquiescences, ministerial professionalism (which includes supporting our fellow leaders in the Lord) should never be one of them.

As the Scriptures say, we work for the Lord in all things (Colossians 3:23-24)…and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to be on call to live the call3 (#ambassador) every waking moment.  ‘Cause at the end of the day, whether it’s from a pulpit, cubicle or cash register, what truly matters is God being utmostly glorified.

Footnotes

1) In other words, restoring God’s original design

2) Thus, living bivocationally not only carries the potential to develop stronger reliance, but sweeter intimacy as well. Furthermore, I’d submit if we’re living our bivocational callings effectively, then there should be moments along the journey where we have no choice but to fully surrender and proclaim our dependence upon the Lord

3) Somebody issue a ‘Hashtag Watch’ for this 😉

Photo credits: http://www.releasetheape.com & centerpointchris.files.wordpress.com