More Influence Than I Think


“In our little lives of small horizon we lose sight of the fact that we are really important to man and God. Yet we stand on the very frontiers of the kingdom of God to repel the invader, and wherever one of us falls the frontier is opened and the enemy advances to ravage the fatherland we promised to defend. As members of the Church we are called, therefore, to lead the life of the Spirit; the rule of prayer, the control of our thoughts, the struggle against our temptations are of vital moment to the Church. It is the band of individuals who are in earnest, who are really trying to grow in the Spirit, who will save the world, who are the real defense against Materialism. Each of the great parts of the Catholic Church have had at times in history an unequalled opportunity. The Greek Church lost hers by a passion for metaphysical speculation. The Roman Church lost hers by a passion for political intrigue. Let us pray that our Church may not lose hers through sheer stupidity.” (Morgan, Edmund R. Reginald Somerset Ward: His Life and Letters. London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd, 1963, p. 102.)

I underestimate my value to God’s purposes. I assume I am of little consequence. There is a variety of humility at work here, but I’m not sure it is a fruitful species. I have actually been called to join Jesus in His kingdom work. I can be of great use. How is Jesus wanting to use me uniquely for his kingdom purposes? You’ve chosen me to do what only I can do. No one else. This does not lead me to self-importance, but a more genuine humility seasoned with gratitude. It perhaps borders on Bernard of Clairvaux’s fourth stage of love in which I might actually love myself for God’s sake. Perhaps.

I am also struck by the image of my being part of a protective barrier that is breached when I fail to remain faithful to the way of Jesus. Jesus, I desire to be more awake than I’ve been. Thank You for ways that Your Spirit will keep my eyes, my ears, my mind and my heart aware and awake to You in this day.

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The Real Value of Relationships


In writing An Unhurried Life, I found Kosuke Koyama’s book Three Mile An Hour God very helpful. I’ve posted other insights from him here in “Unhurried: Is Jesus Too Slow?” and “Living Life at the Pace of Love.” I think you’ll appreciate what he has to say here about the real costs of technology and the real value of human relationships:

“Our technological resourcefulness is making our life expensive and lonely. Technology is ambiguous. It can enrich and impoverish our life. Technology is like fire; it can cook rice for our enjoyment and nutrition and it can also reduce our house to ashes.

Can we bring about an inexpensive yet resourceful life style? One way—perhaps the only way—to do this would be to cultivate, increase and deepen human relationship. Human relationship is inexpensive yet resourceful. This is grace indeed. The biblical God is the God of a covenant relationship with man. This means that the whole biblical teaching is rooted in relationship. Money has ultimate meaning only if it enhances human relationship. The salvation the Bible is talking about is ‘inexpensive yet resourceful’. If salvation is expensive in terms of hard-cash, then something is wrong with that kind of salvation.” (p. 121.)

“For Peter ‘I have no silver and gold’ means ‘I always look at silver and gold under the overwhelming sense of gratitude to God’. Or ‘what God has provided is abundant for me. I have no need for more. And I say this joyously’. This is the apostolic secret. ‘I have no silver and gold’ he said. Yet he healed the man. The secret of Peter is ‘gratitude’ and ‘Jesus’. These two combined bring healing, hope and resurrection.” (p. 141.)

Leadership Prayer: Bringing Our Desires to Fruition


It’s been a while since I posted something real time between posting my notes from the Knowing Christ conference in February (20 posts, more than 15,000 words. Whew!) and a few Easter season reposts on Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. (You can, by the way, access all of those “Knowing Christ” notes on a single page on my website now. So here’s a journal entry when I reflected on one of Paul’s prayers for a church:

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s leadership prayer for the Thesslonians in this case was to ask that God would do a work that enables them to be worthy of His choice of them. I understand this to be a worthiness of loving God back, not a worthiness of performance for God. It is living for God’s pleasure rather than my own (though the fact is that my truest and deepest pleasure actually is God’s for me).

Paul also prays that they would experience God’s empowerment and provision so that every good desire in their hearts would come to full fruition. Paul asks God to enable Christ’s followers in Thessalonica to do everything they have in their hearts to do to bring pleasure and credit to their Father in heaven. Paul believes that this will result in the beauty and weightiness of Christ to be with each of us and with all of us. And all this happens according to the generous favor of the Father and the Son.

What would it look like for this prayer to be answered in your life? In your family you’re your ministry? For whom would you like to offer up this prayer right now?

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Morning Prayer: In God I Trust


IMG_6103

Psalm 25:1 NIV
In you, Lord my God,
      I put my trust.

David gives voice to his choice to trust in Yahweh his God. I made that choice thirty-four years ago, not even beginning to know what/Who I was choosing. Today, I can make a slightly more intelligent choice. I have experienced the unfailing trustworthiness of Jesus. I have witnessed the work of His hands in the lives of many. He can be fully trusted.

So when I am feeling anxious, how can I turn to Him with trust and find His Spirit guarding my thoughts and feelings so that I can engage in fruitful labor?

Psalm 25:2-3
I trust in You;
Do not let me be put to shame,
Nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
Will ever be put to shame,
But shame will come on those
Who are treacherous without cause. 

Shame. Disgrace. Dishonor. Shame causes us to hide and pretend. We don’t want to face, let alone come to dishonor. We don’t want to be shamed before God or before others. Instead, we want to be honored, valued, appreciated, recognized as good. I want people to say, “Thank you” to me. I want to be known as a grace-filled person and not a person of dis-grace. I want to be honored, not dishonored.

I can trust in Jesus because He is simply trustworthy. My trust is not a virtue, but a realistic response to the goodness of God’s nature.

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Unhurried: Is Jesus Too Slow?


IM001884_2

My son, Chris, and I taking a walk at the Pecos Benedictine Abbey (2003)

The question in the title may make you uncomfortable, but whenver we feel impatient with God, we’re basically saying He doesn’t move fast enough for our taste.

Kosuke Koyama (1929-2009) was a Japanese theologian who “defended a theology that he considered to be accessible to the peasantry in developing nations, rather than an overly academic systematic theology (Wikipedia).” Listen to what he says about the feeling of needing to help God out because of how slow He’s moving:

“The reign of God begins with God’s initiative. God carries us. We do not carry God. No matter how resourceful we are, we are not to ‘carry God’. Genuine resourcefulness comes from the experience of ‘being carried by God’ instead of ‘carrying God’. This, however, is against our liking. We still want to identify resourcefulness with ‘carrying God’. ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ says Jesus (Matt. 16.24). We are so ‘resourceful’. We do not want to follow him. Jesus is too slow! We want to run before him. In evangelism? Yes. The way of Jesus is too slow, inefficient and painful. Jesus’ resourcefulness is love. Ours is money. We adjust Matthew 16.24 to the high-powered methodology of Madison Avenue. We feel obliged to carry Jesus. He is not as resourceful as we would like. He is not as spectacular as we had hoped. He is not as exciting as we expected. We have to carry him!” (Koyama, Kosuke. Three Mile an Hour God. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1979, p. 35.)

What do you think Koyama means to be the difference between God carrying us and us trying to carry God? What do you think about the experience of Jesus sometimes moving slower than we prefer?

(Originally posted October 2009)

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Healthy Leadership Formation Takes Time


I have the treat today to be leading another “An Unhurried Day with Jesus” event for a group of church leaders in the San Diego area. It’s one of the ministries I love to lead in most. And a day like today is an experience in the unhurried nature of deep leadership transformation. A while back, I read David Bosch’s A Spirituality of the Road. He’s talking about missionaries, but I think the application is much broader:

Because the ambassador’s role is so crucial he has to undergo a very careful preparation. The call to be an ambassador is not enough. It therefore always amazes me that many churches and missionary agencies seem to think that the preparation of the missionary is not so terribly important. If he has received a call, that is all that matters. He should go off to the mission field as soon as possible, especially in view of the chronic shortages in personnel and the urgency of the missionary task. Yet, from the New Testament record, one gets a different impression. After Paul’s conversion, he disappeared into Arabia, where he spent three years. We know little of that period in his life, but on the basis of the New Testament evidence we may surmise that those years were essentially years of preparation. Paul then spent a short period in Jerusalem and subsequently many more years in his home town of Tarsus. It was only after some fifteen or more years of relative obscurity that he became the missionary we know. In fact, our Lord’s own earthly life reveals the same emphasis on preparation. He spent about thirty years in obscurity, while His public ministry lasted three years, at the most.

I often wonder whether our modern mission work would not have proved itself to be vastly different if we had laid a corresponding emphasis on preparation. I am not thinking of a theological preparation only‑in Paul’s case he had already had that before his conversion!‑but also of what we may call a psychological preparation or missionary formation. (David Bosch. A Spirituality of the Road. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, p. 43.)

The formation I would argue for is a spiritual transformation. To what degree does my life recommend my message?

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Practicing Unhurried Leadership Part 2


A spot on my morning walking path. It’s a beautiful little forest tucked into our corner of Mission Viejo.

 

(This is a continuation of part one where I talked about the first half of an unhurried leadership planning day.)

Last half of day

  • As you move toward the planning part of the day, I often start by praying as a team for those these plans will serve. I’ll often have directories or other group lists available. How might Jesus be praying for this group? What is on God’s heart for these beloved sons and daughters? What does He want to communicate to them? How does He want them to walk with Him? Specifically? Pray in a listening way. Take notes, maybe even on Post-it poster paper stuck to the wall. What are you learning that helps in your planning?
  • Through the second half of the day, expect that that insights from scripture, solitude and community in the first part of the day will seep into the planning part of the day.
  • Have fun planning opportunities for the group this team serves to enjoy God together, enjoy one another, and engage in good kingdom work for the benefit and blessing of the world around them. Don’t plan too much.
  • End the day with a time to express thanks together to God for whatever you’ve witnessed of God’s grace, God’s initiative, God’s favor in your day.

