Doing Things the Jesus Way

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There is a deep satisfaction knowing you have not exploited people in order to help them, knowing that what you have accomplished has been done the Jesus way. Eugene Peterson wrote:

The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal: nothing disembodied, nothing abstract, nothing impersonal. Incarnate, flesh and blood, relational, particular, local.[1]

Peterson went on to share his concern that ministry in North America is "conspicuously impersonal: programs, organizations," and that a "vocabulary of numbers is preferred over names." He sharpened his point by saying, "This is wrong thinking, and wrong living. Jesus is an alternative to the dominant ways of the world, not a supplement to them. We cannot use impersonal means to do or say a personal thing—and the gospel is personal or it is nothing.”[2]

Earlier I mentioned hearing Dallas Willard say he was committed to not trying to make things happen. Dallas wanted to do things the Jesus way. He didn't want to accomplish something unless it was done at God's prompting. Leaders who start things may find this particularly challenging. How do you know that what you started was truly from God's prompting? If you started your ministry or church the same way you might start a business, you are likely following a secular model rather than the Jesus model of leadership. Let me explain this.


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A business model for starting something takes the following approach: You develop a plan, get a logo, a motto, a look, a brand, and then purchase names from a marketing firm and send out announcements to possible customers. Then you follow up with phone calls from a team of paid callers who survey preferences from the community. You offer prizes or incentives to those who attend the meetings. You continue to survey them to make sure you are giving your customers what they want. If you are starting a church, you preach about how the gospel helps people develop a better life, how it will enhance everything from their families to their winning personalities.

This, Peterson would say, is the American way, which is stubbornly resistant to the way of Jesus. The contemporary church is designed to meet the perceived needs of both clergy and congregation. Pastors "need" their churches to grow so that they can make a living and feel successful. Their congregations "need" their churches to meet their needs of self-actualization. They want to go to a church where they like the music, preaching, and youth ministry. They want church to cater to their likes and dislikes as a consumer. Consequently, the American church is customized to serve the people. This is significantly distinct from the idea that the purpose of the church is to teach people that they are to serve and live for others.

The Jesus way to start a ministry or church begins with prayer. You act only when the Spirit of God moves you to act. At the same time, your plan is to teach people what Scripture says they need to become who God says they are. You don't view people as a means to your end as a leader. If we approach decision making the Jesus way, I don't think we will be plagued with doubts about whether we are making the right decision. I've learned this the hard way.

After graduation from seminary, I was bored with my church and looking for a challenge. The conventional wisdom then was that a bigger church would be a better church. The Jesus way to approach this decision would have been to pray about my future and tell no one about what I was thinking. But I was impatient. I couldn't wait that long, so I put my name out and asked around if there were any openings in the denomination. I began to receive letters. I read over the options and filled out and returned a few of the forms. Over time, I interviewed with a few churches, and one invited me to become its nominated choice to be pastor. After a few days of getting to know me, they offered me the position, which I accepted. God used me greatly in that church and while there I wrote my first book. But I must admit that I am not sure whether God sent me there or whether he made the best out of my impatience and lack of trust.

Am I saying that Christians shouldn't send out résumés or use placement services to get jobs? This is treacherous territory because many good and godly men and women have done so. But the Jesus way does seem to me to be a superior way to live. It does not lead to passivity; it leads to a deeper and a more committed way to live where you are now. It requires us to abandon self-promotion. Over the last decade I have gradually moved from the promoted life to the received life. In the past ten years I have not asked to speak anywhere or sent out a résumé. I have followed the motto that if you do good work people will notice. Even so, I continue to struggle with my level of aggressiveness in attempting to influence others.

Faith's primary property is action, and the action we take matters. I have looked at my calendar in the past and have seen three months of blank space, meaning I had no speaking engagements. I know that I have a great and positive impact when I do speak, but what is God saying to me when I have three months of no speaking engagements? When I approach this situation the Jesus way, my first action is to pray for peace and contentment, and the second is to live out the axiom, "Seek not to speak—seek to have something to say." Then I pray that God will lead people to invite me to speak at events that will advance the message of disciple making and discipleship around the world. Without exception, when I do this, my schedule fills up in wonderful and unexpected ways. I also begin to realize that there are others who can bring this message, and that I don't have the right but the privilege to speak.

If I am not being asked to speak for a time it doesn't mean God doesn't value my life's work or opinion. It means I should prepare, like the harpooner in Moby-Dick, to sit quietly until it is time to stand and strike. It could be that the speaking engagement that God has assigned to me is to incarnate the Word of God in my friendship and conversation with my neighbors because there is no other person to fill that slot but me. Often times the largest leap of faith for leaders is to think of their ordinary lives as important as their public lives.

One year ago I was awakened in the wee hours of the morning. It was one of those rare moments when God spoke clearly to me. I had been asking him, “ How can I make best use of my knowledge and skills for you in this fourth quarter of life?” The plan rolled out for me in a way so clear and simple that it frightened me. This led to the creation of the Bonhoeffer Project. It is a process that takes leaders and teaches them to be disciple makers. The point is that God has given permission for me to initiate, create and to be more aggressive. That is a gift, a reward for me.

This comes from The Christian Leader. See chapter 8 in this book for how God often rewards us and how we handle those rewards.

 NOTES:

[1] Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 1.

[2] Ibid., 2.

 Written by Bill Hull

 Taken from The Christian Leader by Bill Hull. Copyright © 2016 by Robert W. Hull. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

 Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash