Monday, October 23, 2006


He meant it as a compliment (I think). He caught me after the service and said, "The difference between CTK and [name of prominent church in town] is that you don't know what you're doing." I could tell by how he said it that he was actually happy to find a church that wasn't quite so sure about quite so many things.

I actually think it’s healthy for a ministry to not come off quite so certain. When things are too buttoned down it has the adverse affect of causing people who are undone to wonder whether its really true, and if it is true, whether or not they belong. It also puts undue pressure on leaders to keep things in a “together” state. While you may have it together at the moment, when the time comes that you don’t you will be tempted toward “keeping up impressions” instead of “keeping it real.” Once you get into impression management, you fall into a spiral where energy goes into worrying about how we’re being received, instead of whether people are experiencing and expressing the grace of God.

Here are some ways I would suggest you keep it real, and come off a little less sure:

1. Lead from a point of weakness, not strength. As a leader, you set the tone. The Apostle Paul advised boasting in weaknesses so the that God’s power can rest on you. Spice your teaching with phrases like....

• Here’s some thing I’m still working on....
• You might not know this, but I am not a very nice person without Christ....
• I wish I was more like some of you....
• I have failed in areas of my life where I never thought I would....
• Here are some things that God is trying to teach me....

2. Let your dogmatism rise and fall with the clarity of scripture. Don’t be unclear where the scripture is clear. But don’t press your point of view quite so hard, if it is really just opinion. Let people know, “This is my opinion, but I could be wrong.”

3. Don’t be the hero of every story you tell. If you come off looking great in every story you tell, you leave a faulty impression that you rise above all challenges. Tell some stories where you were the priest or Levite in the story, instead of the good Samaritan.

4. Spice freely with qualifying words like sometimes, often, occasionally. Here are some examples:

• We are trying to do the best job we can in kids ministry....instead of....We are doing a great job in kids ministry.
• At CTK we are attempting to reach out to unchurched people....instead of....At CTK we are reaching unchurched people.
• Most of the times when I go to my small group, I come away refreshed....instead of....I always come away refreshed when I go to my small group.

5. Reframe mistakes with optimism. Martin Seligman, psychologist, suggests that a leader convey learned optimism by learning to speak in a particular way about the negative events of their lives:

· This event is not permanent. We can bounce back from this.
· This event is not pervasive. Though we may have failed in this one area, we are not failing in every area.
· This event is not to be taken personally. No one should be labeled or punished.

Counterintuitively, in this story it is the church leader who is most tolerant of mistakes and failure who will be the most likely to succeed. At CTK our goal is not to impress people into the kingdom of God. Our mission is to love them into the kingdom, to accept them into the kingdom, to forgive them into the kingdom.

Oswald Chambers

Gracious Uncertainty
…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be…-1 John 3:2

Our natural inclination is to be so precise- trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next-that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, "Well, what if I were in that circumstance?" We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life-gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God - it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, "…unless you…become as little children…" (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, "…believe also in Me" (John 14:1), not, "Believe certain things about Me". Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in-but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

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