Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Clear Mental Image of a Preferable Future

“Vision for ministry is a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances.”
George Barna, as quoted in Empowered Leaders, Hans Finzel, p. 93

What sort of vision do I have for the predictable future?  What is that "clear mental image" for my life, my family and the ministry here that the above quote promotes?  What does a “preferable future” look like?

Here are, for me, some priority concepts, then some specifics that flow out of them.

1. Discipleship.  Following Jesus in the three key aspects that He mentions in the gospels, 1. denying myself  2. taking up my cross and 3. following Him are really where everything else should begin.  My leadership in the important areas of life will flow out of my followership in this first, key area. 

2. Love.  It is the greatest commandment, first vertical, then horizontal.  We love God when we obey Him and follow Him.  We love God when we love our neighbor.  We love God by loving our neighbor.  It is something we receive supernaturally, and can only give properly supernaturally, nevertheless love is manifest in 1000 mundane, simple ways, through ordinary human interaction.

3. This third characteristic is harder to choose.  A number of different words come to mind, like servanthood, holiness or humility.  But I think it has to be....JOY.  Joy implies all sorts of other wonderful concepts, like enthusiasm, sense of humor and contentment.   True, permeating joy is perhaps the one characteristic of Christianity for which the world has no substitute.   Joy is attractive, darn near irresistible.  Other religions can imitate our good works and worship, but cannot touch real, divine joy.  Can’t touch this.  Why are we so serious many times, as if that is more godlike? 

Here’s a great quote from G.K. Chesterton: 

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.  Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be a permanent pulsation of the soul.  Pessimism is at best a half-holiday, joy is the uproarious labour by with all things live.   Orthodoxy, p. 159

Ok, now to concepts that are a bit more practical, or at least lend themselves toward being vehicles or contexts in which these three qualities can flesh themselves out.

1. Community.  With community go words like friendship, unity, common purpose and loyalty.  Family and Church, the family being the physical example of care and protection of which the church is an extension.  My brother is my neighbor is my son is my sister.  My commitment and care of my spiritual family is as important as that of my flesh and blood.   We are a band of brothers.  I will laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry.  Count on it.  Who doesn’t want to be a part of something like that?  

2. Authenticity.  Being real shouldn’t be something so difficult.  But our invasive worldly culture and often our suffocating Christian culture has created a pressure to be something less than God created us to be.  We continue to hide behind fig leaves, when God has sent His own Lamb.  With authenticity is the knowledge that although we are God’s children (what an amazing concept!), this does not make us fundamentally “better” than anyone else, just maybe a bit more fortunate to have heard and accepted the good news message, and this is also grace.   We will resist becoming spiritually arrogant, recognizing an oxymoron when we see one!  Hypocrisy is such a heinous word.

3. Common Purpose.  I touched on purpose on a recent post on this blog.  We respond when challenged by a greater purpose, something greater and more glorious than ourselves.  A couple key tenets here:  1.) we live in a physical world, but are surrounded by spiritual entities that, although invisible, are powerful and very real.  2.) the here and now is critically important in light of eternity and 3.) the stakes are very high.  The will of every man and woman and their response to their Creator and Redeemer will determine their eternal destiny and 4.) we are the bearers of God’s good news.

Today we’ve talked about some priorities for a Christian, and for a church, and some of the additional practical contexts in which these priorities flourish.  Maybe we’ll discuss methodology next.  

Quote of the Day:  The best way to predict the future is to create it.  Abraham Lincoln

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