Deep Imprints

Your Workplace is your Ministry

Category: Ministry (page 1 of 8)

Full-time ministry

I caught myself thinking this morning.

I was contemplating my role in “ministry” and had to stop and shake myself a bit. For some reason, I had switched my definition of ministry to “that which I do for the church” instead of “that which I do for God.”

You see, I have specific things that I do because I am part of the Church. I think, mostly.

But that isn’t my ministry.

I have certain things that I do because I am a student and teacher. I think, mostly.

But that isn’t my ministry.

I have certain things that I do because I am a parent and wife.

But that isn’t my ministry.

I am a master organizer and earn my living as an operations manager.

But that isn’t my ministry.

In my work, while procuring the necessities of life, and even at leisure, I meet people who are fascinating. I have a knack for connecting people to the next step in their journey with Jesus, and connecting people with each other so they don’t have to walk alone.

This is the best part of my ministry, but it isn’t my ministry.

My ministry is how I serve God in all of the above pieces. My ministry is how I serve God and His mission on earth. The Church is His body, which is busy fulfilling His mission. I, as a piece of the body, am serving God when I am supporting His mission to draw all people to Himself – to bring hope to the hopeless and change out mourning for joy. When I think, when I parent, and wife (yes, I just used that as a verb), when I bring order to a work environment, AND when I see people as Jesus does and help them connect to themselves, others and Him  – in all these ways I am working at God’s mission.

(I think that last paragraph was getting close to rivaling Paul for run-on sentences)

What happens if I decide that only my work for the church is my ministry? Well, out of 168 hours in the week, I spend roughly 12 teaching, studying, thinking and attending church services. If we throw in another 5 for devotions and prayer then roughly 10% of my life is spent in ministry, while the other 90% lacks reason and focus.

If, however, I classify everything I do as ministry, then I start to recognize when God shows up in the little moments, when helping someone feel “real” brings them a step closer to Jesus – and I even begin to value my sleep as a resource for energy instead of a drain on my time. I take care of my body because every minute counts.

God is on the move – in my church, in my home, in my various work environments, and even on the commuter bus. When I am alert and focused, I get to join Him at His work everywhere I go – and that is my ministry.

 

 

I want to make a difference!

This phrase jumped out at me:

Make an Impact While Making an Income

Many of us are on the edge of non-existence, just running from work to home, hoping for the gym in between. We want our life to matter, but that daily uphill battle to stay awake and stay engaged seems to sap all energy.

What if life could be different? Here are some thoughts on helping you make an impact while making an income:

  1. Take care of your body. Water, eating right, exercise – these are necessary. Don’t. Eat. Sugar – if you want your body to last. (Says the girl who has a daily fight over a frappe from Starbucks.)
  2. Use your strengths. You were designed to make a difference. If you don’t use the strengths you have, you will feel dead – like every day is a drudgery. Make space for your strengths even if it means adding something else. This will increase your overall strengths and help you see your work in a different light.

  3. Redefine impact. You can change the world – or you can sit and listen to someone who needs it. Both are making an impact. When you treat someone as God sees them, you give them hope and change the future for those around them.

  4. Contemplate the difference your job makes in the world. No matter your job, you are making a difference. You are helping fight back entropy (that force that causes your house to return to havoc-central every day or so); you are brightening someone’s day; you are providing excellent (food, resources, etc. actually ). What you do to make a living impacts the world. Your job matters – not just to the rest of us, but to God. After all, work was His idea – He told Adam and Eve to work the garden long before the Fall.

So, how are you making an impact while earning an income?

What is your ministry?

ministryI started reading Scatter this morning and almost didn’t put it down. Seriously, I read 18% of the book before I left for work.  Andrew Scott gets ministry.

Here are a couple of quotes:

“A new paradigm is needed – one in which we recognize that all of life is where every believer gets to be a “full-time” follower of Jesus.”

 

“This generation has learned to worship in the church but seems unwilling to worship in the world.”

 

“A good measurement of true compassion is resulting action.”

For a while now, I’ve seen what many consider “ministries” – like greeting, ushering, etc., not as ministries, but as things you do because you belong – much like setting and clearing the table at a family gathering – not a chore or your purpose in the family, but something you do because you are part of a family.

Your ministry is how you make a difference in a world that doesn’t know Jesus. What is your ministry? Are you satisfied?

Why we need each other

21168240_sI’ve written extensively this year on the role of church. One of the foundations that sits in the background, but has not yet been expressed is the need for women in church leadership. The doctoral program that I am in has worked extensively on understanding the theology of women in ministry. Today I’d like to look at the practical aspects of this discussion.

I walk into this discussion with deep humility. I am well aware that the issue is complex, and many highly respected men and women do not agree with my viewpoint.

However, as a recent article in Leadership Journal points out, our femaleness and maleness both demonstrate parts of God’s nature, and “the core divide in humanity is across the genders. If the way that we’re manifesting the gospel within our churches is not addressing this primary divide, we’re not truly reflecting what the gospel asks us to do—bring reconciliation to the world.”

So in this article, we will address some of the basic aspects of what it is to be male and female through the lens of brain science.*

Guarding the Organization

How do men and women approach life and leadership differently? And why should any leadership team be comprised of both sexes?**

First,  let’s consider the way that men and women guard an organization. Men, whose brain chemistry moves toward action under stress, tend to be systems protectors. Women, whose brain chemistry focuses toward conversation under stress, tend to be process protectors. One can easily visualize how these two stress responses work in tandem to help a church.

Many churches have started a large change campaign only to find a good portion of their membership has jumped ship part way through the process. The system was being protect by change, but the process did not ensure that the people stuck with the system.

Other churches face the painful transitions caused by pastoral moral failures.

Personally, I believe that men need women at the table as colleagues in order to avoid this sort of devastation. Women colleagues can help a leadership team move forward with integrity. Women will tend to bring a different view. In general, men focus on the goal, women focus on how we get there. When women are given an equal voice at the table, they will be able to help steer an organization to avoid pitfalls, and provide new insights to avoid failures.

How we view leadership

The second area to consider is how men and women view leadership. (I’ve spoken on this some in recent weeks.) Men tend to view leadership as boxes in a hierarchy. Women tend to see leadership in net-like (or web-like) structures. This may be is the physiological reason that men don’t connect with women in leadership – they can’t see them. In other words, when men look for a colleague, they look for a suitable box while women are working with nets. In fact, when I took this language to women co-laborers, they didn’t even want to talk about a web of multiple boxes. Instead they viewed themselves as wearing multiple hats. We are mom, wife, cook, pastor, writer, speaker, coach, etc. each as a different hat. When women are asked for their occupation, they may find it very hard to define one specific “box.”

Therefore, education of both sexes is vital. Men who understand the need for net-like support within the organization will look for net-builders; and women who understand the need to be clearly identified within a hierarchy will work to bring definition to their life and calling beyond the structure and nature of their relationships.

The dual approaches of men and women in leadership situations complement each other and enhance our work. An organization that raises up women to work alongside men in leadership will be stronger, more self-aware, and better protected – not just from the outside, but from the inside as well.

So what do you think? Please use the comments section below to add to the conversation.


*It is important to understand that the statements herein are generalizations and thus stated as absolutes. Individuals may place themselves closer to the center, as no two brains are wired exactly the same. In fact, Gurian and Annis suggest that women who have been trained to male leadership roles operate more as a third sex – a mix of both male and female leadership tendencies.

**(For more information on this, you can read the book Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business. by Gurian and Annis)

 

What box do you fit in?

11741263_sYesterday I talked about self-identity. I’m thinking through this for a reason.

I highly suspect that:

  1. Just as we tend to change careers every 7 years, we also tend to need to redefine our boxes (which means teens aren’t the only ones working on self-identity).
  2. When we are solely defined by what others think of us, that impedes this process.
  3. Men have an easier time of finding their box than women.

