The un-Welcome Mat

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For many years before I found my way into the evangelical, “non-denominational” world, I attended a conservative (PCA) church. If you don’t know much about PCA, you can check it out online. What became my sticking point was the stance on ordination of women (they don’t).

I am a leader, a teacher, and an equipper of people. I’m strong-willed, direct, and not afraid to speak my mind and do what’s right. I want to be part of the action, the decisions, the strategy, the development of people. In my career, I used all of those things, all of those pieces of myself, successfully.  But each Sunday,  as I walked into church, I wiped my feet on the welcome mat and left all those pieces of me outside. Over time, I realized that I was in pieces. I was not able to be myself, nor was I able to fully worship God in a community that did not accept all of my pieces.

So is it any different in the evangelical church? Around the world and here in the United States, there are plenty of denominations that support the ordination of women. It all comes down to the church you attend and its denominational roots.

What can we look for? There are obvious roadblocks purposefully placed between women and the pulpit. There are overt attacks against women, like the one in the picture from a self-described Baptist theologian. Clearly I cannot be in community with that guy. There are covert actions too. One is actually inaction, seen in the avoidance of discipleship of women. For example, the “Billy Graham Rule” can be used to completely avoid/neglect opportunities for male leaders to mentor women.

In one of my seminary classes this semester, I am writing a paper on a Christian leadership book that purposefully differentiates between male and female leadership characteristics. The men’s character audit (Appendix I) is vastly different from the women’s character audit (Appendix J). So what do I make of that? It’s a message not just for women, but one that men internalize as well. And the message is, ministry looks different for women than it does for men.

Oh, the irony

What is the opportunity cost borne by churches that are selective in their teaching of stewardship? They say:

  • Yes, be good stewards of your finances, and you can tithe here.
  • Yes, be good stewards of your time, and you can serve here.
  • Yes, be good stewards of your gifts, and you can pursue your calling and purpose here—unless you are a woman (?)

I wonder how many un-Welcome mats there are in front of churches across the world. All of them filled with pieces of leading, teaching, and shepherding that never make it inside for benefit of the community? I am heart-broken when I consider how many women attend these churches in pieces.

Someone told me the other day that I am brave, and that the church needs women who are willing to fight these battles. Yes, there are many women who fight day in, and day out.  I wonder if that is what I need to do, or should I simply find a community that likes all of my pieces? That’s a question each one of us needs to ask.

Resources of interest:

 

The Samaritan Woman

Adultery? Divorce? Are we missing the point?

The story of the Samaritan woman is a beautiful glimpse at Jesus’s ministry of freedom. But if you’re like me, you’ve only heard of her as a sinful, adulterous woman who was confronted and convicted by Jesus.

Is that really her story? After all, divorce was not legal for women in that time and place. She might have been widowed, divorced due to infertility (or any number of reasons), or a mixture. If she had been caught in adultery, she would have been killed- that was the law. So why do we so often hear her story through the presumption of her sexual sin?

There’s more to her story. Jesus sought her out, had a deep historical and theological conversation with her, at a well with significant meaning.

Perhaps we should take time to better understand her. She is the example Jesus is teaching from when he tells the disciples that they must open their eyes to the harvest that awaits them.

Jesus worked with and through the Samaritan woman to bring many to Him. Now the disciples will reap from her work in that city and will gather the harvest.

“I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” John 4:38 (NLT)

Read more about the history and context that shaped this passage in John 4 here: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Clarity of Purpose. And Helicopters.

santa rotc

I heard an ornament fall off my tree this morning and found this little Santa broken open with its contents on the floor. Sort of a strange thing to see, isn’t it? I’ve had this ornament since right after college and all those pins were insignia from my UT Chattanooga Army ROTC uniform. They represent a dream I had that was broken apart, much like this little Santa ornament.
 
I put these pins into the ornament 25 years ago, so I could remember them every year at Christmas. Maybe each year, some wholeness might be restored to my broken dream. As I type this, I still have tears in my eyes which is strange, because you’d think I’d be over it by now! But it’s more joy than regret, thanks to God’s message to me over the past year. You see, I thought He’d abandoned me, but He was with me all along. And that dream He’d given me? He fulfilled it in a way I could not expect.
 
I have some of this story in my podcast (episode 3) if you’d like to hear more. 
You can subscribe to my podcast on Podbean or on iTunes. I’d love to have you as a follower, or perhaps a guest!
 

The Cursing Psalms

The book of Psalms is best known for its songs of praise and worship, as well as songs of lament. But there are also occurrences of psalms of cursing or vengeance, known as imprecatory psalms. Within these passages, the author “hurls God’s curses on his enemies, in no uncertain terms.”[1] Day proposes that the curses within the psalms are not to be discarded by today’s church due to “a reaction of revulsion,” but seen in a broader context of Old and New Testament verses that call for “divine vengeance” used “in extreme circumstances, against hardened, deceitful, violent, immoral, unjust sinners.”[2]

Day argues that imprecations cannot be avoided or minimized. God’s people face evil in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in modern times. To the extent a need exists today for divine intervention due to unrepentant sin, there is a need for imprecatory prayers.[3] One of his strongest arguments for the applicability of imprecations to the modern church is that “the character of God does not change, so the essence of God’s ethical requirements does not change.”[4] God’s righteousness and vengeance will not be understood by humanity, but He is unchanging (Rev 1:8). The love He showed as He parted the Red Sea for Israel is also reflected in His action that brought the Sea crashing down, drowning the Egyptians. And what about the New Testament? Did Jesus’s ministry bring with it an end to cursing God’s enemies? Day contrasts two passages, one from the Old Testament, and one from the New. In the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12:3) God promises blessings upon those who bless Abraham’s descendants, and curses upon those who curse them. The same sentiment is expressed, Day cites, in Matthew 10:11-15. Jesus sends out the twelve disciples with instructions to bless those who receive them, and to curse those who do not. In fact, Jesus alludes to Old Testament judgement, saying that those who do not receive the disciples will be judged more harshly than were the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The entirety of scripture remains consistent in its declaration to love God and love others, even our enemies. In the Old Testament, Proverbs 24 and 25 contain instruction to provide food and water to enemies and a reminder to not rejoice when enemies stumble. Providing food and water is one thing, but we see in the Old and New Testaments a call for Christians to turn the other cheek to evildoers (Lam 3:30, Matt 5:39). Looking at these instructions through modern eyes, we might assume that Christians are called to sacrificially accept abuse. The good news is that is not the case. In scriptural context, “turning the cheek” means a believer’s response to abuse cannot take the form of a similarly evil act.[5]

Context is important, as is the act of wrestling with difficult passages of scripture. It might be less confrontational to avoid imprecatory scripture. But in our wrestling, we add to our understanding of the complex character of our God. As Moisés Silva observes, “Everyone must struggle with the dilemma of reconciling the surface meaning of such biblical narratives and texts with the need to show how these same texts edify contemporary readers.”[6]

A wrong interpretation might cause further harm to victims that was never intended. Taken to an extreme, an abused woman who seeks biblical counsel might be told to “turn the other cheek” and thus believe her only option as a Christian is to stay in the abusive relationship. However, if taught in context, and with the inclusion of imprecations, the counsel would align with the consistency of God’s character and demonstrate love, protection, and judgement. A more contextual counsel might encourage the woman to not return violence against her abuser (Mat 5:39, Luk 6:29, Lam 3:30), to pray for her abuser (Luke 6:28), and to leave the presence of the abuser (Luk 9:5).

As a woman who has experienced a destructive and abusive relationship, I see a tangible role for imprecation in the lives of Christians today. Providing victims with contextually accurate teachings reinforces the power of God’s love, the refuge found under His protection, and His role as the sole arbiter of justice. Yes, we must understand that we are called to love God and love others. But loving others sometimes means that we remove ourselves from their midst, so they can no longer sin against us. It is a reminder that we are sent out into this world as “sheep in the midst of wolves” which requires us to sometimes “shake the dust off” our sandals when peace is not extended within a household (Matt 10:13-16).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you need resources about destructive relationships, and a community of support, contact me. I will be happy to connect you with some of the books and people that helped me sort through my experience, and connect to scripture and a God who loves me and values my heart more than my marital status.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, Deluxe Ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2014), 307.

