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Vitality vs Vulnerability

Encouragement + Accountability + Intentionality = Spiritual Vitality

We must be on our guard against the attacks of the devil. Temptation is everywhere and we must realize that anyone can stumble or fall if not properly prepared. Paul told the Galatians, “watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.” Solomon gave the warning that we need to guard our hearts. The challenge is to protect our eyes, our ears, and our thoughts in order to keep our hearts right before God. Here is a great question to consider, “Are you living with good intentions or are you living intentionally?”

The reality is that you can dry up on the inside long before it shows on the outside. We have been programmed to act like we are walking with the Lord when we are not. We know what “churchianity” looks like and while we are drying up and needing a fresh wind from the Lord, we can easily be guilty of going through the motions. Do not think that this is not possible because in Revelation 3 Jesus told a church, “Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and have need of nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”

There are three elements that make you very susceptible to temptation. Time + Hardship + Deprivation = Vulnerability (Bill Hull in The Complete Book of Discipleship). The devil is always looking for just the right time to push our buttons. Remember that the devil is working overtime all the time. You cannot afford to ever let your guard down because at our most inopportune time the devil will see it as his golden opportunity. Peter makes this very clear when he says, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”

The second element is Hardship. Trials and difficult times can be guaranteed. It is easy to stand for the Lord in church when everyone is saying amen but it is another story in the real world. We commit to follow Jesus and think we have a “let’s do this” mentality but we will be tested greatly when hardships come into our lives. You must expect trials and hardships and you must be prepared for them when they come. We are told in God’s word to on our watch and to be ready to “stand against the attacks of the enemy.”

The third element is the most important in not becoming vulnerable. That element is deprivation. If you are not walking with the Lord you have no foundation to stand on and no inner strength from which to draw. Are you abiding in Christ? Are you allowing His fullness to work in you and through you? If we do our job, getting daily into His presence, then He will do His job of providing us with His power and guidance. David makes this declaration, “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.”

Vitality is a choice we make by pursuing God. We develop the daily habits of prayer and being in His word so that we will be have spiritual vitality. Hebrews 3:13 says this, “But encourage each other daily, while it is called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” Here we are given a simple Biblical formula of three important elements. Encouragement + Accountability + Intentionality = Vitality. While we are 100% responsible for our spiritual walk, here is a clear pathway of how we can help one another on a regular basis.

The first element of vitality is encouragement! All of us need encouragement and all of us need to encourage others. There are enough people around who drain the energy out of us and this makes encouragement of paramount importance. The idea of exhortation is being a cheerleader to others. Do you have someone like that in your life? Are you being that cheerleader to someone else? We all need that individual in our life who believes in us, believes in what God is doing in our life. They encourage you to not listen to the naysayers.

The second element of vitality is accountability! We are told to encourage “each other.” We not only need the word of God and the Holy Spirit of God, but we also need the people of God speaking into our lives. Yes, we need a body to belong to and to grow with but all too often the missing ingredient is that individual to whom we voluntarily make ourselves accountable. Do you have someone you can vent to and know that they will then speak the truth in love back to you? There are many times you need that trusted confidant to bare your soul to and be 100% transparent.

The third element is intentionality! We are to encourage each other “daily.” Do you have an intentional plan in place to keep you on the right track spiritually? You cannot afford to be haphazard in this area. Tony Dungy says one of the keys to life is “to discipline ourselves to do what we need to do so that at a later time we can do what we want to do!” If you want to run a marathon you must begin the physical training today and increase your workouts along the way. If you want to finish the race Christ has placed you in you must also increase your spiritual workouts.

Healthy churches and healthy Christians build an environment and a culture of spiritual vitality. They strive to ensure that there is a system of discipleship and mentoring that facilitates these three elements of encouragement, accountability, and intentionality. Who are you encouraging and who is encouraging you? Who have you agreed with to hold one another accountable? Are you communicating regularly and have you developed a good rhythm? Remember, “so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.”

LIVING LIFE LIKE A SHORT-TERM MISSIONS TRIP

Short Term Mission Trips

Mission trip opportunities are all around us!  You do not have to get on a plane to serve on one.  Every day is an opportunity to live on mission.

Who is a missionary?  The answer can be very different according to who you ask.  Most would define a missionary as a person who lives in a foreign land, studies the culture, learns another language, and makes great sacrifices to reach a certain people group.  That is true but what about the rest of the church?  Should not every believer be on mission for God?  What if we lived every moment of every day as if we were on a mission trip, how would your day change?

When people take a mission trip they are ready to sacrifice and suffer discomfort to share the gospel with people they have never seen or met.  There is a very determined focus and plan to each trip whether it is medical, teaching, evangelistic, or humanitarian.  These trips are great and everyone should consider taking one because they are life changing experiences.  Shouldn’t we begin living with a missionary focus right where we are, today?

We must begin celebrating those who are living a missionary life right in front of us.  Unfortunately, the main metric we have used for spiritual growth is how many attend, how often they attend, and how much they give.  What if we began measuring how much time we all spent in community service?  What if we began to measure our goals of ministry in terms of what the body of Christ does outside the walls of the church and not only inside?

What if we lived every day as if we were on a short-term mission trip?

Churches have historically celebrated the dedication of the men and women who have been sent to the mission field (i.e. Barnabas and Saul Acts 13:1-3).  They have become “heroes of the faith” because of their willingness to study a culture and prayerfully discern the best way to reach them with the gospel.  What about your neighborhood, your community, and your city?  We need to also begin celebrating those who are using their “Life Assignment” as a “Missionary Post” to share the love of Jesus Christ.

Three words need to be considered if we are going to transform our culture and accept our missionary assignments.

  1. Intentionality. We must be focused on reaching out to those we come into contact with daily at the “missionary post” God has placed us.  That can be at the hair salon, the grocery store, the factory, the senior citizen center, our school, or wherever God has purposely placed us.  We must daily remind ourselves that we are on a “long-term” mission trip called life.
  2. Integration.  The good news is that we are not on this trip alone.  The Holy Spirit will guide and direct us to individuals that we need to minister to and serve.  The other good news is that we are not on this trip alone because there are other followers of Jesus who have purposed to live a missionary life also.  It would be great to sit down with others and discuss potential ways to work together and help one another to increase the effectiveness of our intentionality.
  3. Incarnational.  This is living our lives so that others can see Christ in us.  Our neighborhoods, apartment complexes, condominiums, and trailer parks need us to dedicate ourselves to being resident missionaries.  Here is the question of the day.  Is Jesus Christ visible or invisible in you?  Many groups who have gone to a foreign mission field on a trip have prayed that the people they come into contact with will see Jesus in them.  Is that our daily prayer as we accept the assignment that God has given for us to live our lives on mission for Him?

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Living as missionaries in our zip code!!!

What if we lived every day as if we were on a short-term mission trip?  

 

Intentional Mentoring

 

 

Multiplying

   Intentionality is a missing ingredient in many leaders lives. It is not intentional (pun intended) but intenionality will not just accidentily happen because of the nature of how busy most of us are. There are fires to put out, too many irons in the fire, and we must admit thay it is very easy to become distracted. Jesus, the greatest leader ever, acted with intentionality. He intentionally choose the 12 men He would pour His life into. He intentionally went through Samaria so that He would have a meeting with the Samaritan woman. Over and over again you can see in the Gospels how Jesus acted out of intentioanlity. The fact is that intentionallity is needed in evangelism, discipleship, and leadership development.

     Without intentionality we will not make disciples! Without our making plans for it to happen it probably will not happen. Without a process in mind for how that occurs it probably will not occur. Look back to last weeks artice for a simple plan for intentionally building relationships with the unsaved and the first step is setting aside time, intentionally, to engage witht them. Leadership development will also require intentionality, just like Jesus, so that others can go where we go, see what we see, listen to how we handle certain situations, observe how we interact with others, and learn through on-the-job training.

     Bob Logan and Tara Miller have an excellent book on intentionally rasing up others entitled, From Followers to Leaders. They say, “For churches to accomplish their mission—their mission of bringing each person through the faith journey from discovering God to developing the fullest extent of their gifts and talents—some type of intentional resourcing system needs to be created…This resourcing system needs to be relational, flexible, and designed with the whole person in mind.” The book is an excellent tool (“path template”) to thinking through how you and your church can move an individual through the process of discipleship from before salvation to maturity in Christ.

     It is a call to how we not only need to be highly intentional but also highly relational. They remind us that “theories are linear; people are not.” The outcry of most leaders seems to be that they need more leaders, better leaders, and the right kind of leaders. Maybe we bear the responsibility for this shortage of leaders by not intentionally focusing enough effort on leadership development through disciple-making. If we have been focusing on leadership development then the end result would be the multiplication of leaders! Along our journey there should always be those going before us, those travelling along side of us, and those coming along behind us.

     Bob and Tara share the following Tips of Intentionality in From Followers to Leaders. “Many of us have the desire to develop others, but we don’t prioritize it. Below are a few ways to make sure we are focusing our time and energy in the most productive way possible.

