Saying Yes to His Rhythm and No to Burnout — by Ron Roy (Complete 5 Parts)

My Spiritual Director, at the beginning of our time together, asked me to stop while I was praying. He said, “stop praying and listen to what God wants to say to you.”
As I did, I felt that God was impressing upon me, that my work as a missionary in Uruguay had become an idol.  The obvious question came from my Spiritual Director, “Ron, “what does that mean to you?”   With a few tears forming in my eyes I responded, that “I love my ministry more than God.”  This was one event among several that helped me to realize how I was moving toward ministry burnout.

Over the next several months several verses began to grip my heart and my spirit that were instrumental in assisting me to move toward a spiritual realignment.  I started writing out Matthew 11.28-30 from different translations and paraphrases in my spiritual journal.  I learned that Jesus was wanting to teach some valuable life lessons, not just about work, but about life.  I needed to start from a place of rest in Him.  I needed to minister and work from His heart and not my agenda.  I needed to develop skills that would allow me tp listen and follow his direction.

One person God brought into my life, challenged me one day “to find Christ’s Rhythms for my life.”    The Rhythm of life theme kept coming to me from different directions.

The rendering from The Message helped me begin to see that “rhythms of grace” can happen in my work life as well as the rest of my life. 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how  to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11.28-30  The MSG.

In the months that followed, Jesus began to lay out a path for me that not only corrected my idolatry to work, but set me free from an addiction that was steeling joy from my everyday life.  I began to listen with more sensitivity, trusted more clearly, and abided in Christ with a renewed vigor and rhythm.

One of the most positive steps that I started to build into my life was to have a mini spiritual retreat every two weeks.  I tried to have it around the first and the middle of the month.  This practice helped me to have a spiritual, emotional, mental checkup.  I would make necessary course corrections to get back on track.  These mini-retreats would only last two – three hours, and became anchors for me to guard against burnout. These hours were invested in evaluating the last couple of weeks and making rhythm adjustments for what was coming ahead.  I developed a keener since of being still and listening.  Waiting and resting became more of a natural part of the flow of my connectedness and abiding in Christ.

  • What rhythm changes might be necessary for you to make?
  • What burdens are needed to be entrusted to the Lord?
  • What practical step (s) will you take to renew your faith walk?
  • What is your main rest disturber and how will you let Christ speak into the situation?

One of the ways that God has chosen to impress his truth in my life is through word pictures.  They are like modern day parables that always come with a life lessons. The most vivid of these came on the front end of my quest for boundaries and God’s rhythm for my life.

In the word picture, I was part of a traveling circus that had several acts.  I was the juggler who was keeping seven spinning plates going on top of tall sticks working franticly to not let any of them fall.  I was the lion tamer facing different dangerous challenges that caused me to strive to remain alert at all times, so I would not make a mistake.  I was the tight rope walker using a long balancing rod to keep me from falling to the ground several stories below.  I had to stay focused and concentrate on only what was ahead of me and not listen to the noise of the crowds around me. Finally, I was the trapeze artist swinging by my knees catching one after another who relied on me to catch them so they would not fall.  I could not fail; nor could I rest.    The application to ministry in each case served as a wake-up call for me.

There were multiple choices to make that affected the lives of others.  The needs for ministry were endless. Leading pastoral support groups, I was wanting to be there for those whose lives needed someone to walk along side of them.  Just living the word picture over in my mind alerted me to the fact that without rest I was in danger of hurting myself, those around me and naturally the ministry that I had been called to in the first place.

What happened next was one of the those game changer moments in my life.  My momentum, motivation and outlook did a complete turn around. Jesus added another life altering part to the word picture He gave me.  This time He took me by my hand and he and I walked to the circus together.  I was a young toddler. As we found our seats he put me in his lap and I started to watch the circus acts, the clowns and the animals.  When I looked at Jesus, he was looking at me.  I did this several times and then I realized. He is looking at me, and not the circus.  There is all of this excitement going on and he is interested in me. “I am Jesus’ Circus.”  The Life Lessons I took away were:

“Without me leading you, your life becomes a never-ending circus.”

“You are not a performer, Ron, you’re my child.”

“God, you take delight in who I am, not for what I may accomplish.”

During my spiritual retreat when I received the Circus Lesson, I was in a prayer chapel. I remember singing the hymn, “I am a child of the king.”  I read it too.  During this season of prayer, I actually got up to leave.  I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to remain and that was when the second part of the circus story above came to me.  I have thought many times; how important it was for me not to have left before He took me to the circus Himself.  This word picture became a tremendous tool to lead me away from the burnout situation I was heading toward.  But also, it has become a rhythm reminder to call me to enjoy being with Him.   Am I too much the performer? A crowd pleaser? Am I moving toward enjoying being His child, receiving His love, comfort, direction, care, assurance, joy, and hope?

  • What distractions are taking you away today from hearing from God?
  • What sounds, attitudes, actions are keeping you from being still and knowing that He is God? (Psalms 46:10)
  • What are the worries, attitudes, cares, that are keeping you from resting in Christ who is there to care for you? (I Peter 5.7)
  • What does the rhythm you are living now say about your Kingdom priorities? (Matthew 6:33)

“God does not have favorites, but he does have intimates.” This is a quote I heard from Waylon Moore. I remember saying to God that I was ready to recuperate my intimacy with Him. Not having this spiritual intimacy was definitely part of my moving toward burnout. Looking back, in trying to find His Rhythm for my life, without a doubt one of the mayor verses of Scripture was Psalms 46:10. “Let be and be still, and – know and understand – that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.” Amplified Version.  Easier said than done, right? In time, I developed what I call a Psalm 46:10 prayer perspective.  It has been a game changer.

To be still is to remain in a state of expectation, rest, hope, and confident trust.  The opposite of being still for me is to have a hurried and cluttered mind and a divided heart.   Being still is an unnatural rhythm for me, that is why I needed to develop a Psalm 46 prayer perspective.  It is a prayer perspective, focusing on what I like to call “expectant connectedness.”  It is an exchange of my anxiety, agenda, and wants, while I adopt a priority of reflective listening using Scripture and prayer.

This prayer perspective has helped me to move toward a better balance of “Being,” and “Doing.”  Praying with stillness, is worth the effort.  Let stillness, move you to pray!

Some of the main areas for me that hinder my being still and living as one of God’s intimates through the years have been:

  1. The most obvious one is sin. Sin interrupts my stillness and is replaced by excuse making, and guilt.  Positively, conviction moves me toward repentance and forgiveness.  The concern becomes getting right again with God instead of being still and enjoying being with Him.  Sin becomes a dark cloud over stillness. When I am having, trouble being still, I ask the question, “Is there a sin in my life that is hindering my stillness?”  Sin can invade like a mighty-destructive storm, replacing all the tranquility in its path.
  1. Priorities that are out of balance cause me to replace stillness and my contemplative listening time with hurried, go through the motion, legalistic type of a devotion with the Father.
  1. Worry chokes out stillness. The spiral down the worry trail has to be cut off for me to regain the stillness perspective. This is when I Peter 5:7 becomes more than a verse to memorize, but a prayer of action to realize.
  1. Perhaps the most destructive barrier that keeps me from being still is when I go into what I call my “fix it, at all costs mode.” Like waves one after another my plans, ideas, ways of fixing a certain problem, crisis or interpersonal relationship conflict over powers like a tsunami my stillness approach to meeting with God. If gone uncorrected, it is like God is crowded out and my “fix it with my own strength mentality” trumps stillness and listening for God’s perspective, heart and wisdom about the issue being dealt with.

This Psalm was written to a nation at war.  It is a call for the nation to see all that God was doing in spite of the confusion, doubt, fear, and battle torn reality they were living.  It was not hard for me to move from the physical battle the Israelites were facing to my own personal spiritual battles.  It is in stillness that we capture the second part of the verse that says, “know that I am God.”

Too many times we want to Know God, but we are not willing to be disciplined in our hectic schedules so that we can participate in “expectant connectedness,” which has to happen, in order for the last part of the verse to be realized.  Praying in this manner is not about us, but it is about exalting the Father among the nations in all the earth.

Let Stillness Move you to Pray today with an intentional focus on becoming an intimate with the Father.  Perhaps being still could take on one of the dynamics below in your life today:

  • Be quiet, and aware that God is at work regardless of the headlines.
  • Be meditative, and acknowledge that God is still on His throne.
  • Be focused on listening and available to hear what God wants to tell, ask, show or be with you.
  • Be restful and approach life with the rhythm that He desires for you.
  • Be still and let your life announce how God can be exalted among the nations.
  • Be a sensitive listener to the whispers of God so the noise of the world will be drowned out.