[2] John N. Day, “The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics,” Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 2002): 166, 168.

[3] Ibid., 186.

[4] Ibid., 168.

[5] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Arthur L. Farstad (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 948, 1330.

[6] Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Moisés Silva, Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning, Rev. and Expanded Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 322.

 

Asia Bibi -Woman at the Well

Have you seen this? Jesus still uses women at wells to tell His story! Praise God for Living Water.

Read Asia’s Story Here

As I read Asia’s story, I cant help but think about the woman at the well (John 4).

Based on cultural context, the Samaritan woman had to be married to survive. She had no legal authority to divorce, and no protection against being divorced. Without a father or grown sons, a divorced or widowed woman had just one option- to find another man to provide for her. Jesus met her at the well and had his longest documented conversation with her. He met the Samaritan woman in her rejection and dependency and offered her His Living Water. He showed her that her worth was not based on her marital status, but instead, her belief in Him.

Asia Bibi visited a well too, took a drink, and was beaten and imprisoned for her faith. Just like the Samaritan woman, Asia emerges from her experience at the well declaring praise for the Living God.

Let’s pray those who beat her and those who imprisoned her come to know the life-changing power of Living Water.

Jesus in Samaria (John 4:4-42, CEB)

Immeasurable Leadership

During this semester of seminary, I read a book that helped me understand spiritual formation and its application to leadership. Spiritual formation is the process by which our personal identity is formed. This is our sanctification journey with Christ, as he seeks to form and shape us into his image, through our life experiences. It’s a process that takes us beyond our own personal salvation. Through it we are drawn to Christian community and we actively seek opportunities to serve and disciple others.[1] If we choose to base our personal identity on Christ, he works in and through us to influence others and to lead others into closer relationship with him.

Leadership is often defined as the ability to influence others. It is therefore easy to argue that all Christians are called to leadership, regardless of whether they hold a position or office in a church or ministry. Leadership development is a popular topic today in Christian circles, as we seek to influence and draw others into local churches and into relationship with Jesus Christ. The gold standard for Christian leadership is referred to as servant leadership, which seeks to replicate the style Jesus demonstrated in his ministry on earth. As ministry leaders, it is important to understand what servant leadership requires, and how we can be leaders like Jesus in a fallen world.

According to Andrew Seidel,  there are two motivations for servant leaders, “(1) the fulfillment of God’s mission for his or her ministry or organization and (2) the fulfillment of God’s purpose in the lives of the people who are part of the ministry or organization.”[2] Bearing this in mind, what is a servant leadership culture? How will we know when we have achieved it?

What we prioritize takes priority. In the thousands of years that have passed since the fall of mankind, our struggle has not changed. We prioritized Knowledge over Life then, and our natural inclination is still the same. We crave relationship, but we want to measure our achievements. We may not disagree with Seidel’s two motivations for servant leadership, but yet we are upset that there’s no clear measurement for our success as servant leaders.

That said, we can come up with many things to measure and prove.

  • How many seats are filled on Sundays?
  • Does that number increase over a period of time?
  • How many people claim salvation during the year?
  • How many are baptized?

All measurable. None of these things are bad. And yes, these statistics may say something about the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. But do you feel the tension here between Knowledge and Life? Why are we so drawn toward church statistics?

The irony is that Christianity is about relationship, but relationship isn’t easily quantifiable, nor is it something you can measure or prove.

Perhaps we need to become more comfortable with the fact that we cannot measure our success as servant leaders. I think Ephesians 3:19-20 will help us maintain this perspective. Christ’s love surpasses knowledge, and through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to do immeasurably more than we think we can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Paul Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008),  19.

[2] Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, 180.

Leadership Development goes to Church

Hope you enjoy this latest article, posted today on LinkedIn.

After wrapping up 20+ years in corporate leadership, I became an intern at a local church. I had led in many areas of my life, but not within a church. During my internship I discovered a lot about myself and certainly strengthened my relationship with God. My practical take-away was this – churches suffer from the same leadership issues that companies do. And I wanted to do something about it.

