Making Shifts When the World Changes

How are we at shifting our assumptions and decision making when the world changes around us? It’s harder than we think isn’t it? But it could not be more critical to our success as leaders.

Take the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza. The November 24th issue of the Economist led with this title “Old battles, new Middle East . . . Gaza, Israel and the Arab Spring.”

What we have all learned from watching the latest outbreak of violence in the region is that the rules have fundamentally changed since the revolutions of 2011. These changes require all the parties to adjust their thinking and expectations as they seek a way forward.

The same is true for all of us on mission. The rules of global mission have fundamentally changed. These changes are being documented well in many corners of the Kingdom, but much of the time we fail to change our decision-making accordingly.

We read the latest book on mission trends and then go out and make our next major ministry decision as if those words had never been written. Why do we do this? Partly it is because of familiarity, it could also be a lack of discipline in our decision-making and it may have to do with the inherent risks involved in making decisions in new ways.

Whatever the reason, the affects are obvious. We see poor decisions being made in every corner of the missional endeavor. People are working off of old rules and wondering why they do not see the expected results. This is so sad because most of the time people do not mean to make these misinformed decisions. They simply don’t have the framework necessary to make a successful decision.

But these failures in decision-making can be avoided. Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself before you make your next major decision:

  1. Are the rules that I am using to make this decision still in place or have they changed?
  2. What new realities are influencing the decision I am making today? Have I considered their implications?
  3. How would someone in a different generation or culture look at this decision differently? Do they bring key insights I need to evaluate?
  4. Do I have relevant and up-to-date information that will allow me to pray intentionally for God’s wisdom?

Try asking a few of these questions and give me some feedback about what you hear as a result. Let’s strive to shift with our world and seek God about decisions with a more realistic understanding of the situations that we are called to influence.

You Can’t Buy Your Way to Wisdom

The orgy of shopping has begun in the West. For those of you living in the United States, you no doubt saw the graphic images from the Black Friday sales as shoppers rushed to grab the latest gadgets. Around the world that same perspective is also in play as people seek to gain wisdom and understanding through a lifestyle of consumption.

Consumerism is so deadly because it tries to convince you that gratifying a felt need will lead to happiness and fulfillment. With that conviction so central to our global economy today, it is no wonder that we are convinced that our purchases will lead us to understanding. This has also spurred forward growth of private colleges selling education as a consumable that leads to a better quality of life.

We are told each day by thousands of voices that our next purchase will help us make wise and discerning decisions about our job, family, friends and lifestyle. But the only decision most marketers are concerned about is the decision to purchase their product. All the other promises made are secondary to that primary goal.

So consumers seeking direction from the brands that they look up to continually purchase their products and wait for enlightenment. But rarely does discernment come from these sources. In the fallout people get disillusioned and convince themselves that they aligned with the wrong brand of car, tablet, sweater or other consumable.

Our team at GMI is always striving to model what it looks like to make Godly decisions. And the last thing we want to do is reinforce consumerism’s harmful values. At the same time we do sell products. Why? Because products can be powerful tools to guide us to Spirit-led discernment. We don’t believe your purchasing of our product will give you wisdom, but we do believe that God can use a well-crafted resource to give you insight.

In the end God is the one who uses any tool He sees fit to guide us in the way we should go. How are you looking at the products in your life? Are you seeking insight from the things you consume or from God?

When Your Decisions Fall Apart

What happens when the decisions you think are made bathed in prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance fall apart? It does happen . . . and for many reasons too numerous to list here in this blog. What do you do?

This weekend CNN released an extensive story of the dramatic events around Charles and Andy Stanely’s relationship, falling out and reconciliation. It is quite story. One that I was not aware of. As I read it and think about the dynamics at work in the Stanley home and in their public ministry, I thought, “I bet they wondered why things fell apart as God seemed to be blessing so much of their work.”

This is an important question as we consider what it means to make Spirit-led decisions. It is important because our assumption is that a decision bathed in prayer is guaranteed to succeed. But that simply is not true.

A Kingdom decision is not so much a moment of accomplishment as a step in a process. And like any step, it can come right before a fall. We can make an excellent decision in one area and then find ourselves stumbling in another. We can feel God’s hand of blessing in one area and his hand of discipline in another.

That is because God is using our decisions as tools to shape our lives. He is highlighting His work through us and also the sin in our lives that must be dealt with. Each decision is part of that process of seeing God at work in exalting His name.

So as you look at the decisions in front of you this week and the situations that seem to be unraveling, don’t question God’s work through what you decide. Simply know that as you seek to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, there will be some decisions that have wildly successful outcomes and others that look like failure. But God is using each one to mold you into His servant on His mission in this world. And His mission is what truly matters

The Power of a Decision comes from Faith

Everyone makes decisions each day. Some are mundane…others revolutionary. Some are calculated…others extremely risky. People Who make good decisions become known as wise, in control and competent leaders. In fact, in an age defined by pragmatism, effective decision-making is what defines leadership to many; even above character, values and relationships.

But we know that Kingdom leadership has a deeper source than simply the skill of making a decision. At the core of our leadership within God’s Kingdom is a faith in the God of the universe and His amazing love for us and His creation.

Take the story of Daniel’s decision to intervene when Nebuchadnezzar decided to put all of his wise men to death because they could not tell him his dream or interpret it. When the wise men failed, Daniel rushed to speak to the King and asked for time; promising to deliver an answer from His God. What faith! He knew God well enough to know that this was a situation HE would step into in a miraculous way. With that personal relationship and discernment of God’s will, he committed God to the task of telling this pagan king his dream.

