Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Part 6 of reflections from a class on “Missional Leadership,” taught by Dr. Reggie McNeal at Columbia International University.

A huge part of encouraging and facilitating movement is multiplying and developing leaders who multiply and develop other leaders. It’s this kind of reproducing development that promotes movement – in all areas, really, but especially in missions. Thankfully, there are many different methods of training leaders, from the very formal seminary setting to the very informal occasional mentoring of an emerging leader. Rather than argue over which is better, I think each setting can best address certain areas, while not doing so well in others.

Dr. McNeal listed four areas of leadership development:

  1. Paradigm – vision, mission, how people see the world
  2. Micro-skill – team-building, listening, communication skills, conflict management, recruiting, leading a meeting – among many others
  3. Resource development – how we use prayer, time, finances, etc.
  4. Spiritual formation – judgment, marriage, emotional intelligence

Dr. McNeal was very clear in stating that leadership development, in movement, is not about helping people learn to do their church job better. To be honest, if we want movement, we need a different kind of leader than most church leaders tend to be. I need to be more intentional in focusing on all these areas in people development. I tend to focus most on micro-skills and spiritual formation, but I think the primary focus might need to be in the paradigm area – helping Polish people see the world differently, especially in the light of some of the shifts that Dr. McNeal mentioned earlier (my posts 2 and 3.)

The course in Missional Leadership prompted me to think through several areas, and to set some goals to enable me to move in the direction of apostolic, movement-oriented leadership – not just for myself, but promoting that kind of leadership in Poland. Two questions serve as starting points as I try to think about a leadership culture change:

1. How can we address those aspects of leadership development that are missing for apostolic leaders?

  1. How do we decrease denominationalism?
  2. How do we Increase Kingdom-centricity?
  3. How can I help leaders develop and release other leaders?
  4. How can I help leaders become better team players?

2. How can we change the language to better encourage missional thinking and discussion?

In my opinion, changing the language is one of the key ways to begin changing a culture. Of course, I’m not referring to introducing English words into Polish, or changing Polish culture to be more American. I’m trying to figure out how in a Polish context, we can change the leadership culture. Hence, in Polish, how can we change the language to promote Kingdom-centricity, releasing other leaders, etc.?

The Polish language does not use articles, so saying “the Church” looks and sounds the same as saying “a church.” However, most evangelical groups use another word entirely to say church. This word means “assembly,” but it is really understood only by Protestants, and a few Catholics who have had contact with Protestants. Other questions arise: how would we say “missional” in Polish? Of course, the word itself matters much less than the concept.  I think missional would be the same word as missionary, just used as an adjective. Then of course – what would that mean for Poles, to hear about “missionary communities” in their midst?

Missional Leadership I

Missional Leadership II

Missional Leadership III

Missional Leadership IV: A Preparedness Mentality

Missional Leadership V: Keeping Score

Part 5 of reflections from a class on “Missional Leadership,” taught by Dr. Reggie McNeal at Columbia International University.


The scorecard – what do we count?

This particular highlight was woven throughout the major shifts, and is one of the key points from the course. What do we count, in order to see if we really are winning the game? In the past, we have counted heads, membership, income, and other such concrete items that tell us that our church is growing. However, if we make a shift that is more external, more kingdom-centric, then these measurements become less important. In addition, these measurements have never really adequately measured the real resources that we put into the task.

Dr. McNeal divided the scorecard into the following resource areas:







Asking questions such as “how many prayer days are in the church calendar?” (prayer/time assessment) or “how many prayer coaches or intercessors serve our community?” (prayer/people assessment) gives a better way to evaluate if we are accomplishing what we set out to do. Dr. McNeal’s book Missional Renaissance is full of many other such examples, but in reality we need to do the work of developing our own scorecard, based on our own vision and goals.

Developing such a scorecard also allows us to move away from dry, unexciting numbers into a method of record-keeping that better lends itself to stories. By including categories that every person can identify with and rejoice in, and by counting “process” elements as well as finished products, we enable everyone to see how vital is the element that God has placed on their heart. In other words, we affirm the pray-er as much as the evangelist, and acknowledge the work of the janitor, IT geek, and social worker as spiritually valid, kingdom and community-centric vocations.

Of course, for many, such an orientation is difficult to accept. It means saying “we devoted 15 minutes to prayer during our Sunday service” becomes an important measurement, in the same way “we had 3 new visitors” is. Without focusing on the numbers in those statements (15 minutes is way too little – but show me a church that devotes more . . .), I think I would have to agree – devoting time to prayer during our gatherings is just as important a measurement as how many new people came to a service. Of course, the measurements don’t have to be equal in rank, either. The point is – if we want movement, we have to put time, energy and resources into the movement, and we should be able to figure out where to put them, and how to increase them. So – if we believe having people pray regularly is important, then let’s start counting and recognizing praying people.

I would love to see our own organization rethink its strategic counting process. However, I’m afraid my colleagues would take out a hit on me if I pushed for that!! (The last strategic change process was pretty painful)

Missional Leadership I

Missional Leadership II

Missional Leadership III

Missional Leadership IV

Part 4 of reflections from a class on “Missional Leadership,” taught by Dr. Reggie McNeal at Columbia International University. In this part, I want to focus on some of the parts of what Dr. McNeal called a “preparedness mentality.” In other words, what are some of the discrete parts that we can work on, in an attempt to build momentum for movement. The context is in missional movement, but Dr. McNeal also related it to leadership development


1. Vision

“Vision bubbles up, not cascades down. Ask the right questions: If a spiritual awakening came, what would it look like? What would churches be doing? What would we be doing?” (RM – Reggie McNeal)

“Vision is very concrete – ask community leaders what 2 things, if changed, would make a difference in our community. Then connect what the church leaders say with what community leaders say.” (RM)

Everyone’s “vision” will be different in building a movement – and that’s ok – in fact, it’s great! It’s a measure of our trust in the work of the Holy Spirit to recognize that the vision He gives others is a part of the whole. We frequently turn the vision concept upside down, thinking that the pastor is the conduit through which the Holy Spirit casts a divine vision, when in fact he might be the bottleneck that squeezes God’s vision into a mortal memo.


2. Values

“Values are behaviorally examined -they are not beliefs.” “What behaviors will support the vision?” (RM)

“There can be – and often is –  vision/values misalignment. When that happens, we might not make progress in vision, but we sometimes don’t know why.” (RM)

The last statement helped me realized just how important are these values. They aren’t necessarily the starting point, but they probably need just as much time and attention, if not more, as we put into strategizing a vision. In the end, the big picture vision motivates us, but the behaviors bring a vision to life and make it reality. 


3. Results

The scorecard – how do we know we are winning? How do we know we are making progress? Dr. McNeal developed this idea at more length throughout the week, and I will deal with it separately in the next post. It is one of the fractals, or discrete elements, of our preparation, though, because we must know what to count before we begin counting!


  • 4. Strengths

“Move forward on our strengths.” “Balance is a myth. It’s paralyzing. You are not balanced, and you never will be.” “Be aware of your weaknesses, but lead with your strengths” (RM)

When we focus on our strengths, and lead with our strengths, I think we more closely function in line with Biblical teaching on Holy Spirit gifting. One question, however, is how leading with our strengths affects multiplication, both of faith communities and of other leaders. In other words, if I am a gifted preacher, when do I need to subordinate my strength, to allow other less gifted preachers an opportunity to grow? Although I would say that multiplication demands that we assist others to grow soon and fast, the question arises – when do I get to use MY strengths (gifts?) 🙂

Dr. McNeal suggested that we get all these elements – vision, values, results, and strengths – condensed to the size of a postcard. As he put it, there is an inverse proportion between the size of the plan and what actually gets accomplished. If we can concisely and quickly tell someone what we hope to accomplish and how we intend to do it, we have a much better chance of engaging them – as opposed to boring them!

Missional Leadership I

Missional Leadership II

Missional Leadership III

El Lavatorio, by Tintoretto (1518-1594)via Wikimedia Commons

El Lavatorio, by Tintoretto (1518-1594)
via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, a class assignment required me to write some evidences that Jesus demonstrated a strong leadership style, but also modeled true humility. The assignment turned out to be a fitting extension of some earlier posts on humility and dynamic leadership:

The Intersection of Humility and Dynamic Leadership I

The Intersection of Humility and Dynamic Leadership II


Evidence that suggests Jesus had strong leadership style:

Choosing the disciples. Mark 16:13-35, John 15:16a – “you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you.” Jesus accepted anyone who came, but He hand-selected the Twelve. I see this as a sign of a very strong leadership style.

