Tag Archives: ministry

Listening in Community

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Western culture places great emphasis on the individual. In sports we call out and praise individual performance, giving little more than lip service to how well a team plays. (Just look at baseball: nine players on the field, but only the pitcher is said to have won or lost the game.)

In school, each student is given a grade the she alone has worked for. Team projects are the exception, and a dreaded one at that.

Even in the Christian faith we stress the individual’s responsibility to accept or reject Jesus Christ. (I’ve written about this twice before, based on my first experience in Ethiopia. You can read those posts from 2015 and from 2008 if you want.)

But there is power in community, especially when it comes to making decisions. I recall a scene in a documentary from many years ago: the elders of an African tribe sitting in a circle discussing the appropriate marriage dowry for one of the girls in the tribe. Even as I write that i struggle with how wrong everything about it sounds – but only because it is foreign to me; I also see great wisdom.

Imagine if we were to harness the power and wisdom of collected minds for such things as job changes and career moves; for engagements (or divorces!); for discerning God’s call on our lives.

My parents recently gave me a number of books they’ve read over the years; the one at the top of this post among the titles. I just started reading it but wish I’d read it six months ago. Or three years ago. or twenty years ago. Listening Hearts: Discerning God’s Call in Community provides sound biblical and practical wisdom for a community of Christ-followers to listen for and to God’s call. The authors and a team of researchers combed through centuries of Christian literature to learn how previous generations and various traditions defined and discerned God’s call – for the community and for individuals within the community. Here are just a few tidbits that have stuck out to me:

Call may be emphatic and unmistakable, or it may be obscure and subtle. (p. 7)

We often find our calls in the facts, circumstances, and concrete experiences of life. … A call may not be so much a call to “do” as to “be.” (p. 9)

Discernment requires our willingness to act in faith on our sense of what God wants us to do. (p. 27)

If you are wondering what you should be doing; if you are facing a decision about a career change or a cross-country move or whether God is calling you to be in full-time ministry, then I want you to do this: read this book, get a small community of people around you (who should also read it), then listen together for to discern God’s call.

Legacy

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Cru logoOver the past week, I have been enjoying a vacation reminiscent of summer trips my family took when I was young, but unlike any that my wife and I have taken with our own kids. Starting out in San Diego, we have visited the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks, stopped briefly to walk through Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico at Four Corners National Monument, watched as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train began its slow trek into the mountains, and rode the newly-rebuilt Royal Gorge Aerial Tram a thousand feet above the Arkansas River in Colorado.

For the past few days we have been with my parents, a treat that only happens every couple years. Many of our conversations have been about church ministry, family, current events, and the staff conference from which they’d just returned. There has also been plenty of catching up on old friends (“do you remember…?” or “have you heard from…?”) and reminiscing about the adventures we had as a family or that my parents have had in the thirty-plus years since I (their youngest) left home. And the adventures have been many, but far more than mere adventure….

Next year, my parents will celebrate fifty years on staff with Cru (known until four years ago as Campus Crusade for Christ). Those years have taken them from their childhood homes in Michigan to live in California, Minnesota, Texas, British Columbia, Germany, and Colorado. But they have served even more broadly on four of the world’s seven continents: Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, and North Africa, to name a few), Asia (Mongolia, Siberia, and China), Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, the Netherlands, and Russia), North & Central America (Canada, U.S., Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Cuba).

And they have shared their faith in Jesus Christ more broadly still, with global ambassadors and diplomats, national presidents and prime ministers, business executives, college students, athletes, and military leaders. They have trained thousands of men, women, and children, whether through a Sunday School class with six teenagers or a Dallas Cotton Bowl stadium with 85,000; in a church with a few hundred adults or a dinner with dozens of international diplomats. Mom has taught hundreds in an international women’s Bible study and Dad has talked about Jesus one skier at a time as he rode chair lifts with strangers for forty years.

During many of the conversations with my parents the past few days, our daughters have read books or played games on their phones. But they have also heard the stories, the names, the challenges and blessings. And as they’ve walked through Oma and Opa’s condo, they’ve seen the evidences of these lives lived for God: memorabilia from their travels, gifts from friends, photos of family. And I think my girls have caught something of the legacy they are inheriting—a legacy of faith and faithfulness, of devotion and obedience, of love for God and people. My prayer is that they will see a similar legacy in my wife and me, even if it will look different than their globe-trotting grandparents.