Some initial post-Leadership Summit thoughts…

What a remarkable past couple of days this has been.  I kept my laptop open for every single session, trying to capture as many bullets and poignant thoughts as possible, attempting to soak in as much as my sponge could hold.  God certainly had some specific things to share with me, and the common threads that wove throughout every single session from each different leader or revolutionary in their field…  I love how God continues to surprise me with how incredibly aware and detailed He is.

But even now I’m struggling for the right words to describe what I just experienced.  I would probably do myself a better service by allowing myself to decompress for a few days, then go back through my notes and find the recurring themes and reflect on them.  Twelve sessions in two days… that’s a lot to absorb in such a short time.

I do know one thing I can say with the utmost confidence right now.  My God loves me more than I could ever imagine, and He is right within my grasp.  All I have to do is reach out and take hold of Him, and all the worries, misgivings, poor habits, frustrations, passivity, all of it will pale in comparison to the hope and future I have in Him.  I am so much more encouraged to keep pressing through this desert, because it’s in this desert that I will experience the most growth, because it’s in this place where the only resource I can turn to is my Savior, and He is the only resource I really need.

The movement of God…

We’re in the midst of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, and I feel a stirring in my heart greater than I’ve felt in a while.  There’s a common thread of adoration that’s weaving its way through this auditorium right now, and I feel the vibrations from its strings.  My soul is aching to rise again, to take hold of the promises Christ has been constantly putting in my path.

I’ve been seeking renewal, motivation, inspiration, the innocent faith of a child that I seemed to have misplaced.  I’ve yearned to start over and made what I thought were valiant attempts.  But I realize that I’ve kept my feet planted still while He’s been in constant orbit around me, prodding me, trying to get my attention.  I need to reverse the equation, and as equally as He has pursued me, I must now pursue Him. I must pick up my feet and fall into orbit around Him.

In my weakness You make me strong
When I am helpless You come along
and move me, You move me right along
When I am drowning You take me high
Into Your shelter, back into life
my Savior divine.

Patience or Priority?

The Apostle Peter was a very interesting individual.  He’s described as big and burly, a hardworking fisherman who often spoke and acted impulsively and, occasionally, irrationally.  Whatever was on his mind he would speak aloud.  Whatever fire burned in his heart stirred him into motion.  He didn’t seem to consider the consequences of his words & deeds until after the fact, and Jesus is seen repeatedly trying to get through to him with admonishment, with rebuke, with repeated instructions.

Peter sort of reminds me of myself at times.  What’s in my head, I want to get out and share, contribute my $.02 even if it doesn’t actually further the conversation.  When an idea comes to mind of something I can, should, or want to do about something or with someone, I’m usually hard-pressed to resist the urge to get going on it yesterday.  As I closed in my last post, patience tends to be a pretty challenging concept for me to grasp and put into practice.

But in Peter’s case, it seems to be less about patience and more about priority.  I read a chapter from John Maxwell’s book The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day, and he explored the transition Peter made from the unremarkable life of a fisherman in Galilee to the impassioned leader of the first Christian church.  He watched how Jesus made choices, observed as his Teacher made the tough decisions no one else would be able to make because of the end result He had in mind.  Peter learned what it meant to fully invest in something greater than himself, and how to lead from that place to ensure he was always staying on track with the command his Master taught him: to bear witness to the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

I’m realizing how paramount it is for me to pause while making a decision and weigh all the variables, to identify the contrast between what is good and what is best, what is important versus what is critical in any given circumstance. Sometimes the lines get blurred and it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the two.  Being able to discern this difference is what sets a leader apart from the followers.

I need to learn how to decide what comes first, and that knowledge can only come from one place.  If I am to be Kingdom-minded, I need to think like my King.  And in order to think like my King, I need to spend time with Him.  So, time comes first.

You said the secret word!

A friend recommended I read a section from the book An Hour On Sunday by Nancy Beach, the former Arts Leader at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago.  It’s a great read for anyone who’s done any kind of arts ministry for a long time and needs some encouragement and guidance on surviving in the church arts world.

I went through Chapter Seven: Well-Ordered Hearts and Lives.  Some key thoughts I received right off the bat:

  • While the end result of ministry can move people in striking ways, beyond anything we possibly had in mind for it, it all comes at a tremendous cost to us: time, energy, interpersonal relationships, etc.
  • My talent isn’t the greatest gift I bring to the church, even as a staff member.  The greatest gift I bring is my very life.
  • Take the time to minister!  Don’t just hand it off to someone else because “they’re better equipped to handle it.”

Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” We can’t serve from a heart that’s exhausted, embittered, distracted.  We also can’t serve from a heart that only comes to life on weekends.  There needs to be an influx of life happening throughout the week!  It’s an active and participatory process that requires practice and honing and repetition.

Many of us find it exceedingly difficult to do the work we are called to do and be the kind of people God asks us to be.  If we’re not careful, we begin to see ourselves as victims, to make excuses, to look for wiggle room so we can somehow be the exception to rules for godly character.  It’s not that we don’t long to be fully devoted to God, but too often we allow deadline pressures, relentless ministry demands, and overwhelming standards to become excuses for slippage.

-Nancy Beach

How true.  Excuses, no matter how valid, are still excuses.  My wife is going through a very difficult time right now in her job life, and it’s taken a substantial toll on her, and by proxy, me.  Right now she needs my strength to lean on, and if I’m not renewing my own strength, I will be utterly useless to her, and by default, I’ll be even more useless to myself and in my own job & causes.  I don’t blame her for it; I could never blame her.  I chose to partner with her through thick and thin when I asked her to marry me, so I will share the burden.  But Jesus never intended the burdens of this world to overtake us, because He said He would take it from us and give us a lighter one (Matthew 11:30).  And I can’t let the frustrations she’s experiencing rule the day for either of us.

Some responses to the chapter:

  1. I need to make sure I am taking care of myself.  God knit me together in my mother’s womb, my body is His temple, and I have to keep it properly maintained.  I’ve been eating better; I’ve been proactive about getting enough sleep; I’ve been exercising, albeit not as regularly as I want to be.  Discipline.  Sounds like the operative word for me right now.
  2. I need to make sure I’m always reconciled to those around me, whether it be my wife, my parents, her parents, my bosses, my coworkers, my cohorts, etc.  I don’t think right now I’m in a place where I’m at odds with anyone.  If and when I am, I have to make peace so it doesn’t spill over into other areas of my life.
  3. I have demonstrated a severe lack of discipline in spending quiet time with my King.  Severe.  Inexcusable, but forgivable.  Praise God for that.  This is probably the first major step in guiding me out of the desert of passivity I’ve been in.  (There’s that operative word again… discipline.)
  4. How do I feel coming into a weekend?  Sometimes I’m feeling good, other times I feel dread.  It comes down to preparedness.  It stands to reason that emotional & spiritual preparedness are just as important as musical & logistical preparedness, if not far more so!  If I’m more prepared emotionally and spiritually, I’m better equipped to deal with the rest.
  5. I know what it is to minister out of weakness.  I have led worship while being far down in the depths of sadness and despair.  I vividly remember what that was like.  The only way I made it through was by His grace.  How much deeper could I go with Him if I sought that grace week in and week out when I’m not in a deep and dark valley?
  6. I really, really don’t like the unexpected.  I’ve tried really hard to handle it well, to be patient, flexible, understanding.  Things happen, and there’s no way around them when they do.  But I need to demonstrate patience, flexibility, and understanding so my team and collaborators aren’t thrown off or made nervous by any mishandling of the situation.  As a leader, I am charged with being an example to my team.  If I lead well, they will follow.  If I suck at leading, they’ll go elsewhere.  I don’t want to risk that with our team, both for their sake as well as my own.

So what are my next steps?  Well, the operative word DISCIPLINE comes to mind once again:

  • Discipline not only in setting aside the time to spend in reflection and reading scripture and books, but in actually using that time for that purpose and not getting distracted.
  • Discipline in finding resources to glean from on my own, not just going on what’s left on my desk by dear friends (although it’s always welcome, I just can’t rely solely on that, they’re walking my walk for me if that’s the case).
  • Discipline in not looking at the time, to “clock in and clock out” of my quiet time.  I don’t think heaven has a punch-clock.
  • Discipline in looking for ways to interact with others outside of the musical sense, reaching out to those in need, being aware of what’s happening underneath it all.

I’m sure there are more, and I’ll most likely be adding to this list in the future.

What’s your list look like?