This last one deserves some explanation.

Men tend to lead in hierarchies. They think in boxes. In fact, when you move up the hierarchy, you just move your box up. When they leave work, they move to a different hierarchy, and switch hats to dad, or coach, or etc.

Women tend to lead in more of a web. We see the connectedness of things. We self-define through the lens of multiple relationships at a time. Therefore, we don’t have just one box at a time. Neither do we wear one hat at a time.

It is not unusual to plan dinner, create a check list for next week, and council a teen while working on an extensive spreadsheet for next year’s budget. Everything runs into each other, so it is a lot harder to define our ‘place.’

I’ve been talking with friends lately about the lack of women in leadership. I hear from some friends that men would love to have more women in leadership, but when they look for them, they aren’t there.

Where are all the women? They are sitting in 3 boxes, wearing 6 hats, hoping someone will notice the skill set they are so fantastically demonstrating – if anyone could see the whole picture at once. But, when they use their skill set to marshal the entire PTA to raise funds for kids’ field trips, people see the soccer mom or school volunteer. When they navigate medical terminology and negotiate home health care contracts for their family members, they see a dutiful daughter.

I highly suspect that because women self-define several things at once, it appears they don’t have the space to fill an open slot. There is a business adage of this: if you want something done, ask a busy person.

What are we missing?

What would you add to help further this conversation?


“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

What to do in a freakout

fearTonight, I get to share with the Calvary Christian Assembly women for the fifth week. We’ve been looking at the process of change (knowing what you are letting go of and letting go of it, redefining who you are without what you lost, and new direction) alongside Elijah’s life.

Tonight we hit 1 Kings 19 – which is perhaps the one scripture I return to more often than most.

Elijah was a superhero. He stood up to all the prophets of Baal and the prophetesses of Asherah, and he systematically dismantled the idol worship of a nation, refocusing hearts on God.

And then he fell apart.

If you are going to step out in faith, there will be that eventual moment when you realize that you are walking on air. The same thing happened to Peter when he stepped out of the boat. Solid step, solid step, what am I doing??? Freakout, sink – glug, glug, glug.

You and I might face different freakouts. Maybe the bills just hit like a wave, or the emotions of those we love send us in a tale spin, or we want to step out, but hit a wall of desperation, doom and despair.

Elijah shows us a very tangible process to deal with freakouts:

  1. Be honest. Don’t try to put on your best face with God. Be honest. If He can’t handle your honest emotions, then you haven’t seen Him as God yet –  just another person to please.

2. Take care of your body. The first thing God did was to send an angel to fix the physical part of the freakout. When you are depleted, your body chemicals respond, and amplify your situation. Sleep, eat right foods, exercise and drink water.

  1. Expect God to show up. Elijah ran from his situation, but he ran to the Mountain of God. He demanded that God show up. He hollered at God, asked real questions of God, was honest with God and expected God to show up.

No matter where you are at today, God is real and rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11). If you are in a freakout, even if you are sinking fast, focus your eyes on where you last saw God and expect Him to show up. He will.

I can’t do ministry – I have kids

21168240_sA few things have converged to bring this post about:

  1. I’ve heard an increased chatter on bivocational pastors – pastors who have a full time job, and a church.
  2. A friend and I had a discussion on how it is assumed that women with children don’t have the time or energy to do anything that remotely relates to leadership and sacrifice.
  3. I found myself buying into #2 for my personal circumstances, thinking that I can only do ministry (except the occasional teaching gig) if I work part time, or if I work in a church. Then my wonderful husband pointed out that we know someone (male) who has four small children and is planting a church while working full time at a secular job.

So, I start at the beginning – can women have a family, a job, and a ministry?

First, the emotional: If I put everything I have into doing what God has called me to, will I be looked at as a bad mom? Some women have been told that they can’t work full time because women who have kids will somehow let their kids down if they work full time. Who wants to be the “bad mom”?

This is baffling to me, and truthfully, I think it is a modern phenomenon coupled with a power-focused leadership style. After all, throughout history women have carried far heavier loads than we do today – while raising hoards of children,  not just our average 2.5 (or less).

So, as is my habit, I looked for a biblical example. I don’t have to look far – Deborah. Ah! Did you always picture Deborah and older, childless woman, sitting under her tree holding court? I know that is what the flannel graphs showed. However, Judges 5:7 says:

Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
    until I arose, a mother in Israel.

I don’t think this language was figurative. It says that Deborah arose, a mother IN Israel, not a mother TO Israel. So, how does this whole story look different if you envision Deborah with a passel of kids – maybe toddler to teen tagging along? Do you think that if God could use Deborah with her whole family in tow, He might be able to use those of us who are similarly sleep deprived and hormonally challenged? Do you think He can provide the patience, wisdom and support that this lifestyle would need?

Then I look for more modern models:

One of my favorite missionaries is Rosalind Goforth. She was a missionary in China, and had hundreds of women through her house on a regular basis – and for much of that time, she had small children. She found a way to make it work – she fulfilled God’s call and loved her kids at the same time.

Women in areas where the gospel cannot be publicly proclaimed have full time ministries while leading full time lives outside of the ministry. Throughout the world, women pastor house churches while carrying on very full lives (this might be where one pastor got the idea that women “will never pastor a congregation over 75”).

There are some that believe that women can do any ministry except leadership over men. They believe that the story of Deborah exists because “no man” was willing to take the spot. I think there are male callings in the bible that show God using men whether they liked it or not, so “answering the call” isn’t always a prerequisite to being used by God. It is mighty arrogant to say that God needs a contingency plan.

Either way, the Western World is now post-Christian. (If you live in the bible belt of the US, it might not feel like it yet.) Obviously there aren’t enough people who will put their lives on the line for the gospel. Whether you are male or female, if God has called you, you should go – even if it means carrying along your whole household.

So, what do you think?

 

The Hardest Words I’ve Ever Said

Did I say that?Some people hate to say

  • “I’m sorry” or
  • “I was wrong”

Those aren’t my thing. It is easy for me to admit fault in those ways.

However, even typing this next sentence is emotionally trying. I hate to say “I don’t know.”

And, I’m married to a very inquisitive man. He asks questions – usually until he hits the bottom of the barrel with me. For years, he put me in a panic. I hated to say those dreaded words so much that I’d cause a fight just to avoid saying them.

You might know that panic – your blood races, your brain feels like someone turned on the AM static, and your chest feels like something is trying to crawl out of it. No matter what I did, when I could sense that final question coming – the one I couldn’t answer – the panic would start, and panic gives rise to adrenaline, which fuels our fight or flight response.

Some would say it is a pride thing. It probably is. We all have them. Some women don’t want to be caught without makeup, some of us can’t stand to admit we were  wrong, or own up to the damage we’ve done in others. My panic was as personal to me as yours is to you.

Then I discovered a work around. In recent months, I’ve expanded my abilities. Today you might hear me say:

  • “I don’t have anymore information on that”
  • “You have reached the end of my knowledge on the topic”
  • “That’s all I’ve got” and even
  • “I’ve got nothin'”

People are important. If our failure to say those very hard words means something to them, it should mean something to us. If we have phrases that send our adrenaline into an instant polka routine, then we need to face our fears and find a better approach.

What is it that you hate to say? Would it help to find some workarounds?\

 

God is up to something new

Something is in the air. You can sense it on Sunday, you can sense it in the workplace. Even the vast drop in church attendance in the last decade is evidence.

We can look at what is changing (technology, split families, recession) and find reasons why things shouldn’t change, or we can look for what God is up to. God has not abandoned the human race yet, and we have transitioned through many points of history. We have become worse and better than our former selves. So, we can spend our time fighting change, or we can enjoy the new opportunity.

I was waiting. History shows a renewal of God’s activity at key points. If feels like we are at a key point.

Can you feel it?

Education often precedes a new work.

In the early 1900’s, He renewed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Prior to that, there was a new understanding of the Holiness movement – and D.L. Moody brought Sunday School to life.

The education that preceded this new move felt like an attack on everything we’ve known. The U.S. Christian sphere is very myopic by nature. We like to make ourselves safe by creating a spiritual standard based on our societal norm. In other words, if we value two bedroom houses with one bathroom, then everyone who has a two bedroom house with one bathroom is somehow closer to God.

Then our “melting pot” got bigger, we stopped using the Bible as the standard in our schools, and our politics changed what Americans who no longer went to church saw as the social norm. In other words, we expanded as a nation to include people from other backgrounds (instead of assuming that immigrants would become ‘like us’) and we expanded as a nation to not hold people to Judeo-Christian norms.

Yup – that felt like an attack on everything we believe.

However, I’m beginning to believe that this was the education before the wave of God’s renewed activity. As we expand our minds to accept people who weren’t like us in the workplace, we start to see that our Christianity is a form of religion, not a relationship.

If someone who doesn’t value our social structure can’t understand God as we know Him, then we might have a wrong view of God. After all, God is the same in Iran, Uzbekistan, Sudan, and a gay bar in Seattle as He is in the baptistry of the local church. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t love people less or more based on their cultural or even personal understanding of Him.

When the Judeo-Christian ethic was the cultural norm, then to accept Christ, to become part of a church community, moved you closer to the cultural norm. You felt like you were more engaged with society, and your ‘okayness’ factors went up.

We based our okayness on our ability to fit into that social norm.

God wants our okayness to be based on our relationship with Him. This is the rock solid foundation that we need to build on to stand the storms of life in a world that does not base their values on His revelations.

God is on the move. He is definitely up to something.

What shift do you see that God is using to bring people closer to Himself? How is He changing the way we do church?

A church full of missionaries

Wouldn’t it be great if your community knew that your church is the place that people get help? If your congregants were known on the job and in the neighborhoods as people to go to when you need help?

What if your computer genius was known for finding creative solutions to programs that made a difference? If your executive was known as a mentor throughout the business community?

What if your entire congregation thought of themselves as missionaries – and lived their lives accordingly?

I have friends that are missionaries. Many of them work in a secular job on the mission field and just love people as they are. They share their faith in a community that doesn’t know Jesus. They share their mental and emotional resources to be Christ’s hand to those who have only known judgement.

I think the answer starts on the pastoral team. I think that when we see our people as those we have to please, they become consumers. I think when we see them as missionaries, they become missional. It will change how we talk, how we preach, how we disciple and how we lead.

Most of us serve in older churches that don’t turn overnight. We think that change comes through changing programs, changing traditions. The real change comes inside us. What do our people need us to do to make them the best missionaries they can be?

The fresh wind of the Spirit doesn’t mean we have to upturn the apple cart – a lot of times, it just means that we look at the apple cart differently. Your (local) missionaries need a place to connect with each other. They need discipleship to build strong families and strong marriages. They need equipping so that they use their talents, personalities and strengths to make a difference in the world. They need to know God’s voice and His character.

There have been times when I saw the bottom line of my effectiveness in how many people were in the seats on Sundays. I still find value in knowing how many lives are touched – but the truth is that every body who comes on Sunday will touch a lot more people during the week. Those are the people on my heart. How can we reach them? How can we help our church attenders see themselves as missionaries?

I have a couple of ideas, but I am sure you can add many more:

  1. Change our language. Assume that every Christian has a ministry and talk about that from the pulpit. Instead of talking about being Christ’s representative (a very democratic word, I think) talk about finding out what God is doing in people’s lives and shining a light on it.
  2. Draw a parallel between missionaries on the field and missionaries at home. This might really be fun. What if we had a missionary that we support do a google hangout with our congregation on Sunday and talk about what daily life is like for them? How does setting up a household in a foreign land and setting up a household in our city parallel?

Now it is your turn. What are ways that you help your congregants love people who don’t know Jesus?

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