February 21, 2015
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Because I am a “commuter walker” I developed a phrase I was using around Goshen, Indiana when Marceil was still working at the Goshen Schools Central Office. I called it the “view from the sidewalk.” I invoked the phrase when I would observe something while walking by on the sidewalk. Taking in life at 3 mph on a sidewalk gives a person a completely different view of things. Walking by on a sidewalk is vastly different from how something looks going by in a car, or from an office, or reading about it in a paper, or even hearing someone else’s opinion.
There is a certain reality check from the sidewalk view.
You see things from the sidewalk at 3 mph you don’t see if you are in the inside looking out. Ministry Leaders are notorious for being out of touch with people because they have been on the inside looking out for so long they don’t realize their entire vantage point is coming from a limited view. (Jesus addressed the “inside looking out” idea a number of times in observing the Pharisees).
Since the first of the year our travel schedule has been heavy. We have been able to observe Ministry Leadership in many different situations, contexts, and complexities in both national and international settings. I was processing our ministry settings through the “sidewalk view.”
There are dozens of things to share, but for this time I want to narrow it down to three things:
1. When looking at your ministry—(how you do ministry)—look at it through the sidewalk view of things. Look at your Church Service the way someone would look at it who was visiting for the very first time. Explain why you do what you do—don’t assume people know why you have “open altar” or an “altar call.” When you are new to a Church there are many things to acclimate yourself to. If you have been going to a Church for a long time, there are many things that occur that you have grown accustomed. Many things make people feel like they are on the outside looking in—or even: they are missing out on the “inside joke.” It is easy to look around and think: these are all “regular” people, they understand. BUT, if you want new people in your Church you have to prepare for new people. The most impactful way for your ministry to experience the growth of new people is to have a vision for new people coming to Christ. Look at every single thing the happens in your ministry as if you were experiencing your Church for the very first time.
2. People are about “THE EXPERIENCE” in our culture today. What are they experiencing in your Church? Is the “experience” a spiritual experience that gives them a way to encounter God? Sometimes (and I mean no offense) we work so hard on what we want people to “think” about our Church and the experience of our Church that we forget the main thing is for the experience of encountering Christ! My sidewalk view is that Ministry Leaders spend a lot of time wanting people to develop relationship with others and not enough time helping people develop a relationship with God.
3. URGENCY! Starting with Acts chapter one, Jesus instills a sense of urgency into the Christians mission/message. In Acts chapter two, the Church as we know it is born on the Day of Pentecost. Urgency has always been the fruit of an encounter with Christ. “To know Christ and make Him known…” is urgent! There are several troubling things I have noticed in my sidewalk view of things with regard to urgency. I sincerely want to be challenging and prophetic, not judgmental and condemning. Think about a couple of things I have noticed and apply what you can (and I will too)–disregard if it doesn’t apply:
FIRST–I am amazed at the amount of Ministry Leaders who believe the book of Revelation is allegory and not really events we will literally face. I challenge Christians every where to “lift up your heads, your redemption draws nigh..” The Prophetic events of the Book of Revelation are coming to pass right before our eyes. ISIS and the beheading of Christians is just the very beginning of the direction of things. I don’t challenge this strongly to scare people, but for us to have a reality check.
SECOND–I want to challenge Ministry Leaders to get the ownership issue of their lives settled. We always have a choice: everything either belongs to God or belongs to you. It perplexes me how Ministry Leaders can teach others to tithe by bringing their first fruits to God in worship, and yet NOT be doing it themselves! Some where along the way, we have lost our way. We have begun to believe that “giving” is the responsibility of those who can “afford” to–and not a walk of faith for all of us to give the first 10% of our increase to God.
THIRD–Urgency has been replaced by all kinds of distractions. Hebrews 12 reminds us to “cast off any sin or distraction” and set our focus on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith walk. Ministry Leaders get terribly distracted at times.
I invite (challenge) you to take a “sidewalk view” of your life and ministry.