Resisting the Motto - Just Do It

You've probably seen statistics about how rich we are in America, and I know it's so true. We are blessed, and I am very grateful, truly, for where I live. We do in fact live in an incredibly wealthy country. You've probably also seen statistics about how rich you are personally (at least compared to the rest of the world). And again, there is so much truth embedded into that reality, and I'm very grateful. However, if you're anything like me, I certainly don't feel rich...far from it. Granted, I'm a pastor and I didn't exactly get into my career field for the money, but still.

I bet many of you who are reading this feel similarly to me - that money is a bit tight, and that you wish you had more for other things you want to buy or have. And perhaps you even pray that God provides more, especially in this Christmas season. I've prayed that many times, and on occasion God has provided in answering those prayers.

But something about this endless pursuit of more is alarming. Let me confess something personally. I have a really hard time letting go of what I subtly perceive as My Hard-Earned Money. I don't really like the idea of giving my money to someone else or spending it on someone else. In other words, I generally want to use all the money I have on myself and my family. And when I do bite the bullet and give to others, even then I am confronted with my selfish motives (sad but true). Now I get it, and I know this isn't right - and there is a disturbing truth hidden in my generalized greed. But stay with me without judging me too harshly yet.

You see, when I have stepped into an opportunity to give (whether it was to someone in need, tithing to my local church, giving toward a cause or a charity, etc.), I have experienced joy in the giving. Yet, when the next opportunity comes around, you would think I'd be all excited to get that joy "hit" again, but no. It's still hard to let go of the money. Argh! Why doesn't this get easier every time you give?

In moments like these, I not only realize how attached I am to earthly things, but also how detached I am from a core commitment to emulate the heart of God, which in its essence, is a giving heart. And though these moments are hard to be honest about, I feel compelled to engage the deeper realities of my heart, rather than resist the underlying meaning of such chronic closed handedness. And these unflattering reflections of my heart remind me how important it is for me to choose to give, even when I don't feel like it. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. But for starters because it cultivates deeper trust in God. It helps me practice greater surrender and submission to God. And although I may not be the most cheerful giver, at least I will glean joy from the act of worship it is to offer what is ultimately God's anyways.

There is one thing that has helped me more than anything else in this journey of learning how to live and be generous. It is rooted in a greater understanding of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul speaks about money, and connects it to a gospel perspective. He doesn’t command us to “be generous" simply because that is the "Christian thing to do." He challenges his readers to think about and view money with a radically different perspective, what I would call a gospel perspective.

In essence, Paul says this - if we're having trouble with money (we're anxious about it, clinging to it too tightly, etc.), then it's rooted in our lack of knowing, or one might say, the lack of deep and adequate understanding of the gospel. If we get anxious about our money, or if we find ourselves overly needing of money and constantly wanting more, then we need to rethink our understanding of the gospel.

If we really understand the Cross, we will see the profound nature of this truth - that Jesus Christ became poor so that through HIS POVERY we could become rich. If we really see this, we cannot edge ourselves away from being generous. Generosity is embedded into the gospel in such a way that if we really get it, then we have no other choice or response than to live with increasing generosity.

In essence, Paul is telling us that if you’re not openhanded, then you don’t really know the Christ who died for you at the ground of your being.  You haven't grasped the gospel profoundly enough or rightly. If you had, then your unwavering response would be to live as generously as you could stand, constantly striving to give to others, and carrying the eternal perspective that only the Cross brings.

I urge you to remember that we're all in process in life, and so this conversation isn't one that should make us feel shame, but instead a conversation to move us towards clarity - of the nature and profundity of the gospel. Right gospel understanding cultivates a growing and deepening way of living that generosity flows inevitably and abundantly.  When we experience God's remarkable grace at the deepest level through Jesus Christ, change doesn't come small.  It comes radically.

I have learned along the way that when I'm not living generously, the Bible teaches that money is still my security. When I am not living openhandedly, I'm reminded that I don't really know that Jesus is my Savior at the deepest level of my being. And man, I keep finding myself living in the struggle and need to depend on God's strength and not my own.

The biblical writers don't just tell us to "do this right now," (implying, in our own strength). These writers don't say what Nike says, "Just do it." There's a greater context and deeper understanding that is laced throughout the Scriptures and which specifically applies to generosity. We can't just go "be like Jesus" as if it's in our power. Instead, the Bible calls us to admit that we can't be like Jesus and even that we can't live generously (by ourselves). When we really understand Scripture, we understand that this is a journey of G0d-dependence. It's a quest we're all called into, to let go, to trust God, to submit to his will and purpose. Will we become better versions of ourselves if we rise to the level of trust God calls us to? No.  Will we become more enfolded into His heart and being?  Yes!

God doesn't want our money, but He does want our hearts. And when we're challenged to give, what's really happening is this - our hearts and lives are being called out and tested - will we trust God with our money and with our lives? Will we lean on Him, depend on His strength, rely on his power that is at work in us? And to access that strength and power, we must see the Cross for what it really is - a picture of ultimate sacrifice, a picture of God who is so rich but made himself so poor so that we could possess what truly matters. Jesus takes your place on the Cross. Jesus sacrificed His life so you would find life. Jesus died so you wouldn't have to die. And when you really grasp this, you will be transformed. And when you are transformed, you begin to experience the loosening grip of money on your heart and you begin to live generously for the One who has been so extravagantly generous to you!

The Protege Playbook - 3 Responses to 3 Questions

1. What particular need are you addressing?

I believe that the texture and velocity of the movement of Christ depends on the texture and velocity of the leaders leading it. The texture of our souls and our character matters more than anything else, and I just don't see enough focus in leadership put on what kind of person we are becoming. As ministry leaders, our primary conversation ought to be about the formation of our character. I've heard people ask what is the chief end of the Christian life, or what is the goal of the Christian life. And then of course there are many answers - like "to make disciples" or to "evangelize the world" or to "love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with God." There are many good answers that are pretty much all encompassed into conversation. But the real essence of what the movement of Christ is all about is this - our goal is to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ for the sake of others. That's it. That's the chief end. And that's about our texture. But man, that's not what we seem to be most focused on.  And then by velocity, I don't mean to simply imply speed as if to say the faster we go the better. In this book, I'm addressing core components that help us advance the mission of God further and faster, but again, all rooting ourselves in who we are becoming for the sake of others. It all starts with character, and from that place the mission and movement of Jesus advances. And the church NEEDS to be focused more on that, especially when it comes to the formation of young leaders.


 2. What is distinctive about this idea and/or your approach to leader development and formation?

Well, The Protégé Playbook offers an approach to people investment. In other words, how are we allowing other people to invest in our lives, and then how are we going about investing in the lives of others. This is essential to advancing the movement of Christ in our world. Truth is, the transforming power of the Gospel travels from person to person, one life to another life. And again, it just doesn't seem like we hone in that all too well across the board. We give tons of energy in the church world to the Sunday experience, and by all means, we should. It's very important. However, when I look at Jesus' ministry, that wasn't where he spent most of his energy. I know, I know. People say, "It was a different culture." But I don't buy that because when you look at pretty much everything Jesus did, taught or said, we don't apply that same principle. So when we take an honest look at Jesus, at least from my vantage point, he was relational and personal and incarnational. He walked with people in the every day grind of life. He talked to them on dusty roads and at the side of wells. He spent time in people's homes and in honest conversations about what really matters in life. And so in essence, he lived his life as a mentor and disciple-maker. And that's the heartbeat of this book. It takes the reader on a six week journey into discovering how this all plays itself out in life. By the end of the reading experience, my hope is that people will have clearer picture about how to invest their life, where to spend their time, and what to actually do with people who desire to be mentored. And along the way, we travel into areas that are important to guide people into as they seek to grow into Christ-like character.  

3. What are the top few things you want readers to take away from your book?

The Protégé Playbook isn’t just a book of potentially good ideas or methods. It's an arsenal of time-tested development tools that I’ve used personally in working with emerging leaders for the last decade. I've tried to wrap 10 years of learnings in my experience into this little book. My hope is that people would walk away (1) with a vision to become someone with something to say, (2) with increased awareness of their own growth areas and then to be able to identify specific action steps for growth to happen, (2) with a deep conviction that leaders should not do life or leadership on their own, and that they need guidance from people who have been where they want to go, (3) with a renewed conviction about what drives healthy leadership and to know how to better become a relationally healthy leader, and finally (4) with increased knowledge on how to get on the path to become a leader who is experiencing real transformation at a character and soul level. That's the kind of leaders we desperately need leading local churches and ministries around the globe. And that's why I wrote this book, to help advance THAT conversation.

Holden Turns 6 years old and...

On March 7th, my youngest son Holden turned 6. And just like any 6 year old boy, the day was a special day. But on this day, there was more going on than would be expected. Holden was diagnosed with autism just before his 2 year old birthday, and so for the last 4 years, our family has been on an unpredictable and challenging journey.

One of the most difficult things for Cheri and me revolves around the mystery of what Holden is thinking. We don't get to hear his thoughts in words because Holden doesn't have the ability to talk at this stage in his journey. We long to hear his voice. We long to know what he is thinking. We just can't wait to hear him express his emotions, and his affections too. To date, we haven't ever heard Holden say, "I love you" or "I miss you" or anything of the like. And that hurts our heart. For us, but more so, for him.

For a few years now, we have hired a consultant/therapist (Kathy) who has helped us in this journey in uncountable ways. She is a certified RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) consultant. One aspect of her work involves teaching us how to cultivate an environment that stimulates brain development in Holden. And we've done our best to foster this. But to be honest, it's been very hard at times to stay motivated. Why? Well, for many reasons, but one big one is because we see very little, if any, progress with the visible eye. Sometimes in honest moments, we just wonder, "Is this doing anything?" "Is this working?" In short, we start to doubt if the process that we've ascribed to is actually going to do what we hope and expect.

And then along the way, we have these moments. They are moments of wonder and beauty. They fill your heart with hope and even draw your heart to God's heart. These moments may seem small to the onlooker, but when you live in waiting, and at times doubt the process, and then you have that moment that infuses your spirit with life, man there's nothing like it!

And so one of those moments came on the week of Holden's 6th birthday. Up to this point, Holden has mimicked a few words that he's heard us say, but he's never used a word that was congruent to the moment and used it with the right meaning. But on this day, Holden walks up to mom and (drum roll please) he said, "Peetzha."

It may sound simple to you that our son said pizza, but for us, that was extraordinary. It was a moment of wonder and beauty. A moment of hope and encouragement. And it reminded us that our faithfulness in the process is working. Holden's development is going slower than we would desire, but God reminded us on Holden's birthday, that He is walking with us, walking with Holden, and that what we are doing with him and for his development is without a doubt working!

What all of this also reminded me of is the spiritual life. There is a process for our development. God is at work in our lives. He invites us to be participants. At times we doubt. At times we wonder if what we are doing is working. But again, development takes time, and it's often hard to see with a visible eye. But you know what, if we pay close enough attention, God will bless us with these seemingly small moments, which can become moments of great wonder and beauty and hope. They remind us that walking with God, doing our part, being faithful in the journey, that all of it is worth it. And that the God who began a good work in us, will be faithful to complete. Keep at it. God is working. And along the way, pay attention to the small moments of wonder and beauty and hope. And then, celebrate them like crazy, and more so celebrate the God who makes it all possible!