Deep Imprints

Your Workplace is your Ministry

5Q- an excellent fivefold ministries handbook

This weekend I spent time reviewing Alan Hirsch’s new book 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ.

First, let me give you my review, and then I’ll tell you what I learned. This book is excellent. In it, Hirsch indicates he is working on his doctorate, and this is clearly a well-thought-out theology and practice of his topic that he has been working on for what seems like 15-20 years. (in 2009 The Forgotten Ways was in its 5th printing). Best of all, it isn’t written so that the average pastor will be able to digest the information. This is the piece that we have been missing and is a must read for anyone interested in discipleship or ecclesiology (the study of the church).

This book is the piece that we have been missing in the five-fold ministry conversation and it is a must read for anyone interested in discipleship or ecclesiology (the study of the church).

Hirsch has written several books on this topic, but 5Q goes much deeper into the five-fold ministries, and looks at them through a systematic theology framework, and then gets deeply practical in how they work in a church and in an individual – followed by what “out of balance” might look like.

This is part of what I see as an emerging trend in Western Christianity. We have little tolerance for church-as-social-function and are looking for meaning and purpose – not only in our individual lives but for these organizations we call church. After all, the Church is Christ’s body, but we don’t seem to be healing people or transforming lives like He did. We need an understanding of Church that flows with the rest of life. Hirsch has provided this.

So, I highly recommend Hirsch’s new book. Now. Here is what I learned:

When you get an idea, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to start writing and then keep revising. Eventually, you will reach the “tipping point” where what you have written becomes normative instead of a novel idea. At that point, where theory and practice meet, you get to write something as incredible as 5Q – a handbook of why and how we should live into the 5-fold ministries both personally and corporately.

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.

 

 

Afraid? Here’s hope

Violence seems to be on an increase in the US. Not just violence, but random violence. There have been plenty of times in history where the world has been more unpredictable, but this new onslaught is surprising many. Riots, shootings, and now crazy clowns. Then a couple of friends have huge health events and another loses her job.

Then, there is the problem of leadership. It feels unstable – downright crazy actually – when both political candidates that are in the running have unfavorability ratings so high. For someone who likes stability, this feels we are at sea in a storm. Seasick anyone?

What if you could handle the storms like this:

You can. When you accept Jesus into your life, He lives inside of you. You are not alone!

Read Colossians 1:15-17

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus lives in you. He not only holds everything outside of you together, but He will hold you together as well. There is a reason that you are living in this time of insanity. Could it be because God wants to bring hope to the environment in which you spend your days? Wouldn’t you love it if He used you?

Here’s help:

  1. Spend time with God until you hear His voice. It might be a sense of peace or an actual sensing Him speaking to you, but seriously, get with God and don’t give up. Keep seeking Him until you sense/hear Him.
  2. Throughout the day, tap into that sense of presence. When pressure builds, ask yourself “does God care about this?” If your answer is ‘no’, then go back to the beginning. God cares about it all – He might just have a different perspective than you. He might be up to something much greater.
  3. Share your peace. Most of us live in a space where we will not be thanked for talking about God. However, we can share His peace easily. No preaching required.

The storms of life are inevitable. You can spend them with your head in a bucket, or you can jump on and go for the ride. Jesus really is in control. When the world goes crazy, He has an end game. You can trust that He isn’t dethroned, but instead is working a much deeper move that you haven’t figured out yet.

 

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?

Mentors on the go

I have two books to recommend to you today, both of which were provided to me electronically for review by the publishers. Both books get five thumbs up from me, but for different reasons.

nullIngredients of Outliers: Women Game Changers is a fun, easy read that presents six women who have made significant contributions in their fields. In many ways, this book reminded me of the women church planter’s cohort that I developed last year, where a group of women who were considering church planting (or were in the beginning stages) got together each week for two hours, and we brought in guests – women church planters – who told us their stories and let us interview them. This is a powerful method for women to learn – and this book at least leans in that direction, as we learn the story of powerful women and listen to them as they answer questions.

In this book you will meet Sharon Guynup, a photographer, writer and journalist; Jane Hamilton, a novelist and short story writer; Christine Jones, CPA, Attorney and Gubernatorial Candidate (and the one I learned the most from); Jenny McClendon, a mother of 7 who works for home as a physician assistant on MeMD (yes, we can find innovative ways to support our families); Mildred M.G.Olivier, MD, Ophthalmologist who serves on many boards (also a great person to learn from); and Marsha Ternus, the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court.

Women have different obstacles than men, and we learn with both sides of our brains. Whereas we can receive the instruction that is handed down through the generations, there is something about listening to other women tell their stories that help us circumnavigate those internal barriers that we often barrel into.

nullDiscipleship that Fits by Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom is excellent and should be read by pastors and students of ministry. In short, the book talks about the 5 sociological structures (Public (large crowds), Social (20-70 people); Personal (4-12 people), Transparent (one or two other people); Divine (you and God)) that we gather in and outlines the simple truths that 

  1. “God disciples us
  2. God disciples us through relationships
  3. God disciples us through relationships differently in different relational contexts.” (l. 314)

consequently, leaders need to look at the 5 sociological structures (or relational contexts) and understand the unwritten agreements that are already inherent in each to best be part of what God is doing in that context. (Social agreements would be something like you don’t share your most personal information with complete strangers.)