Speaking to the Pharisees. Matthew 23:1-36, and others. Jesus’ polemic against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 is unbelievably harsh. There is no wishy-washy, tolerant element in His condemnation of the Pharisees.

Driving out the moneychangers. Matthew 21:12-13. This was the first example I thought of. In John 2:13-16, which may be a separate incident, He used a whip. Interestingly, in Matthew, immediately after doing this, the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. Were they unable to enter the temple before He whipped the moneychangers out of it? If so, although this is definitely an example of strong leadership, He is also modeling humility, by taking it upon Himself to remove a barrier that kept the “unable”  and disenfranchised from worshipping.

“Get behind me, Satan”. Matthew 16:23. Pretty strong words directed toward the leader of the disciples. Jesus puts him in his place with no ambiguity.

The Cucifixion. All the gospels. The demands, but the bravery required. Although I thought of the Cross as an example of modeling humility, the more I thought about it, the more I realized the personal strength required for Jesus to go through with the Cross. Perhaps not an example of strong leadership style, but definitely an example that the Servant was no wimp.


Evidence of Jesus modeling humility:

Baptism by John. Matthew 3:13-17. Just as He was initiating His public ministry, Jesus willingly submitted to John baptizing Him, modeling humility and obedience for us.

The Cana miracle. John 2:1-12. When we read this passage, the story is told in such a way as to imply that Jesus wasn’t planning on beginning His ministry yet, but performed the miracle of turning water into wine because His mother boxed him into a corner. He asks her why she is involving him, and her reply is to tell the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Instead of continuing to insist that His hour has not yet come, He humbly turns the water into wine. Of course, my Catholic friends in Poland see some much further implications for His submission to His mother (they would probably prefer that I capitalize Mother), but it is hard to avoid seeing His humility toward her.

Footwashing. John 13:1-17. After He washes the disciples’ feet, He tells them: “ Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” This is more than just symbolic. As far as I know, there is no contemporary account of a leader doing such a servile act for his followers.

The Cross. Every gospel. This is the ultimate example of humility. He lay down His life, so His followers could live (forever).

Can we use Jesus’ example for our own roles in leadership?

McNeal, Reggie. Missional Renaissance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2009. 224 pp.

Contrary to what you might assume from the title, Missional Renaissance is not a ground-breaking book about missional church theory. McNeal did that already in his 2003 book The Present Future

This book focuses on three shifts that need to take place, both in theory and in practice, for a church to become “missional.” I took McNeal’s “Missional Leadership” class at Columbia International University, and Missional Renaissance served as the core curriculum, so we had a chance to dialogue about these shifts, and the accompanying scorecards. In a future blog post or two, I’ll share some reflections from that class.

The three shifts are:

From an internal to an external focus.

From developing programs to developing people

From church-based leadership to kingdom-based leadership.

My three top thoughts from this book:

  1. The missional church is the people of God partnering with God in His redemptive mission in the world. (24) This is a good definition – simple and easy to remember. This isn’t a paradigm shift for our ministry in Poland, but, it does show the overall shift in thinking for the church. We can use this definition to assess all we do.
  2. This is very broad – but the whole idea of changing the scorecard. What gets rewarded, gets done. Making a shift in what counts and is counted (in brief, p. 68 – but all through the book) Each chapter about one of the shifts in thinking is followed by a “scorecard” chapter, showing how we can practically apply the shift in thinking.

For me, this was the biggest value of this book. The missional theory wasn’t ground-breaking. It was fairly simple – and I don’t think the author meant it to be otherwise. The practical elements of the scorecard, however, were exactly what most of us need. We accept theory, but then hit upon the barrier of: “how do I do that?” The scorecard had a number of ways to apply missional theory, and even more important, to assess what we are doing. I think the scorecard ideas even translate well into our strategic planning in missions, and it would be great if the board and senior leadership of our mission agency read this book. We count baptisms, church plants, leaders trained, etc. – not bad, but I think we could be counting other things that equally reflect the heart of God. I also loaned this book to my U.S. pastor – who is leading a missional church, but is always looking for ways to move forward.

3. Putting prayer at the beginning of nearly every scorecard – but best of all, listing concrete ways to count prayer. That doesn’t sound radical – but it is. Finally, we have a means of counting – and rewarding – prayer.

We all give lip service to prayer. Most of us in leadership pray – quite a bit, even. But we struggle to understand how to make prayer a major part of our corporate life. I really appreciated the practical ways implement prayer, and the ways to assess if prayer is a significant part of the community of faith. I will be using a number of these to encourage prayer, but also keep track of the place of prayer in our community life.

You can get a copy of Missional Renaissance here.

Cole, Neil. Church 3.0. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2010. 274 pp.

Church 3.0 is a follow-up to Cole’s earlier book, Organic Church, and is structured to answer questions that might be asked about organic churches. The terms organic, simple and house church are sometimes used interchangeably – as you might see in my review of Felicity Dale’s book, An Army of Ordinary People. In short, organic are meant to be “relational, simple, intimate and viral” (from the flyleaf of Church 3.0) and are usually separate from buildings and hierarchy.

There were a couple of things that I didn’t care for. I don’t care anymore for books that use the Bible to say “this is the only biblical way.” I think I didn’t mind that much the first 10 books I read that said that about their methods. With each new book, that makes the same claim, though, I get more and more frustrated. Of course, Cole – and every other author who writes like this – is convinced that his method has biblical support. Fine, I get that. And the Bible is our primary authority. However, I often wonder if this type of argumentation would make it very far in an academic setting with higher expectations. Of course, feel free to remind me of my words when I write my first book explaining why my method is the only biblically supported method!

The title, and assumption that organic church is the next “upgrade” on church, equal to church 1.0 (pre-Constantinian) and 2.0 (Church since Constantine) – well, seems just a little bit presumptious. However, since I don’t have near the experience that Cole does, it would be presumptious of me to criticize his presumption 🙂 This presumption looks very similar to Hirsch’s history of “missional mode” from Forgotten Ways, which I critiqued here.

Although I really liked the perspective on groups of 2 or 3, I thought he overdid it with the proof-texts in support of the idea. It might have been enough to focus on the “sendings” – Jesus sending the disciples in groups of 2 (Luke 10:1b) and the Antioch church sending Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2b-3) Both examples are on page 140 – where we also find Cole’s statement, based on Matthew 18:20, that “Jesus promises to join the meeting when two or three come together, no matter where or when it might be.” This strikes me as a great-sounding statement based on a verse ripped kicking and screaming from the context.

Here are my 3 favorite insights from the book:

  1. The base unit of life: two to three people. Community. Accountability. Confidentiality. Flexibility. Communication. Direction. Leadership. All are stronger with 2 or 3. (139-142)
  2. Integration is better than segregation for children and adults (211-221)
  3. A manipulative leader cannot take advantage of Life Transformation Group participants because they are not a biblically illiterate following (239)

Yeah, I know I criticized the way he took verses out of context to support the groups of 2 or 3. However, the base unit was still an eye-opening concept for me. Although the other sizes that Cole uses – leadership team (4-7), family unit (12-15), etc. are in place in our Lublin structure, we have faltered in discipleship, especially in application of Scripture and in accountability. I think implementing the 2-3 idea will be a great help. This size is probably most cross-cultural, as well, whereas I think the other sizes would need to be adjusted in other cultures.

We haven’t integrated children in our groups. These groups have ranged from a simple Bible study to house church, but we still haven’t included children. Sometimes it happens unintentionally, but if we are able, we usually send them to do something else. However, in WI, in our LifeGroup, we involved 3 young children, and all of us were better for it. We ought to be able to do the same in Poland.

I loved the emphasis on discipleship throughout the book. The idea of people reading large portions of Scripture in the 2-3 groups, and being accountable for application really should help produce literate, biblically-informed, obedient disciples. Those kinds of people are much less susceptible to heresy than those multitudes who gather around a charismatic manipulator – demagogue. Life Transformation Groups mitigate against demagogy, and do seem to be an excellent bulwark against heresy. I think Cole might be overstating it when he says a manipulative leader cannot take advantage of people in a Life Transformation Group, but I can see where it would be much more difficult than in large, more biblically ignorant group.

