Christlikeness

Recently our staff did our written reviews. I was pretty confident going into the review. It had been a great 6 months. I was able to accomplish a lot so I was pretty sure I was going to kill this thing. So, I start taking it and about half way through the first page the wind is taken out of my sails with one section where I have to rate myself.

Christlikeness: am I becoming more like Jesus?

It’s a 0-5 scale; 0 being anti-Christ and 5 being Jesus’ twin brother. On my best day I don’t know how to scale myself on this one. If I’m a 1, I’m an unbeliever. I can’t be a 5 because Jesus is humble so that disqualifies me. My best-case scenario is a 3.

Maybe it’s where I was at that day, but this question made me reflect on all those accomplishments and goals I had achieved and come to the conclusion that I had become pretty good at doing Christ-like work even when I didn’t always have a Christ-like heart.

Many of you have been there; we can do the day to day Christ-like work in our sleep. We can put on the pastor voice, do the concerned eyes and even give good solid Biblical advice. We do this while deep inside it has been a while since our hearts have really been bent toward heaven.

As I search Scripture I’ve come to the conclusion that:

“It is the bend of our hearts that drives our Christ-likeness, not the work of our hands.”

The best example of this is the life of Jesus. There is a particular example right after the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6 and Matthew 14. It’s here that I think Jesus gives us a great example of keeping our hearts bent toward our heavenly Father in the midst of successful ministry pressure.

You may know the story. Jesus has been teaching. It starts to get late in the day. The disciples want to release the people so they can go eat. Jesus tells them to feed the people. It sure looks like in John that they steal this kid’s lunch but I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t allow that. Jesus blesses the food and they feed all of these people on 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, with plenty of leftovers. It is obviously miraculously multiplied.

John ‪6:14-15‬‬‬‬

When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

The first thing we see that Jesus does in the midst of great pressure to be elevated is to stay humble.

Jesus was very aware of the people around him; their ulterior motives, but more than that he knew the will of the Father for his life and he didn’t deviate from it when what could have been seen as a better offer came up.

Jesus didn’t have insecurities like we do; he didn’t have daddy issues- so when the push came to make him king- he could walk away.

How do we respond to ministry pressure? Sometimes my arm isn’t long enough to pat myself on the back or to seek the accolades of others.

 

We have to fight to stay humble.

As soon as we lose our humility, we become the idol. We become the driving force of our doing Christ-like work and that in no way is Christ-honoring.

“It is the bend of our hearts that drives our Christ-likeness, not the work of our hands.”

The second thing we must do to maintain our Christlikeness is to escape from the crowd.

(John ‪6:15‬) ‬‬‬

15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

To care for our own souls we must escape from ministry at times.

Jesus had to be exhausted. He was teaching, ministering and just being drained by caring for people. We’ve all been there. You and I both know when we get exhausted and don’t withdraw we get burned out. When burnout comes, our hearts turn cold to the very people God has called us to care for. Jesus escaping here was the best thing he could do for those people because he was exhausted.

I remember my first church when I was young in the ministry and excited to just be in full-time ministry. I was at everything! Every time there was an event or the doors were open, I was there. I took no time off. Before long the ministry I had been so excited about became just a job to me, and one my wife resented.

I wish someone had told me to escape, to take a vacation, to take a day off. I didn’t know and I want to warn you that it is the bend of your heart that drives your Christ-likeness, not the work of your hands.

Friends, We must fight for humility and fight to escape.

The last thing I believe Jesus shows us we must do to maintain our Christ-likeness is found in the parallel story in Matthew ‪14:23.‬‬‬‬

Here, Matthew lets us in on what Jesus did when he withdrew.

He went up on the mountain to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.

Here on the mountain Jesus engaged with the Father. Notice the author’s emphasis on the time and Jesus being alone.

It doesn’t say that this was a 15-minute quiet time. Many times when we are so busy we run through quiet times like pre-trip vehicle inspections. We do just enough to make sure we can drive it hard. Jesus takes a much different approach here; he engaged.

We get so busy that we live off short quiet times and check off our boxes, but we never engage. We never really get connected in worship. When we get there our Christ-likeness gets weak and frail.

I see it all the time with pastors and staff. They get frustrated and worn out, so this glorious work becomes a job that uses more skill than heart. I know many of you have great worship services, but that cannot be your only time in worship. If you are like me on Sunday mornings I hear and see everything that is wrong or that should be done first. Many times Sundays are distracting and draining. Let’s call it what it is, a workday. You and I must retreat into our closets and get alone with the Father. That may look like journaling, praying, listening to music and of course reading Scripture. Get to a place where you can get lost for a moment in just being with the One who has your days in His hands.

Our hearts need a reset, a realignment and that only happens when we connect with the Father.

Friends, it is the bend of our hearts that drives our Christ-likeness, not the work of our hands.

If you are like me, you may need to take some time and repent of where your heart has been, escape the madness and get alone with your heavenly Father.

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5 Love Languages of a Sending Church

Several years ago Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The Five Love Languages.” If you are married and a part of a church chances are you have read that book, been to a book study on it and still use some of the language surrounding that book in your marriage today.
From the study of this book, we found out that we all communicate love in different ways. We all have a love language; gifts, acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation and quality time. If you work with church planters, that partner and planter relationship can sometimes be a difficult one to negotiate. It can be easier and more fruitful if we as partner or sending churches will just remember those Five Love Languages and weave them into our relationships with the planters.
Gifts: Church plants need resources. Just the idea of the word plant gives the idea that there isn’t much there. Most of our churches have many resources that we can share or gift to a church plant. Spend some time thinking through the different people you know in your church that provide services, own businesses or just have extra stuff.  I like to think through the skills and services that our staff and church planters can provide and figure out a way to leverage those resources to support our planters. Here are some things that we have given away: Legal services, counseling for planters and their teams, chairs, block party trailer, sound systems, copiers, printing, subscriptions to online services, a shared Dropbox where they can share files, etc.
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Words of Affirmation: Church planters need to know when they are doing a good job. Many of these guys are hard chargers who believe that God has called them to plant a Kingdom-minded church in an area without an adequate Gospel presence. They are bold, but they are also fragile. They need us as partners to give them encouraging words when they are at their lowest and ready to quit. We must continually point these brave Kingdom warriors back to their calling and sufficiency in Christ.
Quality Time: If we want to know best how to support our planters we must spend time with them in their area. By spending time with them on their field of battle you will understand their context better. This will allow you to know what questions to ask them as you coach them. It will also give you specific people and places to be able to pray about. This involves you in the mission. The more that you can serve side by side with your planter the more your heart will be drawn into his work and the more apart of that work you will feel.
Acts of Service: Serve alongside of them! One of the best ways we can increase the faith and growth of our church members is to work alongside of church planters. Your church members’ faith will be stretched. They will begin to be bought into the vision of church planting, evangelism and missions. Your church planters will be encouraged. You will see their faith grow. They will know you care and feel invested in.
Physical Touch: Don’t make this weird… Your church planters will benefit from you being present with them, one on one. You need to put an arm around them, sit knee to knee and have a real conversation. This real conversation is not about church planting! They need to know you care about them. Ask about their time with the Lord. Are they growing in their faith? Are they still being challenged by prayer and Scripture? What are they praying for and how is Scripture changing them?  Get to know their wife and their kids’ names. Ask them about dating their wife and spending time with their kids. Care more about them and their health than the plant.  Grab their arm and pray for them.
If you can practice these things, your planters will be healthier, your faith will grow and your church family will grow in their faith.