Last week I was in New York City for a round table discussion with 30 other church planters and leaders hosted by Trinity Grace Church. It was a totally free event (we paid our own expenses), and it truly was a discussion, with multiple voices contributing, plenty of time to chat informally over lunches, dinners, late-night beers, etc. I love that I see more of these kinds of events starting to crop up. There’s one happening in LA in November (Verge LA), and something similar in Fort Wayne in January 2010.
It was an encouraging time for me personally as well as a stimulating time in terms of learning to lead a missional church. I’ll be sharing some of those thoughts over the next few weeks, and wanted to start it by sharing a few of the personal challenges I left New York with. So if you don’t mind, I’ll be a tad vulnerable and share some of what I feel I need to do in this next season of planting this church. These are simply just raw challenges I feel. I have no idea how some of these things will actually play out in my life, but this is what I’ll be preaching to myself.
1. Just Do Stuff
Praxis is the best teacher. Even when you’re not sure about the best path, make sure you take one and start walking. You can course-correct along the way, but jumping in and doing this stuff is the best way to get better at it.
2. Pray Like A Mad Man
Prayer really is the bedrock foundation on which everything else is built. Your prayer life is a crystal-clear reflection of how much you actually believe that only God can pull this off. A true confidence in God yields a robust prayer life. It is the most important thing you do. Make sure your schedule reflects that.
3. Spend More Time With People
Strategy is important, yes. Study and meditation on the Bible are important, yes. But spending time with people, getting to know them, pastoring them, being a presence in their lives, is absolutely vital. Eat lunch alone only on rare occasions. Spend way more time with people.
4. Always Be Asking Questions
My friend JR Briggs is phenomenal at this. He is always asking questions of everyone, always learning, wanting to know more. Part of it is just a healthy curiosity about other people, and part of it is an insatiable desire to learn. Learn how to ask Briggs-ish questions. Always be learning and growing. People have a lot to share. Get it out of them!
5. Keep Your Eyes Open To New Opportunities
Don’t get stuck in the rut of thinking that what is determines what can be. Keep your eyes open to new opportunities for ministry and mission. Never let the ordinariness of your life right now lull you to sleep. God is renewing all things, in so many ways and so many places. Join in! All things are possible.
6. Lean Into the Spirit
Ministry in the power of the Spirit is not optional. We can be the smartest, most well-read people on earth with the best contextual strategies and the most gifted personalities in leadership, and still completely miss the boat. The amount of good we can do in our own strength isn’t even worth talking about. Re-ignite the spiritual gifts in your own ministry and in the church.
7. Read More Voraciously
Find ways to read a lot more books. Yes, it’s only one part of the ministry equation (see #1), but it’s an important part. I’ve started reading books on my phone (Kindle Reader for iPhone) and am thinking about getting an e-book reader of some sort so I can read in the little spaces throughout my day without lugging around 5-6 books everywhere I go.
Those are the things I’ve felt challenged to do. Let me know if you resonate with these, or if you have questions about some of them. I’d love for it to be a conversation-starter!
Jason Coker says
Great list Ben. I need to tattoo #2 on my arm. In fact, after our recent Sermon on the Mount series my wife and I came away convinced that our planting group needed to immerse ourselves in learning how to pray all over again. I’ll be devoting our group gatherings in November and December to this sole purpose.
Doug Paul says
Really solid list here! Definitely been working through #6 (Leaning into the Spirit) both in my life as a disciple and seeing that start to work through in our community. You really hit the nail on the head with this: “The amount of good we can do in our own strength isn’t even worth talking about.” So true.