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Aligning Ministry Service With Personal Narrative (via Stephanie Judd)

Stephanie Judd writes about aligning Christian service ministries with the personal narrative of individual Christians.

The church is not a sausage factory. It’s a dynamic, diverse group of people that God has brought together in Christ. That’s what makes the church so amazing. But what this means is that to see people really fly as volunteers, leaders of churches need to resist the urge to be more concerned with filling gaps in rosters than they are about helping people serve in a way that aligns with their personal narrative. We need to sit down with people and ask the following questions:

  • What does it look like for you to live faithfully and courageously for Christ this year?
  • What excites you?
  • What energises you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What ministry sparks your interest? Why?
  • What do you want to get out of serving?
  • What are your present commitments and what do they demand from you?

Asking these questions can tell you a lot about a person. Not only is it going to give you a good idea of what role is going to see them thrive and be a source of ongoing joy and motivation, it also gives you a touch-point to come back to. Six months down the track in enables you to say: ‘At the beginning of the year you told me that you wanted to join the welcome team to connect with more people at church. Is that happening for you?’

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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Giving Up Boundaries With Jesus The Boundary Crosser (via Sarah Condon)

It’s a constant challenge to live in the truth that people are our ministry, not an impediment to our ministry objectives. It seems modern ministry strategies judge people not on the degree they cling to Jesus, but on the degree they usefully support the local church’s program objectives.
From Sarah Condon at Mockingbird.

And nothing made the Pharisees angrier than Great Aunt Boundary-less Jesus. Because he took their boundary ridden law and raised it to completion in himself. He both ignored the boundaries and finished them. The failure to adhere to boundaries was no longer useful, because Jesus had come to be the Boundary. And mercifully, he had decided to let everyone through, no matter what.
By and large, I believe boundaries to be utterly useless, at least when it comes to the Gospel. I am not an idiot. I understand that there are people we need boundaries with. Abusive family members, angry people on the internet, and (maybe) even addicts. Boundaries in and of themselves are not bad. But as is her usual tendency, the Church takes a self-help concept and makes a gnostic gospel out of it.
The worst use of boundaries comes from the mouths of the pastors and priests of the church. All too often a “boundary” is insisted upon when the people in the pews are struggling with loneliness or mental illness or are simply annoying. But we label them as difficult and relegate them to the gnashing of teeth beyond our magically “self-actualized” boundary.
And woe be it unto the parishioner who has been labeled evil or even demonic for the sake of creating a hedge grove of shunning. But the hard truth is that people are not automatically evil if they get in the way of ministry. They are just people being very people-y. We would do well to remember that Jesus might have been able to cast out demons, but he had dinner with “difficult people” on the regular. And he loved them. Just as they were.
Of course, I am not certain that this insistence upon boundaries in the church is sheerly the fault of ordained people. I heard the word “boundary” used in seminary at least as much as I heard the name of Jesus invoked. Also worth nothing, you would be hard pressed to find many seminary professors who have run churches for any length of time. They do not know (or perhaps remember) that these are real people we are categorizing. They are not solely their sins. They are not their only their obnoxious tendencies. They are people marked beloved by God whether we like it or not.
In numerous parts of my life, I am unsure of What Jesus Would Do. But I do know what he has done. He was the great Boundary Crosser, the finisher of all of the boundaries we place around one another, and the Rescuer who crosses all of the practical and personal boundaries to get that one difficult sheep back into the fold.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Walking With Saints As They Near Home (via Zac Harrel)

Zac Harrel writes that amid a needed focus on discipling the young and newer Christians, there is a privileged ministry of pastoring senior saints as they near the end of their lives.
One of the ways we do that is through the ministry of presence:

Our wider culture wants to ignore and hide the dying, but the church cannot do this.
God has called us to shepherd his people in these last moments. Our presence reminds those we visit of God’s presence. It reminds them he is always there and will never leave nor forsake them.
God doesn’t call us to have all the answers. He calls us to be present. God doesn’t call us to have the right thing to say. He calls us to show up and to show his love.

Read the other two ministries at Gospel-Centered Disciples.


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Not Letting ‘Awesome’ Define Your Life (via Chad Bird)

Chad Bird contends that God does not reveal himself on the mountaintops of life as consistently as he is found in the valleys.
He makes reference to what he describes as “one of the most in-American verses in the Bible,” truthfully one of the most counter-cultural verses of our age.