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of my consulting work these days is mentoring and facilitating leadership team and board planning retreats. It’s the most fun and fruitful work I do. If I can help you in this way, please feel free to contact me @ alan at tli dot cc.

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Practicing Unhurried Leadership


A spot on my morning walking path. It’s a beautiful little forest tucked into our corner of Mission Viejo.

A ministry leader responded to my recent two-part post, “Experiments in Unhurried Leadership,” asking for some guidance on how to actually practice this in the context of a one-day planning retreat. Here are a few practical ideas on how I lead days like this for ministry leadership teams and boards.

One practical guideline that helps me structure the flow of the day is a little piece of priceless wisdom from Chuck Miller, “We must be the people of God before we do the work of God.” So I like to arrange the flow of a planning day so that the first half of the day is “people of God” time with the second half, “the work of God” portion, flowing from there.

First half of day

  • One pastor in our Dominican Republic Journey process describes this first part as “enjoying God together.” I seek to provide opportunities to unhurriedly enjoy the goodness, beauty, kindness and generosity of God together before we jump into the business on my minds.
  • I nearly always build in a few moments at the beginning of the day for members of the team to share a little about where they find themselves as they come: sharing desires, hopes, challenges, burdens, worries, whatever. I will often first give time for personal journaling, then a little bit of small group sharing.
  • I like to spend time reflecting together on a passage—perhaps using the classic tool of lectio divina. I will usually take some time before the retreat to ask God for insight into a passage that would be especially helpful for this team at this time. (Here are a few journal entries that serve as examples of how I do this.) A simple “read, reflect, respond, rest” process can be a rich way to enjoy God together.
  • I will sometimes ask the group to share together what are some of the big questions that are on their hearts as they come to this day of planning for the season of ministry ahead? How do they see the people they are serving? What seems to be on God’s heart for them? What next steps might the Spirit be guiding us to take together?
  • I will build in an hour or two for the team to move out into solitude and silence. I’ve written on “How to Enjoy a Long Time Alone with God,” as well as provided a resource we use for “Extended Personal Communion [EPC] with God.” This is very stretching for some leader types. There are many reasons we resist being alone with God like this. Decide on a length of time that will stretch the group without overstretching them. The point of this time is simply to be with God and listen, listen, listen. Listen for yourself. Listen for the leadership team. Listen for the group you serve together.
  • When we come back together after the solitude, I like to use debrief questions to help people share their stories. I like to end these debrief times expressing our thanks to God for experiences of grace we’ve experienced and heard from others on the team.

(I’ll share part two on Tuesday)

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Sermon: The Freedom of an Unhurried Life


Last Sunday morning, I shared a message with Sun Grove Church in Elk Grove, CA on the theme of my current writing project for InterVarsity Press. The title is “The Freedom of an Unhurried Life.” You can get a feel for the book in this message. Enjoy…

“The Freedom of an Unhurried Life” – Alan Fadling from Sun Grove Church on Vimeo.

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The Real Value of Relationships


I was again reviewing some of my reading from the recent past and came across these insights from Kosuke Koyama’s book Three Mile An Hour God. I’ve posted other insights from him here in “Unhurried: Is Jesus Too Slow?” and “Living Life at the Pace of Love.” I think you’ll appreciate what he has to say here about the real costs of technology and the real value of human relationships:

“Our technological resourcefulness is making our life expensive and lonely. Technology is ambiguous. It can enrich and impoverish our life. Technology is like fire; it can cook rice for our enjoyment and nutrition and it can also reduce our house to ashes.

Can we bring about an inexpensive yet resourceful life style? One way—perhaps the only way—to do this would be to cultivate, increase and deepen human relationship. Human relationship is inexpensive yet resourceful. This is grace indeed. The biblical God is the God of a covenant relationship with man. This means that the whole biblical teaching is rooted in relationship. Money has ultimate meaning only if it enhances human relationship. The salvation the Bible is talking about is ‘inexpensive yet resourceful’. If salvation is expensive in terms of hard-cash, then something is wrong with that kind of salvation.” (p. 121.)

“For Peter ‘I have no silver and gold’ means ‘I always look at silver and gold under the overwhelming sense of gratitude to God’. Or ‘what God has provided is abundant for me. I have no need for more. And I say this joyously’. This is the apostolic secret. ‘I have no silver and gold’ he said. Yet he healed the man. The secret of Peter is ‘gratitude’ and ‘Jesus’. These two combined bring healing, hope and resurrection.” (p. 141.)

(A repost from February 2010)