Jesus did not come to make us safe; Jesus came to make us brave. (Gary Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission @ Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2008)
My response to Gary’s teaching (which you probably won’t understand unless you were there or you take the time to read my LONG blog that follows):
Lord, I do not want to spend so much time in the visitor’s center, placidly walking around the cul de sac, and opening jam jars.
This was an extraordinary session. I won’t share all of my notes — or all of the stories that Gary shared as he so artfully taught us about decision making and then used his life experience and ministry experience with IJM to illustrate that teaching. Powerful, powerful stuff.
I was glad that early on he defined INJUSTICE from a biblical perspective: INJUSTICE is about the abuse of power to take from other people the good things that God intended for them : life, liberty, dignity, fruit of their love and labor (Eccl. 4.1) – and it is SIN
Then he asked: What is God’s plan for bringing JUSTICE to the world? WE ARE. (Isaiah 1.17)
This is classic Summit theology — and, I believe biblical theology — that the local church is the hope of the world. It is another way to say what Joel Hunter frequently reminds us of at Northland: we are hear for those not yet included in the Kingdom.
So, with these thoughts and many examples, Gary set up a context that suggests clearly that our leadership must align with what God is about — that we can lead with enthusiasm and people may follow with great energy, but if we are not leading people in the things that God is passionate about, then it’s a waste.
Then he offered some basic principles about leading when it seems hopeless, scary and hard. This was the meat of his teaching.
What have we learned about leading when the task seems hopeless?
When the task before us seems hopeless, we must re-center the basis of our hope – despair comes from focusing our eyes on what we can do. Hope comes when we focus on who God is and what God can do. This is one of the reasons I love Northland’s consistent focus, week after week, on worshipping God for who he is and what he has done. For me, that is a place where I am re-centered.
Gary reminded us that if God is passionate about getting it done, then he is responsible for getting it done. He reminded us of the story of when Jesus fed the 5000. He told his disciples to do this thing and then they started tallying what resources they had and what expertise and the size of the task Jesus didn’t ask the disciples for what is needed, he asked them for what they had.
Yeah, did I hear that? Jesus is not asking me to do what only HE can do, he is asking me to bring myself to him and let him do what he wants to do WITH me, through me.
What have we learned about leading when the task seems scary?
In seeking justice, we may be attacked in every way – but in exchange, we will experience God. Worth it? Yes. Besides, we must remember that Jesus did not come to make us safe; Jesus came to make us brave. (Yes, my internal iPod began to play Nicole Nordeman’s song Brave when Gary made this statement.)
Gary suggested that we must consider “If my life of following Jesus doesn’t feel dangerous, I might check to see that it is Jesus I am following.” Wow.
This is where Gary told a story about a trip he took with his dad and older brothers when he was 10 years old. They’d been wandering around in the very tourist-friendly area filled with paved paths and a visitor’s center at Mount Rainier National Park. They came together to the place where the pavement ended and a posted sign warned would-be hikers of the dangers between themselves and the base camp and ultimately, the summit of Mt. Rainier. Gary, certain that the sign was understating the danger and lacking confidence in his ability to make it to the base camp (their declared destination), he convinced his father to let him go back and spend the afternoon at the Visitor’s Center while his father and brothers moved forward. Long story short…Gary had a rather boring afternoon — even though he worked hard to convince himself otherwise. His dad and brothers had a grand adventure.
The point he made with this story? We do not want to wake up one day to find that we have gone on the trip but we’ve missed the adventure that is following Christ.
It is Jesus himself to says to me: Follow me! Follow me BEYOND where you can go and what you can do–beyond where your competencies and strengths can take you.
What have we learned about leading when the task seems hard?
Choose not to be safe. Rather, choose to lead people into places of kingdom endeavor where you and they will NEED God. How will you know if you’re there? It will show first in your PRAYER LIFE. Mother Theresa said that she couldn’t imagine doing her life’s work for more than 30 minutes without prayer. In addition, we must not let ourselves be motivated (to do or not to do) by FEAR.
Somewhere in this section, Gary talked about how safe we may feel wandering around our suburban neighborhoods — on our cul de sacs. But really, is that the best we can do? And it was apparent to me that he was not speaking only or even primarily literally.
Choose to seek deep spiritual health. The transformational power of the steep climb is that is develops deep spiritual health in us as it requires it of us. We must not slip into the routine where our devotional life becomes a checklist. If you want to ignite passion and purpose in those whom you lead – lead them in a difficult climb.
Choose to pursue excellence. American Christians in general have moved far from this in our modern culture. We have spiritualized mediocrity. It is bad for our witness. It is bad for our soul. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Is this just about making nice or is this also about doing our best?
Choose to seize the joy. Doug quoted Dallas Willard who said, “The first thing to disappear when spiritual health departs is laughter.” If nothing else, we should be thrown into great laughter in the fact that God is making his appeal to the world THROUGH US. We must remember the deep and eternal truth that “The JOY of the Lord is my strength!!” This is the unique power of the redeemed – truly for us, ALL IS WELL.
The power we carry within us — the joy of the Lord — is extraordinary. We are too often like body builders with extraordinary strength which we only use for flexing in front of mirrors. We only put it practical use to open jam jars. Again, is that the best we can do.