Dead or Alive?

John 15:2 “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.”

This is a challenging statement from Jesus. His words are a call to be proactive about our personal growth. A dead branch doesn’t produce anything worthwhile to anyone and will be removed. A fruitful branch will be cut back and pruned in its season in order for more fruitfulness to come. Either way, we’re going to get cut. We may as well get cut for bring fruitful and not for being fruitless.

I refuse to be fruitless. Refusing fruitlessness means I intentionally position myself to grow. Someone once said, you only grow according to the books you read, the places you visit and the people you meet. I think there are other ways for growth to occur but these three are a great starting place. What books are you reading? Which new places are you visiting and studying? And who are the people you are posturing yourself in front of to receive from? God is committed to your fruitfulness and the extension of his kingdom. Be intentional, be prepared for pruning and be ready for greater fruitfulness in your life.

Don’t forget the Poor!

despicable_me_mMatthew 25:35 ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

This Christmas don’t forget the poor. I came back from shopping today and walked past a drunkard man on the street and the Holy Spirit prompted me to give him some bottles of ‘Thank You Water’. I felt convicted in my heart that while I’m out buying gifts, there are literally thousands of people here in Australia and millions beyond that will spend this Christmas alone, broke and without hope.

I obeyed the voice of the Holy Spirit and 4 bottles of water led to another gift and another gift and then another gift until I ended up driving this guy to his very run down home, sharing God’s love with him. I sat in my car crying and broken up inside and asked God to never let me forget the poor. I’ve been cut up about this all afternoon. I don’t want you to think that I’m such a holy superhero because the truth is I’m self-centered at the best of times but I only write to inspire someone else to do something that will truly make a difference in someone’s life this Christmas. Love ya!

Galatians 2:10 ‘Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.’

The Oracle!

What’s Your Life Mission?

Psalm 139:14 I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Lots of people journey through life without a clear sense of purpose and personal mission. Truth is, every single one of us can and should connect with our reason for being alive. While the ultimate reason God created us is for relationship with Him, He has wired us up with some unique strengths for a specific purpose on planet earth.

Discovering your life mission takes time and is a life long journey. The longer I live the more I discover about my purpose and reason for being wired up the way I am. If you are unclear about your life purpose, don’t fret but begin the journey today to discovering more about God and then he will help you discover more about you. If you have some clarity, then go deeper in the journey by asking some further questions of God and yourself. Engage in a closer self-examination.

Begin with God. If I want to know the purpose for a particular product, I would go to the original manufacturer and ask the all important question, ‘what on earth does this product exist for?’ The original creator of your life is God. If you don’t believe this fundamental truth,  then your first step towards your life mission is to re-examine your belief system and be open to going on a faith journey with God. God created you fearfully and wonderfully. Your destiny is not your decision, its your discovery. God is sovereign and he has a plan and purpose for creating you. Connect to your calling by connecting to God and he will give you inside information on who you are, what your wiring is and how best to utilize your strengths to fulfil your mission.

Understand your Past. Your destiny is hidden in your history. God has already been at work revealing, shaping and moulding you for your life mission. Even the painful experiences God can and will use for his glory and your testimony. Reflect and remember where God has already been active in your past.

Identify your Passion. What’s your holy discontent? What stirs your affections and passion. What makes you leap to your feet and moves you to action? Too many of us are content to stay in roles and environments that don’t really reflect the passion beating in our hearts. Connect to what it is that you love doing and love resolving and go after it.

Discover your Ability. What comes easily to you? Where do you seem to excel? What have others said to you, you are good at? What do you find pleasure in doing or being apart of? Don’t believe the lie, that you’re not good at anything. It’s rubbish. Everyone of us are good at something. Start engaging in life and see what comes to the surface of what you do well.

See your Opportunity. What doors are open to you? It could be no doors are open in your area of interest currently but if you knocked on a door, what could open up to you? Opportunities to engage in life are all around us. Discern what opportunities lie before you, even if disguised in hard work and start to take some steps in that direction.

Open your Ears. What is God saying to you? What is His still small voice impressing upon you? What are others around you saying? Chew the meat and spit out the bones of people’s comments. Listen with a discerning heart and embrace what resonates with your spirit and throw out the rest, unless God is trying to speak to you about an area of your life you need to pay attention to and grow in.

Record your research. Don’t just let important details you’ve discovered to float around in cyberspace or brain space, get it down on paper and exact your thinking with writing. Your life mission is too important to be vague and fuzzy about. Get clear, get specific and get focused.

God created you for a specific purpose. You have a life mission and God wants you and expects you to connect to it. Your life is a gift from God, what you do with your life is your gift back to him. Don’t waste another day, swimming in a sea of doubt and disillusionment. Begin the journey today to living on purpose and connecting with your life mission.

The Oracle!

God Loves a Failure

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 for context.

It’s official. God loves a failure! He didn’t want the beauty of his nature and the glory of the kingdom solely represented by the great, the good and the clever. He did not want a who’s who of humanity to portray his own magnificence.

God does not need to be seen in the right places with the right people. Jesus was criticized viciously for hanging out with the very people society detested. He chose to become despised and rejected.

God does not have an image problem. He chose people who had a history of failure. He chose people who had a history of not learning and who repeated their mistakes continuously. God chose people who are despised as being stupid by people who should know better. He accepted people who would require lots of training just to be normal, let alone successful.

He chose them because he wanted to love them in such a way that they would always be safe and whole, whether they were successful or not. He chose them so that his love for them could heal them of their foolishness. He has a wonderful capacity to enjoy us in our weakness.

He has a plan to make us successful through using failure for us and not against us. Failure does not demean the Father. His character and identity are so wonderfully secure that he is not afraid to know us, bless us and stand up for us.

Whether we are doing well or badly our identity is always in Jesus!

Building a Team for Breakthrough!

People aren’t your greatest asset, the right people are!

One of the great metaphors for a church or ministry team is a bus. On a bus you have a driver and a whole lot of passengers, with hopefully some key people in the seats closest to the driver. Depending on who you have in the key seats, will determine the trip you take.

Research has shown (Jim Collins – Good to Great) that the first thing you must do before you want to build a team for breakthrough is get the wrong people off the bus, the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats. Before you work out where you want to go or what you want to achieve, you must focus on who you are going to take the journey with.

Great vision without great people is irrelevant.

Whoever is on your bus should be there because of who is on it, not just where it is going. When you have the right people on the bus, you eliminate the need to constantly micro-manage and drive them to get results. The right people are self-starters and are led, not driven to make things happen.

“We focused year after year on injecting endless stream of talent and building them into the best managers in the industry. That’s how you build the future.” (CEO Dick Cooley, Wells Fargo)

Are you trying to be the genius with a thousand helpers or are you trying to build a team of great strength and depth? A genius leader doesn’t need a team, just a bunch of soldiers that will implement their ideas. The problem is, it’s unsustainable. Don’t settle for being a genius on WHAT to do in ministry. Aim to be a genius in WHO you pick for your team. Great leaders build a team for breakthrough, not a platform for their talents.

Look for the 4 C’s in recruiting people – Character, Chemistry, Competence and Calling. Recruit people to your team, even if you don’t have a vacancy for them as yet. Great people will start to contribute because they are initiator’s. It takes rigorous discipline, not a ruthless dictatorship to build a team for breakthrough. A rigorous team environment is disciplined, whereas, a ruthless dictatorship is ego-centric and fear mongering.

Practice the 3 essential disciplines of a rigorous environment:

  1. When in doubt, keep looking – better to have an unfilled position, then fill it with the wrong person.
  2. When you need to change, act quickly – Don’t delay but be decisive.
  3. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems – Your best result on your biggest problem will be average. Your best result on your biggest opportunity could be world-changing.

The human component in bottle-necking church / ministry growth isn’t location, circumstances or marketing but the ability to get and keep enough of the right people. Walter Bruckart was once asked to name the top 5 factors in his companies breakthrough. He responded with, “Factor 1 – right people. Factor 2 – right people. Factor 3 – right people…” You get it!

Grace!

Reinvent yourself at each stage of growth!

One of the most important leadership lessons I’ve had to learn is the need to reinvent aspects of my leadership during the different stages of growth we have experienced as a church.

I thought I was under pressure as a youth and young adult pastor of a large church but it’s clear there is a drafting effect of being a staff member on a team with a strong point leader at the helm. When you are apart of a team, you can get into the spiritual slipstream of the point leader, like a cyclist, riding in a pack, gets into the slipstream of the lead cyclist.

When I transitioned from youth pastor to lead pastor, the shift in weightiness of responsibility and accountability was very significant. Here are some ways I’ve had to reinvent myself as a leader:

  1. From highly directive to highly collaborative – When I first started the church with a core group of 13 people, I could make decisions instantly. Because the majority of the group were inexperienced in ministry, I needed to be stronger in my directives to shape the foundations of the church but as we grew bigger, I needed to consider the counsel of more people and include them in the decision making process. How I lead now is different to how I led in the early days. I recognized this by listening to people’s feedback and realizing if I didn’t change, I would limit the buy in of others. It’s not that I’ve abdicated the need to be directive, it’s that I’ve brought more people into the decision making process with me.
  2. From generalist to specialist – Like a GP at a doctors clinic I played the role of a generalist in the early stages of the church plant. As we grew I had to move from being all things to all people to being a specific thing to some people and empower others to be a specific thing to other people as well. Unless a leader makes the transition from generalist to specialist, the organization will be limited in its future growth. For me this has meant a greater clarity on my strengths and what I specifically bring that can make the single best contribution to the church. This reinvention must be reflected in your role and job description. For me the primacy of preaching and leadership are the twin towers of my role that must fight against the onslaught of the distractive attacks against it.
  3. From defined to re-defined – I began the church with a 52 page blueprint doc of defined ideas that I wanted to build the church with. Every year after that first initial year, I’ve had to redefine my ideas to fit with the ever changing context of the ministry and cultural landscape. This has extended to my theology. The demand for answers to people’s questions and my own wrestling with issues of God, life and ministry has forced me to delve back into the study of God’s word and bring a re-definition to how I think about God and the world around me. There has been a deepening of my faith in God and ideas about God through this redefining process.

Grace!

God Connections!

“For the body doesn’t consist of one member but of many.”

(1 Corinthians 12:14)

Yesterday, I met up with Ian Green from the UK through a mutual friend and ministry partner (Steve Wyndham). Ian is a preacher, leader and pastor amongst other things and as I sat and listened to his story and shared my own ministry journey with him, I was reminded again of the significance of God connections.

Good opportunities are just that, good. Nothing much changes or is influenced by simply seizing a good opportunity. A God opportunity is different. It takes discernment to see God at work in the connections we make with people and it also take initiative to seize the opportunity that a God connection affords.

A God connection will have mutual benefit for all parties. The way God works, it’s never just one way. God works all things for our good when we are called according to his purpose. The body of Christ is BIG and full of very interesting people. Every now and then God will bring a GC your way and I want to encourage you to seize it. None of us are isolated islands but we are in desperate need of partnership with others. Gospel partnerships are key to Gospel advancement. We see it in the New Testament and we see the principle in operation today.

My life has been shaped, not only, by my decisions but by those God has sent my way to influence me towards his plan and purpose for my life and ministry. This includes my spouse and several significant others.

What about you? Do you recognize a God Connection in your life currently, and if so, what are you doing to nurture and cultivate the relationship?

Grace!

The Call is about others!

Don’t make the call about you. God’s call on your life is a blessing from God intended to benefit others. God blesses those who pour themselves out for others (Isaiah 58:10). I’m a big believer in the truth, “If God can get it through you, he can get it to you.”

God doesn’t want us to be a dam or reservoir that contains the blessing but more like a channel and river that passes on the blessing. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. All the gifts and abilities, opportunities and relationships we have are not about us. They are to be stewarded for the benefit of others.

I’ve observed many people live in a state of continual discontentment and want. I think one of the reasons for this is we can get too easily preoccupied with ourselves, and as long as our eyes on ourselves, we will find reasons to be dissatisfied. The moment you get your eyes onto others and start serving them and pouring yourself out for them, you don’t have time to be concerned about what isn’t perfect in your life.

Your call is not about you, it’s about others. I’ve never seen anybody help someone else up in life without being helped up themselves. What you sow is what you reap. God gives grace, favor and influence to individuals for God’s purposes of extending his kingdom in more people’s lives. The more we make our call about us, we are limiting what God wants to do through us to affect change in people. Keep the call pure and keep it focused on Jesus and others and you will be an incredible blessing to others.

Insight!

How to get out of your own way!

One of the biggest obstacles to our calling is ourselves. Too often we get in our own way and one of the keys to walking in the fulness of our call is to get out of our own way. I preached a sermon once called, “Get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit have his say.”

The biggest issue you are going to have to get over in your life and ministry is YOU. One of the reasons for delays in your life journey is God is working in you before he works through you. Unfortunately, there are issues lurking under the surface of our lives that need to be healed or removed or both, that if not dealt with, will continue to hold us back.

How do we get out of our own way?

  1. Become secure in who you are – Insecurity will close doors of opportunity in your face. Insecurity can be sniffed out a mile away and cause you to sabotage important relationships and personal success. Stop comparing yourself to others and start celebrating the uniqueness of who you are.
  2. Grow in self-awareness – Know thyself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What’s your dominant personality style? Where do you get energy from? Extroverted or introverted? The more you know about yourself, the more you can relate to the world around you from an informed perspective.
  3. Develop people skills – A lack of social awareness and minimal people skills can cut short your capacity to influence and thereby limit your call to a small sphere. Whatever your call is, it will involve people and helping people in one way or another is what ministry is all about. The Scriptures exhort us to not look only to our own interests but also to the interests of others. Listening and giving positive feedback is one of the first steps to learning how to relate to people.
  4. Do what you know you ought to do – Don’t procrastinate on what you know you ought to do. The Bible teaches, he who knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, for him it is sin. There are things that God asks us to do we delay on, that we need to obey… when we are asked to do it… not 6 months later or 6 years later. There are little things like, going to bed early, exercising daily, eating a healthy diet, returning the phone call, and saying ‘I love you’ that we know we ought to do but sometimes procrastinate on and we end up paying for it.
  5. Spend time with God – A lack of dependence upon God means you only have yourself to rely on and frankly, you’re not that good… either am I. We were never created to exist apart from God. Apart from God, we can do nothing but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Insight!

Discovering your Call!

Psalm 139:13-16 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mothers womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, everyone of the them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Today is my 33rd birthday. 33 years ago I was born and my journey of purpose began. I am a year older and hopefully more in alignment with my call than ever before. Some people mistake age for maturity but unfortunately some people live the same experience 50 years in a row and never grow from their life experiences.

I encourage you today to not just watch the years come and go but to seize each moment as another opportunity to grow in the call of God on your life. All of us ask ourselves questions around our life purpose. Questions like, why do I exist? What is my purpose for being born? Who am I and where do I fit in the world? These are all important questions that are common to everyone. Even though you might not have the answers to these questions yet, keep pursuing them in partnership with God’s Spirit because he is your creator and the only person who can truly help you uncover the mystery to your life.

Discovering your call is an intersection of a few key things:

  1. Burden – What is it that you have a burden for? Every call of God is accompanied by a burden. A burden is what you are ultimately passionate about. A burden is a holy discontent that you have to do something about. A burden wakes you up and gets you going in the morning and keeps you thinking late into the night. Discovering your burden requires being still long enough to ask some very deep and personal questions of God and your own heart and waiting patiently for the answer.
  2. Gifting – What is that comes easily to you more than anything else? We are all gifted at something and we all have been given a special ability from God to contribute to the world around us. Your gift is a revelation of God to the world. Your gift makes room for you and is a source of provision in your life. Your gift is for the benefit of others and not purely for your own advancement.
  3. God – What has God already revealed to you about your call? God speaks through prophecy, rhema words of inspiration, Scriptures, circumstances, dreams and visions, words of knowledge and an inner witness of the Spirit in your heart. We should never pursue our call separate to a personal relationship with God. As we walk with God, God reveals more and more to us about our identity and value in him.
  4. Opportunities – What have people asked you to do recently? What opportunities have come you way in the past? What opportunities would you like to be available to you? Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are all potential opportunities in your future. The little opportunities before you right now are the stepping stones to the big things on your heart for the future.
  5. Environment – Your current environment is adding value to you or sucking life from you. Everyone of us are called to a place where we can contribute meaningfully to. What is the place of your call? Nehemiah was called to rebuild the broken down walls of Jerusalem and Paul was called to be a witness in Jerusalem thousands of years later. Calling is intended for a specific place. Your church, workplace and home are significant places where your calling is to be expressed.
  6. People – Who has God partnered you up with? Who is in your life right now that is helping you walk in the call and who is in your life that is hindering your call? God has got a dot to dot plan for your relationships. Take responsibility for the relational spaces in your life and look for Kingdom connections.
  7. Timing – God has a divine window of opportunity for all of us. It’s important to know that there is a time for every season and matter under heaven. God makes everything beautiful in its time. Don’t run ahead of God but don’t lag behind either. God’s timing is perfect and as you walk in step with the Holy Spirit, he will prompt your heart to pursue certain things in certain seasons.
Insight!