Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template (2nd Ed.)

As shared at the Transmission 2019 conference on May 3, 2019

Original: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2018/04/24/integrating-ministry-marketplace-temple-template/

Today I want to talk about why Jesus’ temple entrance post-triumphal entry is significant for us as leaders.

But before I dive in, let me just say one of my favorite things to talk about is leadership identity. As vocationals, it’s important to believe what God says about us and how He’s made us to be. In Colossians 2 and Ephesians 2, Paul talks about how we’re called to be effective influencers and reconcilers; in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about how we’re to be Kingdom ambassadors, in 1 Peter 2, Peter talks about how we’re a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation.

But to be all these things, we must walk in three strengths: courage, boldness, and confidence.

Interestingly, one of the places Jesus demonstrates all three of these qualities is the temple. So if you have your Bibles/Bible apps, turn to Matthew 21:12-17

As mentioned, after Jesus finishes the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he goes to (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why he went there (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known…that speaks to me. While we tend to focus on Jesus’ frustration in this passage, the key is Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional with the truth, and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

When we talk about our identity as leaders, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective leader, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with our spiritual gifts; yes, we can be articulate and persuasive, but if what we’ve given from God is used with limited integrity, if we’re tolerating fear in any way, we won’t be able to walk in our leadership identity fully.

Secondly, when we consider Jesus calls the temple “my house” (v. 13 – “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find God’s view of leadership as an extension of our priesthood and a place He intended for our good where we can be influencers, reconcilers and ambassadors.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal its purpose (i.e. a place where the Holy Spirit could dwell, of influence and vertical communication), but to inspire the sick, the poor and downcast to better know that purpose (v. 14).

Accordingly, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus leaves in v. 17. Jesus didn’t come to assert his identity, but re-establish an identity his Father intended. This is a big part of why those who weren’t offended were drawn to him…because he had something in him bigger than himself…something that pointed to being loved by God.

At this time, I want to introduce a fairly new concept inspired by Benji Block.

Going back to our aforementioned three strengths (i.e. courage, boldness, and strength), it’s important we understand them as separate yet linked entities. While a future post will be written on their relationship, here’s what I will say for now:

  1. Courage is yielded trust, relying on God’s strength in the moment.

  2. Boldness is matured courage (courage in rhythm).

  3. Confidence is matured boldness (boldness in rhythm).

Using a race analogy, courage gets us to the starting line regardless of fear. While choosing courage doesn’t automatically remove the fear, it ultimately positions us to see the value in running the race.

Put another way, if courage says ‘yes’ to run the race, boldness says ‘yes’ to keep running once the gun goes off.  Granted, you may still have doubts and cramps, but nothing can change the fact your commitment is etched in action. Once established in pace, boldness can then yield to confidence, which in this case, manifests as an unshakable belief in finishing the race. Once you’re running with confidence, the fear of pain and other obstacles pales in comparison to the joy set before you.

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Step by step, the fear diminishes as what your reliance has now peaked in full. You cross the finish line and marvel not only in the fact you’ve died to your flesh, but also in the reality of having relied on a confidence not your own.¹

Again, I’ll unpack these concepts down the road, but for now, we can apply them to Matthew 21.

Bottom line: When we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts in the temple, we see…

1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts). This represents courage.

2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict (some translations reference how Jesus drove out what needed to be driven out with force). This represents courage and boldness

3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple (in doing this his true identity became apparent to those who would ultimately flock to him; he didn’t come to the temple looking to assert his identity). This represents courage, boldness, and confidence

4. Jesus loved at every opportunity (his reputation in many ways preceded him which is part of the reason so many came to him). This represents courage, boldness, and confidence

I submit if we’re going to thrive in our areas of influence, we must choose courage through obedience and prayer, be bold with the truth even in conflict, and walk in confidence as we enter the places and purposes God has appointed for us.

In summary…we choose courage to lead in boldness to walk in confidence.

When we pursue these strengths, that’s how we know we’re living our identity as leaders.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Original illustration built on Benji’s ‘matured’ comparison
Cover photo creds: Free Great Picture

Messiah’s Misfits: Why The Name Says It All

So recently I’m reading 1 Corinthians 4 when suddenly it hits me…

…of all the chapters in all of Paul’s letters, arguably the greatest content on vocational perseverance can be found in v. 9-13 when Paul discusses the nature of true apostleship.

 Let’s check it out…

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (ESV)

It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.” (MSG)

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles at the end of the line, like men sentenced to death [and paraded as prisoners in a procession], because we have become a spectacle to the world [a show in the world’s amphitheater], both to angels and to men. We are [regarded as] fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are highly esteemed, but we are dishonored. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are continually poorly dressed, and we are roughly treated, and wander homeless. We work [for our living], working hard with our own hands. When we are reviled and verbally abused, we bless. When we are persecuted, we take it patiently and endure. When we are slandered, we try to be conciliatory and answer softly. We have become like the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” (AMP)

Now, before we dive in, we must understand the broader context.

First, what is the nature of true apostleship? Going back to 4:1, we find the answer: Those who minister Gospel hope as servants/stewards/ambassadors of Christ no matter the cost. The Amplified breaks it down further describing these servants as those who are certain in adoration more than they are uncertain in anything else. Essentially, apostleship goes beyond the office of apostle and involves anyone who is willing to be salt, light, and life in places where there is none. If you are being a faithful steward of God’s call on your life, you’re engaging your apostolic anointing! Whether or not you have a mobile ministry is moot compared to God’s faithfulness being reflected in what you say and do as you draw people to Christ (Colossians 3:17).

Second, how do we abide in the nature of true apostleship? Verses 7-8 give us a hint when paraphrased: We have not only been given everything for goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but every reason to trust the Lord as our portion (Psalm 73:26)¹. Accordingly, as we reference God in reverence², to live as Christ (Philippians 1:21) becomes the foundation to our perseverance and influence regardless of setting and trial. After all, “there are different kinds of [work], but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work (1 Corinthians 12:6).

Finally, we arrive at v. 9 where Paul employs some serious poetic license. Messiah’s misfits (MSG), prisoners of spectacle (AMP, ESV), an accident in the street everyone stands around and stares at…these are all powerful metaphors and similes reminding us there is no earthly honor in apostleship. If, by chance, we are pursuing any glory apart from what is rightfully God’s, our endurance will not stand, but if our satisfaction is rooted in being complete with Christ (Colossians 2:10), if our contentment is secure to His sufficiency, only then will we be victorious as dregs. It’s a paradox to the flesh, but one necessary for our dependence. When we are thirsty, we’ll see the need as being filled as opposed to satisfying a lack. When we are persecuted, we’ll know God is with us as one who relates as opposed to withdrawn as one who can’t. And when we’re struggling to make ends meet, we’ll rest in the mysteries of what God has and hasn’t revealed since our reliance is not contingent on self.

For some of us, it’s hard to accept what doesn’t make sense. It’s like we’re okay being misfits to sin, but not to the minds/culture tolerating it. I know for me, I’d rather be criticized for what I do wrong than be judged for what I do right. At least, with the former I can apply the correction and move on! However, I also know whenever I crave my work to be affirmed and my love to be reciprocated, I can declare God’s grace as sufficient, the fact I can joyfully boast in His power made perfect in my frailty (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). And suddenly those ‘weak as I eke‘ moments fade in something infinitely more…

…the sweet reality that I need JESUS! What a beautiful place to be!

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Bottom line: If you’re a vocational leader, dare to see the identity of what you do through the lens of apostleship, through the lens of being a servant taking light into dark places. And if hard times come, don’t be surprised; rather view them as a sign you’re doing things right³. When you bless others in the face of voids and discouragement, remember the same Christ you ask to bless others is the same Christ who will honor your obedience. If you don’t fit in, remember you were never called to in the first place. Stand out, take what comes, and know the power of you standing through adversity will assuredly have a positive ripple-effect on those around you even if you don’t see it right away.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Note how strength in this verse has Hebrew roots to ‘rock’
  2. This form of dependence opens up the Romans 5:1-5 road (more on this in a future post)
  3. Assuming the hard times aren’t consequences of sin, shortcuts, etc.
Cover photo creds: Medium

Dear Church: Get Real, Not Relevant.

I got something to say…

…and gotta get it straight before the sun goes down.

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If the church wants to be a city on a hill, then why is it trying so hard to be relevant?

Not to suggest the church should be indifferent towards evangelism or complacent in discipling; I’m just sayin’ since when did the church become ashamed of the Gospel? Since when did she start making it about you…and your receptivity to truth?

‘Cause truth is: the church was never meant to be culturally relevant or well-received, but contextually real and eagerly given.¹

For what we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the wonderful things God has given us.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:12 (AMP)

 “[So I have intended] to come to you, in order that I may reap harvest among you…both to the wise and to the foolish. I am eager to preach the gospel to you…for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” ~ Romans 1:13-16 (ESV)

Granted, most of you agree; however, in a time when church gets commission, but not Gospel…where truth is seen as content only worth its reach, it shouldn’t surprise us why many struggle to get God since what’s being modeled to them is more marketable than relatable.

Thus, it’s worth asking: How do we conquer the divide (be it deception, segregation, warped ecclesiology, etc.) in a way that gets us back to fishing for men without the bait? 

To answer this, we must accept…

  1. Relatability and relevancy are two completely different thing (more on this in a future post; ’til then, note Jesus’ interaction with outcasts (Luke 15, 1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 21, Mark 5, John 4).
  2. The world isn’t looking for church to be relevant; it’s desperate for something real, radical and revolutionary.
  3. When we’re reaching out, embracing in, and loving like Jesus, we never have to attract people to the Kingdom because it’s already there in front of them.

Remember the church’s call is to draw near to the lost like God, not draw the lost to find God.

Sure, our church may be in the midst of a powerful sermon series with catchy taglines to promote. But at the end of the day, what the world really wants is the reality of grace abounding as people love the way they know how.

‘Til then, I charge the church to get real about her entitled expectations. ‘Cause honestly, whether or not we’re in favor of a church’s peripherals (worship style, tech incorporation, service flow) or demographics (diversity), shouldn’t distract us from what ultimately matters – people fearlessly living and loving like Jesus…who are willing to resonate truth rather than make it relevant.

Remember Jesus didn’t die for you so you could be you; He died so we could be of same mind and heart so those lost and afflicted could join in. He didn’t die so you could be convinced how special you are; He died so you could tell others why they are.  He didn’t die so you could be served; He died so you wouldn’t have to worry whether or not you are.

And that, my friends, is what the Gospel is all about:  serving those deserving, giving to the living, bringing unity to community, telling not selling…I could go on.

Maybe you’re sitting there discouraged wishing things could turn around. If so, I want to encourage you tonight: while it may seem you gotta get your life in order to make a difference, you can make a difference in order to make a life.

Yeah, you may think you have nothing to offer, you make think your faith isn’t ‘attractable’, but given the Word says it’s who you are over what you have (1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 3:27-28), you never have to worry about having something to lose and nothing to give.

As for the church, I also encourage you: whether you’re pitching a product, promoting a series, or marketing a vision, never forget…

  1. The ‘me’ in ‘follow me’ (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17) is not about you.
  2. We’re called to make disciple-makers, not gain followers.
  3. Millennials don’t want your relevancy; they want your authenticity.

After all, when we “present a ravishing vision of a loving and holy God”, we not only capture their attention, but their hearts as well.²

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Selah.



Footnotes

  1. Vaters, Karl (2016, March 30). “Forget Being Culturally Relevant.” Christianity Today.
  2. Dyck, Drew. (2017). “Millennials Don’t Need a Hipper Pastor, They Need a Bigger God”). The Aquila Report.

Cover photo creds: Pinterest 

Rethinking “Bivocational”

For those who’ve been following us the past few years, you’ve probably noticed how I often branch “bivocational” into two camps: those who work multiple secular jobs and those with a gig in the ministerial arena1.

However…in recent months, I’ve begun to question if this approach best captures the contrast.

‘Cause truth is: we’re all ministering something…because we’re all worshipping something.

Or to put it another way…we’re ministering something because somehow, someway (whether we realize it or not) we’re being continually empowered to attend the needs of someone else…whether a co-worker, a boss, a family member, a friend, a loved one, etc.

Now, before I continue, let me clarify this one point: when I say ‘ministerial arena’…I am (more often than not) talking about those who provide full-time or part-time service under the occupational ministry umbrella, but this doesn’t mean I believe other umbrellas are inferior.

Contrarily, I view all callings as unique given what God creates, assigns, and rations is infallible (Galatians 3:28, Genesis 1:27, Acts 10:34). So while the majority of what we discuss may naturally gear itself to those with one foot in a more ecclesiastical door, that doesn’t mean you fail if your feet find themselves on a different foundation2.

You see…I think far too often those in the church, those in ministry tend to pump up their own cause through the mission God has called them to…

…which, to me, represents one of the greatest tragedies not talked about in forums like this.

And while I’m not insecure about people taking prior His Girl Fryday blogs out of context, I still wanted to take time on this beautiful Monday afternoon to autocorrect how I breach bivocational topics in the now…and then.

All that to say…moving forward, when I mention “bivocational”, please know I’m referring to all Jesus-followers as ministers under the covering of 1 Corinthians 4:1-7, 2 Corinthians 3:6, and 2 Corinthians 6:4.

‘Cause when we put them together, we discover…

  • Every Christian is a servant in ministry.
  • Whether we’re consultants, salesman, doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, teachers, journalists, designers…whether we’re a combo platter of diverse professionals and/or have liturgical responsibilities…God has made us sufficient to be ministers of life through His Spirit.
  • By our effort and endurance, we can demonstrate the power of God operating in and through us by reflecting His heart of love, purity, patience, kindness to the lost/broken/backslidden, etc.

So when you think about it, getting caught up in ranking standards with a “This person has more weight because ‘this’…’ …or “That person has it easy because ‘this’…’ attitude makes no sense ‘cause the reality is we all have a calling and a purpose for such a time as this…

…not to mention…

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For me, the real question comes back to: are we being faithful to walk what God has called us to walk…and are we going to do so with an appreciation for the diversity by which God has fashioned us? 

I’ll just let the mic drop there. 😉

So hopefully this ties up some loose ends. If not, feel free to shoot us a comment below…or drop us a personal message if you prefer the confidential route.

At any rate, we’d love to hear from you. ‘Til then, be strengthened, encouraged, and challenged to live as Christ.

Know we’re with you every step of the way.

Footnotes

  1. A fair angle when looking to simplify
  2. After all, we live and grow in stride…and in seasons. Where God has you today may look totally different tomorrow.

Photo creds: challies.com & recyclingchristiandollars.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