serving

ON THE NEVER-ENDING NATURE OF MINISTRY

If summed up in a single word, ministry is simply “readiness.” 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7. The expression and manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to me for the benefit, advantage and profit of others.

I’ve always been perplexed with the basic view of ministry as something one must get into or sign up for, as opposed to it simply being someone you are. Lingering over ministry there looms a black cloud that implies if we’re not involved in one of the many categories or vocations of the standard ministry pool, then we are not serving the Kingdom, and therefore not in ministry. Not to negate the many core areas of need in the Church, but vocations are nothing more than things we do. As such, they can be done out of bondage, obligation, pressure and selfish motives rather than desire… turning them from ministry into misery where the heart is tainted and the results anemic, if that. True and lasting ministry resides in who we are being while doing the things we do - in vocations or otherwise. It’s about the posture of our hearts being in that special space where the fruits of the spirit are evident through counting others as more important than ourselves. It’s moving in the spirit of giving where for a time we forget about our own struggles, shortcomings, insecurities and agendas and focus on serving others with excellence and without conditions or expectations. This is ministry, and as we share our gifts with others, the fullness of Christ’s presence shines through, tasks are done, and we’re refreshed, alive, and ready for what’s next. The ministry of “readiness” knows no limits where it can show up. The light is always on, shining on others, regardless of location, vocation or situation. 

The Big Question:Do you view ministry as a place you go to, something you do, or do you see it as someone you can be… every moment of every day?

Leadership = Influence

Recently I have been doing quite a bit of “unfettering” in the area of leadership. The simple definition of leadership that I have clung to for years is … the ability to influence others to do great things. Breaking this down, what I love so much about this definition is … … the focus on ABILITY vs. title, possessions, power, compensation, rank, and so forth. And what is cool about that is everyone has ability. It is inside each one of us. Thus, we are all leaders because we all have the ability to influence.

… the emphasis on INFLUENCE. Leadership is an everyday experience because every day we are placed in situations where we are influencing others (intentionally and unintentionally). At work, at home, at the store, on the phone, waiting in line, driving in traffic, interacting with people. With our spouse, our children, our parents, our customers, our co-workers. A great story about Everyday Leadership is a TED Talk by Drew Dudley who shares what is a “lollipop moment” as it applies to leadership. Let’s don’t make leadership something so big that we are afraid of it or don’t believe it applies to us … leadership / influence is an every day opportunity.

… the priority on OTHERS. Leadership is primarily about serving others — not elevating one’s self. One can only lead to the extent one is willing to serve.

… the quest for GREAT things. Leadership and influence can be used for bad things, minor things, mediocre things, the ordinary, the normal. No … let’s use our influence to spark others to achieve greatness.

A passage from the book “Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson inspires all of us to lead and influence …

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

Reclaiming the purpose of your work week

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” -Proverbs 22:1

Have you ever had someone’s name come up in conversation, and you just rave about that person? You speak well of them, you tell about their outstanding character, you love to be merely in the same room as them.

This is a person with a “good name.”

A good name is ultimately what lasts. Riches don’t go with you to the grave, but your character does. The problem is that we tend to lose focus in the working world. It lures us to build up money and accumulate things. And we end up forgetting about the most important task that the 40 hours a week should see us doing—that of building good character.

So how do you start to focus on building up a good name instead of building up riches, which come and go?

Here’s four ways to start:

1. Allegiance to God, not man. We have to yield daily to His principles and start to live in the reality that we are working for the Lord first, our boss second. When we have the mindset of working for God, we pay more attention to his rules, his ways, and his directions. As our boss and the one we serve, he desires vastly different things than many of the bosses that we will encounter. Stay always in the mindset that you are working for Him and serving Him first, and His ways will gradually become yours. God isn’t interested in making you rich (“Oh how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!”)—he’s interested in making you more into the image of His son.

2. Loving others more than yourself. When we are self-centered (which is a lot of the time!), we focus on what will serve our kingdom best. For me, this generally leads to giving more time to myself, spending more money on myself, and thinking about myself. I’m essentially putting my resources into puffing up my own world.

Ouch.

But when you start to focus on others and spend time learning how to love them, two things happen. You start to build others up, and by doing so, you become more of a servant-hearted person. There are few people I know that would rather spend time with someone who’s prideful rather than someone who’s humble.

3. Integrity. Simply put, you’ve got to be the same person…everywhere you go. Many people build up a good name for themselves at work, but their home life is a train wreck. It’s not worth it to receive accolades as a professional but fail as a brother. It doesn’t build one area of your life and neglect the rest. Your name is a holistic representation of who you are. It comprises your work self, your church self, your personal self, your family self, and more. The task is to bridge any gaps that remain and fix inconsistencies.

4. Gratitude. Many go through life blazing their own trail and leaving a cloud of dust behind them. They use people to get what they want and step over people to get to the top. What they’re leaving behind them is a trail of people who think poorly of them because they’ve been treated poorly, which in the end doesn’t serve the person at all. Who wants to be at the top, only to find that everybody hates you?

The antidote to this path is gratitude. Yes, fight hard, become better at what you do. But thank the people that help you along the way. Thank your mom and dad for raising you and teaching you. Thank your boss, even if they weren’t so great (you can always learn something from tough people).

Thank your teachers, your friends, your spouse.

Thankfulness yields a good trail of people who think well of you. We live in a world of overworked, under-appreciated people. So when people feel appreciated, they appreciate you back. A hand-written note truly does amazing things to the heart. I’ve seen people change their countenance before my eyes when I’ve handed them a thank-you note.

What about you? What has your experience in the working world been like? What steps have you taken to make sure you’re pursuing the right things? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.