A New Thing

It’s been such a long time since I’ve written a post. You may be confused by the name…the blog you were used to seeing was An Equipper’s Perspective. Don’t worry, I’m still an equipper! But God has been doing a new thing in my life over the past couple of years. (He’s known for doing that upon occasion, just to keep life interesting!)

After years of writing about volunteer ministry, I found that I was running out of things to say. I don’t think everything has been said that needs to be said or could be said about the subject. It’s just that I didn’t have anything more to say! I continue to believe that equipping the saints for the work of ministry is vital to God’s Church and the coming kingdom, and I cheer on those who labor faithfully in this particular area of ministry.

But God has been shifting my focus–my heart’s desire–to helping those who know him to know him better. I believe that God is continually stirring up a hunger in his children for more of him. I believe he is inviting us to plumb the depths of his never-ending, unfailing love. That’s not really anything new, of course. God has always wanted his people to know him, Jesus being the prime example of just how deep that desire is!

But our world is so noisy, isn’t it? And we are a people consumed with busyness, whether we want to be or not. It’s hard to find time to chase after a God we can’t see or hear or touch. At least, that’s been my experience.

More than a decade ago, I met a spiritual director who, when asked what that meant, said that she thought of herself as a “doorknob polisher.” Heaven knows, she did polish the doorknob to the throne room of God for me again and again as we met over the years. In 2015 I followed her footsteps and began training to become a spiritual director. Since completing that program, I have been blessed to come alongside a few people in their pursuit of a more intimate experience of God’s love. What I’ve found is that the joy in the journey comes through sharing it.

So, I hope we can journey together for awhile, and that I will be able to polish the doorknob of God’s throne room for you from time to time. If that sounds good to you, then look for me to show up in your email inbox again…with my usual irregularity! (Some things don’t change!)

However, if you tuned in over the years primarily for encouragement for your volunteer equipping ministry, I’ll understand if you unfollow this blog. Go with my blessing and my deep appreciation for the privilege of speaking into your ministry.

Here’s to a new adventure!

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? -Isaiah 43:19

Seasons of Ministry

question markIt’s been over a month since I’ve blogged. There has been much going on in my corner of the world over the past several months, leading me to consider whether the Holy Spirit might be pointing me towards a new season of ministry. Let me say that it’s much easier for me to articulate that today than it was two weeks ago! I’ve prayed, journaled, met with my spiritual director. Of course, I’ve been true to my behavioral style and processed with trusted friends and my pastor! At last, I think I’ve found a few answers and a lot of peace.

“What’s your theology on seasons of ministry?”

This question posed to me by my spiritual director has been critical to my process of discernment. As an equipper, I often find myself encouraging my volunteer ministers to be aware that the Spirit is continually equipping them, sometimes even for a new ministry. So, when asked this question, the response came easily: The Holy Spirit gives gifts according to His good pleasure. There are a variety of gifts and a variety of services and, when we make ourselves available, He will use us whenever and however He chooses. Hmmm…could it be that this applies to me as well?!

In early October I was ordained to the vocational diaconate of the Anglican Church in North America. At my ordination, the bishop laid hands on me and spoke these words: “A new day, a new anointing. Don’t just do what you have always done, what you’ve been doing. Watch for the signs.”  I am grateful that I’ve developed a  habit of journaling, because the bishop’s words were almost lost in the ensuing busyness of a life enveloped in ministry! But as I found myself in a place of confusion and doubt at the dawn of 2013, I sensed the Spirit drawing me back to my ordination. I pulled out my journal to refresh my memory and pondered the bishop’s prophetic words.

There have indeed been signs that I’m being led back into a season of being equipped for new aspects of ministry. My ordination was an acknowledgment by the Church of my true vocation as a servant of the Church. And while I have the spiritual gift of shepherding and believe I am a pastor at heart, I need to improve my skill set for this new season of ministry. In addition, several of our lay leaders are transitioning out of leadership, providing an opportunity for me to invest in new leaders and further build our equipping culture. I’ve said before that implementing equipping systems in a small church is far different than doing it in a large church (the context where I gained the most experience), so I have an opportunity to hone my leadership skills as I experiment with new approaches to equipping the intentionally small congregation.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?                -Isaiah 43:19

I could easily have missed it. How about you? What’s your theology on seasons of ministry? Have you considered that the Holy Spirit may be doing a new thing in your life and ministry? Look for the signs!

 

The Un-Interview

A couple of weeks ago I led a workshop at the LifeServe National Conference which I titled “The Un-Interview.” The topic was ministry conversations–those conversations we equipping leaders have with newcomers to our congregation or with folks who decide it’s time to “get more involved”–and how to get the most out of them. I recently read Henri Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Direction,  and it was playing through my mind as I prepared my presentation.

As ministry leaders, it is easy to succumb to the temptation to treat these conversations like marketplace interviews. Certainly there are similarities. We are trying to match people/skills to roles. But there’s so much more to ministry conversations than matching and placement! We would do well to see them as prime opportunities to discover what God is doing in a person’s life.

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time to serve right now.”

As ministry leaders, this is the excuse we most often hear from someone who is unwilling to serve in ministry. Rather than pull our hair in frustration, what if we view this as a clue to what God wants to do in that person’s life, and embrace it as an opportunity to engage in spiritual direction… that is, creating space for this person to grow in their understanding of God? That reluctant volunteer may not trust God to meet their need for the time and energy necessary for ministry. Their excuse is our clue that God wants to replace their wrong narrative of a demanding and stingy God with a right narrative of a God who invites us into ministry with him and graciously provides all we need to accomplish his purpose!

Another reason for reticence that I often encounter is the fear that God will call someone to a ministry for which they have no desire. This is often tied up in that person’s wrong narrative about “carrying their cross.” Why would the Spirit hand out gifts–something we associate as a pleasurable experience–and then call someone to use that gift in the place that is least desirable to them? What wrong assumption does this person hold about God? My colleague Peter says, “If God is the God who wants you to go to Africa, you probably won’t want to do anything else.” In other words, if God is going to call you to something, he will give you the desire for it!

Guiding people into ministry is more than filling out questionnaires, tallying scores, matching gifts to roles, and making placements (though these things are a necessary part of the process). Ministry conversations can–and should–go far beyond discovering what gifts have been given, what experiences have occurred, what abilities have been learned, which heart-strings have been pulled. Ministry conversations can hold clues to false narratives about God that, with a little spiritual direction, can be gently revealed and corrected, creating space for spiritual awakening to a God full of grace and wonder. Serving that God becomes, then, a joyful “get to” rather than a joyless “have to.”