Many churches have leadership programs that attract people of all ages who want to serve well in ministry. What often happens is that the programs are built around ministry work. Showing up at all hours, getting the administrative work of the church accomplished, as well as the physical aspects of making church services happen. Sounds vaguely like a corporate job too?

In corporate America, we offer a lot of training that helps us engage employees, identify leaders, and manage good and bad conflict within our teams. In churches today, much less time is spent on this type of training (if any). What are the long term impacts? In either setting, if you praise managers and elevate work, you attract workers, managers, and administrators. You are less likely to retain or attract leaders, problem-solvers and visionaries.

The fact is, work is not relationship. It’s work. And without a balance between the two, the leadership program is at best, a management program. At its worst, it is a work detail.

I believe that leading well in corporations is important for our time on earth, but leading well in ministry has an eternal significance. I want to partner with churches that are seeking long-term leadership strategies. It’s not as easy as getting the work done, that’s true. But there is a longer term benefit – growing and attracting leaders who want to improve on what you’re doing today. Men and women who want to be developed, so they can in turn, develop others. I see it very clearly when I look at Ephesians 4. Each person needs to gain clarity of purpose, so they can perform their function properly within the body of Christ.

Interested in building a custom strategy for your leaders or your staff? Check out some of the practical, sample reporting available by clicking this link. I look forward to hearing your goals and working with you to achieve them!

Camouflaged in a Christian Suit

“Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.”

Matthew 7:15-20, CSB

Churches today are busy, understaffed, and overworked. Volunteers are welcomed with open arms. Those who are consistent, those who say and do what is expected, gain more and more influence in the flock.

According to Christ’s own words in Matthew 7:15, we have wolves in our midst, maybe even sitting next to us at the 11am service.  Let’s face the truth. Predators of Christians hunt AT CHURCH. The enemy is camouflaged in a Christian suit.

In Matthew 7:15 word prosechō is used, which translates to be wary of, or to be cautious of.  Are we greeting church visitors with caution? Are we wary of our volunteers and leaders?  Perhaps this feels uncomfortable, and in opposition to the greatest commandment. After all, how do we love everyone and be cautious at the same time?  Yet we are given many examples of shepherds and shepherdesses in the Bible. Every day they cared for the lambs, tended the sheep, and killed predators. It can be done.

We have to see with spiritual eyesight, and past the Christian camouflage. Matthew 7:16-20 tells us how to recognize wolves. Through their fruit. It’s not about what they DO at church, it’s about who they ARE. Yes, they attend consistently. Yes, they post scripture on social media. Yes, they claim Christianity. Be on your guard. Watch for fruit, because a bad tree cannot create good fruit.

“’Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.’

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,  because he was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.”

Matthew 7:24-29

Jesus calls us to act on these words. Our local church, our house,  is going to get hit by winds, rivers, and rain. It will be under attack. If we’ve chosen the right foundation, our house will withstand the storm.

I don’t know about you, but I am just as astonished by this as the crowds must have been back then. The enemy wants to destroy Christians, and the local church is his hunting ground. There are people in our midst who claim Christ, but are not His. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are bad trees in our orchard. There are houses built on sand.

I’m equally astonished by the love that Christ demonstrates through this passage. A love for His children, for His flock. Love that protects, confronts, and acts.

A Warrior’s Heart

I heard from the Holy Spirit on Tuesday. I have a running list of His messages to me, and this morning I reflected on them.  Sometimes it’s a word or phrase, other times it’s a clear picture in my mind.  So I will take you on my journey so far, and highlight some words along the way. My testimony has been woven by and through these interactions. It all points back to God, and I give Him all the glory.

IMG_1134In 1989 I had my first message from Him, right before I started college.  While driving down a country road in Alabama, I was hit with a revelation. I knew I was supposed to be a Warrior. For me, that took the form of becoming an Army ROTC Cadet. That’s the type of warrior I was familiar with, as the daughter of an Army officer.

