The Pulse: The Necessary Ingredient

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Dan is the EFCC's Leadership Catalyst

Much has been written and said about leading people. But there is one common thread — one consistent and non-negotiable element.

Trust.

For Christians, this takes on a new dimension — the way we trust people is intertwined with the way we trust God.

In his book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge noted that:

To change the behaviour of a system, you must identify and change the limiting factor. The challenge that God has among us is our reluctance to trust.

MISTRUST: when we suspect that people aren’t being completely honest, and/or may have hidden agendas.

DISTRUST: when we’re convinced that people are wilfully deceitful, and/or aren’t working for the common good.

While making my way through chemotherapy these past few months, I have been struck with the importance of trusting God. Oswald Chambers in his devotional book My Utmost for His Highest said:

Put Trust in God First. Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be — absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 20:7

Trusting others, trusting leaders in the kingdom is directly proportional to my trust of Him. The by-product of that focused trust in God is noted by S.D. Gordon:

Cooperation increases efficiency in amazing proportions. Two working together in perfect agreement have a fivefold effect on efficiency in comparison to two working separately. The Bible says that one can handle a thousand but two will put 10,000 to flight. God’s plan for us will involve a new level of unity…a new level of trust.

Stephen M.R. Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust, clarifies things into a formula:

(S x E)T = R  (Strategy times Execution) multiplied by TRUST equals Results.

We always need to be aware of our strategies and evaluating our execution but our trust level demands constant vigilance.

Lewis Smedes said in The Power of Promises:

Yes, somewhere people still make and keep promises. They choose not to quit when the going gets rough because they promised once to see it through. They stick to lost causes. They hold on to a love grown cold. They stay with people who have become pains in the neck. They still dare to make promises and care enough to keep the promises they make. I want to say to you that if you have a ship you will not desert, if you have a people you will not forsake, if you have causes you will not abandon, then you are like God!

What a marvellous thing a promise is! When a person makes a promise, she reaches out into an unpredictable future and makes one thing predictable: she will be there even when being there costs her more than she wants to pay. When a person makes a promise, he stretches himself out into circumstances that no one can control and controls at least on thing: he will be there no matter what the circumstances turn out to be. With one simple word of promise, a person creates an island of certainty in a sea of uncertainty.

We all promised to trust Jesus with our salvation and our placement in His kingdom.
May our trust in Him and our resolve to follow Him together be increased!

 

 

Prayer Calendar: Neighbour-Nudging Prayer

Dave is the EFCC's Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst

It was neither an innocent nor a sincere question, but self-serving, self-justifying. Jesus had answered his first question, which sought the path to eternal life, with “Love God and your neighbour.” Then the law expert blurted out this second question, “Who is my neighbour?” Not a bad question, really.

Jesus responds in Luke 10 by telling a story. We call it the parable of the Good Samaritan. Neighbours are people who are in need of our compassion and God’s mercy, but the parable shifts the focus from identifying neighbours to being neighbours.

It is one thing to identify who our neighbours are. It’s quite another thing to be a neighbour to them.

If we are going to become more and more a gospel-sharing people, we need to be more intentionally in the lives of our neighbours. I’ve been on a “neighbour-nudging” journey for over a year now. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve learned to intentionally ask God to identify my neighbours to me. That has been an unpredictable journey! I have neighbours now in Boston, Moose Jaw and Kelowna. They are family, but I have started seeing them as neighbours in need. Surprisingly, through unexpected circumstances, I now have neighbours in Turkey, Australia and Toronto. We interact through email and Face Book. And I have neighbours here in my home town of Lethbridge, people that I see regularly moving in and out of their lives.

Not everyone in my life is a neighbour, but these are the ones God has singled out by laying them on my heart with a burden to see them become followers of Jesus Christ and continue deeper into that journey.

I’ve learned to intentionally ask God to show me how to be a neighbor to them. First and foremost, God has taught me to pray for them. This is neighbour-nudging prayer. I ask God to bless them, to reveal himself to them, to be active in their lives in such a way that they recognize him. I nudge them towards Jesus. Prayer paves the way for the gospel. By the way, they know I pray for them.

Next I look for ways to love them. I live the gospel before them. Here at home my wife and I run errands for the couple who are confined to their house. Last week we had a “neighbour” couple over for dinner and a chat. We find ways to be present in their lives.

Then, I look for ways to speak the gospel. Sometimes that is long in coming and other times it’s there before I know it. A couple of weeks ago I sent an email to one of my distant “neighbors” answering some questions about faith and telling the story of Jesus.

The Pulse: The Language of Insiders

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It’s natural for insider language to develop around, well, pretty much anything.

My cousin has diabetes. He has since he was a child. He hasn’t let it hold him back. He’s been a world-class athlete, he’s building a tribe of healthy, active people also living with the disease. And he’s doing some things that are on the frontlines of science in the field of diabetes research and development.

I’ve seen him in his tribe. And it’s fascinating how mid-sentence, he can suddenly stop talking English. I mean, I recognise some of the words, like “insulin” and “testing”. But it’s really its own dialect; a mish-mash of slang, technical terminology and brand names. It’s clear that they understand what they’re talking about.

But I sure don’t.

When you’re in a tribe, specific language is abundantly useful. It helps convey with clarity and precision the unique realities which exist in it. It also bonds the people who are in it.

The problem is that it keeps outsiders outside.

Most of the time, this doesn’t matter too much. Sticking with the diabetes-tribe example, there aren’t too many times when people peripheral to the tribe need to understand the tribe’s code. The conversation is really only relevant to the people within it.

Church is different.

I’ve been a part of conversations that all of a sudden I felt excluded because I hadn’t read a certain book, or multiple books in a particular field. People who are well-read, or who have shared interests and levels of education can resort to what I call “book-title code”.

In my experience, time spent in a conversation like that is just wasted.

Hey, I get it: it’s fun for the people who are in it. They’re bonding, and they’re going deeper with the ideas and paradigms than they would on their own. The trouble is that we believe at its core that the kind of stuff being talked about in a holy huddle is, or should be, directly relevant to all people, including those who are outside of it. If we get stuck in the gear of jargon and theological terms, then it’s hard to be relatable to people who aren’t conversant at that level. If we aren’t able to express our thoughts clearly, perhaps they’re not clear to us.

If we’re not being responsible with our language, people don’t feel invited.

I think this is one of the gut-level issues that Jesus was addressing when he said that we need to be like children if we’re to enter the Kingdom. Ultimately, he was talking about making faith accessible. Jesus’ message is all about invitation — the biggest, deepest, richest invitation we can imagine. If invitation is the common thread to all of Jesus’ teaching, then preventing anyone from experiencing and knowing that they’re invited is antithetical. An unintentional barrier is often created in the way we use language.

As I started out saying, it is natural. Which means it takes intentionality to counter it.

Using children as our lens doesn’t mean that we “dumb things down”. Because for one thing — and I know this firsthand — kids are smart! Even though their vocabularies aren’t as developed, they can apprehend and understand more than we often give them credit for…a lot more! Ahem.

What it does mean is we need to make sure that we’re giving relatable on-ramps for understanding. We need to check in with people to understand how they’re understanding.

When we do that, we start to get this concept of invitation right. Our communication comes from a place of humility, putting other people’s interpretations ahead of our own intended meanings.

And when that happens, we might just find ourselves learning in the very places we’re trying to teach.