It’s Not Enough

Have you ever noticed the word “all” in Ephesians 4:13?

…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…

Altogether too often I am tempted to read Paul’s letters as though they were written to one individual (namely me) rather than to a church full of people. I know I am not alone in this approach to reading the Epistles, which can be an obstacle to the kind of selfless service to others to which Christ calls us. It is so easy to be deceived into thinking that being a disciple of Christ is all about me and my spiritual maturity. That attitude, however, is a testament to immaturity, the very state I am struggling to rise above!

The whole point of this passage is that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/teachers are to equip all the people for the work of ministry–that is, serving others–for the building up of the whole body, not just one or two or a dozen individuals. What’s more, Paul makes it abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that every believer has a role to play, that service to others is the name of the game when it comes to following Christ and being part of His body. I really don’t see Paul making any provision for the “it’s all about me” mentality prevalent in today’s culture!

If I were to stand before Christ today and point to my spiritual maturity, there is no doubt in my mind that He would say something along the lines of, “Well, I’m pleased that you are maturing, Andee. But it’s not enough. There are so many who don’t yet have knowledge of Me, so many who are stuck in their maturation. It is good that you have matured, but it won’t be enough until all have matured! How are you helping others to grow?”

I love how Eugene Peterson renders this passage in The Message:people_are_the_church.20682523

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

It’s time the church awakens to the fact that we are together one body–not a collection of individual units, each responsible only for himself or herself. It’s not enough that I concern myself only with my spiritual maturity. My maturity benefits the person next to me. His maturity benefits me. Only when we are growing together is the body functioning as it is meant to. Only then can we be fully alive like Christ. Only then will Christ say, “Yes! This is enough!”

I know I need to worry a little less about my spiritual maturity and focus on how I can come alongside others to encourage their growth. How about you?

Back to the Basics: The Word

acts_pageWhat does scripture have to say about who does ministry? Here are five passages that I think are critical to a proper understanding of equipping:

  1. Ephesians 2:10–we are created in Christ Jesus to do what?
  2. Ephesians 4:11-16–who are the trainers? who are they training? what are they training them for?
  3. 1 Peter 2–who belongs to the priesthood?
  4. 1 Corinthians 12–how does this body work?
  5. John 13:15-17–Jesus did what? commanded what? promised what?

If we are to follow Christ’s example, I think there’s no room for doubt that each and every believer is called and commanded to serve, whether it’s washing feet or preaching the gospel, or something in between. Moreover, between the gifts of the Spirit and the efforts of apostles, evangelists, prophets, and pastor/teachers, each and every believer is equipped to fulfill the ministry God has prepared for him or her.

Together these passages beg the question, What part don’t you get?

LifeServe

I am getting ready to head to Columbus, Ohio for a one-of-a-kind event: LifeServe 2010. And I am pumped!

“What is LifeServe,” you ask? Last year, Group Publishing’s Church Volunteer Central partnered with The Externally Focused Network to offer  the only national conference dedicated to missional-minded equipping practitioners. Last year approximately 80% of the participants traveled more than 500 miles to attend the conference in Loveland, Colorado. The decision was made to move the venue to a more central location for 2010, and the registrations for this year have almost doubled that of last year. Last I heard, they were nearing the 800 mark! Incredible!

What makes this conference so special? Everything about it is geared to help leaders equip their people for ministry that is transformational, both for the individual and for the community. There are more than 50 workshops that speak to every aspect of volunteer management, as well as leadership development, the unique needs of non-profit organizations, becoming externally-focused, and so much more! I am blessed to be included with such well-known writers/presenters as Rick Rusaw, Erik Swanson, Erik Rees, and John Stahl-Wert, just to name a few.

One highlight of the conference is the Affinity Groups that meet each afternoon, creating a space for folks to share what they are learning in the context of their particular “affinity”: children’s ministry, youth ministry, pastors, veteran equippers, beginning equippers, non-profit leaders, etc.—15 Affinity Groups in all. The leaders of these groups have developed some great strategies for helping their participants connect and develop a network of support that will outlast the conference itself.

Then there are the general sessions in the evening, always a celebration of what God is doing in our midst!  Great worship music… and Theater Off the Cuff is opening each night for the keynote speakers: Debi Nixon, Harvey Carey, and Alan Hirsch.  Believe me, everyone goes home with useful tools for their equipping toolbox!

But you know my very favorite part of the whole conference? It’s not the inspiring speakers or the informative workshops, as wonderful as they are. The part I’m really looking forward to is building relationships… with people I will meet for the first time, with folks whom I only know through e-mail or phone, with my faithful and fearless friends and partners in the TeamCVC network. For three wonderful days I will be in heaven-on-earth, sharing my passion for equipping with other like-minded practitioners who are as excited as I am that we get to invest in people, encouraging them to be the serving ministers God has created them to be!

If you are in Columbus this week (Wednesday thru Friday), stop by the Hyatt Conference Center and check out LifeServe 2010. If Columbus isn’t on your itinerary for this week, make sure you visit http://lifeserve.group.com and get LifeServe 2011 on your calendar. (The information will be up on the website as soon as the 2010 conference is over.) Next year’s venue? Louisville, Kentucky! Don’t miss it!

Recruitment Tactics, Part Two

Earlier this week I vented my frustration over the use of the term “recruiting” when applied to volunteer management. Terminology is often a conundrum. Do we use words that the majority of people will understand, and not concern ourselves with their response (after all, we can’t control what others think or feel). Or do we adopt words that more effectively describe our point, but may be confusing and require explanation?

Frankly, I don’t have the answer…  Except for the term “recruit” (and its various grammatical forms)! I much prefer to invite people into ministry than to recruit them for ministry. You may want to repeat that last sentence a time or two to let it sink in.

As a ministry leader, when I work with folks to help them understand how God has equipped them to serve, I want to develop a relationship. I ask God to help me see beyond our conversation to what he has done, and is doing, in their life. My goal is to help them find the ministry that God has prepared for them (Ephesians 2:10) and which will contribute to their spiritual formation (Romans 8:29).

As we enter into the matching/placement phase of equipping, I am not only thinking about the person I’m working with, but now I also turn my attention to the various ministries. I want to invite this person into a ministry that will be fulfilling; I also want to serve the ministry area by matching someone with gifts and graces that spur it on to meet its objective. I want to extend an invitation to participate in something that is mutually beneficial. This process is motivated by a genuine concern for the servant minister and a deep love for the ministry of the Church.

Recruiting doesn’t convey that same sense of care and concern… in my mind, at least. It doesn’t speak of the asking, listening, discerning, and guiding that goes into an invitation to serve. Rather, it speaks to me of a slot-filling, meet-the-quota mentality. I regularly run across churches that have that same mentality when it comes to getting ministry done. Many of them speak of the need to “recruit more volunteers” and having “recruitment drives.” Before they know it, they are treating volunteers like tools–objects to be used to get the job done–rather than who the really are: children of the Most High God and ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I encourage you to take some time to seriously consider the terminology you use and how it impacts those you serve. Which terms do you use that may have a negative connotation? Do you need to change them? Perhaps more importantly,  how do the words you choose shape your perspective towards ministry? How do they reflect your objective? If your objective is to fill slots, then using “recruitment” terminology is fine. But if your objective is to lovingly guide people into ministry, you will want to adopt “invitational” terminology!