If you know my story, you know it didn’t end the way I thought it would.  In my junior year of college, I developed an injury that sidelined me. I prayed for healing, but didn’t receive it. I thought that either God had forgotten His promise to me, or that I simply had failed Him. I graduated from college with a degree in one hand and a crisis of faith in the other.

I moved to Florida and found the job I would keep for almost 22 years. My leadership gift served me well in corporate America. What I loved most was developing and mentoring others.

2014-2016 were hard years, and full of grief and loss. This time, I sought God with all my heart. I asked for signs, and started seeing Compasses and Wings.  Compasses reminded me to let Him set my direction, and Wings were a reminder that my refuge and protection were found in Him (Psalm 91:4).

God is the Way, the Truth, and Life itself.  He is the Light of the world. So when darkness fell and my path was unclear, He showed me the Way. When lies held me captive, He broke my chains and set me free. Life is His abundant promise, and His Light always defeats darkness.

Warrior means more to me now than it did in 1989. 

Recently I started seeing the word ‘ezer. It is a military term, used only 21 times in scripture. It refers to military leaders, to God Himself, and twice in Genesis is used to describe woman’s purpose at creation. She was created to be a warrior, a shield, and a protector.

That’s the benefit of hindsight. I can see what God sparked inside me so long ago, was just a reminder of who He created me to be.

So I keep marching forward. And now I am marching straight into seminary.  It’s a difficult path for women in the evangelical church. There are few women in pastoral positions, outside of women’s and children’s ministries. It’s easy to give up when faced with opposition.

I feel asleep feeling disheartened, knowing many women who want to serve in church leadership but aren’t afforded the opportunity. If there were just more women mentors out there, it would make a difference.

Wouldn’t you know,  I woke up hearing Be What You Need. I needed the reminder that I have a warrior’s heart. And I need to make sure other women know that they are warriors too.

Waiting Room

In John 11 we read the story of Lazarus. There are so many takeaways from it, but today what captured my attention was this interaction between Martha and Jesus, in which he tells her she does not have to wait.

She replied, “Yes, I know he will rise with everyone else on resurrection day.”

“Martha,” Jesus said, “You don’t have to wait until then. I am the Resurrection, and I am Life Eternal.”

Waiting. It’s not something I’ve always done well. In fact, one of my “greatest” strengths is Quick to Act. I’m typically the one who immediately jumps at opportunities, who comes to conclusions, who sizes up situations, and acts.

But I put myself in Martha’s shoes for a second, and recall those times I’ve not been able to act quickly. Times I have felt frozen in my steps, not certain of what to do next. It’s excruciating for me, because my desire to want to act quickly is still there, but I can’t unleash it.  There’s such an inward frustration in that space of WANTING to act, yet not following through.

So what holds me back in those moments, when I want to move forward, but choose not to?  Perhaps it’s a perceived knowledge or experience deficit, a lack of initiative, a lack of confidence, or a fear of failure. You have to fill in that blank for yourself, but ultimately it’s a wall of our own making. Martha has knowledge – she says plainly, “I know he will rise.” She has experience of seeing Jesus’s miraculous works, and she has faith in God.  But she is seeing through her own eyes, her own filters of life and of death. Lazarus has been dead for four days, and to her, that clearly means he’s gone forever.

I was speaking to our Leadership Residency students this week, pulling together a couple of themes from this semester’s curriculum.  As part of our TotalSDI assessment results, we discussed how we communicate with others. We see everything and everyone around us through our own filters, and our expectations are based on what we’ve come to expect from ourselves.  It’s a valuable exercise for personal development and conflict resolution to see beyond ourselves, and really seek to connection and relationship with others.

In this intimate interaction, Martha’s expectations are clearly based on her own earthly experiences and filters of life and death.  She has built a wall and it’s blocking her view of the situation as seen through Jesus’s eyes.  And in this moment, Jesus asks Martha to open her eyes, and invites her to understand his perspective.

Here’s what I’m taking away from this. Sometimes waiting is appropriate.  After Jesus was notified of Lazarus’s illness, he chose to wait to return to him. Jesus knew what would happen, and the waiting he initiated was to fulfill a greater purpose. Martha and Mary did not understand that purpose. All they saw was death and and a missed opportunity for healing.

When we discern the need to wait, let’s picture ourselves at the feet of Jesus, telling him about that thing in our life that is overwhelming us and keeping us from moving forward. Let’s reveal the earthly filters we have placed on our problems because he knows all of that anyway! But, let’s expect to hear him tell us when we no longer have to wait. And in that moment, when we see through his eyes, I pray it’s what we need to give us the strength to take our first steps out of the waiting room.

 

 

The Mindset of Work

In businesses, as in churches, revenue is required to keep the doors open and programs funded. Therein lies the rub.  You do not make money by developing leaders – you make money by getting your work done. It’s easy to see why many organizations may build goals or vision around employee engagement and development, but then fail in the long run. Their priorities shift to the bottom line – to the work. 

As an experienced corporate leader, I know teams and organizations benefit when all  encouraged to bring their strengths and gifts to the table.  Leaders who subvert this process do harm to their people and to their bottom line. Choosing to place less emphasis on leadership development results in loss of talent and loss of revenue. Ironically, what may take a year or two to damage can take years to repair. Businesses do not often survive that cycle of repair.

I believe the mindset of work may be the hardest to break.  That “heads down” mentality  is so prevalent in today’s workplace.  We put emphasis on deliverables, which reduces the time we have to develop our people. We structure reward systems around metrics-based performance. We interchangeably use the terms management and leadership, because we think they mean the same thing.  

What are some of the symptoms of a work mindset? Employees stop asking why and simply ask what needs to be done. Managers make promotion and hiring decisions based on work performance.  Businesses reduce emphasis (and budget) on training and development programs. “Flexibility” is the mantra of the day.  We attract and retain people with strong administrative gifts, but we lose leaders, who take vision and strategy with them.

Numbers become the primary measurement of capability and success. Bodies fill seats, instead of people.

Do we expect more from our churches?

I worked over 20 years in a corporate environment.  Like most companies, ours had a vision and value statement built around caring for the people we served, and those we employed.  But I drove to work every day knowing that when push came to shove, it was the bottom line that mattered. It was not ideal but it was simply the fact.

I don’t want to feel that way when I drive to church.  As leaders of churches, how do we confront the work mindset? Here are just a few conversations you may want to have with your leadership.

  1. How does our church measure success?
  2. Do we prioritize things that are immeasurable?
  3. Are we raising up managers? How?
  4. Are we raising up leaders? How?
  5. Do we have a healthy discipleship process?

There is a reason why humans enjoy the concrete. Measuring gives us a way to prove ourselves and differentiate ourselves. Showing up in a “top 10” list certainly makes us feel relevant. And I’m not suggesting we throw away our spreadsheets.  I am suggesting that the risk is that we shift our focus from relationship to religion. We measure and move with the mindset of administration.

We sit in the shallows of salvation, too preoccupied to swim into the deeper water of sanctification and discipleship.

Stacey is a leadership consultant and coach, as well as a certified facilitator for the MBTI and TotalSDI assessments.  Her passion is taking 20+ years of corporate experience into the faith-based community.  As in business, leadership development is critical for the church. Stacey partners with ministry leaders to develop customized individual and team building programs.  She resides in Jacksonville, FL.

 

 

Body Building

Is salvation enough? It’s really not a trick question.  Once saved, you have the key to the kingdom. You know where you will be in eternity.  As Christians, we diligently pray and work to spread the gospel, for the purpose of salvation.  With each salvation, we add another person to the body of Christ.  But what part of the body are they?

Two years ago, a dear friend of mine mentored me through a difficult spiritual experience. She encouraged me to seek God’s purpose for my life and to identify my spiritual gifts.  She asked me, “What part of the body are you? Have you prayed for that knowledge?”  That’s where the Holy Spirit really started his work within me.

Scripturally, it’s no secret that with our acceptance of the Holy Spirit, we are the recipients of spiritual gifts. Our gifts from the Holy Spirit, which are irrevocable and that God gives without repentance (Romans 11:29). If we believe that each of us is merely a part of the body of believers, and that each part has it’s own purpose (1 Cor 12:12), we should desire that all the individual parts of God’s body would be brought together here on earth, to serve both our individual purposes, as well as to pursue our calling as a body of believers – as the church.

If you’re still reading this, do you believe in God? If so, you also must believe in the enemy.  The “thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  The enemy who would seek to not only keep us each from finding and fulfilling God’s purpose, but who would love nothing more than to hack apart a body of believers, keeping all parts separate and the body disjointed.

What do we do? We have to first believe. Salvation is ours for the asking, and no one on earth can keep us from it (except ourselves). “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7). Have you asked?

Back to the question – is salvation enough? Being saved is LIFE.  Knowing God’s purpose for your LIFE is a whole other thing. Sanctification is the process of strengthening our relationship with God, in order to reveal His purpose for our lives.  Just like salvation, sanctification is a deeply personal process – spirit to spirit.  I would argue that you can’t really “see” salvation with physical eyes, but sanctification’s results are tangible.

God’s light shines in each of us, and I feel it is brightest when we are fully utilizing our gifts. “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matt 7:20).  Allow your fruit to announce God’s presence in your life.

What’s the down-side to knowing and using your gifts? The enemy knows them too, and wants nothing more than to keep you from fulfilling your purpose. Sometimes, even those closest to you will reject you because of your gifts. Someone you care about may tell you that the gift you have isn’t real, or that it’s not meant for someone of your gender, your background, your race or your age.  And it’s your choice whether you listen to them, or to that deep yearning and knowledge in your spirit. You get to choose.

Chances are, using your spiritual gifts will take you out of your comfort zone. Allowing yourself to build community with people who have different gifts is also uncomfortable. As humans, and as believers, we build walls of protection around those things that are important to us. We build physical walls around our families (our homes), gates around our communities, borders around our countries.  We build walls around good things, like our churches, our schools, our hospitals. We build walls around bad things too, like prisons. Walls are physical, and they’re also emotional. Walls may keep out the bad things in life, but they also keep out good things!

The minute we build walls that keep us from spiritually connecting as a body of Christ, that’s the minute we’ve departed from God’s desire to build his perfectly functioning body on earth. Your church isn’t the body.  It’s one part. And the rest of the body will be found in churches that differ from yours, and in communities that you’ve never stepped foot in.

Salvation is not hindered by gender, ethnicity or experience. Neither are spiritual gifts. God’s gifts to us are perfect and irrevocable.  When we use our gifts for the purpose of building the body of Christ on earth, we will see, and feel,  walls fall around us.  Let it be so!

 

 

 

Peace in Pieces

 

 

If you’ve said The Lord’s Prayer lately, you’ve recommitted yourself to seeking God’s will and bringing His Kingdom to earth, as it is in heaven. Have you taken a few minutes to consider what that might look like? When we, as Christians, set out to build the Kingdom of God here on earth, we encounter conflict. One day, we know we will see all the conflict end. Until then, all the ground we gain for Christ requires a lot of hard work and discomfort. 

puzzle dumpConflict looks like a puzzle that has been dumped out of its box and onto a table. Pieces go everywhere.  What you see is chaos, clutter, and confusion.  More importantly, when  you look at the pile of unattached pieces, you cannot  see the big picture. The task of putting that puzzle together seems insurmountable to some.

So let’s say that the pile of pieces represents the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  Our insurmountable task is to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, as stated in Matthew 6:10.  We have to get “up close and personal” with every single puzzle piece, individually examining and categorizing them. We have to start fitting one piece into the next, and into the next, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. That’s conflict, and it’s for a greater purpose.

Healthy Conflict” is a term thrown about in leadership training and team-building.  Conflict, done in a healthy way, is positive, and grows relationships and organizations.  Think of the process of putting together a puzzle. It’s challenging to fit the pieces together, but ends up with a rewarding result.    

The good news is that we have clues as to how to fit these pieces together. We have colors, shapes, and patterns. And God has given us clues about coming together too.  See Romans 12:4:

“For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.”

Each of us is a piece of the puzzle. In order to know where we fit in the overall picture, we have to understand God’s purpose for our lives.  You may have taken personality assessments before. I utilize two well-known assessments in my coaching practice (MBTI and TotalSDI).  Taking a spiritual gifts assessment is helpful, as is prayer.  And practicing your gifts within a community of believers will further help you distill your purpose.

Knowing Your Piece

The first step to take is to understand YOU. What are your strengths? Your motivations? Your personality? Your gifts? But if we stop there, we are at best, self-centered. Our natural inclination is to view the world through the filters of our own personality and experience.  We even expect others to act like we do, or think like we do.  We tend to surround ourselves with people that look just like us.  And what happens?  Well, imagine you’re a puzzle piece surrounded by pieces that look like you.  I doubt you’ll be able to create more than just one small section of the puzzle.

When we stay in community with people who do life exactly as we do, we may be comfortable. But we lost perspective of the bigger picture, and are unable to experience the growth we want in our relationships, teams, organizations.  

I believe God wants us to outgrow our comfort zone.

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 MSG)

What this tells me is that left to our own devices, we tend to orient our lives around the desires of our hearts. And that is what brings about the weeds.  But when we allow God into our hearts, we become aligned more to His will for our lives.

Your Perfect Fit

puzzle fit

Back to the puzzle. Look at your piece. See that lovely protrusion on your left side? Your flat right side? Clearly you’re not looking for someone with a flat right side.  Your fit is someone with an indention on their right side!

You find your perfect fit when you look for, and accept, diversity. This is powerful, and it makes perfect sense.  The person you need to round out your team or your ministry should be different. Enough with the cookie-cutter approach to building leadership teams!

Here’s the crux of Healthy Conflict.  Your section of the puzzle will share enough similarities that you have common ground. In the Kingdom of Heaven, we all believe in Jesus as our Messiah, and know our salvation is based on faith in Christ alone.  That’s our common ground.  And just like that, we keep moving forward, toward completion of the puzzle.

Peace in the Body

In Ephesians 4 we read that God has equipped us, here on earth, for the work of the ministry. And that in order to form the picture of the perfect body of Christ, each part of the body must be joined together “held together by every joint” and that each part must work properly.  And when we find all of the pieces of our body, and we join together properly, we will see more clearly the picture that our puzzle maker has set before us.

Have you ever purchased a puzzle, spent a ton of time putting it together ONLY to find you’re missing a piece? As we build out the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, we have to place our trust in the puzzle maker. God did not leave a single piece out of his puzzle. All of us are accounted for. There’s more than enough room in the puzzle for each of us, and we all play a critical role, designed personally for us, by God.

When conflict is done well, it’s healthy for the organization. No matter your strengths, gifting, and purpose, you have a place in the puzzle. One that will bring you peace, and further the Kingdom.

Do you want to explore your own purpose, or design a team-building exercise for your team? Contact me to get started!

 

One word at a time

If you’re like me, you want God to show you the destination. If I knew my objective, I could get myself there! Of course, that’s not how it works.  He prefers to show us one step at a time. I have accumulated a list of words I’ve heard or seen over the past 2 years. It might not make sense to you, but in hindsight, I clearly see the path from one to the next.  I also am assured that my list of words will continue to grow as I seek Him first.IMG_2113

These past couple of years have been full of change and growth. I just heard a teaching by Lysa Terkeurst about seasons of planting, pruning, growing, producing and harvesting. Pruning may be the most difficult for us to live through, but when God is pruning us is also when He is closest to us.  I have a new appreciation for that!

I’ve come out of a 20 year corporate career with a wealth of leadership and business experience. My favorite parts of my time there were spent developing leaders, building effective and successful teams, and coaching my teams through change and transition.

My faith has deepened too. When we slow down and look to our Father to guide our steps, our journey begins.  What I know is that, as believers, we each have gifts.  When we connect with our gifts, we get a glimpse of God’s purpose for our lives.

So, let me help you on your journey.  I use professional tools as a starting point, to identify your individual personality, motivations, strengths and spiritual gifts.  From there, we can build a personal coaching plan that fits your goals.

God placed each of us, as living stones (1 Peter 2:4),  in this place and time for a reason. We are each a part of the body, each with our own purpose.

“As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16)