Engage & Disengage

The phrase, “Engage and disengage,” has been part of my vocabulary since I first heard it during orientation weekend for Asbury Theological Seminary’s D.Min. program back in January 2004. The phrase came from Dr. Anthony Headley.

The idea is, our lives must include rest, as well as work. We must not only engage (work), but also disengage (rest).

In recent weeks, particularly during vacation a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been reflecting on this idea. There’s a rhythm to engaging and disengaging. It’s the rhythm God instituted in creation — work six days, then rest. Sabbath provides opportunity to disengage.

It’s also a rhythm Jesus modeled. The gospels are full of stories showing Jesus engaging, but they also reveal examples of Jesus disengaging. I’ve always loved Luke 5.16 …

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

Jesus modeled both engaging and disengaging.

So, I’ve known this phrase for the past eight years, and I’ve known the importance of disengaging, but I’m learning that disengaging is something I need to do better. I’ve realized recently that typically, even when I disengage, I’m often still engaging. For example, if I take a break, I might take a break with a book or my iPad. Basically, even though I’m taking a “break,” I’m still engaging. This is what led to the first two items in my post, 3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better, to rest more and to play more (especially with my kids).

So, these days, I’m working on developing the practice of disengaging. The funny thing is, disengaging (i.e., living according to God’s rhythm) makes us more effective when we are engaging!

God, Give Me a Heart Like Yours! 2.0

Recently, I’ve been writing about my need to manage stress more effectively (see 3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better and God’s Crushings).

While journaling the other day, I reflected on a prayer I’ve been praying for at least the few months: “God, give me a heart like yours!”

The prayer is based on a line that repeats in a children’s book by Max Lucado, Hermie: A Common Caterpillar. In the story, God keeps assuring Hermie, and his friend, Wormie, the common caterpillars, that he’s giving them a heart like his. This phrase has made its way into our family’s prayers.

In the last couple of days, it struck me that, like most prayers really, this is a dangerous prayer. Asking God to do serious transformational work in our hearts, bringing our hearts and lives in line with his, is always a risky prayer. But it’s also a necessary prayer for faithful disciples of Jesus Christ!

But, I also thought about the full statement in the story. “Don’t worry, Hermie and Wormie. I’m not finished with you yet. I’m giving you a heart like mine.”

God’s work of giving us hearts like his can be difficult and challenging, but the good news is, God is faithful to continue his work in us, until the work is complete.

It reminds me of Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 1.6 …

I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. (CEB)

By all means, ask God to give you a heart like his. But hold on. And remember that God isn’t finished you yet!

God’s Crushings

Last month, I wrote 3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better (one additional step was the vacation that ended yesterday). In the days ahead, I will be writing more about my experiences and learnings over the last five weeks, starting with this one.

This morning, while praying, I remembered listening to Chuck Swindoll’s talk at Catalyst 2009 (via DVD) sometime last year. I listened to it again today, and took the following notes.

Swindoll spoke at Catalyst, a leadership conference for young leaders. Every year, they honor a seasoned leader. In 2009, they honored Chuck Swindoll. In his talk, Swindoll offered wisdom from his fifty years in ministry and leadership.

Swindoll talked about listening to a preacher (Allan Redpath) in chapel when he was student at Dallas Theological Seminary around fifty years ago. One statement has stuck with Swindoll through the years …

When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person, and crushes him (or her).

In reflecting on God’s crushings, Swindoll challenged young leaders …

Leave room in your life for the crushings, because that’s part of the curriculum that very few people will tell you about. That’s part of the plan of God that will equip you to do what he will have you to do as you carry out his work, his way.

Further, Swindoll noted …

Rarely does God bring a person out of youth and immediately trust that individual with a vast sense of leadership. It takes crushing. It takes time. It takes disappointments. It takes failure.

Later in the message, Swindoll stated that “brokenness and failure are necessary” in our formation as leaders.

Well, Swindoll is right. This is part of the leadership journey few talk about. And for good reason. It’s not the most enjoyable part of the journey!

For more on this idea, see my post, It Takes 20 Years to Make a Sermon.

Great Pastors Don’t Build Great Churches

Over the years, some statements I’ve heard or read have stuck with me. One statement I read sometime around twenty years ago, I believe came from a book by James E. Means, Leadership in Christian Ministry (1989). The statement, as I recall, was …

Great pastors don’t build great churches. Great pastors build great people, and great people build great churches.

It’s a good reminder, because all too often, it’s easy to focus on the organization, itself, rather than people. The point is not to build a great, smooth running organization. The point is to grow people, to make disciples of Jesus Christ, to shape a culture that is actively engaged in God’s mission in the world.

Build great people!