My sixth-grade teacher taught us this definition of a preposition: anywhere a mouse can go plus “to” or “for.” I have come to realize that most of my life has been centered on the “to” or “for” part of that definition.
I have tried to live most of my life FOR God, FOR His glory, FOR my own success, FOR influence, and FOR popularity. I have tried to go TO the place I thought I could be most effective. My prepositional life was defined by where I was going.
I have never really done this before, but this year I decided I would spend some time asking God for a word for 2022. I don’t mean I was looking for a word of prophecy or even a word of encouragement. I was looking for a word that would focus my thoughts, my intentions, and my priorities.
I mulled over several ideas but settled on WITH.
This word stuck out to me because it was so different than the prepositions that had always driven me. “With” is more about the process than the destination. It is focused on the present moment rather than the future. “With” is a communal word that assumes some form of being together. “With” is beginning to refocus the framework of my priorities.
While I am not saying that you need to take my word for the year, I would like to challenge you to think about how you will approach making your plans and priorities for 2022. There are four questions that reflect God's heart for this church.
Four questions that reflect God's heart for His Church
This year will be an important year for pastors and leaders. The Church has gone through some pretty seismic shifts over the last 2 years and not only has the landscape shifted, it is not going back to the way it was. This year we will begin to settle into the new normal. And it is unfamiliar territory for everyone!
In years past, my focus would have been on how I can leverage these changes to make an impact for God’s Kingdom. I would be trying to come up with strategies that would make my ministry more successful so God would notice my efforts and pat me on the back. I would be asking how I could use this time to move closer to God’s ring of honor.
The more I reflect on how I thought, the more I see how much I need to confess!
But this year God has challenged me to focus my intentions in a different direction. God is asking me new questions moving forward. I think these questions reflect God’s intentions for His Church in this new era of history.
Question 1: Will you do ministry with me (God) instead of for me?
Question 2: Who will you bring with you so I can bless them as well?
Question 3: Will you remain fully present with Me and those around you in the moment?
Question 4: Will you trust me when I say that you don’t have to accomplish anything extraordinary for me?
The seismic shifts in the landscape of the Church in America go beyond the pandemic. We have seen church leaders implode and national leaders (and movements) pursue power instead of the Cross. We have seen political ideologies preempt spiritual formation. We are experiencing the consequences of those who claim to be members of the Church being discipled by the mainstream and social media instead of the Bible. Whether we like it or not, the systems we have formed for the last several decades are producing exactly what they were designed to produce. That is all they can do. Rather than complain about the results, or point fingers and blame, God is calling us to change our entire paradigm of ministry.
Rather than trying to build powerful ministries that make a massive cultural impact FOR God, it is time we slow down and ask how we can walk WITH God this year. Instead of measuring our success and impact by the same standards our culture uses – power, prestige, influence, wealth, popularity – it is time the Church begins trusting that God doesn’t need us to be successful, He simply wants to work with you in a new creation way.
This new creation way centers on living a cruciform life – a life shaped by the way of the Cross. It is a life that measures its success by how God’s love is expressed to the people around you. It is a life, and even a ministry, centered on sacrificial love. It is a life lived with God.
As you begin this new ministry season, rather than focusing on what you think you can do for God, ask God what He would like you to do with Him. Will you slow down for a few minutes and just enjoy being with God? I can promise that God enjoys being WITH you!
Converge MidAtlantic is here to serve you. If you would like more information about any of the Church Strengthening tools like coaching, strategic planning, succession planning, board development, or church health assessments, you can reach Jason Allison at email@example.com.
Jason Allison, Church Strengthening Director
Jason is the pastor of Spiritual Formation at a new church plant, Press Church in Powell, Ohio. Originally conceived and operating as Terra Nova Community Church, Pastor Jason led this community for over a decade at various locations throughout Delaware County. Also, he serves as the Director of Church Strengthening for Converge MidAtlantic.