  1. Ask God to lead you to people he wants you to invest in. Be sure to spend time in listening prayer. Recognize that sometimes the people he brings to mind are not the obvious choices. The twelve disciples are case in point.
  2. Be open to people in various stages of faith and ministry. Some of the people you choose to invest in may be current leaders, some may be emerging leaders, some may be brand new believers, and some not quite into the Kingdom yet.
  3. Decide on your priorities and commit to making sure you schedule will align with those priorities.
  4. Keep and use a calendar. Get out your calendar and schedule regular times to invest in those people God has brought to mind. Follow the principle of proactively investing in people, consistently each month, scheduling something intentional to make that happen rather than being random or spontaneous.
  5. Rather than just hanging out, have a clear purpose for meeting. Spending deliberate time really makes a difference, and the relational element will happen more naturally alongside a clear purpose.
  6. Recognize that leaders must be developed slowly over time. You cannot cram for this or do it all at once—regular deposits over time pay huge eternal dividends.
  7. Recognize that developing others is extremely important but rarely urgent—don’t be ruled by the tyranny of the urgent, and seek help if you are spending too much time putting out fires. If you are not proactive and intentional, meaningful investment in others is unlikely to happen.
  8. Prioritize your schedule. First list the highest priority meetings with potential leaders, then fit in other responsibilities around that.
  9. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Seek guidance from God about the number of people you can invest in and the level of frequency. Periodically reevaluate.

The Rhythms of Mentoring

Battle Rhythm

     The importance of finding margin in your schedule to develop intentional mentoring relationships must be a high priority!  If we value having mentoring relationships, where we pour into others, then there must be evidence.  Is mentoring occurring?  Can you name the person(s) that you are mentoring?  Do you have a mentoring/accountability group that you are meeting with regularly?  Or, and more importantly, who is mentoring you?  Everyone should have a Paul in their life (a mentor) and everyone should find a Timothy (mentoree).

     My good friend Scott Kirk (scottkirk.wordpress.com), with Dynamic Church Planting International (DCPI), has been mentored and is mentoring others.  He has planted a church and now works in coaching and mentoring church planters.  He has developed some “Battle Rhythms” to ensure that you follow through on being the mentor to others that God wants all of us to be!  We certainly know it is a “battle” to remain faithful and committed to intentionally and regularly mentoring others.  The “rhythm” refers to setting a pace that develops patterns into the normal flow of our everyday life.

     First, Daily Mentoring!  This is praying daily for those you mentor and asking God to do a great work in their lives, their families, and their ministries.  This is about EMPOWERMENT! 

     Second, Weekly Mentoring!  Everyone needs encouragement and some days more then others.  A personal touch through a phone call, a text, an email, a personal note, or a visit means a lot.  This is about ENCOURAGEMENT!

     Third, Monthly Mentoring!  Technology is wonderful and we are more connected today then ever before but there is nothing like being there in person sometimes.  What will your monthly meeting look like?  How often will you be able to get together in person?  Maybe you could alternate meeting one month electronically and then the next month face to face.  This is about EQUIPPING!

     Fourth, Quarterly Mentoring!  Even if the person or group you are mentoring is some distance from you it is important to schedule a day or two to get together for a retreat to take their training and equipping to the next level.  This time can be used to celebrate their victories and to discuss their challenges.  You can use the W.I.N. coaching technique to walk them through by asking what is going well, where do you need to improve, and what are you going to do next?  This is about ENGAGEMENT!

     Lastly, Yearly Mentoring!  This time should be spent focusing on the future and setting personal and ministry goals for the New Year.  This is about Strategic Planning!  

     Here are some values you will have to protect in order to implement these “Battle” Rhythms:

  • You must refuse to give in to the cultural thinking of individualism and the Lone Ranger mentality.
  • You must refuse to make the journey alone by being committed to living in fellowship with other believers and following Christ together.
  • You must always be looking for, working through and developing leaders who can significantly influence others for Christ.
  • You must be committed to the biblical principle that two are better than one and that there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel.
  • You must remain teachable and open to keeping Godly confidants that have proven they can be trusted and keeping them close so they can speak into your life and hold you accountable.
  • You must refuse to allow tasks, goals, work ethic, success or any personal achievement to be more important than the people you serve and desire to encourage.
  • You must develop a plan of implementation to ensure that this is not just a theory or a concept but a regular practice in the rhythm of your life!

     Now it is time to get started!  You must identify who will be in your mentoring group and begin investing in them.  Think through what your “battle” rhythms will look like daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly.  Look for those who have a desire to be on the same path you are on and then begin making the journey together!