If I could rewind my life and go back twenty years, I would dream small and relish the joys of an unaccomplished life. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,” Paul urges (l Thess. 4:11 NIV). This is arguably one of the most un-American verses in the Bible. Those words have become almost a mantra for me. I must say them over and over to silence the lifelong indoctrination I have received from a culture that idolizes those who do big things and urges us all to do likewise. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” In other words, make it your ambition not to let “awesome” define your life, dictate your relationships, weigh the importance of who you are, or guide you in discerning how and where God is found.
To lead a quiet life doesn’t mean that you lower your expectations as much as you lower your gaze. Instead of looking up to the next accomplishment, the next rung on the ladder, you look down at the daily life you live, the children God has given you, the spouse by your side, your aging parents, your dear friends, the poor and needy — all those “little things” you miss when you’re always looking up to the “next big thing” in your life.

Your God Is Too Glorious, Chad Bird, Baker, 2018, pg 14.


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Single-Minded Focus In An Age Of Multi-Tasking (via John Muether at Ligonier)

Gathering to worship God bids us do one thing at once with all our focus.
This runs counter to the growing tendency to split attention between any number of tasks, giving full attention to nothing.
God deserves nothing less than undivided attention.
From John Muether:

Single-minded attention is strange to us, even in worship, because we take pride in our ability to navigate our busyness with speed and nimbleness. In a multitasking world, Marva Dawn rightly concedes that worship is a “royal waste of time” because we are focused on something that our frenetic culture dismisses as inefficient. And yet, neuroscientists have come to the consensus that multitasking is a myth. We accomplish far less when we juggle several tasks than when we focus on one thing at a time. What is worse, our digitally enhanced distractions are becoming addictive: our brains crave constant stimulation and instant gratification. How ironic, then, that we program our phones with “alerts” and “notifications” for so-called breaking news when they have the effect of diminishing our alertness, prompting thoughtlessness and negligence to the task at hand. In sum, the spirit of our age is inimical to the careful and sustained attention that public worship demands.
Is it possible anymore to resist the persistent distractions of our digital age that obscure the message of the gospel? We need not abandon such a hope. Traditional church practices refocus our attention on the gospel and enable our worship of the transcendent God. Public worship and Sabbath keeping are the most culturally disruptive witnesses for Christians to practice. On a day designed for the soul to feast, we must resist habits that distract us and others. I am trying to go completely offline during the day. It is proving to be a great struggle, but I trust that it will awaken me from the stupor that can come from living in a culture that prizes distraction.

source.


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The Need To Keep Margin In Our Lives (via Michael Kelly)

In a culture that encourages fear of missing out there is a price to be paid in having every cent and every moment spoken for.
As Christmas gives way to thoughts of New Year, Michael Kelley writes about the margin that God wants us to factor into our lives and why we shouldn’t reap to the edges of our fields:

We live in a margin-less world. Everything from our time to our money is pretty much spoken for. We are reaping to the end of the fields. In fact, we are going back over the fields of our lives a second and third time, looking for any spare cent or second that has not been accounted for.
This isn’t how we were meant to live. It’s certainly not how we should live if we expect the Lord to bring gospel-oriented opportunities into our lives. Living in a margin-less way is, at the root, a lack of faith in God’s character. Think about it from the perspective of the farmer: What might cause a farmer to reap everything, even the edges, instead of obeying this command of margin?
At some level, it’s fear. Fear that there wouldn’t be enough. Fear of missing some profit. Fear that at some point in the season, the family would be in need. The way you combat that fear is with faith. You believe that God is generous – that God will provide and that God will give us enough. That’s how you leave the edges unreaped.

Read the whole post


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John The Baptist And Saying ‘Come Lord Jesus’ And Meaning It (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge writes about John the Baptist and what she terms “apocalyptic transvision — that vision given to the church that sees through the appearances of this world to the blazing power and holiness of the coming of the Lord.”

…. It has occurred to me that the image of Jesus as the cosmic Judge who will ultimately come again to put an end to all sin and wickedness forever is not so frightening to the poor and oppressed of the earth as it is to those who have a lot to lose.
If your loved one is in the habit of buying you expensive Christmas gifts, you might not be so crazy about the idea of Jesus coming back before Santa Claus gets here. But suppose you had been a Christian in prison in the Soviet Union. Or suppose you had been a black person in Apartheid-era South Africa directed to pack up your meager belongings and take them to a so-called homeland that wasn’t your home and that wouldn’t offer you dignified employment. Suppose you were elderly and handicapped in the South Bronx and had just been robbed and terrorized for the third time. In circumstances like those, you might say Maranatha and really mean it.
Even today, John the Baptist’s lonely, austere style of life bears witness to a reality that is coming, a reality that will expose all worldly realities, all earthly conditions, all human promises as fraudulent and transitory. His appearance on the scene at this time of year exposes our pretensions for what they really are. Never have we needed him more!

Read the whole post at Christianity Today.