You can buy Church 3.0 at Amazon.

Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press. 2006. 304 pp.

The Forgotten Ways is one of those books that simply destroys old paradigms and introduces completely new concepts. Hirsch attempts to describe the “apostolic genius” of the early church, and challenge the contemporary Western Church to recapture that “missional DNA.”

There’s a great little chart on page 64 that summarizes the church in the three modes he describes: the apostolic and post-apostolic, the christendom mode, and the emerging missional mode . However, the chart highlights my disagreements with the book. If I had two criticisms, they would be related to Hirsch’s history-telling.

1. I don’t think the picture Hirsch paints of the apostolic church was really quite so rosy in reality. Yes, the church grew very fast, and was characterized by a focus on mission. But there were some serous theological battles, that led to large portions of the Church separating from one another. In addition, although the “christendom” mode did see a consolidation and stagnation, there was still a strong focus on expansion, and significant Christian “missional” activity.

2. The “missional” mode, according to Hirsch, has been over the past 10 years. (Counting back from 2006). This unbelievably Western-centric viewpoint is actually uncharacteristic of Hirsch – it would be interesting to see if he changed this chart in the second edition. Hirsch himself refers to other “missional” movements, outside the West, that precede the recent wave of books with “missional” in their title or subtitle.  Seriously – I think he really may be dating the missional mode from the 1998 publication of Missional Church

Of course, we missionaries have frequently been guilty of exporting institutional church – but not always. And around the world, Hirsch’s missional DNA has been present in many places, throughout Christian history.

In spite of that criticism, I actually thought Hirsch did a better job of not gushing over American methods than most authors in this “missional” movement. He is Australian – which certainly helps – but he also focused on the theory behind practice, making this book easier to apply cross-culturally.

The missional DNA looks like this:

  1. Jesus Is Lord: A simple, but irreplaceable confession.
  2. Disciple Making: becoming like Jesus is at the core of the church.
  3. Missional-Incarnational Impulse: the gospel is lived out across cultures and people groups.
  4. Apostolic Environment: a certain type of leadership is necessary.
  5. Organic Systems: structures for growth.
  6. Communitas, not Community: We are sent, not gathered into a safe haven.

Brief digression – I loved the Paulo Coelho quote on p. 217, introducing the chapter on communitas: “The ship is safest when it is in port. But that’s not what ships were made for.”

I picked out 3 ideas that I thought were basic:

  1. Non-dualistic spirituality (p. 96). Hirsch’s diagram, contrasting dualistic and non-dualistic spirituality, i.e. integrating sacred and secular, really helped me to see and understand how I was doing that in my life, but also how to better communicate to others an integrated spirituality that includes God, church and world.
  2. The quality of the church’s leadership is directly proportional to the quality of discipleship (p. 119) Discipleship is primary, leadership is always secondary. This is a key concept – maybe even THE key concept. (It’s one of those “duh” ideas – of course leadership is dependent on discipleship – that has been simply ignored most of the time)
  3. Greek concept of knowledge contrasted with Hebrew concept of knowledge. (p. 124) The Greek concept is that right thinking leads to right action. Hebrew – right action leads to right thinking. Hirsch uses this in his chapter on disciple making, but the paradigm definitely applies for leadership training as well – but we very, very seldom apply this concept

A change toward missional thinking is really not just about following a new fad in church development. The spiritual concept Hirsch shares illustrates that it is about bringing all things, every sphere of our lives, under the lordship of Christ. We preach that, but we don’t always mean it, especially if it means significantly changing the church.

The last point resonates with a key factor in church planting movements around the world – obedience-based discipleship. In other words, doing what the Word says MUST go hand-in-hand with knowing what the Word says.

If you want to know a little more about the terms and history of the “missional” church movement – there’s a pretty good summary in J.R. Woodward’s blog here. If you’ve read and tried to apply Newbigin and Bosch – as most cross-cultural missionaries will have – Hirsch’s book will seem very basic in many areas.

