June 30, 2014
Over the last few days I’ve been hanging my proverbial hat in Southeast Asia, spending some time with a couple of our different teams who are engaging with local people groups. I’ve traveled a decent amount over the years, but there are certain situations you’re just never totally prepared for:
- Octopus. The more you chew, the bigger it gets.
- Seeing a tall white person in a country full of non-tall, non-white people. I’m a white person. I shouldn’t freak out that much. But I do. Oh, I do.
- “No seriously, where’s the toilet paper. WHERE.IS.THE.TOILET.PAPER?!?”
But one of the common shocks to my system is being in a spot where signs – if they exist at all – simply don’t help. Maybe they’re not in my native language. Maybe they don’t point anywhere in particular. Maybe they’re in my language and point somewhere, but that “somewhere” moved decades ago.
Such was the case last week, when I had an eight hour layover in Istanbul and decided to explore the old city. Nothing helps you stretch your legs and forget a cramped airplane seat more than overpriced tourist baklava and a quick pass of the Hagia Sophia. So I jumped on the metro out of the airport, carefully followed the rail map as well as the advice of a trusted friend, and headed to my transfer point several kilometers away.
Only this was no ordinary transfer point. This was a transfer where I had to get off the train go up the stairs walk across a plaza go into a tunnel go down some stairs walk under a city street maneuver my way through a bazaar go back up some stairs walk across another plaza hang a right hang a left hit another street crossing and discover that I wasn’t looking for a train station at all, but an above ground rail car.
Easy enough, right?
Once I realized that the very friendly and helpful metro janitor didn’t have any ESL classes under his belt (“T Line?” / “Yes!” / “Is it this way?” / “Yes!” / “Or do I go this other way?” / “Yes!” / “We’re not getting anywhere in this conversation, are we?” / “Yes!”) , I figured I was on my own. So I did what all good American males do: I wandered. I crossed streets. Walked through tunnels. Retraced my steps. Read the signs more carefully. Stopped for ice cream. Crossed more streets. Walked the same four city blocks for about 50 minutes until I finally had a flash of insight and figured out exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
And the whole time, I was forced to think about the experience of our guests when they come into our cross cultural context on the weekend. Do our signs mean something? Are they in a common language, or do they point to MSSGs and Xtreme and The Zone and other ministry areas with catchy titles, but no context?
And perhaps most importantly, do we depend on signs as the primary method of wayfinding for our guests, or do we recognize that signs don’t replace people, and stregthen the signs with outwardly-focused, guest-driven volunteers?
Here’s the thing: three hours later I traveled the same route. I took the same trains. I made the same stops and maneuvered the same transfer. Only this time, I did it with an “I’ve been here before” sort of confidence. How much easier would it have been if I’d had a personal guide to get me where they knew I needed to go?
You need a sign. Your guests need a sign. But don’t depend on your signs as the end-all, be-all. Beef ’em up with great people to reduce the anxiety and heighten the experience.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish chewing this octopus.
June 27, 2014
If you lead a ministry, there’s a little something extra that will lavish grace on those you’re reaching. If you manage a team, there’s a way you can interact that will build cohesion. If you’re raising kids, there are tiny touches that will make lifelong memories out of otherwise mundane moments.
The key is to figure out the tiny tweak that will set your specialty apart. Sharon Al-Doost did. If you’ve never heard of Sharon, you should. She’s better known as the Lunch Lady, and every day she sings and jokes her way through the menu on her cafeteria’s phone line. Stop what you’re doing right now and call her: (510) 351-7654.
No seriously. Call her. Now. I’ll wait. And you’ll thank me and add her to your speed dial and call her up every once in a while just to check in.
Read the entire original post.
June 26, 2014
Find a common thread to tie unrelated jobs to your career plans. (via @Lifehacker) This article was the impetus for Monday’s post, Don’t Waste Your Day Job. If you’re working a job that’s not necessarily your dream, you need to read this:
Whether you worked retail, then helped a friend start a corner store, and delivered pizza at night, and now you’re going in for an office job, you can highlight how retail helped you learn to work with difficult people, how building that store from scratch got you familiar with the pace and stress of a fledgling, startup business, and how delivering pizzas at night taught you a thing or two about dedication and off-hours work.
How to set up your desk: an introduction. (via @MattPerman) God bless the What’s Best Next guy. Matt makes me feel better about being obsessed over stuff like this. Fellow org nerds, unite.
I don’t want to say here that there is only one right way to set up your desk. There are some pretty tricky situations given the setups that are often thrust upon us, such as odd-shaped cubicles or, if we have an office, uncooperative room layouts. And personal preference also plays a huge role as well.
The problem I found, though, is that these factors lead many to give the advice of “just do what works for you.” Which really gives no guidance at all. The result, I found, was that I had to think about my desk a lot more than I wanted.
Guy covers “All By Myself” during an insanely long layover. (via @22words) This will make you rethink your next night alone at the airport.
June 25, 2014
Think about the things that end up on your to do list every day: there are emails to answer, phone calls to return, a hundred little tasks that compete for your attention, and probably a half dozen major projects that need your focus.
Out of all of those things, what’s on the list that only you can do? What are the things that most need your brain, your vision, your passion, influence, and direction?
For years I’ve struggled with trying to do it all…doing things that I’m not great at, but doing them anyway because I’m s’posed to. Thankfully, God has surrounded me with a great team who know when I’m operating out of my zone. I have an administrative assistant who is gutsy enough to say, “You stink at that. Let me handle it.”
And because people on my team do what they do, they free me to do what I do.
So what’s on your to do list that you don’t need to do?
And what’s on the “do what only you can do” list?
When you figure that out, you begin to operate out of the giftings that God has given you. Crank up your “you do” list today.
For more on this subject, read the helpful and handy little book The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley.
June 24, 2014
Over the last few months our family has charged headlong into a series of firsts. Our oldest, Jacob, has naturally been the one to break us in on the first-time parents thing in just about everything he’s done over the last 18 years: teething. Walking. Kindergarten. Drivers license. High school graduation just over three weeks ago.
And last week: sent.
We use the S word a lot around the Summit. We talk about sending our best. We want to plant a thousand churches in forty years. Pastor J.D. encourages college students to give their first two years after graduation to ministry, unless God specifically tells them no (we call that “the Mormonization of the Christian church”).
So when our Student Pastor Jason Gaston approached me last year about involving Jacob in an immersive overseas summer project, I couldn’t necessarily lock my kid in his room and hope that the bug didn’t bite.
On Thursday, we put him on a bus that started a 40 hour journey to the Southeast Asian city that he and seven other Summit students will call home for the next four weeks. The eight of them plus two leaders will spend a month building relationships, looking for opportunities to share their stories, and engaging university students in everyday life.
Proud? Yep. (I’m a dad. That’s my job.) But this transcends the “You got an A” / “You won the game” / “You’re a special snowflake” kind of pride. This is a pride that’s broken on a foundation of gratitude: gratitude for a God who’s a better Father than I could ever be. Gratitude for his prompting in my son’s life to do something bigger than life. Gratitude for student leaders who have spoken into his life, discipled him, and mentored him. Gratitude that Jacob is willing to be used at 18 to invest in the lives of complete strangers.
Gratitude that he’s sent.
As me and Merriem and fourteen other parents said goodbye to our kids last Thursday, I suspect we all carried the same thoughts in the backs of our minds: Is this just the beginning? Does this trip symbolize a lifetime lived overseas? Does it herald a call to ministry? Does it mean that what we thought was true for our children and their futures may not necessarily be true?
Maybe a better question: does it mean that God knows our kids and loves our kids better than we do?
I wouldn’t dare guess what God will do in the lives of these eight young adults over the course of this summer. But I do know that I’ll pray for them, and cheer them on, and encourage them to not only let him work in others’ lives, but in their own.
Would you join me in praying for them? The parents received this list of prayer points in a pre-trip meeting. I’d be honored and grateful if you’d print this and pray over it several times this summer. You can also keep up with the team via their blog.
- That students would seek and know God.
- Matt 6:33
- Psalm 1
- Deut 6:5
- Wisdom in all situations: how to interact with each other and with new friends.
- Fruit in ministry
- Psalm 37:39
- Jonah 4
- Romans 10:17
- Grace giving to each other
- Not a burden to the local body, but a blessing
June 23, 2014
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The chances are good that there are a few pastors sitting down at their desk, sipping a cup of coffee, and spotting this post in their blog feed just before starting work. And that “work” may be nowhere close to a church office or the pulpit they preached in on Sunday.
My name is Danny, and I’m a former bivocational pastor.
I did the bi-vo gig for a decade. I was always a pastor plus something else: Pastor + full time student. Pastor + 40 hour a week job. Pastor + full time student + 40 hour a week job. (I still compulsively chew on some stress meds just thinking about that one.)
Hardly a week went by that I didn’t curse my status in life. (Scratch that. I questioned it. Because good Baptist bi-vo’s don’t curse.) I wasted my day job for years because I saw it as a stepping stone on the way to somewhere else, not as a part of the journey where God had sovereignly, graciously placed me.
But then I came across this passage, which seemed custom-crafted for a guy who watched the clock in order to get back to doing the stuff he loved:
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6)
Befriend faithfulness. Your translation may say cultivate faithfulness. Your coffee cup or grandma’s cross stitch might phrase it Bloom where you’re planted (though I wouldn’t necessarily endorse that one). You can even hijack it to say things like “If I do A, God will do B.” (Please don’t make that mistake.)
But however you cut it, the scriptures say that we are to be faithful where we’ve been placed, to delight ourselves in Jesus before we grouse about our circumstances.
I had to learn that slowly over the course of a decade. But once I began to understand this passage, I saw that there was a method behind the madness:
Those customers I dealt with day after day? They helped me understand the importance of knowing people by name and caring about their needs.
The monotonous tagging and bagging I did as a part time seminary dry cleaner? (Shut up. I did too.) It taught me that details matter.
The coworkers I shared life with? They helped me to understand that we all have a story, and we all walk around as people in need of hope.
If you’re a bivocational minister, I’m praying for you especially today. I know it’s hard. I know there are days when you’d like to cash in your chips and take your chances on doing ministry while living under a bridge. But this season? It’s worth it. Your calling and God’s work is worth it. And more than that, God’s work in your life is worth it. Don’t squander the spot where he’s placed you. View that as much of your ministry as when you’re standing behind that pulpit.
Befriend faithfulness today.
June 20, 2014
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Maybe you grew up in a church like mine, where your pastor preached a 147 week series a couple of times a year on how to discover your spiritual gift, with an exhaustive explanation on everything from prophecy to prayer and teaching to
tongues (scratch that, Baptists don’t do tongues). And maybe, like me, you spent more than your fair share of years wondering exactly what your spiritual gift was. It was like Christmas every time you took another spiritual gifts test: “I hope I get discernment this time! I’ll bet it’s discer…aw man! Celibacy again!”
I think our spiritual gifts quests can be misguided at times. We spend so much energy trying to pinpoint exactly what our gift is, we unnecessarily delay the way in which God wants to use us. We’re so busy filling out surveys that we’re not actually serving.
Read the entire original post here.
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