Monday, May 26, 2014

Does Prayer Work?

Does prayer work?  What an interesting question.  You may find my response interesting also, but not for the reasons you might expect!  So when you read my answer, stay with me so I can explain.

As a Christian and Corps Officer (Minister) I BELIEVE IN PRAYER!  But do I believe that prayer "works"?  No!  No I don't, based on the implied meaning behind the question.

If you are still reading, then I think now is the time for an explanation...

The question implies that prayer is something to be used to get a certain outcome.  A bit like a tool to fix something or a charm to conjure something or a formula to solve something.  This understanding and use of prayer moves prayer from a means to engage in relationship with the divine to a ritual designed to manipulate the divine.

Does prayer work in this context?  This can only be answered in the affirmative if the person 'praying' gets what they want or in the negative for those who do not get what they want.  However, both answers miss the point of prayer as they treat prayer more as a transaction.  To ask whether or not prayer works is to misunderstand the purpose of prayer.

  • Prayer is not a shopping list
  • Prayer is not a magical formula
  • Prayer is not a bargaining chip
  • Prayer is not a form of cosmic manipulation

Prayer is an invitation to participate in an intimate relationship where the human communes with the divine where the divine is revealed and the human is transformed.  

Prayer is not so much a transactional relationship as it is a transformational relationship.

Author of This Chosen Fast, Matt Madigan, sums up this relational perspective of prayer - “It was so easy to forget that prayer and fasting is all about relationship, and not just about objectives.”

When I understand prayer as relationship the question, "Does prayer work?" doesn't make a lot of sense, because prayer is not about what I get from God but how I engage with God.  By engaging with God from a platform of relationship means that when I do "ask, seek and knock" (Matthew 7:7) through prayer, I am doing so with an alignment of purpose that sees God's "will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

“I understand prayer as partnership, a subtle interplay of human and divine that accomplishes God’s work on earth.” - Philip Yancey

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Giving Your Best, Even When You Don't Feel Like It

Another late night and another stage of the Giro d'Italia (the world's second biggest cycling race for the uniformed) continues to bring many moments of inspiration!  Elite cyclists endure tough conditions and brutal crashes, yet front up each day at the next stage of a three week bike race to put it all on the line for their team.

As a proud Aussie, I have been particularly impressed by the performance of the Australian team Orica GreenEDGE and Cadel Evans who rides for team BMC.  Sport Director from Orica GreenEDGE, Matt White reports after stage 10:

"We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t 100 percent at the moment, but they continue to give 110 percent. It’s another very pleasing day in that regard.”

As a leader there are many days when I am not feeling 100 percent because of the realities of life and/or the demands of leadership.  On these days I have a choice - to perform according to how I feel or to give my best despite how I feel.  The difference is not in the result but the effort.  It is easy to justify away mediocre performance when life is tough, but it takes character and commitment to strive for excellence through every season of life.  I am not talking about a self-destructive form of asceticism or an unattainable perfectionism, but an enduring spirit that fights through pain barriers to always give one's best.

So, despite the battle scars of leadership, an 110 percent attitude is more about resilience than results, determination than defeatism and an unwavering commitment to turn up each day and give your best, even when you don't feel like it!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Who Are We?

Which image do you most associate with The Salvation Army?

Do you see The Salvation Army as a movement of prayer who are on their knees "praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests"?  (Ephesians 6:18)



Do you see The Salvation Army as "an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church [whose] message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by love for God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination"?
(International Mission Statement)


Do you see The Salvation Army as a charity who "is one of the world's largest Christian social welfare organisations with more than 1,650,000 members working in over 124 countries"?

The truth is, The Salvation Army is all three!  However, the image you see more often will be the image that largely determines how you perceive The Salvation Army.  At this time of year on The Salvation Army calendar in Australia the third image is the one that will most likely shape the way the majority of people see The Salvation Army for the rest of the year, as our collectors saturate the community to collect money for the Red Shield Appeal.  This is indeed a very important activity that partly funds our ability to "meet human needs in [Jesus] name without discrimination."

However, it is only part of the picture.  It only tells part of the story about who we are and why we do what we do.  For a complete image of The Salvation Army the other two images need to become an integrated part of not only how we behave in private but how we engage in public.  Once upon a time it was very common to see The Salvation Army gathered on a street corner preaching the Word of God and praying with people for their salvation.  Today, this image is rarely seen publicly in traditional or contemporary forms.

I believe it is time for Salvationists to rise up and redeem an image of The Salvation Army that clearly communicates in public what we celebrate and worship in private.  

I believe it is time for Salvationists to no longer be "ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

I believe it is time for our Salvation message to be seen in everything we do so "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).

I believe it is time for Salvationists to realign with our evangelical mission, to rediscover how to engage with our community beyond the collection tin, and to restore a holistic image of God in our neighbourhoods by being an active presence of Jesus Christ!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Leadership Masterclass with Bill Hybels

Today I had the exciting opportunity to meet and sit under the ministry of Bill Hybels at a Leadership Masterclass in Melbourne.  Bill has been one of my closest mentors for the past 11 years, even though I have never met him in person until today.  It has been through the Willow Creek Association that I have been able to engage with Bill's leadership and teaching, which has enabled me to really get to know him and feel as though he knows me, as he openly shares his leadership journey and the Holy Spirit connects his with mine.

I am immeasurably grateful for the privilege of attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in Chicago in 2003 and the opportunity to share this experience with my leadership team locally every year since through the Global Leadership Summit.  The Summit was the catalyst for a life changing leadership journey that has exposed me to world class leaders from a church, business and political context; some of whom have also become a part of my network of leadership mentors - John Maxwell, Patrick Lencioni, Andy Stanley, Erwin McManus, Jim Collins, Wayne Cordeiro, to name a few.

The Leadership Masterclass with Bill Hybels was a Q&A format with a gathering of 110 church leaders from around Melbourne covering a wide range of leadership topics as questions arose.  Below is a selection of some insights that I was able to takeaway from today's session with Bill:

  • Leaders fundamentally have to believe that with their giftedness and the power of the Holy Spirit that they can move the "needle" [referring to the needle on gauge from empty to full].
  • Nothing significant in your church will change unless the senior leader's heart is changed.  The senior leader needs to be passionate about the issue.
  • There has to be someone else on the team who owns the ongoing responsibility to keep the momentum going.
  • Senior leaders need to mix up their rooms so younger leaders have their ear more regularly.
  • It is our job as senior leaders to provide as many opportunities as we can for younger leaders to play at a higher level in the game.
  • One of the best weapons in the arsenal of a senior leader is to have some short term projects to assign to aspiring leaders to test their readiness for longer term leadership responsibilities.
  • You owe them [younger leaders] real time coaching that will keep them on a track to success.
  • Anybody who has ever helped you build something in the church you have to honour them.
  • Remind people working in the marketplace how fortunate they are to be ministering alongside unchurched people.  Commission them to pastor or minister where they are in their work place.
  • How many people care as much as you do that there are empty seats in your church?  Who is helping you to fill those seats?  [Bill shared his vision for section pastors in the church to plant micro Acts 2 communities in each section of the auditorium - more to be said in another blog...]
  • We decided we were done being content with the current level of giving in our church and engaged with more intentional teaching about stewardship.
  • "Winds of the Spirit" fund - set aside % of offerings to form a reserve to bless ministry opportunities that arise outside of the budget, without the red tape.
  • Bill has multiple mentors for different areas of his life.  The idea that one mentor will meet all your needs is naive.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Don't Live Without Passion

I saw this quote posted on Facebook today and couldn't help to see how well it applies to the theme of my blog and the way I endeavour to live my life:  Pursuing a passion for the LORD, the LOST, LIFE and LEADERSHIP!

Don't let sin rob you from a passion for the LORD!

Don't let missed opportunities to share your faith rob you from a passion for the LOST!

Don't let bad choices rob you from a passion for LIFE!

Don't let failed strategies rob you from a passion for LEADERSHIP!