MB Seminary provides leadership development and ministry training through MinistryLift so leaders and churches can increase their capacity to love God more deeply and serve others more effectively. MinistryLift builds capacity through workshops, training videos, and a variety of ministry resources. Learn more about MinistryLift here

Choosing to Quit: When Ministry Impedes Ministry

  • 19 October 2017
  • Keith Reed

PruneI was raised to never give up. A drawing was fixed to my family's refrigerator door that I still remember. A heron is being choked by a mostly-swallowed frog that's gripping its predator’s neck in a desperate act of survival. The caption? Never give up.

We love inspiring images like this. Every story worth telling involves a degree of adversity and the best stories tell us how a hero overcomes extreme odds to achieve something extraordinary. Terry Fox. Captain Sully. The Hickory Hoosiers. 

We feel inspired by these stories and the slogans that fuel them. An entire brand was launched on the premise of these axioms (No Fear). The most beloved team of my childhood was defined by a three-word rallying cry that still gives me goosebumps: refuse to lose.  

Vince Lombardi once said that winners never quit and quitters never win. An inspiring quote fit for any locker room, but in most other settings it's a statement that's misleading and inaccurate. You see, the best winners know exactly when to quit.

To be fair, we must understand how to correctly define winning and losing. The best coaches and players understand the importance of "making adjustments". This is the positive way of saying they recognize what isn't working and choose to do something different. Stated differently, they choose to quit so they can win.

But what coach would actually say that? Quitting is associated with such negativity that it's typically equated to the willful acceptance of failure—a behaviour quickly linked to shame and embarrassment. Little consideration is given to the positive results of surrendering harmful practices or to the healthy consequences of giving something up after careful consideration.

In his book called Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud uses the word "ending" to describe the calculated decision to give up something up for the sake of a new direction. He uses a pruning metaphor to illustrate the positive effects of proactive termination. A skilled gardener intentionally removes branches that fall into any of three categories because this will produce the desired results: 

Engaging in Tough Discipleship Questions

  • 17 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

When you think of discipleship, what fills you with fear? 

My role as camp director of Camp Likely has given me the opportunity to meet and interact with many young adults and teens. These are teens who desire to follow Jesus with their whole hearts. They want answers to big questions as they face decisions about their futures, friendships, relationships, church, and faith. 

Some of the hardest conversations I have with them are about these big topics. These are challenging conversations because each one comes with a different perspective, sphere of influence, and specific needs. I really don’t want to give them cookie-cutter answers that I know "feel" good or are the "right" thing to say. I want to be able to engage in the conversation authentically, as Jesus did. 

This, however, has been seriously impossible. I have found that when I engage in conversations about sexuality, finances, faith, career, or relationships that I’m not sure what to say or what not to say. These are topics that are so personal, so close to the heart. I don't want to lose the relationship I already have with them by being too assertive with my views. 

My biggest fear in discipleship is being too forward. I struggle with the fine balance of listening and encouraging with correcting, or offering another way of thinking or doing. I know I limit the amount of hard conversations or questions I have because I don't want to lose the relationship. I don't want it to be overly serious. 

However, Jesus still requires me to be a disciple-maker. To be engaged. To be serious. To be fun. To be dependable. To be honest. To be faithful to His ways. 

In a world where many young people are choosing to leave their faith or live it out differently than in the past, I believe we have a call to still engage. Engage in what is going on with those who we are in relationship with. And if we can't even show up, what can we contribute? 

I truly believe that if I won't first address my fears about discipleship or my fears about the big questions or the grey areas of living for Christ, then how can I expect to be an effective disciple-maker? 

How can Jesus use your strengths and weaknesses to point people closer to Him? How can Jesus lead you to engage as He did? 

As we share some of our fears, I believe we will be able to consider what it means to truly engage in the tough questions, discover our role, and identify the obstacles that are stopping us. When I do this, I have noticed that I no longer feel stuck in my weakness but experience the joy of living in Christ's strength (Philippians 4:13).

Discipleship on Mission for Mission

  • 10 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

Josh* just graduated high school, is part of minority people-group, and lives in a not-so-desirable neighbourhood in a mid-size city. He comes from a broken and blended family with not much financial wiggle-room. His claim-to-fame is playing second-string on a two-time defending championship football team. His church is not overtly "cool" and he only started participating in middle school because his parents forced him. How do you disciple Josh?

Josh was invited by his youth leader to join her on a short-term MB Mission team. He was willing, but the obstacles were not insignificant: few guys were going, he didn’t have not enough money, he was the only racial minority participant, and he’d never even been on an airplane before. It was a miracle he even participated.

The money unexpectedly came in the week after he gave up trying and had quietly committed his needs to God in prayer. With the door now open he stepped through. He struggled through team training as the only guy, thought he was going crazy when his ears plugged on the airplane, and endured weeks of reaching out to children in a strange culture which was his least wanted ministry option.  

I met Josh while his team was debriefing its survival of four weeks "over there." He was a little shell-shocked, but as he unpacked the experience and considered where he had met Jesus, he began to see his own context differently. A new man began to emerge. He still referred to his football heroics, but he was no longer reflecting on just the game, but on the needs of his peers—young men like him. He was already beginning to think of guys he could invite next year. Listening to the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Scriptures, and being attentive to the voices of a disciple-making community were producing a noticeable transformation. Josh was not just learning about Jesus; he was becoming more and more like Him.  

A celebration night capped off his team's debriefing days. Josh nervously paced at the back of the room dreading his turn to address the crowd. When his name was called, however, the gentle giant spoke with confidence, described the transforming power of the love of his team, and the kids he "hated" working with. And he gave voice to a heart responsive to whatever call God had on his life. Which, as was abundantly clear, would lead to a much greater life story than being a two-time defending football champion.

Pages