Discovering and maintaining His Rhythm requires an ever-refreshing Intimacy with the Father. A single drawing was one of the concepts that moved me back into intimacy. This illustration helped me to capture life disciplines necessary for intimacy. I I used it like a roadmap to recapture the intimacy I had lost with Father God.  Nourishing my soul, mind, spirit, and even emotions all worked together to restore what busyness had tried to corrupt.  The drawing, in my spiritual life journal became an often-visited reference point.

The drawing was based on the tree in Psalm One verse three. I drew a root system and labeled them:  Prayer Life, Bible Study-Meditation, Living by the Spirit, and the Body of Christ.  I had key passages of scripture to remind me that these were to be foundational priorities in my life.  The trunk was represented by Christ living in me and John 15 was the main go to passage.  The principles of abiding in Christ and bearing fruit, with the foundational disciplines, allowed me to grow in the areas that covered the rest of the tree.  In the branches, I put my wife’s name, my three son’s names, different aspects of my job and ministries at the time.  After a few weeks, I realized that there was not a branch with my name on it. This reminded me that I need to build time into my life for my own soul and rhythm balance.  In Psalm one it talks about bearing fruit and the reality that the Psalm one tree does not wither but continues to prosper.

The drawing became like a compass helping me to find and maintain my true north. Intimacy returned as I learned to give attention to abiding in Christ once again and allowing the disciplines to determine how I was going to live.  My priorities of the day were determined by my time with the Father and listening to His Heart.  Instead of my work being the main driving force determining my schedule, “The Tree” concept was used to discern who, and or what were to be the priorities of the day.  Intimacy with the Father clarified His rhythm for me. “ My agenda,” started with finding out what was on God’s agenda for me in the areas of Being and Doing.

Among some of the lessons I learned following the Tree Concept of Priorities  were:

  • Focusing first on building Intimacy with God, paved the way for clearer priorities
  • Intimacy with God, knowing and following His heart kept me in the right rhythm

(Matthew 11:28-30)

  • Allowed me to focus on being obedient to God’s call of the day and less on trying to make things happen with my time table in mind
  • Listening more to discern His will, helped me to grow in intimacy with God
  • Fruit was more natural, meaningful, beneficial, and long lasting. Fruit was more person centered and less program oriented.
  • I was receiving spiritually more consistently, so I was fresher in giving out to others.
  • There was greater balance all-around of my priorities so I was moving away from burnout and toward contentment.
  • Those around me were able to know I was fully present and not so overly committed that although, I was present,, my mind was engaged in a long “to – do” list.

Perhaps you are in a place today where you can celebrate knowing that your intimacy with God is exactly where He and yourself want it to be.  Or perhaps you need to be reminded through the tree drawing how important the disciplines and abiding in Christ are for you to maintain intimacy with the Father. Decide today to live with priorities that bring blessing to Him and His Kingdom. Choose intimacy. Live in alignment with His Rhythm.

  • What areas are you failing to abide in Christ?
  • What particular “root” needs to be attended to for intimacy to grow in your life?
  • When you cut a tree in half you notice the rings that show years of growth, are you in a season of growth? Why?  Why not?
  • As you bear fruit in your life and ministry, how will this continue to multiply by the choices you are making to grow in intimacy with Christ Jesus your Lord?

Psalms 1:1-3 NIV  “Blessed is the one  who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,  and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers”

Abiding in Christ is the final principle in this series of articles focusing on discovering and maintaining rhythm to avoid burnout. The fifteenth chapter of John was perhaps the main chapter of the Bible that guided me back to a healthy connection with Christ.  The principles below worked together to give me a concrete example of staying connected to the True Vine.  It went along well with Jesus’ teaching of being Yoked to Him also, found in Matthew chapter eleven.  The spiritual checklist below keeps me honest in my quest for living with the Rhythm that Christ has for me each day. Learning to abide in Christ can be compared to oil in a car. Life may work for a while, but without the oil of abiding, a breakdown cannot be too far in the future.

THE PURPOSE OF ABIDING IN CHRIST: 

A –  Available, faithful and teachable, to remain connected to the VINE

15:1-6, 15-16 The Reverence of Abiding 

B –  “Bear Fruit,” “Much,” “More,” “Fruit that last”:

15:2, 5, 6, 8,16   The Results of Abiding 

I –    Intimacy through Intercession with  Christ        15:7, 16             The Road of Abiding 

D-   Disciple others to Abide in Christ                      !5:8       The Reproduction of Abiding 

E – Exalt and Glorify God above all else                  15:8                The Reason for Abiding 

THE PROBLEM OF NOT ABIDING IN CHRIST: 

I – Failure to identify with Christ completely leads to instability, indifference and the    inability to abide well with Christ.                      15:2-6 The Repentance Needed for Abiding 

N-  Nothing can be accomplished apart from Abiding in Christ.  15:4-5 The Reality and warning for those who seek to live the Christian Life without Abiding in Christ 

THE PRINCIPLES FOR ABIDING IN CHRIST: 

C- Command of Christ to love others as he has loved us.

15:9-10,12-13,17   The Requirement of Abiding 

H–  Holy Spirit will be Counselor, Truth,  power and authority for those who abide.

15:26-27    The  Ripple Effect of Abiding 

R- Radical Obedience to Christ’s commands     15:10, 14            The Rhythm of Abiding 

I-  Intentional joy from Christ through you to others 15:13         The Resilience of Abiding                                                                   (See also:     John 10:10;   14:27;   16:24;   17:13)

S- Suffering is part of the price for Abiding         15:18-25 The Repercussions of Abiding 

T-  Truth, God’s Word is the True North of Abiding

15:3,7,20, The Reliable Source for Abiding

Let me encourage you to walk through this chapter again and again while asking yourself:

  • Am I aware of the importance of daily abiding in Christ?
  • Am I needing an Abiding Tune Up?
  • In what areas am I abiding?
  • In what areas am I failing to abide? Why or Why not?
  • How have I bared fruit in the last week to ten days?
  • In what areas am I failing to obey Christ completely?
  • Is there someone I need to share this outline with and ask them to hold me accountable to abiding in Christ?
  • How am I allowing the Holy Spirit to assist me to abide in Christ?
  • Am I convinced that apart from Christ I can do nothing? What difference is this making in my life-style?

The spiritual principles found in this chapter served me well during personal retreats and became a “go to chapter” for regaining momentum in my Christian walk.  Abiding in Christ is necessary to defeat the pull toward burnout.  Abiding in Christ allows us to naturally bear fruit that multiplies and last. Abiding in Christ gives us resources when: anxiety, worry, stress and even suffering enter our lives.  Abiding in Christ keeps us fresh and renewed spiritually.  Abiding in Christ teaches us to rely on His strength, and authority, while depending less on our own power.  Knowing that we are connected and abiding in the True Vine, we can rest knowing that Christ releases His Spirit in us to encounter whatever circumstance, temptation, trials or conflict.  Let ABIDING IN CHRIST, keep your life flowing in healthy rhythm.

Ron Roy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inward Focus versus Kingdom Focus by Phil Kesler

When you look at your church, what do you see? Does it reflect the priorities of the membership, or does it support Kingdom priorities?

So much of the daily activities of traditional or legacy churches is program based – meetings, classes, and structure designed to support the ministry needs of those already attending the church; even much social outreach is simply more ministry to those that cannot make it to church but are already saved (or were least attending or family to those attending). Much is focused on maintaining, continuing, and building community inside the building – a club like mentality.

Very few churches have a hospital mentality (though there is much talk about it). Little is done to purposefully expand the Kingdom of God throughout the community among those that do NOT know Him yet. Few churches have house or cell groups that have as their focus evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication (and not just another Bible study of members that does not grow numerically) and fewer still reach different ethnic groups. So many urban churches have changed so much that the neighborhood around the church no longer reflects the original founding population but may have significant members of immigrant groups living right next door to the church building!

What is your focus – Inward or Kingdom? What’s it going to take to change? Food for thought

Where do YOU engage Lostness? by Phil Kesler

In your city, there are many people that do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. In some cities, about 80 percent are not walking with the Lord and destined for an eternity apart from Him.

What are we doing about it? Do we – do you – have an intentional plan for reaching the lost in the community? Where do you or can you go where you can have conversations that lead to salvation?

Do you visit the same gas station / convenience store, barber /salon, grocer, or gym – where folks gather, do something together, and naturally talk with one another for a few minutes? What about at social gatherings at school, community centers, and such? Waiting around to pick up a child at school? What about in the waiting room at doctors /dentists – lots of time to talk to folks.

There are many encounters that are “unplanned” during our day but much of our agenda puts us in the same places where we meet one or more people. Being in the right place at the right time guided by the Spirit was the example Jesus set for us – and he met some very interesting people that needed something from Him. I believe many of the people we meet also need something from God – and as His ambassadors, we need to be flexible to where He is working and go to those places. Who knows – today may be the day you get to present the Good News to someone that has never heard or never responded to His gift of salvation. Are you available for assignment?

The Walking Dead Are Among Us and What We Can Do by Phil Kesler

Everywhere around the world, there is a version of the Walking Dead playing on a digital device. Images of mindless zombies wandering the earth, and folks trying to protect themselves from the danger that is lurking about.

Inside every church, the walking dead live among us. The “walking dead” the church may have a relationship with Jesus. These may have been baptized. Some may be your leaders, deacons, even pastors. What is going on inside of these people that you cannot easily see?

People are very good at hiding a shaky marriage. You cannot easily tell who is a survivor from the pains of a divorce as a child. It is difficult to know who is harboring guilt or shame from past or even recent present sexual, physical, or emotional abuses. Concealing the struggles of addictions, depression, anxiety, sexual identity, trying to raise children as single parents, and other issues is what people do to try to get through one more day.  In our dysfunctional world of today, many walking dead may wrestle with more than one of the above problems – often compounded with financial, employment, or other social welfare issues.

When a person has cancer or some other physical disease that incapacitates, we get that person to the doctor to see what can be done about it. People in the church pray; it is talked about. The person works though the issue alongside of trusted friends, family, and church members. The pastor and deacons visit. Everyone rallies around the one suffering.

For most of the “walking dead” in the local church – there is no help readily available; and quite often, we don’t even want to talk about any of this out loud. After all, once we become a Christian, we are a new creation, made new – right?

2 Corinthians 5: 17 says that we have a new beginning to our life with God. He has forgiven us of our transgressions; but the damage from sin that we suffered – and are often suffering daily – still must be dealt with.

Treating these issues is messy, complicated, and requires time, resources, but most of all, someone that cares. Second – in the legal world we live in, people are afraid to tackle some issues out of fear of the church being taken to court. Third – and perhaps the most difficult thing we must admit – just like a person entering a twelve-step program – is that we really have a big problem that can no longer be ignored.

Some large sized churches generally have a system of support groups in place; some medium sized churches have one specialized support group available. Few Christian professional counselors exist. Secular counselors can provide help but may advise their client in a way that moves them further from serving the Lord and not towards biblical wholeness. The author has witnessed this very thing too many times. A hindrance in both cases is the financial question when consulting with professionals.

There are any number of ways the churches could help – from establishing couples / singles groups to young mother programs to addiction and divorce recovery groups. Food closets, meals on wheels, free health / dental /legal clinics can provide relief to many. Even if some counseling professionals could donate some of their time each week to provide pro bono services in some areas churches, it would greatly enrich the community at large. Could churches network together to provide these services to the community? Yes!

Cell groups / churches can provide much first line pastoral ministry to the walking dead – and will be there for those really struggling to provide emotional support. Small peer groups that operate with anonymity and confidentiality can help even more as they are all seeking to survive the effects of a common trauma or condition.  However, this does not eliminate the need to have counseling available to those that have deeper traumas; and the pastor does not always have the time nor the background to resolve every case.

How could churches in a city network together better to share valuable counseling resources so that those that need care have access to it where you are?  What programs, groups, or ministries need to be developed in the church right now with the resources at its disposal? How can leaders be trained / retrained to best handle certain kinds of issues and do they all know how to get someone help as efficiently as possible?

Let the church stop talking about being a hospital and become a hospital.

Getting Ready for Summer Missions by Phil Kesler

Schools are out soon! Vacation time is coming. Churches have been planning summer mission trips. Here are a few things to consider before heading out to the country or state where you will serve:

  1. Make sure that what is needed is what the people need, and not just what your church is good at and that will make your church feel good doing. Good coordination between your church and the missionary /national church on the field will go a long way to make the trip truly strategic.
  2. Make certain that the project is something that will help the entire community, not just a few people in the community. A water well that benefits many is better than just one house that creates envy / strife after you are gone, for example.
  3. Make sharing the Gospel the primary aim and use social work / compassionate work in balance. There will always be those that want whatever you are giving, building, doing, etc and will feign interest in the Gospel to get that thing. Don’t stop doing some good things but on the other hand, make sharing Jesus and developing ministry points that others can follow up later the priority!
  4. Make sure that someone on the field (missionary, church in that country) is going to follow up with those folks interested in or that accepted Jesus. Be certain that contact information given (telephone numbers, emails, addresses) is passed along to someone that will go back and continue to make disciples out of the harvest gathered!
  5. Spend time praying for the people to be visited. Pray for the mission team. Pray for the work to be done. Pray for safety. Study all you can about where you are going and try to learn a few words and what is culturally appropriate to say and do – as well as things to avoid!
  6. Do take photos to show back home. Do avoid taking indelicate photos and posting them on Facebook – national brothers and sisters have digital devices and you may unwillingly post something that you think is innocent but may offend them. Ask yourself before posting – would I want someone to take this photo of my country? Of my family? Of this suffering?