However, if you love reading books that challenge your thinking about the church, or if you see that the church, as it is usually conceived, comes up short in reaching a culture that grows more “foreign” with every year – this is a great read.

You can buy Forgotten Ways at Amazon.

McNeal, Reggie. A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2000. 224 pp.

Sometimes when and where you read a book means almost as much as what is in the book. Although the what in Work of Heart is pretty significant, the time and place in life when I read it made the book so much more valuable.

I was in the middle of my lowest point ever in ministry. Thinking strongly about packing up and “going home” back to America. But we had committed to being part of a Luis Palau evangelism outreach with several other churches in town, and as a part of that, we rented a couple of rooms in the center for a prayer vigil leading up to the campaign. We always had someone there, on duty, while people came and prayed. I needed something to read during my shift – so I picked up this book that my supervisor had given me a few months earlier. Am I glad I did!!

Reading this book, during a time like that – a low point, but also a spiritual retreat time – made the message much more meaningful, and allowed me to work through the questions the author includes for personal growth.

Here are my three best thoughts in the book:

1. The call we are discussing as a heart-shaping subplot in the leader’s story is the specialized and specific setting aside by God to some special lifelong task in His kingdom. . . The call is not invented, it is revealed. . . The point is this: it is tough enough to serve as a Christian leader with a call. Without it, the choice constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (98-99)

I had struggled with understanding my call to Poland. I thought I was to come as a church-planter, but church-planting was so tough, and I, at least then, gave up after the first failure. Meanwhile, some elements of planting a church had no appeal for me. I think I had tried to invent a call – but based it more on a need, than on the way God had gifted me. This book was extremely helpful, beyond even the chapter on call, in helping me come to grips with this. It led to a crisis, where I almost left Poland, but we needed to go through that to come to an assurance of God’s leading.

2. Commonplace: Discovering that the ordinary is extra-ordinary. Habits: look for God, keep learning, say yes to God, stay grateful. (175-186)

Seeing God in the commonplace was probably what helped us survive the crisis we faced. When my ministry partner had an affair, when our church plant fizzled, when the dollar dropped by 50% – all at the same time – some of these reminders here helped us survive, and eventually see God’s leading.

3. The reflection questions from the conclusion. I worked through all of these, reflecting on most of them with my wife, and they really helped me see myself, my world, my heart and my call. (188-192)

            As I mentioned, working through these reflection questions was so helpful. I had never done anything like that, and I’m so glad I did. I’m very grateful to my supervisor for giving me this book, and I would have to say it was one of the most positive influences in my life – ever. I’ve shared ideas and questions from this book with Polish leaders that I mentor, as well.

Personal follow-up note: I had a class with Dr. McNeal at Columbia. During a break, I told him that this book had saved me in ministry. His response? Not just “thanks” or “praise God.” He said (without really knowing me) “you are worth it.” I got a lot out of the class, but to be honest, it’s those four words that I will remember the longest.

You can buy a revised version of Work of Heart here: Work of Heart at Amazon


McNeal, Reggie. Get a Life!: It Is All About You. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2007. 179 pp.

Dr. McNeal is one of my favorite authors, so I’ll be reviewing a few of his books in my blog. To be honest, I am definitely not objectively critical toward his books, and my reviews will undoubtedly reflect that. In each review I’ll share a few insights from each book, and what impact it had on my life.

The books centers around five key questions that we need to return to frequently throughout our life:

1. Why am I here?
2. What is really important to me?
3. What is my scorecard?
4. What am I good at?
5. What do I need to learn?

For me, the three best, most insightful ideas in the book were:

  1. Passion distinguishes people from the pack. People with passion stand out from other people who are involved in the same work or activity without it. For the latter it’s just a job or something they have assigned to them. For the people operating from passion, it is an expression of who they are and what makes them tick. (page 12)
  2. Talent matters. Developing a strengths philosophy begins with a clear and honest assessment of your talent. This is the flip side, the antidote, to the philosophy of self-imposed mediocrity through trying to achieve “balance” in your strengths.(page 102)
  3. The single best strategy to avoid dying before you are dead is to practice lifelong learning. If you want to get a life, the learning needs to be intentional, guided by what you want to accomplish. . . Specifically, this learning quest will help you make your next move, knowing how to get to where you want to go in life. (pages 131-132)

As I read this book, I realized how much passion was missing from my life. I had already struggled with burnout and boredom, and tried to deal with it improperly, instead of dealing with the root issues. I was not living from my strengths.

