Just like everybody else I was terribly saddened by the current events in the UK. Although none us are sure of what’s ahead, it seems like things have quieted down.
I guess it is a good time for reflection and analysis. Smarter people will do that much better than I could ever do. Yet I want to make a few observations, as a philosophical bystander.
I echo Jonathan Freedlander’s sentiments in Tuesday’s Guardian – we are slowly losing confidence in the sociopolitical system we live in. The new ‘crash’ in the markets, Hackergate and now the riots – all make our politicians look powerless. As a Christ-follower this isn’t a surprise, it’s a reminder.
The riots have been brewing up for a while. As an outsider I have observed over the last nearly 20 years how teenagers have been growing up in a permissive, relativistic society with utter disregard for authority, morality, education and decency. Although a committed ‘leftist’ – I am sorry to say but this has got to do with more than just social inequality. This is a crisis of spirituality.
Although Christianity has it’s fair share of massive mistakes – the void created by the disappearing respect/love for God – can only birth such actions. Certainly Christ’s principle of loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself would not have given us the appalling behaviour.
And just before I sound too self-righteous let me turn the mirror unto myself. The theft, greed, lack of love and compassion for others were the marks of the riots. Can I honestly say that those sins don’t show up in my heart? What am I going to do about them? What about the countless numbers of times I passed the ‘chavs’ by laughing at them and their senseless behaviour? Ignorance like that will make us all pay in the end…
An English novelist wrote: ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.’ Right now it is a time to learn some lessons and take our responsibilities seriously in seeking God, praying and caring for our communities.
I will sum up the rest of Darrin’s final lessons as ‘beware of self-centred busy activism’ that masquerades as ‘ministry’. Symptoms: You work as if it all depends on you. You have little time for people and are obsessed with programs.
Your sharpness in discernment drops and you just keep appointing wrong leaders and start wrong endeavours – because it ‘looks’ like growth. You don’t rest, in fear that if you do, the rollercoaster stops… As he says, ’ministry fruits became my righteousness’.
MY TIPS: There will be snares and difficulties whether your ministry goes well or is looking quite unsuccessful. Some will be similar and others will be quite different – depending on your context.
Learn to identify your potential areas of temptation/danger.
Find your security deeply rooted in your identity ‘in Christ’ as the Father’s adopted one, belonging to His family and an heir in the Kingdom. All other definitions will mess up your perceptions. Chasing for success will potentially short-change your faithfulness. Chasing for success will potentially make you mistake His blessing for your merit.
Rest is essential for the smart leader – exactly because it demonstrates humility and a deep reliance on God who will continue the work without you. Resting will make you value your family more and slow you down enough for you to listen more carefully and observe more attentively. Take your Sabbath seriously, plan holidays well and learn to slow down even through an ordinary day – resting not simply being slothful…
Neglected prayer was another important lesson Darrin highlighted as a mistake to be avoided in church planting. It is obvious that many responsibilities are crowding out prayer from a planter’s life.
If the leader doesn’t do many of the strategic and organisational tasks – the whole endeavour could fail. Although he acknowledged that he prayed1 Thessalonians5:17style – it was always on the run and not really organised or prioritised.
I think this is a danger for church leaders, pastors and preachers alike – and not just church planters… We are a generation of activists who treasure work above all. And somehow prayer doesn’t seem to be work. And, therefore, it is easily relegated to something a leader needs to do as something other than ‘work’.
This seems to be in stark contrast to Jesus’ high regard for prayer even in busy ministry times as well as Paul’s dedicated prayer life betrayed by his specific mention of his prayer for the believers in the churches he writes to in his epistles.
Darrin’s reminder is a timely call to re-evaluate the importance of prayer. It starts with prayer for yourself – as part of your relationship with God. That will become your emotional anchor in a ministry where you can always be tempted to find it in the wrong places.
If you are a pastor/preacher I think you should put in your diary prayer as a priority just as much as study, preparation, visitation and administration.
We need to be unashamed to tell an enquiring member of our congregation that we have spent our time praying for them. As John Piper reminded us, ‘brothers, we are not professionals’.
A good idea is to have an active prayer list that ‘pops-up’ on your PC – I found a Sticky widget (you can get one from Yahoo or Windows 7 usually has it). If you’re an Apple user – there are a few helpful apps.
I also use both our church directory as well as my diary prayer diary. I have a list of people I pray for every day of the month in such a way that I cover the whole church in 30 days.
Commit to pray with people in the church whether at small group, pastoral visits/meetings or even chance encounter – because prayer matters!
I am currently listening to a talk given by Darrin Patrick to church planters. Church planting fascinates me because it has a renewed emphasis on getting the basics/foundations right and an intense missiological drive.
Darrin is a very inspiring pastor, leader and church planter (Acts 29). He is a very honest and humble man that is ready to help others learn from his mistakes during his experiences as a church planter. I will add some of my own observations too.
Here are some of the lessons that could be useful for anyone in leadership – church planter or not. Let’s start with his first one. Don’t underestimate the reality and intensity of spiritual warfare. This seems a truism, but very often ignored. Planting churches that enable people to see and hear the truth of the Gospel will encounter spiritual opposition on both the leader and his family. If Satan can ‘take out’ he key leader – the whole community will suffer terribly –often without recovery.
I don’t think this is just for church planters. Any key spiritual leader as well as any living disciple of Christ (a bit of a n oxymoron, I know) – will experience opposition or even persecution.
- If you’re a leader – wake-up and realise that this war is real. Equip yourself adequately – read Ephesians 6. Pray through Ephesians 6.
- A bit of an ‘old skool’ adage: ‘If you’re not experiencing any opposition, ask yourself if you’re really living for Christ as you ought’.
- Pray and fast for your leaders/their families. They will cherish that deeply!
- Encourage your leaders/families in their difficult battle. As Satan discourages you ‘fight back’ with encouragement!
Ephesians 6:10-20: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
More to follow regarding prayer and mentoring – in the next few days
Since this is the season for summer holidays – some of you might find this either amusing or rather sobering: