Thursday morning I was sitting in Starbucks, finishing & posting my observations on this week’s lesson for an online class I’m taking through Willow Creek Community Church called The Leader’s Soul. I was at Starbucks because we were having router problems at home & I got frustrated so I decided to finish up somewhere with a more dependable connection. The last thing I wrote was “…I admit that it’s hard for me to discern [God’s] prompting. I don’t know if that’s related to my wounded soul, or if maybe He just isn’t prompting me, which scares me because I don’t want to become one of those people who loses the capacity to hear God’s voice.” Hearing & responding to God’s promptings has been at the forefront of my focus lately because of this course, as well as the Soul Revolution series my church (Gateway Community Church in Austin) has been doing.
Seconds after posting I looked up and noticed the woman sitting in front of me. She was on her laptop, looking at a web page titled “Christian Nightmares.” Interesting, I thought…was the site about how Christians are a nightmare, or maybe about how many Christians around the world suffer through nightmarish persecution? I just couldn’t tell from where I was sitting. Then I realized – oh, it’s a prompting, I’m supposed to get out of my chair, reach out to her and ask. I felt an initial moment of panic & resistance, but it was interesting how, once I resolved to do it, it felt very easy to get up, and I wasn’t even worried about whether or not she thought I was a whacko. I sat down & told her that I couldn’t help but notice her web page, and was interested in learning more.
To make a long story short, she is a Chrstian and she & her husband were interested in checking out a particular church in the area because they had recently heard a recording of a message that church had done a couple of years ago about same-sex relationships, and how Christians must be more Christ-like in loving gays & lesbians, a topic that really resonated with her. She said “the church is called Gateway.” I said, “that’s interesting, because I go to Gateway, and I was there for that powerful message.” She told me that, before I introduced myself, she apparently had been nervous about me seeing that web page, and was wondering what I would think about it, which I found funny & ironic. We exchanged contact info and are working out when we can meet at church with our spouses.
I walked out of Starbucks that morning speechless and filled with emotion. God orchestrated a meeting that would bless us both, and empowered me to step out of my comfort zone through a relatively safe & obvious set-up. I can’t think of anything more to say about it than Wow.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)
What leader doesn’t love hearing a simple, straightforward promise like that?
“Accordingly, the practical aim of the one who takes obedience seriously is not to obey, but to become the kind of person who easily and routinely does obey as a result of devotion to Jesus and consequently of taking him as Lord, teacher and friend. The practical aim is to know him, to be devoted to him, in this inclusive manner.” Dallas Willard
It’s simplicity itself but completely unintuitive. Our human inclination is to do something in order to get better at it. Willard is suggesting the opposite approach; instead of trying harder to obey God, we should allow Him to mould us into the kind of person who willingly obeys without trying. It seems paradoxical on the surface, but it’s true of great leadership as well. Great leaders don’t have to run around intentionally trying to be a great leader; they do what comes naturally. Imagine what our lives would be like if we responded to God in that way!
So the goal of spiritual transformation is not to follow the rules, but to be the kind of person who wants to follow the rules & does so without effort.
Salvation is vital, but God wants more of us than our acceptance of Jesus as Lord; He wants us to become more like Jesus, and that requires intentionality on our parts through spiritual discipline and a willing heart.
I entered 2012 believing I had really arrived as a leader, so I decided it was time to put myself out there for people outside my immediate circle to see; thus this blog was born. I’ve had some fun writing it (when I wasn’t being too lazy to not write it), and I’ve been authentic about my journey, which is why it was really tough to admit to myself recently that my original premise was false. That realization broke me. Arriving is worth celebrating only when the destination matches the dot on the map.
Being broken really hurts. Being confronted with personal failure causes cracks to form in the polished image you crafted for yourself on the outside, while simultaneously shattering your ego & self-confidence on the inside. Assigning blame is easy…I am totally responsible for where I ended up; not only was I the driver of the bus, I was the travel agent who planned the trip, the tour guide who slept through the trip and the mapmaker who relied on inaccurate survey data.
The restoration has begun, more slowly than I would like, but I trust in the plan of the Builder.
“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ (Matthew 25:19-21 NLT)
Some days I feel a lot like this servant, and I thrill for the praise of the Master.
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ (Matthew 25:24, 25 NLT)
Too many days I feel like this servant, burying my gifts in the ground out of fear. What if I try and fail? What if the risk is too great? Yes, Lord, You gave me the gift, but what if….?
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. (Matthew 25:29 NLT)
I want to be abundant, not deprived.
For several years, Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago has hosted an event known as The Global Leadership Summit, bringing together a diverse collection of leaders from business, churches and NGOs for 2 days of learning and worship. If you’ve never been before I highly recommend it. Satellite locations around the country and around the world simulcast the event. This will be my 3rd year to attend and I always come away fed & refreshed.
This year’s Summit is August 9 and 10. Click here to learn more: http://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership/.