I especially was not maximizing my talents. In an effort to be humble and servant-hearted, I had downplayed some natural leadership gifts. I felt guilty about preaching, and enjoying it, because American missionaries are supposed to have the nationals do that. Of course, multiplying leaders must be my task, and humble servanthood is the heartbeat – but I was expressing both of those values in unnecessary ways.

This book was one of the primary prompters for me to go back to seminary (Columbia International University) Just beginning, at age 41, with family and ministry pressures, was a significant victory. Now, God and my professors willing, I’ll finish this spring, and I’m already looking forward to a Ph.D.

I had two copies of this book, but I gave both away already. However, Get a Life! is available here: Get a Life! at Amazon

Nearly any discussion on holistic ministry, or the balance between proclamation and social action, induces strong emotions. Most of us feel strongly about one or the other, and we usually struggle to integrate proclamation of the gospel with demonstration of gospel love. Those who focus on demonstrating God’s love by meeting the physical needs of suffering humanity are frequently accused of watering down the gospel, or even ignoring man’s greatest need – that of reconciliation with his Creator. Those who focus primarily on proclamation of the truth of Jesus as the only way are seen as lacking compassion, and even ignoring man’s pressing needs that keep him from understanding the love of God.

But the Bible clearly tells us we need to do both – or rather, do it all. Proclaim God’s love and truth, do all we can for people to have access to what God says about himself and them, be incarnational representatives of the Kingdom of God anywhere and everywhere, and continually assist with the unbelievably overwhelming needs of a world that groans for its Creator, Savior and Lord. We do the gospel, the love of God toward us, and His love through us a disservice when we ignore any part of our mission.

One of the best diagrams I have ever seen of the wholeness of our mission comes from a Cape Town 2010 Advance Paper written by Paul Eshleman on behalf of a Lausanne strategy working group as an overview of the topic “Priorities in World Evangelization.” I’ve included a graphic that Dr. Eshleman uses to illustrate our priorities:

whole gospel

I see numbers 1-7, in the main body of the graphic, as being of equal priority. 8-10 are necessary as well, because they enable us to do tasks 1-7.

The Lausanne Covenant summarized our task as “The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world,” and the 2010 Cape Town Commitment, in the Call to Action, listed a number of priorities for the church in working out that covenant. Every aspect of our task is dealt with, and both proclamation – especially of truth – and social action are strongly encouraged. And I would wholeheartedly sign my name to the Commitment. The following elements are listed: proclaiming the truth of Christ; building the peace of Christ; living the love of Christ; discerning the will of Christ; calling the church of Christ back to humility, simplicity and integrity; and partnering in the body of Christ for unity in mission. Every one of these is a necessary element of our mission. No part should be ignored.

So, there is a necessity for deed, for social action, for living the love of Christ and building the peace of Christ. Helping the helpless is a noble call, a necessary duty, and a winsome demonstration of God’s love toward His Creation. And, when we help, we don’t help just to “share the gospel.” We don’t build wells only for those who are “open to the gospel.” We help to meet the physical needs of Hindus, Christians, Muslims and atheists alike – because God loves them. No one has to “accept Christ” in order to receive our help.

I say this strongly to myself, because I still believe in the priority of proclamation. I still believe that the greatest need of mankind is the need of reconciliation with his God. But, in my own heart and ministry, there will always be a tendency to focus on proclamation and forget compassion – it’s just how I’m wired. All the more, I have to continually preach to myself – help others!! And don’t expect anything from it.

Having said that – funny things happen when you help people. First of all, their life begins to get easier – if for no other reason than that they see there is someone who cares about them. Second – your life is touched and changed. God’s love grows in you as you exercise it. Third, a trust relationship begins that does usually lead to opportunities to talk about other, significant needs – like reconciliation with God. And reconciliation with God leads to reconciliation with others, and what was probably a downward spiral in the life of the person helped begins to spiral upward instead. And that is so much fun to be a part of!

You can find the entire text of Dr. Eshleman’s paper here: