Leadership Letter 2: Spiritual Gifts

This is the second of my Leadership letters. I want to help people know and use their spiritual gifts more effectively, and help others use theirs well. Spiritual gifts are designed to point people to Jesus, to alleviate human suffering, and to help us move forward in our relationship with God. They are an adventure in joining Jesus in His ministry to humanity.

Lloyd’s Leadership Letter 2 – Spiritual Gifts

Ministry is a Series of Conversations and Interruptions

Like you, I have a life that often feels over-full and very stretching. When people ask “how I am doing?” I don’t like saying that “I’m busy” but rather, try to reply, “my days are full.” I say this for 2 reasons. Firstly, when we say “I am busy,” sensitive people easily interpret that as “he is too busy for me,” and sometimes an opportunity is lost.  And secondly, being busy seems to be worn almost as a badge of honour these days. Being busy isn’t a virtue: being fruitful or being effective really is much more important. Being busy can easily result from being disorganised, distracted or misdirected, as it can from doing too many things that make a difference. It is better to live full days, which include time to listen, think and reflect, as well as time to do.

Sometimes, we have days that seem to get taken over with other things that we didn’t plan for. (Now I know that well-meaning goal-setting, life-planning people say that you are in charge of your own schedule. But meanwhile, on Planet Reality, things happen that can’t be planned for, or even anticipated.)

Just last week I had had a particularly full week, and was needing to accomplish writing my sermon for Sunday, as well as a couple of key phone/face-time conversations. And I had an evening commitment as well as a full Saturday. So there was no margin for not completing that main task of preparing Sunday’s teaching that day. By 2pm Friday, I hadn’t even turned on my computer to study and write because there had been several long interruptions. But they were good and fruitful interruptions. They were Kingdom interruptions! So with the time frame now severely compressed, I asked God for an unusually quick clarity of thoughts, captivating images and sentences. And so by the end of the day, God had graciously compressed a process that would normally take much longer, and require more work on my part, and I were as done, note outlines printed, and in to the commute home.

After many years of serving in ministry roles I have come to understand ministry as a series of conversations and interruptions. So often the Kingdom advances happen on my margins rather than in the middle of my planned activities. We know that life consists of “Kingdom setups” where we serendipitously meet someone, or a conversation heads down an unplanned direction, or a simple (sometimes shallow) prayer suddenly ushers in a “God moment” when the Kingdom of God draws near, and we find ourselves in what the celtic church called a “thin place.” These are the moments of ministry. Sometimes hard conversations, sometimes deeply frustrating interruptions. But they are so often the ministry!

While we must of course be present and attend to the things that we must do (though it is good to regularly prune what those things may be), so often it is the conversations and interruptions that bring the change. Being at our desk, reading  blogs, listening to podcasts, having coffee with people, and being at meetings isn’t always ministry. Ministry is about God and the people he brings to us to love and bless. Everything else we do is simply about getting to where we can do ministry as we join Jesus in what He is doing around us.

So just as fruit grows on the branches and not on the trunk, don’t be surprised that Kingdom advances happen in the margins rather than the centre of our activities. Ask our Lord to open our eyes to spot the God moments. Ministry is a series of conversations and interruptions.

Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should!

Victoria & I recently climbed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – the first of our list of Great New Zealand walks that we intend to do over the next few years. I asked the owner of the lodge we were staying at what were some of the more memorable climbers he had had stay there. And the stories started to tumble out.  At one point he used a saying I often use. He was talking about how people would come completely unprepared ( E.g. the young woman who appeared in the morning ready for the climb in her high heels clutching her handbag… “Umm, there are no shops on the mountain. And high heels aren’t really the right shoes to wear…”). He said sometimes people presented as perfectly capable, but they really shouldn’t do it. “Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

“Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This is such an important saying to remember. Perhaps even more so at the beginning of a new year. The temptation is always to take on a few too many things because we are fresh from holiday, and itching to get in to the year. But a very helpful piece of advice I received a long time ago becomes really important at this stage. “If you are going to add something new to your life, what are you going to take out to create the space?” Our “stop doing” list is just as important as our “to do” list. (And while I’m mentioning lists, our “have done well” list is also pretty important to celebrate as well.) We simply can’t keep adding more to our lives without cramming our lives too full and overloading them. One of the tragedies of our culture is overcommitted people rushing from place to place, opportunity to opportunity, meeting to meeting, person to person, and not actually enjoying the incredible gift of being alive and present to the moment.

This is not just applicable to us as individuals. It is equally important for churches and ministries to pause for a moment before saying “yes” to a new opportunity, and remind ourselves that even though we can, doesn’t mean we should. It is such a hard thing to say no to some incredible opportunities, because they are just that – they are wonderful. Perhaps all of us have to confront our FOMO (Fear of missing out). Maybe it is a moment to remember that it frees up others to pursue the wonderful opportunity.

This is a wonderful moment to stop and remember that we are finite humans serving an infinite God. That the need and the opportunity will always be bigger than our capacity to take them on. Probably we will all die with an incomplete “to do” list. Jesus said ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.””

(Matthew 11:28–30 MESSAGE)

There is something beautifully redemptive about simplifying our lives, our work, our churches and our families to the essential, to the important, to the lasting. There are so many good and worthwhile things we could spend our hours and days on, but we must pause and remind ourselves that saying “yes” to this opportunity, actually mean we are saying “no” to another at the exact same time? Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should!

Perhaps take a moment right now and ask yourself and God that question. And then ask Him for the grace and the strength to say no to the extra and yes to the essential.

Leadership Letter 1 – Vision Values and Structure

I wanted to make my Leadership Letters available to you here. They were first published on the Vineyard Churches Aotearoa New Zealand website (www.vineyard.org.nz), and you can also view a short video summary of the letters on the VCANZ site as well.

Of course there are a lot of other really helpful resources and information that you are welcome to there – so check it out if you want.

This first leadership letter is about how vision and values shape whatever we build. Structure is essential, but it is formed from our vision and values. While I have written it within the Vineyard Churches context, it is applicable to all.

Hope you find it useful

LLL01 – April 2012 – Vision Values and structure