I am a big believer in whole-life discipleship – that God is always at work and that He uses every situation to mature and form us to be more like Him. This book is a fantastic and fascinating look at this through a particular lens.

 

Are you curious?

curiousCurious people make great employees. They don’t just do what they are told, they push to improve, think outside the box, and find a new approach.

On a connected thought, I listened to this TEDTalk this morning by Adam Grant. It turns out that successful people leave space for creativity. After they get started on an idea, they wait (we call it procrastination), letting ideas gel and obstacles work themselves out.

These two thoughts connect with my morning contemplation of scripture. Here are the verses I’m thinking on:

“For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished.” (John 5:20 NLT)

 

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 NLT)

There is no verse in the bible that convicts me quite like John 14:12. I wonder – will I ever, in my life, do works that are “even greater”?

The key might lie in John 5:19. Jesus is talking to the Jewish leaders who are pretty ticked off that Jesus is working on the Sabbath. Not only did he heal someone, but then he had the audacity to call God father. Just when they were reaching for rocks to throw at him (figuratively in this instance), he said, “I can’t do anything by myself.” Not very God-like. What is Jesus up to?

Jesus goes on to explain (referring to himself in the third person): “he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

So here is my thought: If I am not accomplishing “greater things,” is it possible that I’m not waiting to see what God is doing? Is it possible that I’ve tried to apply God’s power to my ideas instead of discovering what God is up to? What if, instead, I became curious. Instead of rushing ahead to accomplish things, I waited to see what God is up to.

In Matthew, we hear Jesus say, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:2-4)

Are you curious?

 

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?

Messy is not sin

messy “Messy is not sin.” This is the quote from 40 Days of Decrease, my devotion for Lent.

The sentence keeps rolling around in my head today. I like clean lines. I like smooth emotions. I like life to not be messy – because messy hurts. Messy is a bit like pruning (or a destruction derby, depending on the day).

The question is – do I love the people around me enough to let them be messy?

In order to be better at letting people be messy, we have to be better at crucial conversations and creative problem solving. People are important. The growth we get from working through issues is worth the mess.

We all have different ways of dealing with stress – fight, flight or freeze. On my best days, I freeze. Most of the time, I flee – fast. On rare occasion, I have been known to step in front of the teenage freight train (I have several of them) and actually fight – because that is what the child needed.

While there are healthy ways to approach each of these tendencies, each approach has a downside. Freezing can miss critical moments. Fleeing might squash people’s emotions instead of helping them work through it. Fighting without boundaries can squash people and debilitate them. Embracing messy gives us the freedom to work through things slowly enough that freezing means listening, fleeing means regrouping to approach a situation with grace and wisdom, and fighting means having a critical conversation about what really matters.

I am very tempted right now to go back and make this a nice linear blog post that explains my conclusions – but messy is not sin, and messy can be helpful – so I will leave you with this:

What is messy about your life that you need to embrace?

Are you afraid you stink?

StinkDo you hide the stinky parts of life because they are just too much? We can learn from John 11.

Jesus and his disciples were doing their thing and a messenger came from Mary and Martha. Come quick! Lazarus is sick. Jesus sent the messenger on his way and went back to eating.

Jesus didn’t show up!

After a day or two, he finally decided to go to Bethany to be with his friends. As he and his disciples walked into town, Martha greeted them “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

So, Jesus and his friends trudged up to the cemetery.

This scene is played out in private lives today. “Jesus, if you had been there, the problems I have wouldn’t have happened. But even now I know you can heal me.”

So Jesus told them to roll the stone away and Martha panicked.

“Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”

Often times, when Jesus wants to heal our deep wounds, he first has to roll back the stone – dig up the past and expose it to sunlight.

Our response is often:

  • No one will understand. They will think I’m dredging up the past – and people will get hurt!
    • “Master, by this time there’s a stench.”
  • That will cause so much pain. I just can’t go there.
    • “Lord, by this time there is a bad odor”
  • I should have dealt with this years ago. No one wants to hear it now.
    • “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”

When Jesus and the disciples first took off for Bethany, Jesus said to them “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.”

Is it possible that God knew all along about those areas of your life that needed healing, and when He is ready, He will roll back the stone? Will you let Him?

What Defines You?

Identity What would you say is your identity?

Joseph might have thought he was an administrator, and probably an attractor of problem people. His people saw a leader.

I suspect Peter thought of himself as a fisherman. Those around him saw someone who would go first, someone who asked the ‘dumb’ questions, a champion and a rock.

Our identity is formed by our history, our activity, and our character. The problem is that we see ourselves from the inside. We hold onto those rare moments that someone acts like a mirror and says something we didn’t expect. What if the reason they said something different is because they were wrong?

For Lent I’m reading Alicia Britt Chole’ 40 Days of Decrease. Each day she asks us to fast something. What if today we fasted having to fit in a box – anyone’s box. What if instead, we decided to walk in wonder and discover how God sees us. How would that change your identity?

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