Ministry Inside.144

post-it-noteOn my desk is a post-it note that reads:

Be Better Than Yesterday.

I look at this quite often.

One of the great temptations in our work is to coast. Actually, this is one of the great temptations of life. People who coast have figured out a way to do life with little effort.  We can become lazy and slothful. Some of us become mindless.  We have learned to live in such a way that requires little thought.

Church leaders who coast are doing their churches no favor.  Yet, many of us may find it to be tempting.  I recall the elder who said to his fellow elders and ministers regarding the ministry of their congregation as the New Year approached:  “Well its business as usual.  Let’s just do what we’ve been doing.”  Such a statement created no passion or call to prayer.  It seemed that we were about to yawn together as a group.

No conversation.  No thought.  No reflection.  No call to put our faith in God against the forces of this world.

Business as usual.

Ministry Inside.128

ThirdWho do you intend to be?  Will you finish well?

I recently read Walter Wright’s most recent book The Third Third of Life: Preparing for Your Future.  Wright is the former President of Regent College in Vancouver.  Wright suggest that one’s life can be divided into thirds.

“I like to think of life in thirds.  The first third (one to thirty) we spend in incubation, education, preparation, exploring identity and purpose, intimacy, and relationships.  The second third (thirty to sixty) is dominated by family and work: we define our core relationships and commit to a career path.  The third third (sixty to ninety) encounters the unexplored terrain of life after the working career.” (p 9)

The book explores the “third third” of life. You may not be there yet.  Before you stop reading, however,  you might note this paragraph:

“Planning for the third third of life draws heavily on the first two thirds. Who we have become is the result of a lifetime of learning, work, and relationships.  Who we will be is a choice that builds on this foundation. Preparing for the future is not a uniquely third third concern.  It is an agenda for life.” (p.  114)

Given these realities, who do you intend to be?  Will you finish well?

Lifelong Learners Grow Emotionally and Relationally

learn1They may be pleasant and intelligent people. Very often, they are Christian people.   There are some people who have developed their thinking processes quite well. There are some who have the capacity to grasp intellectual complexities and make sense of them.

Yet, some of these same people never seem to grow up emotionally.

Yet, there are people whohave just never been able to progress or move ahead in terms of allowing the Gospel to make a difference in the way they handle their emotions.

Lifelong learners are willing to learn and grow. Learning, however, is not limited to mental, cognitive growth. A commitment to be a lifelong learner is not just a commitment to read more books.

No, we make the commitment to grow relationally and emotionally.

A few years ago, I read Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Church. A good book.   This particular paragraph in the Introduction (p. 17) caught my attention:

The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God’s people inside the church and those outside who claim no relationship to Jesus Christ. Even more alarming, when you go beyond the praise and worship of our large meetings and conventions and into the homes and small-group meetings of God’s people, you often find a valley littered by broken and failed relationships.

Five Suggestions for Staying Fully Alive

RaftingHe stood before our church and preached.  Each week, this figure in a dark suit opened the Bible and talked.  I was in my later years of elementary school, so I don’t remember a lot about this man.  But I do remember that when he preached, it seemed dull.  I don’t think it was the suit or even the poor lighting.  I don’t even think the dullness was because he was not particularly entertaining.  


As I became older, I heard that this man had stopped studying a long time ago.  In fact, according to this source, he basically preached through old sermon outlines that he had used many years earlier.  Nothing new.  Nothing fresh.  It was in his voice.  He sounded like a man whose clock had stopped a long time ago.


You’ve known a person like this, haven’t you?  At some point in his or her life, this person basically shut down:


  • The minister or professor who no longer studies.  This person seems to have lost any sense of wonder.
  • The empty-nest couple who park their minds and bodies in front of their television each evening.
  • The young father or mother who seems to have forgotten the dreams they had of being used by God.
  • The man in his early forties who regularly talks about being "old."


I don’t think that God ever meant for us to be this way.  He created us with body, mind, emotions, the capacity to love and be loved.  Yet, some of us shut down far too early.


A few suggestions:


1.  Cultivate your sense of curiosity.  One man in our church is in his late 80s and is more alive than others half his age.  He leads a support group and regularly asks me for book recommendations.  One doesn’t have to talk with him very long before realizing that he is fully alive!


2.  Learn something new every day.  This has become very important to me.  I have found that one of the best ways to do this is by asking questions.  


3.  Listen.  Perhaps you are with a group of people and several begin to talk about a subject about which you know nothing.  Instead of trying to change the subject or getting frustrated, why not use this as an opportunity to learn something new?  It is amazing how many people let opportunities to learn slip by instead of listening and learning.  I have known some ministers and a few college professors who seem to have no interest in listening to other people and learning.  (Some of these people are ready to preach or make a presentation but listening and learning may be another matter.)


4.  Make small but deliberate changes in your routine.  Read a different newspaper.  Watch the news on a different station.  Listen to music that you don’t normally listen to.  Sit in a different coffee shop.  Take a different route to work or to the university.  Read from a different translation of the Bible.


5.  Develop an interest outside your area of expertise.  Look for an area in which you already have an interest and develop that.  For instance, if you have always been fascinated by watercolor painting, bee-keeping, jazz, or fly fishing, why not develop this interest?


Bottom line:  It is unnecessary to shut down prematurely.  Yet, some of us will need to be very intentional about staying fully alive.


What has helped you stay fully alive, either physically, mentally, emotionally, or relationally?