If you do these few things, no doubt your summer missions experience will be a good, strategic trip that will glorify Christ, bless the national partners, and leave everyone feeling good that God used you to advance His Kingdom!

Kingdom Principles Model For Others by Ron Roy

Be an Example worth Following

     John C. Maxwell writes that the number one management principle is that: “people do what people see.”

Management principle or not, most parents would say the same thing as they watch child after child begin to pick up naturally the good habits as well as some of the bad from both parents. Children learn to tie shoes by watching and then doing. Words are repeated with the same inflection in the voice.  Phrases are repeated even though the meaning may not have been learned yet by the child.   Life principles are also part of the modeling chain.

I have also seen this principle lived out in the discipleship chain as life principles and values are passed from disciple to disciple from generation to generation.  People, disciples, children learn to do what they see others do.  How important it is for us to model for those who are watching, learning, forming and expanding their concept of life.

 

Review the last 72 hours and the persons who saw you in action living life as it came to you.  What did you model to them?  Where did your decisions point them?  When did they see you at your best and worst?   What are your observations from these same 72 hours: who did you watch to see how they did life?  Who/What were they listening too?  How did they react to conflict, praise, stress, laughter?  What did they model for you positively or negatively?

Here is my “Big Ten” list that reminds me not to forget to MODEL for others.

  • Stay up to date on your own connectedness with Jesus your Model

Listen to His voice, Learn from His word; Love Him as you trust and obey, 

  • Let your heart set the pace in your life flow

Leading, Parenting, Ministering from the heart keeps us in a listening mode. Being transparent, honest, open, and vulnerable allows you to keep fresh modeling relationships.  (See Proverbs 4:23)  If we are an example that is only “head” driven than those who follow may develop tendencies that ignore soul care. 

  • Remember the skipping rock principle of modeling

Someone skips the rock and you watch.  Then you try.  The person helps you make adjustments.  You watch again, try again and the process is repeated until one day you are “the someone” in another persons life.  Modeling has a ripple effect to it.  You never know when what you are modeling will be repeated again, again, again, again and again.   What a responsibility!  What an opportunity!  

  • Being a good model, is another form of passing on Blessing. You model well. You bless. Choose to model well.  Choose to bless. Be a blessing.
  • You model for others 24 / 7.
  • You will model what you have learned and observed in others. Choose wisely.
  • Others will model what they have seen you do, say, react, decide. This can involve multiple generations. (See II Timothy 2:2) Live wisely.
  • You cannot, not model.
  • Your life influence continues in others. As your life’s: values, priorities, principles and purposes are adopted in the lives of others, your legacy example is multiplied in future generations.
  • When you model life, you are helping to design, sculpt and shape another person’s life and ministry. Enjoy your artwork.  Stay on target.

 Let the blessings overflow through your example. People ARE watching.  

Ron Roy –

Glocal Focus Associate

Interchurch Reconciliation and Why it is so Hard by Phil Kesler

More and more churches in the cities of the USA are realizing that it is high time that something be done to reconcile the divide between traditionally Anglo and Afro-American communities.  It is a great thing that at least there is a feeling that the divide as it stands must not continue. Why is it so hard to find a way to bridge this gap?

Unlike most of the rest of the Christian world that regularly gathers together in small groups — many American churches have lost the vision, if they ever had it, for true KOINONIA. Most traditional churches DO church and many religious activities but never really fellowship deeply with each other in their own church. People gather for meetings and know each other professionally but rarely encounter each other socially except for programmed social events. In other words, people in traditional churches rarely if ever open their homes to others for breakfast, lunch, dinner or meet someone from the church just to encourage one another and get to know each other. The exception to this rule is when the church has an active cell church / house church ministry where regular KOINONIA takes place. The author has been a member of two different churches since returning to the USA and, while he has invited people to his home – rarely if ever has he or his family been invited to the home of another church member just for KOINONIA. If Christians are “too busy” to meet with each other and get to know each other in a deep Koinonia sense in their own church – how will we ever get to know people from other churches that are of other races/ ethnic heritages?

It should go without saying that ministers and staff must model KOINONIA among their members of all ethnic groups so that others in their congregations will follow.

Another significant concern is that few traditional churches are evangelizing in the neighborhoods where they are based. Many don’t even realize that the demographics have changed right around their church – and in fact – other races / ethnic groups occupy what used to be the “church community”. This pattern is common in many downtown areas in cities around the world.

It is noble that pastors want to have meetings to get to know each other, trade pulpits from time to time, march together, attend conferences that address race relations – but if we as the church do not regularly practice KOINONIA – praying for each other, bearing each other’s burdens, becoming more Christ like, and reaching the lost — we will continue to become more and more irrelevant amongst ourselves and in the communities we ought to be serving.

If real change is to occur within and between churches, then pride and power must be put aside in favor of KOINONIA and Kingdom advance. Developing a Kingdom focus to do God’s will in unity should be THE priority.  The model is one of servant leaders working together to promote, create, and model KOINONIA and Kingdom advance within their congregations regardless of ethnic heritage. The author has been privileged to work for leaders in several different countries with various ethnic backgrounds – and has seen firsthand how God blessed those relationships and God’s mission multiplied!

What can be done (if there is a genuine commitment and will do to so):

  • Sharing meals with each other in our own church
  • Actively inviting others that come to our church to lunch / dinner – especially those from other ethnic groups
  • Purposely look to meet and eat with members of other churches – to get to know them.
  • Purposely have joint celebrations, worship in the park, etc.
  • Purposely look for joint mission projects where we can enjoy each other and enjoy serving Kingdom expansion together.
  • Purposely seek to conduct joint mission mobilization and mission training events.
  • Purposely share leadership in sports evangelism like Upward Basketball, Upward Baseball, etc.
  • Prayer-walk, evangelize, start Bible studies in homes in multi-ethnic pairs when possible.
  • Purposely seek to unite social ministry projects /outreach (meals on wheels, recovery groups, counseling, teen pregnancy, etc)
  • Purposely seek to develop cell church networks together
  • Purposely plan and conduct mission trips together with shared leadership
  • Purposely plan and conduct marriage retreats together – perhaps develop ONE marriage enrichment group.
  • Purposely plan and conduct pastoral / ministry enrichment conferences together
  • Purposely seek to develop a colorless staff – where leaders are selected and serve based on spirituality, leadership competence, trust, and shared Kingdom focus.
  • Purposely seek to send out missionaries not as one church but from the mission team /pastors of the city. The author has seen this in practice overseas. It really does work!

As we start heading in this direction – brothers and sisters of different ethnic groups will leave behind days of having to tip toe around each other. Instead, we will genuinely know and love each other, work together regularly, see each other as disciples making disciples, and watch the Kingdom grow in partnership.

Using Your Profession to Extend the Kingdom by Phil Kesler

Since the time of the early church, missionaries have gone out from one country to reach another. Many of these missionaries were sent in a “traditional” way – people trained in seminaries, largely with pastoral skills – and supported by churches. Many countries were reached and churches were planted in many countries around the world.

The reality is that there never have been, nor ever will be, enough “professional clergy missionaries” available to reach the unreached in the entire world. That is because we are all supposed to be using our profession to extend the Kingdom of God wherever we are and wherever our job takes us!

Paul used his profession of leatherworking /tent repair to sustain him and to provide a forum where he could regularly engage “normal folks” in the city commercial districts. Moravian missionaries used their professions in the countries where they felt God sending them. Today, some agencies specialize in facilitating the sending out of highly qualified workers in a variety of professional capacities.

It would probably surprise most folks to realize that the job they currently are doing is probably highly coveted overseas in more than one place – and many of those places are unreached with the Gospel. Jobs in the areas of health care, education, sports, social work, and business are available and in some cases – the need is urgent for competent professionals. Each region of the world has its own special needs and salaries vary, but many good paying jobs can be found around the globe!

Have you ever put your job before the Lord and asked Him if He might have you work somewhere else – that has never heard the Gospel? Are you ready to go where He leads – and take your spouse and family – if you have them – with you too? Imagine for a moment your family having the adventure of a lifetime, seeing God work through your lives together! It may be that God wants you to be the best engineer, teacher, business professional, sports leader, health or social worker that you can be and share Jesus with those that have never heard!!!

Are you ready to ask Him today?

May you be receptive and obedient to whatever He says!

The “Cross-Cultural Missions” Challenge by Jim Spikes

Many in church today probably feel they have a clear idea of what “Cross-Cultural Missions” means. The term often elicits visions of faraway lands and people who look and speak differently.  Carrying the Gospel cross-culturally means going to a different place, learning a different language and culture, and building bridges for the Gospel.  With reason, most missionary training programs have strong elements of ethnolinguistic training and cultural and worldview research.  Yet this understanding is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the true cross-cultural challenge facing us as the church in North America.

As many have observed, our cross-cultural challenge is complex.  No longer are people who look and speak differently located in lands far away. They are now our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Not only are our churches still challenged by the need to remain committed to sending and supporting missionaries abroad, they are also being challenged to think and strategize as missionaries in their own communities – often for the first time. I touched on this challenge briefly in a previous article. What does a congregation do when, suddenly, it finds itself in the middle of a city or a neighborhood that no longer looks like or speaks like most of the church members?  Some congregations react well and make the necessary adjustments in their ministry and their thinking. Others re-locate to continue their ministry to the same type of people as before. Sadly, still others have a hard time making any adjustments in paradigm and often face decline and closure.

If this were not enough, the “cross-cultural” challenge has an even deeper implication.  Experts and church leaders are recognizing that the most important cross-cultural challenge facing congregations today has nothing to do with language or ethnicity.  Some of those around our churches who are farthest from the Gospel are those who may look the most like us. Never has the “Generation Gap” been so wide as it is today.  Of course, one could say that there have always been generational differences that the church has had to overcome in passing the Gospel from one generation to the next. It must be recognized, however, that in previous generations, there were shared cultural understandings, beliefs and core values that were similar enough to allow effective bridges to be built. The assumption was that, eventually, these younger generations will take up the task and follow our footsteps because, at their core, they were like us.  That reality may be changing. The challenge is to recognize that we are dealing with a significant cultural difference.  Our children may speak the same language and be like us in many ways, but they also reflect the mindset, belief systems, and attitudes of a growing global community around them. The global community is fueled by changes in communication, access to information, and global social interactions. These younger generations think differently, they view truth differently, they judge worth differently, and they view right and wrong/good and bad differently. In many ways, they have moved away from the basic Judeo-Christian heritage that characterized their parents and grandparents.  They are a different “culture.” It is a culture that requires us to engage it with the same level of intensity and intentionality we have traditionally reserved for the “mission field”. Experts say that our churches need to confront this challenge. The first question is Can our churches do it? The more important question is Are they willing to do it?

Here is the challenge.  As hard as it is for congregations to adjust and change their strategies, mindset, and even their identities to reach and engage people around them who are obviously different in appearance and language, it could be even harder to make these same adjustments to reach and engage people who are just as different, yet not obviously so. We cannot rely on the fact that the generations coming up in our churches look like us and talk like us to eventually lead to winning their hearts and minds for Christ.  Can we do what it takes to not only reach the different cultures around us, but also reach the “cultures”, coming after us?  Being “faithful” is not just holding on to the truth when those around us condemn it or invalidate it. It is also doing whatever is needed to ensure that this truth is ignited in the hearts and lives of those who follow us who will carry the truth forward.

The Tension Between Planning and Going with God by Phil Kesler

Every Christian leader wants to go where God is at work and do what He is leading us to do! We also want to be prepared and responsible with the resources He has given us. Can we plan in a God guided manner? How can that work?

First – when it comes to developing a vision and mission statement – we should, as a leadership team, pray and ask God’s direction for the overall ministry.

Second – when it comes to examining the yearly schedule for mobilization events, mission trips, evangelistic /impact events, church planting /house church locations, new ethnic groups to be engaged – we need to seek the feedback from all ministry leaders as well as the church body as to where God is guiding us. Are doors opening in some new place or with certain people? This may mean deciding to NOT do some things that we’ve always done, so that we can do some new things that God is revealing.

Third – develop the calendar and budget in such a way that there is some flexibility built in and explain this clearly to the staff team as well as other key leadership. Help all to see that there is no fear or shame in saying that an event ought to be moved, the time changed, rescheduled, cancelled or completely new activity /ministry added because that is where God is moving. Also – have a special “God at Work” line in the budget (the author has seen a local church recently do this very thing!) and allocate resources for those new ministry opportunities that could present themselves during the year. Encourage ministry leaders to analyze their budgets as the year goes on for unneeded funds that could be released for use where God is at work in another ministry sector.

Fourth, when plans, budgets, and calendars are approved and as the ministry year progresses, help everyone understand that it is all subject to change at the whim of the Holy Spirit. The pastor and staff must be constantly discerning which way He is moving – so as to steer the ship to go with Him as He moves in a new direction.