Thursday, January 8, 2009

Paying Attention to the Spirit

Yesterday evening (Wednesday) I drove to my small group at church without much enthusiasm. I already knew that about half the group were going to be missing, and I actually toyed with the idea of a leadership sabbatical. I was seriously considering putting the group on the back-burner for a few weeks or months until there was a clearer understanding from the guys that this was something important enough to commit to.

My reasoning told me that success can be measured in clear cut mathematical terms; I even had the numbers to prove the equation:
  • 10-12 men equals a good solid group
  • 15 would mean dynamic success
  • Less than 8 guys around the table and I'm wasting my time.
But God, as I am frequently discovering, laughs at my expectations (or at least smiles politely) and tends to accomplishes results of far-reaching significance irrespective of lines I draw in the sand. However, and this is an important caveat, my personal agenda can and frequently does place a roadblock between my will and God's plan. God chooses to use me - however inefficient that plan - and my own selfish ambition very often stands in the way, effectively hindering the promise of the kingdom.

So we met, just the seven of us (note my equation, above), recommitting ourselves to the process of discipleship in the context of this new year. We prayed together, we shared from our hearts, we talked about the reality of God's presence in our lives over Christmas, we read some amazing scripture from the Gospel of John, and we offered ourselves to the future.

The men present yesterday evening also shared with one-another why meeting as a small group means so much to them,
  • "Being with real men who are not afraid to say they follow Jesus is an encouragement I can't find anywhere else."
  • "I feel spiritually recharged."
  • "It's my Jesus fix in the middle of the week."
  • "Knowing that other men are praying for me - and that I can count on their prayers - is huge for me."
My agenda may be one thing; what God has in mind is something more. God's purpose is being worked out in the lives of these men and in God's (kairos) time. If I try to force "my" small-group to be anything else, something "impressive" that I have defined according to my criterion, then it's all about me, not the work of the Spirit.

So, here's my first and probably only "resolution" for 2009:
  • I commit myself to personal spiritual growth and increased knowledge of God's word, and I promise to faithfully share what I learn and what is real in my experience with the people in my sphere of influence. This sphere includes my family; my close friends; my men's group; the parents of grads support group; my Sunday-school class; people who read my various newspaper columns; people who read my books; those who happen upon my blog, participants in conferences I lead, and those who show up to hear me speak.
  • I resolve to be authentic and honest about my spiritual journey... but to refrain from the temptation to present spiritual growth as some kind of a straight-line predictible continuum, as if the people I influence should or must take the same path in the same direction and at something approximating the same speed.
  • My journey is not neccessarily theirs. My journey is unique, as is yours. I do understand that God has called me to be a light, a clarifier of truth and an encouragment to others on the path; but it is time for me to step away from any degree of pressure and to leave both conviction and implementation in the hands of God.
That's just a little of what I learned at my men's small group yesterday evening. May we all be open to hear what the Spirit is saying, to follow Jesus with passion, and to live in the truth of the light.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)

Love and blessings - DEREK

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