The power of Daniels decision to act came out of His faith. Today’s leaders get power from reason, expertise, new thinking and experience . . . all good things. But these are the world’s skills and foolishness in the face of God’s Kingdom. The decisions with power are propelled by faith!

What decisions do you have in front of you today? Do they take faith or do you have everything under control? The mystery of faith is the difference maker in the process of decision-making for Kingdom leaders. How is your faith as you make decisions today?

Are We Paying Attention?

As I am in the process of listening and then responding to many in the mission community as part of my new role, I have sought out some resources to help me think through the process of discernment in a ministry setting. One of the books that was introduced to me by our partners at InterVarsity Press is called “Pursuing God’s Will Together” by Ruth Haley Barton. This resource has been a wonderful tool - so much so that the GMI Board will be going through this book in the coming months.

Today I read this quote from the book:

“Discernment is a quality of attentiveness to God that, over time, develops into the ability to sense God’s heart and purpose in any given moment. We become familiar with the tone, quality and content of God’s voice. We notice how God is present for us in the moment. We wonder, Where is God unfolding his work of love and redemption? and What is my most authentic response?” (pg. 57)

That caused me to ask the following question of myself, “Am I paying that level of attention to God?” If not then should I expect to be able to discern His heart in any meaningful way? I think we would all agree that the answer is “no”. Unless we are willing to be attentive to the Father and grow in our familiarity and closeness to His Kingdom agenda, then I don’t imagine that we would have much chance of deeply understanding God’s purposes.

I truly desire to understand God and know His ways but that means I must decide to be attentive to our Father in Heaven. I must watch Him work, see how He responds, understand His motivations, listen to His words…

As you start your week with the many important action items and decisions on your plate, think about how attentive you are being to the Father and see how this might rearrange your schedule for Monday morning.

Coming Alongside Caleb

What does it look like for GMI to come alongside a leader as they seek to make Spirit-led decisions? It can look a million ways depending on what decisions the leader is facing, what information they need to know or what tools would be of greatest help in finding answers to the key questions.

But rather than give an example from a leader in some part of the world living today, I thought it might be helpful to imagine how we would help a key leader in Biblical times. There are many I could choose from but one that has been on my mind recently is Caleb.

Reporting the findings from Cannan: Caleb, as an up-and-coming leader of Israel from the tribe of Judah, was asked to do a research project in the land that God had promised the Israelites (Numbers 13). I can see GMI helping Caleb figure out how to capture all the data God asked Moses to collect. We would have been there to mentor him in that process and then to look at the data he brought back and give input. We would have been there to encourage him as he made his decision to stand up for how he thought God would want the Israelites to respond to the findings. We might even have helped him make some maps and infographics for his presentation.

Responding to the desert time: As Caleb was forced to wander in the desert, we are sure he did a lot of soul searching. He had some big challenges to face in his own faith, his community and his role as a leader. We might have encouraged him to go through our Breakthrough! curriculum to begin finding Spirit-led directions on how to proceed in his ministry.

Taking action for the Kingdom: When Caleb’s good friend Joshua took the reigns as the leader of Israel and they entered the Promised Land, Caleb asked Joshua for the chance to do what he could not do 40 years earlier (Joshua 14). In this moment of action, GMI might have provided maps of the territory and insight into how Caleb might proceed to finish the work God had given him to do.

Establishing peace in the Israel: As Caleb settled in and began to lead his tribe in the lands he had taken at God’s command, GMI would have been available to do research on the needs of the people as they settled. We might have given Caleb some of the understanding to define his leadership and ministry among those God gave him to care for. Maybe we would have been part of the process God used to define Hebron as a City of Refuge (Joshua 20).

This is all just speculation and not very realistic since our tools and resources would not have been available in that day. However, I have found it helpful to look into Scripture and place our efforts within its context. That helps me, and hopefully you as well, to really understand what it looks like for GMI serve Kingdom leaders today.

If you are a Kingdom leader seeking help in making Spirit-led decisions, then I hope we can serve you as you strive to do the ministry God has given you to do.

Selection* of Field Leaders, Part II (*Second Stewardship Practice)

As discussed in Part I, understanding current realities surrounding a vacated field leader position is a critical first step for this second stewardship practice.  Often this preparatory phase is omitted and a person is selected for the field leader position on old or inaccurate understandings, thus putting the new field leader Continue reading

Why are Decisions So Hard?

If you ask anyone on the street to share about a tough decision they have had to make, you will undoubtedly hear about how difficult the process was. Decisions are hard to make. Why is that?

Well, partly because decisions require us to dig deep, understand our values and then make tough calls. Decisions impact our future and if we are leaders, they impact the future of others. Decisions also cause people to see us in a certain light. Our reputation is impacted.

So we struggle to make decisions. We wrestle with the options. We stay up late wondering what the repercussions might be.

I wish I had an easy answer for the challenges of decision-making, but I don’t. All I know is that each decision defines a leader and shows others their character. Decisions cause us to realize our mistakes or appreciate our discernment.

In the end decisions are one of the main tools that the Father uses to shape us into His image. God uses decisions to help us see our errors and to celebrate our victories. Each decision is a chance for us to get close to our Father in Heaven who uses every decision to bring us closer to Him.

Over the next few months I will be talking a lot about the process of making decisions and I will be learning right alongside you as we consider what it means to make Spirit-led decisions as Kingdom leaders. I hope you will join me on that journey of surrender and discovery!