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Friday, April 26, 2013

Leading Change, Life Action, and Killing Complacency

Several years ago I read a book that I refer to regularly called Leading Change. One of the points from that book I often have cause to remember is that when putting forward a new idea, leaders tend to grossly underestimate the effort needed to clearly communicate that idea. It takes time for people to absorb a new direction and choose to follow. So this week when someone asked me to clarify for them the purpose of the Life Action Summit so they would understand better how to pray, I smacked myself in the head as if to say, “Gene, you forgot again the need to write it, say it, and repeat it, a lot more than you think you need to.”

I appreciated the question from one of our faithful and energetic leaders and so I took the time to think through and write out in more detail what I believe the Life Action Summit to be about. Here’s a shortened version of what I wrote:
  • God is clearly at work at Bethany Place. The purpose in inviting Life Action ministries  is not for them to come and generate something that’s not already happening. That wouldn’t work anyway.
  • However, complacency is dangerous and though the church over all is doing well, that doesn’t mean that everyone is doing well. Plus, all of us are always in danger of drifting from God. Having new people to speak into our lives may be what God uses to generate renewal in us or for new people to come to Christ in the first place. For instance, our head elder, Mike Ryan was saved at the last Life Action event that happened here 20 years ago.
  • We need both consistency and the challenge of new voices. I greatly value longevity in ministry for pastors and other key spiritual leaders in a church. We are blessed at Bethany Place to not just have a pastor, but six elders, and many other spiritual leaders as well! However, with this long-term consistency, we also need to be challenged by leaders, carefully chosen from outside of our church body. The main speakers coming with the Life Action team are gifted communicators of God’s word, with many years of experience serving within a ministry with a 40-year track record of faithfulness in ministry. 
  • The need for renewal and repentance never goes away, even for the most mature believers. God is infinite in his perfection. We clearly are not. That means by definition, to follow God means that we need to be in a consistent stage of change. We never outgrow the need to repent. God has no intention of leaving us where we are at any given point in our spiritual lives. This is the focus of Life Action’s ministry. 
  • The Summit provides an onsite retreat for all of our leadership. Everyone needs to be ministered to. Some of our hardest workers sometimes have few opportunities to rest and be ministered to. 
  • Additional mentors for our young people. The potential for our young people to connect relationally with the young adults who will be here as part of the Life Action team has great potential to be a transforming experience for our young people. Life Action’s standards for these young people are high, meeting all the requirements we have for people who work with both children and youth at Bethany Place. 
Sunday morning’s message is called, The Prayer That Destroys Complacency from Psalm 80. It’s a passage that I’ve been using to guide my praying in recent days as we prepare for the summit. Complacency about many things is dangerous, but on matters of great spiritual importance it can be tragic. I am praying that God will use this text to awaken greater diligence in all of us. You can see the outline and scripture below. (I left the highlights in on purpose) 

The Prayer that Destroys Complacency
Psalm 80

1.    Focus on God’s character in prayer

Psalm 80:1–3 (ESV)
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!

2.    Pray honestly through despair

Psalm 80:4–7 (ESV)
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!

3.    Pray for the grace to repent

Psalm 80:8–19 (ESV)
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10  The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11  It sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
12  Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13  The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
14  Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15  the stock that your right hand planted,
and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16  They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
17  But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18  Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!
19  Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

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