Articles written by PurposeCity about Personal Relationships & Community.

Young Leader

How to be a Young Leader

Much has been said in recent years about the decline of potential young leaders in various organizational and ministerial bodies.  Current executives bemoan the seeming lack of maturity among young up-and-comers, while the up-and-comers argue that they aren’t getting a chance to prove themselves.  Having talked with people on both sides of that conversation in organizations big and small, I have heard the long-time higher-level managers claim that young people don’t respect them, while at the same time I hear the young people say that their managers just don’t listen.

It is no secret that we are facing a significant generational divide; the Baby Boomers running the show are at odds with the Millennials who, at some point, will have to take over.  As a younger person myself, only having worked in my field for seven years, I have faced the harsh reality that there is a generational barrier between where I am today and where I want to be several years from now.  How can the two sides break down the walls of bad communication in order that organizations (and especially churches, which aren’t immune to this leadership gap by any means) can thrive for generations to come?

In leadership, there is a principle young leaders must adopt, called “leading up.” Personally, it is something I have practiced from the time I began my ministry and it has served me well.  Leading up is the skill of guiding those above you, either in age or position, without being overly insistent or rude. And while it was outside of the context of Christianity that I first heard of this principle, I have come to find that leading up is a very Biblical practice.

Paul’s letters to Timothy in the New Testament are basically textbooks on how to lead up, so if you’re a young leader looking for some fresh insight into how to drive change in your organization or church, look no further.  Many of us are familiar with 1 Timothy 4:12, which states, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”  That verse remains for me, to this day, a terrific encouragement to keep on pushing forward in leadership, especially when I feel discouraged about my age. But, stopping with this verse misses out on how the author Paul expected his young leader Timothy to put this idea into practice. Let me explain:

1 Timothy 4:15 goes on to say “Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.”  As young leaders we must work harder than anyone else if we are to be taken seriously.

1 Timothy 4:16 says “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching.  Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”  As young leaders, how we live speaks louder than whatever words we say, so we must endeavor to live lives above reproach so that those we lead can trust our judgment.

1 Timothy 5:1 tells us “Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would your own father.”  Regardless of the situations we face, in order to lead up, we must maintain respect for those older than us.  Respect is mentioned in two ways: never speak harshly, and appeal, or ask the opinion and advice, of those older and wiser than yourself.

1 Timothy 5:2 says “Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.”  As young leaders, especially young male leaders, respecting the women we lead is abundantly important.  Nothing will dissolve your credibility faster than inappropriate relationships with people of the opposite sex.

One of the most important things I have learned from leading up is that while I cannot control the actions and behaviors of other people, especially those older than me or higher up the organizational flow chart, I can control my actions and my behavior.  If it is your desire to develop as a leader so that the gifts God has given you might affect more and more people around you, don’t concern yourself with the behavior of others, work diligently on your own leadership abilities, and ask God to help and guide you.

Spiritual Conversations

3 Easy Ways to Have Spiritual Conversations

Do you know how people come to know Jesus? If you look at the modern landscape, you would probably assume that most meet Him in a rather emotional moment during a well-crafted sermon. If not, chances must be that it came from a time of fantastic worship from one of the more well-known songs being played in churches throughout the country. Yet, all the statistics tell us that most people come to know Jesus through spiritual conversations with those around them. You’ve likely already all but determined that having conversations with others about God is either something you feel comfortable with or not, but stick with me just for a moment. In fact, most of the nation has aligned with the latter option out of fear for how the conversation might go. Questions abound in our minds of whether we could answer the difficult questions or if we are even skilled enough to introduce someone organically to the loving embrace of our Savior. What I am here to share with you is that there is a way that anyone, anywhere, can engage someone a in spiritual conversation. In fact, often brand new Christians are the best at this method and see the greatest impact in the lives of their friends. Without further delay, I’ll introduce the easy-to-remember three step process. I promise, if you give it a shot, and allow yourself to be a bit vulnerable, you will see some incredible results as you minster to those around you.

Spiritual Conversations Tool #1: Questions

Can you ask somebody a question? Sure you can. I’ve learned that often the things we first speak about when we are sharing our lives aren’t really what we wish we could share if we knew we could truly be vulnerable with the person sitting across from us. You see, back in the day I had the opportunity to work with people dramatically reaching out for help – they would hear a phone number on the radio and would call in to talk to someone about their issues. Wouldn’t you know that almost every single time the first ‘issue’ they brought up wasn’t really the issue at all? Trust me, when I would get calls from 14 year olds dealing with unplanned pregnancy I couldn’t imagine there was a deeper layer – but there always was. I heard stories about how the child was the result of rape, abuse, and on more than one occasion it was actually their own fathers child. Sure, they wanted help with the immediate issue of being pregnant, but the person couldn’t actually be healed until we dealt with the deeper issues and we could only get to those issues if I was willing to ask more questions about their lives. They didn’t have to be hard questions either. Things like “how did that make you feel?” or “what pains you the most about that?” were pathways to hidden alcoves I could have never imagined existed. The most difficult thing, however, is restraint. As humans, we have been trained to immediately comfort or offer advice. It would be easy for me to sympathize with the young girl, alone and pregnant, hiding in her Dad’s woodshed just to make the phone call – but would that have really helped her long-term? Or, I could have immediately started going down the list of healthy options for her – but we were only on the surface and really meeting people where they are demands we dig deeper. So, as you are talking with people, always keep in mind that there are likely more questions you can ask. If you have genuine interest in a person, the questions won’t be hard to find either. As you start to ask the questions, you will begin to realize that we, as people, are more than willing to share our hurts and pains… we actually desperately want someone to talk to about them with, we just haven’t found the right person yet.

Spiritual Conversations Tool #2: Life Stories

When dealing with spiritual things, we often like to simply give people the answers. For instance, when someone asks you “what about baptism…” how do you respond? Do you give what you know as the traditional Church answers to baptism-based questions? Probably. When people ask us about our faith, we inherently feel the burden to answer the person’s question directly. While that may seem harmless, it actually produces an unhealthy bond between you and that person. The person you have the conversation with, knowing you always have the answers, cleaves to you instead of Jesus. So, how can we still be sympathetic to the question without creating utter spiritual dependence? Tell people about your life. This is beneficial for a bunch of different reasons: First, this should produce a feeling of ease within you as you no longer have to be a subject expert on every matter of the Bible. No one can tell you your life experience is wrong, therefore whatever you share can’t be the wrong answer to the question being asked. Then, for instance, when someone asks you about baptism, you can always tell them your experience with it – whether you have been baptized or not. Even if the person isn’t asking a direct question, there are few things more powerful that a personal testimony. Sharing your walk to faith and being vulnerable about the ups and downs of life go miles in helping someone to see God in you and how God might want to be a part of their life too.

Spiritual Conversations Tool #3: Scripture

But, what about those times where there is a direct question you simply can’t answer with anything but the facts? The answer here is scripture. Remember, we need to be trying to help people cleave to Jesus, not to us. Would you rather, whenever they had a question about their faith, they call you up, wanting a spoon-fed answer? Or, would you rather they pick up the scriptures and find the answer themselves? Or, even better yet, they call you up and ask to take a look at the scriptures together? When a topic comes up, or maybe even a direct question from the Bible makes it way into the conversation, feel free to rely on scripture. So, when someone asks how God can be a good God, but still just – find a Bible nearby (there are likely 3-4 in almost every home that haven’t been opened in years). In a couple different versions of the Bible, there are actually topic-based indexes in the back that you can browse to find the topic you are dealing with. So, in this case, you could flip through the back of Scripture to find the topic “judgment” and together you could explore what the Bible has to say on the topic. Remember, you don’t have to be the expert – let Jesus do the work.

 

So, now, the hardest part actually is having the willingness to engage others in spiritual conversations. Our new reality is that just about anyone can ask a question, tell a story from their past, or open up the Bible – none of this requires any level of in-depth knowledge – it just requires a willingness to be vulnerable.

One final word before we conclude… you are not the Holy Spirit. You see, we have a tendency to get frustrated if every conversation doesn’t produce ripe fruit or go ‘our way.’ But the reality is, we have to let God work in God’s timing. You might simply be the first seed that gets planted in years of spiritual tilling, or you might be the final person to harvest years of spiritual seeds planted by others. So, whatever you do, don’t judge the conversation based upon how you think it went – we have to leave the work up to God. The important thing to remember is that God can use our willingness to transform lives and I promise, if you are willing to have spiritual conversations with people and follow these three simple principles, in no time you will be making a big impact in the lives those you engage.

Friend

What To Do When a Friend Hurts You

I don’t think I need to ask if you have ever been hurt by a friend.  Being hurt is common to the human experience.  Each of us, at one time or another, has been wounded by someone that we have allowed to be close to us.  Sometimes, the wounding has been necessary to help us become what God intended us to be.

As part of our trusting relationship, a friend may see something in our character that needs to be addressed.  These “woundings” fulfill what we see in Proverbs 27:6a;  “The wounds of a friend are faithful…” And, the reason for these times of pain is to help refine and purify you and to help remove that which stands in the way of God and your relationship. 

In the same way that we are wounded by friends who are trying to help, we have all been wounded by friends who are trying to hurt.  For whatever reason, those we have viewed as friends may run roughshod over our emotions and leave us reeling and broken.  When the wounds of a friend aren’t faithful, how do we respond out of our own pain and disappointment. When wounded, it might take some time to work through it, but here are a few rules of thumb I have learned over the years:

First, I have found that it helps to clarify the issue or issues.  Many times misunderstandings and confusion create conflict and wounding that was never meant to be. In an electronic age, where email has replaced face to face conversations, one can’t hear tone or read the nuances of body language.  Being able to resolve a misunderstanding through clarification can lead to healing and restoration before a bigger rift occurs.

Secondly, know and understand that “hurting people hurt people. ”  Often, the wounds that you receive actually have nothing to do with you.  Perhaps there is pain in the life of the one who is lashing out at you.  Maybe there is a break down in some other area of their life and sadly you have caught them at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind, and you take the brunt of their anger.  At these times it is easy to lash out and hurt back, but remember again from Proverbs 15:1,  “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Seek to be understanding and compassionate.

A third thing to consider is that often times people don’t have a clue about the true impact of their words.  Their idea of what is acceptable may vary greatly from yours. Letting people know how they have made you feel in a gentle manner can go a long way towards restoring relationship  Use expressions that do not fix blame, but help them understand the impact of their words or actions.  For example, I have learned to confront others with expressions like,  “When I heard ___________, I felt _____________.”  Fill in the blanks with the words that were directed at you and the emotions that they brought on. Hopefully, through using careful words and patient understanding, healing can occur.

The goal of each of these last three ideas has been to heal and bring restoration.  Indeed, in all our relationships God calls us to love and care for others and to walk at peace with others. (Romans 12:18)  This needs to be our end goal that we work towards. That being said, this is an end goal that works better if two people work towards it together.  If we are in a relationship where we are constantly being wounded by an angry and spiteful person, we need to understand that by allowing them to continue to wound us and the others around us we are actually empowering them and giving them authority over us and our own well being.  Often in times like this, the best way to have any relationship what so ever is to put limits on how often you are in contact with them and to limit what goes on in those times.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list on dealing with toxic relationships, hopefully it gets your thinking about how to have healthy and life bringing friendships.

What about you?  How do you deal with a situation where a friend hurts you?

Introverted Extroverted

Is It Better To Be Spiritually Introverted or Extroverted?

For those of you who have taken the Myers Briggs Test online, you may discovered what makes you, uniquely you. Everyone has a certain God-given wiring that makes them special and this wiring is necessary for reaching and loving others to whom they will be one day be sent to serve. As for me, I am an ENFP (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving) which means that I am people oriented with a deep emotional drive. The interesting thing for me personally is that some versions of the test will give you percentages and the last time I took it my test the results came back one hundred percent extraverted. This means that if given the choice to do any activity alone or with another person, I would always choose to be with someone else. The test was not lying as this is very true about my nature. You may be thinking – how cool is that? Or wow, that’s certainly not me. You see, this can be a doubled edged sword – especially when it comes to finding time alone with God. Now, for those of you who lean more to the introverted side of things, don’t worry, this isn’t all about extraversion. Instead, keep reading as you will learn that we all need to find a balance – we all need to become both introverted and extraverted at different moments throughout our days.

After expressing to a close friend my frequent feelings of loneliness, due to my need to be around people, she made a unique comment. You see, she could have easily agreed with me and said that this is just who I am and this would have served as an adequate response. Instead, she urged and challenged me to spend some time truly enjoying being alone. My initial reaction was simply, “easy for her to say, she tends to be much more of an introvert by nature than I am.” However, after giving it some thought, and some further discussion with this dear friend, I decided to look at Jesus’ life on earth for some inspiration on how to conduct our lives and govern our natural tendencies – be it extraverted or introverted.

So the question begs to be asked, was Jesus an introvert or extravert? What about when He ministered to others? Sure, we can argue that much of His story depicts time around his best buddies, the twelve disciples, and, therefore, this must mean He was a people person. Additionally, He clearly had no problem around the multitudes, speaking and sharing time with thousands of people, making any environment His home. Yet, we cannot write off that He also always made time to spend hours alone in solitude, praying to and worshiping His Father. Clearly, Jesus understood the value of both types of personalities: spending time around many people and rejuvenating through alone time. Here are two examples:

 “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12)

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said…” (Luke 14:25)

Perhaps you know exactly where you fall on this spectrum and you are not sure what it means for your spiritual life. I, personally, have come to find that every personality trait is fair game for God to use. So if you find that you, like myself, desperately need people, don’t be afraid to be alone. God needs you to spend some time hearing His voice and being still. It is through the stillness that He ministers to you, so that, you can go back out and bless others. However, if you find what I am saying peculiar and your tendencies would be to stay inside  and read a good book as opposed to socializing, you are probably are more of an introvert and the idea of constantly entertaining seems exhausting. You probably find meditating on God’s Word and solitude much easier than being a social butterfly. And, sure, it may be easy to say that the extraverts can handle the crowds, but the reality is, God needs introverts just as much as He needs the person comfortable holding the megaphone.

We are all called to be missional and that means that we all must go out and serve others. Likewise, we are reminded through Jesus’ life, and those who faithfully followed Him, that nothing can replace time alone in His presence. It is through these encounters with His holiness that we receive strength to fight the good fight that He has called us to.  So discover who you are because God didn’t make a mistake when He made you – challenge yourself to grow by both taking in who He is through solitude and releasing His presence through the accompaniment of many.

Inviting

Why Inviting People To Church Is So Hard

Have you ever considered why Churches grow? There are actually many Church growth models out there. A Google search for the exact phrase “Church Growth Strategies” returned 98,400 results. Almost all of the results were tools of evangelism, i.e. sharing your faith with people who have not yet experienced Jesus. There were even some incredibly creative and diverse ways to share your faith I found. But if you look at each and every one of these programs and strategies, they all have one thing in common – they require an invitation.

Both the old and new testament are filled with invitations from God to His people. For instance, Psalm 34:8 invites us to experience the goodness of God and to accept His blessing as we rest in Him,

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Jesus invites us to come and enjoy rest in Matthew 11:28,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

In the book of Acts, we see how the Spirit of God brought 3000 new believers into the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Peter, filled with the Spirit, stood up and preached the gospel, boldly proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and inviting people into the Kingdom of God:

“Repent and be Baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.”

For many years, the number one reason cited for people not going to Church is that no one ever invited them. Can you believe that? And still today, according to Michael Harvey of Back to Church Sunday,  80% to 95% of people in our Churches have no intention of ever inviting someone to Church  and, by extension, into a community of faith where they can encounter the risen Christ. There are many reasons for this, but it generally boils down to a rather simple one: fear. Fear of rejection, fear of messing up a relationship, fear of not having the right words to say, the list goes on and on of things that we fear when we invite others into Christian community.

Now, as a example, I want to simply throw out some things for your consideration. Have you ever thought about other areas in our lives where fear ought to exist but it doesn’t deter us? People have fears of car accidents, yet we still drive. People have fears concerning the world that our children are born into, but we still keep having them. So why do we let fear govern our mentality about faith?

Joshua 1:9 states,

“Have I not commanded you? Do not be terrified, do not be dismayed. For I the Lord your God am with you where ever you go.”

We have a God who is bigger than all of our fears, who is with us no matter where we go and who is asking us to be the means by which others are invited into relationship with Him. We have a wonderful opportunity to share the love of God and extend that invitation to others everyday, but simply need to overcome the fear which holds us back. Remember the old adage, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act in the presence of fear.” You have the ability to act and to live in the invitation that Jesus gives you to be a part of the Great Commission – to go and make disciples in spite of the fear that you may feel.  And as you live out the ability to act in the presence of fear, the fear grows less and loses the hold it has on you.  You can defeat this fear and make an incredible difference for the Kingdom of God. And as you do, you will strengthen your faith and be encouraged as you see God at work in and through you.

So what will it look like for you to take the risk and invite someone to Church? How can you step out and believe that God is bigger than your fear? What are ways of inviting people into faith that work for you?

One Church here in the north has seen an incredible growth through using the simple phrase, “I would like to invite you to my Church.” A simple statement which allows you to put out feelers and see if there is an interest in spiritual things – a question that paves the way for the actual invitation (if there is a positive response). If they balk at the idea of being invited to Church (and they might) there is no harm done and you can continue the relationship without it being awkward or uncomfortable. If they say yes, you make the invitation and find a time for you to bring them to Church. It is not complicated and it works!

While we may face a few (or many) “No” responses to our invitations, I think God is just waiting with a few “Yes” answers to truly surprise us and show us that He is with us and that He can and will work through us. I encourage you to take a small step out from behind the fear and see how God might work in your life using this rather simple exercise.

Covenant

The Importance of a Covenant

“Do you promise?” Have you ever been on the receiving end of this question? Have you ever broken a promise or had someone break a promise to you? I am sure at one point or another we have all had our fair share of heartbreak when it comes to this word: promise. Thankfully, our relationship with God is not based on a halfhearted promise. Jesus didn’t pinky swear that if we loved and trusted Him, He would be in a relationship with us. No, instead He made much more than a promise, He made a covenant.

A covenant is different from a promise. A promise can be one sided and a promise is not dependent on another party doing anything. For instance, I can promise my husband that I will do the laundry and then not follow through with it. As you can quickly gage, a promise in today’s world does not mean it’s a guarantee. However, a covenant is much different. A covenant is made between two parties and is meant to never be broken. An example of this would be a marriage. However, because we live in an imperfect world, marriages sometimes fall apart. Yet, this is not the will of God. God desires marriage to be a covenant that reflects the relationship we have with Him. Often times in Scriptures, God refers to marriage as a picture of Christ loving His bride (true believers). Here is just one example of many,

 “Husbands. Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church….” (Eph. 5:25)

Therefore, because God made a covenant with us, and we are not in a one sided relationship that is based on promises, we must learn the value of what a covenant truly means for our walk with Christ.

Throughout The Old Testament Scriptures we can study many covenants that God made with men like Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and David. The significance of these covenants still echo out and affect our faith today. However, the more I began to study covenants, the more I fell in love with the God I serve. I would like to share what I learned through a covenant made between two treasured friends: David and Jonathan. Here is what happened to signify the covenant that was transpiring,

“Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1Sa 18:3-4)

Now, at first glance, this may seem a bizarre way of beginning a covenant. Yet, this was very much based upon how God made covenants with men. Here are some questions you may be asking that I would like to answer:

Why did Jonathan exchange robes with David? What does this mean?

David was who God had appointed to be king of Israel through Samuel’s anointing. Yet, Jonathan was rightfully the next king in line. By exchanging robes, Jonathan was showing a sign of surrender, which was a way of giving his robe, or identity, away to David. In fact, as we go on in history, we see that Jesus, part of the Davidic family tree, did a similar thing for all of us. He became a man and took on our form  in order to cleanse us from sin. He humbled Himself and gave away His rightful rule and kingship (see Heb 2:14 and Luke 22:20).

What did the exchange of armor, sword and bow in 1 Samuel 18:4 symbolize?

When Jonathan gave David his weapons, it was a form of partnering and defending each other. Clearly, this was a risky move as David was still being sought after by King Saul. Yet, a crucial part of a covenant was protection (as the Scripture clearly stated). Likewise, Jesus came to defend and protect the weary and downtrodden, ultimately rescuing us all from our sins and becoming our one perfect defense.

David and Jonathan are good examples of keeping a covenant and understanding the importance of surrendering identity and defense. Likewise, we can see, with the example of a marriage, the importance of becoming one and honoring the other person by protecting their interests as your own. However, no covenant can be more powerful than a covenant with God. Think about the significance of God making a covenant with man (Abraham and therefore us also). When God made a covenant with Abraham there was one final step that must be mentioned: the shedding of blood.

In Gen. 22, when Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac, a covenant is being made,

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.”

Abraham was confident that God would keep His covenant with him and provide an offering. There is power in a covenant and it cannot be easily broken. God Himself shed precious blood to provide not just a promise of Heaven to those who believed, but a covenant that they would be forever marked His beloved.

My hope for you is that you recognize through the example of marriage, friendship and God’s sovereignty with man through the shedding of blood, the significance of a covenant between two parties. We are able to enter into an impactful relationship with God because He exchanged garments with us, giving us new life for our old sinful rags. Additionally, Jesus became our defense to God, reconciling us back to Him. He shed his blood, a perfect sacrifice, to do much more than make a promise to us, rather He made a lasting covenant with us calling us His chosen people.