Local Congregation Branding

Part of being a healthy church is consistent communication. To support our local congregations, we have developed a local congregational branding kit. These resources are a starting point that can be edited and developed to reflect the unique context of each of our congregations. We pray that these resources will support you in joining with Jesus to share his love with your community!

Loving Your Community

Loving community begins with seeing the neighborhood through the eyes of Jesus.

By pastor Sam Butler.

After his resurrection, Jesus reached out to his followers with genuine love and concern. He met them in the midst of their brokenness, fear and longing. By looking at Jesus as our model we can learn a few things about how he wants us to engage in our community and church neighborhood.

Jesus’ first interaction was with Mary Magdalene (John 21:11-18). Mary was in a state of panic. Not only is she dealing with the loss of her friend Jesus in death, but when she gets to the tomb she discovers his body is missing. She is in a state of great despair and is weeping. Jesus greets her and reassures her by his presence.

Later that day two disciples are walking to Emmaus when Jesus started walking with them and asked what they were talking about (Luke 24:12-31). “They stood still, their faces downcast” as they shared their grief, saying they had been hoping Jesus was the one who would redeem Israel. Jesus went through the Torah and the prophets teaching them what the Scriptures really said. Then he revealed himself to them.

That evening Jesus’ disciples were gathered together in a building with the doors locked. Not only were they experiencing the death of Jesus and the loss that entailed, but they were also afraid of what the Jewish leaders might do to them. They felt alone and fearful. Jesus enters and stands among them saying, “Peace be with you,” reassuring them with his words and showing them his wounds. Scripture tells us that they were overjoyed when they saw him.

Thomas was not present and would not believe the report of his fellow disciples. He was suffering from doubt. In his mind Jesus was dead; it was not possible what they were telling him. A week later Jesus reveals himself to Thomas and removes all doubt.

Peter had his own set of problems. After seeing Jesus alive he surely was wondering to himself, what use can Jesus have with me? After all, I denied him openly three times. After a hot meal Jesus talks with Peter privately and reassures him that he has work for him to do. How reassuring and encouraging that must have been for Peter.

Notice the pattern: Jesus, who loved them all deeply, understood exactly how they were feeling and met them where they needed him most. In their lowest and most vulnerable moments, he entered into their brokenness with all the care, concern, and love that only he can provide.

Jesus does the same for us. Through the Spirit he has revealed himself to us and has drawn us in to experience his healing and love. In the midst of our brokenness we are told that we are loved and included—just as we are.

But it does not end here. Jesus has called us into a participation with him to finish what he has started. He has given everyone the opportunity to know him and experience in him the eternal love of God. He has invited us to participate with helping others know that in the midst of their brokenness, they are loved and included—just as they are. This is why community is important.

Where do we start? In the May edition of Equipper, we concluded that effective community engagement flows from the love of God expressed to us and for us by Jesus. For us to be effective, we need to love our communities as God loves them. (I refer back to the lead article in this issue: “Seeing Through God’s Eyes.”)

When we start to practice loving as God loves—meeting people where they are—that love is expressed in action. This is the example Jesus gave for us to follow. He comes along side, he stands in the middle of, and walks with us in the midst of our brokenness. He shares in our suffering, offering us encouragement and hope. This is what our participation looks like. Jesus has called us and leads us by the Spirit to enter into the brokenness of our communities, to come along side, to stand with, and to walk with his dearly loved children.

Peter of all people understood this; he experienced Jesus’ love and encouragement. He was lifted up by Jesus and given the privilege to participate with his Lord. That’s why he writes in his first epistle that we should above all else “love each other dearly,” that we should “offer hospitality to one another,” and to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (I Peter 4:8-10).

Let’s be praying as individuals and as congregations that our Lord will help us to love our communities as he loves them, and that we will take action and step into the middle of people’s lives as he did, with concern, care and encouragement. Look what he has done for you: experience it, live it, share it. Community.

Community Involvement

God has uniquely gifted you and your congregation for community involvement.

By pastor Sam Butler.

We have established in previous articles that the motivation behind community engagement is love. Love flows from God to us through Jesus Christ and now through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, love that flows from us out into our communities.

It sounds easy, but most of us feel a disconnect between the idea and how to do this in practical ways. For many of us, we can feel uncomfortable and secondguess our ability to be successful. Part of this is because we can fall into the trap of believing it all depends on us. The key is to live in the confidence of who we are in Christ and understand how he is leading us. We know that Jesus has all power and authority to lead and that he promises us he will be with us always (Matthew 28:18-20).

What this means is through the Spirit we are permanently connected to the love and leading of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the head of the church, Jesus takes the lead and invites us to participate with him. This gives us the confidence that we are never alone. Jesus is always with us, leading us out of a full expression of his love for the community. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

In sending us, Jesus equips us to participate with him. What does this equipping look like? It starts with our personal identity—who we are in Christ. Christ equips you through nurture, nature and spiritual gifts.

Think this through: What makes us who we are? Several things come to mind. Family genetics certainly plays a role. Then each of us has a unique personality. Add to this the entirety of our life’s experiences, and we see that each one of us is molded and shaped into a unique individual—and that is good. Each of us has something of value to offer.

This is a large part of Jesus’ equipping process and we need to trust it. He created you the way you are, he knows what he is doing, and he doesn’t make junk. Even the negative experiences in our lives can be used for the good of the gospel when we are led by the Spirit. But we aren’t done. The final piece includes the gifts God gives us through the Holy Spirit. All of this is given to us to share with others. All of this is useful in reaching out to our communities.

Another way of saying this is that in Christ we are indispensable. (Read Randy Bloom’s article in the May Equipper for a fuller explanation on understanding your and your congregation’s gifting). We need to see ourselves as Jesus sees us. We are created in the image of God, created for an eternal purpose. We are junior partners with Jesus, uniquely equipped to participate with him in the greatest work on earth. Be who God created you to be—don’t try to be someone you are not. When you work outside of your unique identity, you are not working to your fullest capacity and you are not enjoying the journey. Work out of your unique relationship with Christ, one that is energized by his love for you.

Motivated by the love of God in you and your personal equipping by Jesus, let’s look at a few ways that you can engage with your community with the gospel in mind.

  • Continue to build relationships with people you already know. God has already placed people in your life—start there.
  • Be intentional about building new relationships. Look for opportunities to share life with others. Be attentive to what others may be going through.
  • Look for areas of need that you are equipped to help. You aren’t equipped to fill all needs, so pay attention to the areas that fit your giftedness.
  • Invite other members to participate with you as you get involved. It’s always easier to serve in community.
  • Make your church identity a part of who you are. You aren’t serving for you—you are serving and sharing and reaching out in relationship with Jesus, for the body of Christ.
  • Look for ways to engage your church in what you are doing. Let the congregation’s light shine.

As we interact within our community it is important for us to remember that our priority is the gospel. Always keep this in the forefront; otherwise we can simply become a service organization doing good works.

Paul reminds us that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). God’s love is in us and his love ensures the victory. We need to be confident of who we are in Christ, confident in our participation, and confident that God’s love in us will motivate us and encourage us as we actively reach out to engage God’s dearly loved children in our communities.

Your Congregation’s Resume

Identifying your congregation’s gifts and talents

This article was written by Randy Bloom, US Regional Director, East.

Many years ago, at the end of a planning meeting, our supervisor shocked us with the statement, “I’d advise you all update your resumes. Not that we expect anything; it would be good to be updated just in case.” Just reading this account you might be experiencing a bit of the shock we felt. For many of you, “been there, done that.”

I went home and updated my resume. It was a bit awkward. Not only had it been a long time since I’d visited my resume, I was reminded how difficult the process is. Not only do you list your experiences, you also need to extol your virtues. That is, you need to describe your abilities in a positive way—“put your best foot forward”—as you attempt to sell yourself to a new employer. You want to let them know you have something that will help them—something they need and want.

Assessing the gift mix of your congregation is like putting together a resume. The process of developing a “congregational resume” will help your congregation get focused. Further, it helps your congregation grow healthier as you discern how Jesus wants you to participate in his mission to your community.

One of the first steps in the process (the first being focused prayer) is to ascertain your congregation’s gifts and talents. This understanding will give you a good indication of how the Lord has prepared you, collectively, to participate in his mission to your community. You want to know what you can do collectively to help your community. You want to know what your congregation has to offer your community—to help it (even if they aren’t asking).

So, how do you develop your congregational resume? How can you know the collective gifts, talents and experiences of your congregation? What does your congregation have to offer your community? What does it have that your community needs? We can learn from any job resume.

Experiences

What life experiences have your members had, within the church context and without? What have they done and what are they doing that could be of benefit to your community? What would they do if they could? Don’t know? Ask. A simple questionnaire will work. Examples include vocational experience—teaching, accounting, management, construction, food preparation, health care providers (the list is endless), and specific community service.

Passions

What are your members passionate about? What “fires them up?” Don’t know? Ask. Examples include strong families, helping the poor and oppressed, reconciliation, racial harmony, serving, Christian education, counseling, financial responsibility, etc. Knowing their hobbies can provide insights into their passions.

Spiritual gifts

What are the predominate spiritual gifts in your congregation? A good way to find out is to conduct a spiritual gifts inventory. You can contact your regional director for some recommendations for an inventory you can use.

Needs considerations

By becoming familiar with the unique needs of your community, your church can position itself to serve according to the predominant gifts, passions and experiences of the members. Addressing community needs with loving concern and practical service provides opportunities to understand the spiritual climate of your community, the general attitude people have toward Christianity and what spiritual questions they have.

Keep in mind as you proceed, no church can reach or serve everyone. It is impossible to reach all people simultaneously. You will be most effective, as good stewards of the resources Jesus has given you, if you focus your gifts and limited resources on a specific people group or community and in a few specific ways. As you gain experience and grow in resources and numbers, you can diversify your missional work to include a wider range of people.

Gathering Information

You may wonder, “How can I find out what people in my community need?” While simply observing people within their cultural context is valuable, there is no substitute for personal contact. By preparing some carefully worded questions in advance, you can take advantage of everyday contact with people to learn about your community. You can participate in community events and make a point to meet people and ask good questions about the community. Local publications provide a wealth of information, as do civic and professional organizations and online databases.

Now that you have a wealth of information about your church, work with your leaders to develop your “resume.” List your collective experiences, passions and gifts. What stands out? What predominates? List the needs of your community. Then ask, “Given the experiences, passions and gifts we have been given, and considering the needs of our community, what can we do?”

Then you take your “resume” to your community by talking to community leaders and government officials in a more informed way about the needs of the community and how your congregation can help. Pray the Lord of the harvest will open doors for you and provide whatever additional resources and assistance you may need. Go with confidence. Be patient and persistent. Opportunities may not come right away.

This process can help you better discern the gifts, passions and experiences the Lord has given members of your congregation by and through the Spirit. Why has he? So that your congregation can join Jesus in his mission of grace and reconciliation to the world around you. I pray you move forward with faith and hope to develop your resume and participate with confidence and joy in the unique ministry Jesus has called you to.

God’s Love in Action

Engaging your community

This article was written by Pastor Sam Butler.

Healthy churches desire to make an impact in the church community. The question raised is often, “How do we start?” I suggest our starting point, the framework from which we engage, is not a how question, but a who question. In other words, our framework should not begin with something we do but rather from who God is—so, we begin with the very nature of God, which is love. Father, Son and Spirit are love and everything thing they do flows out of that love. We can describe their relationship in terms of community to help us understand what community should mean to us. God is a community based on perfect love, perfect relationship and full participation.

How does God include us in that community? John 3:16 tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his Son to intervene on our behalf so that we would be able to experience eternal relationship with him. This love relationship gives us the privilege of full participation in what Jesus is doing. And what is Jesus doing? John 3:16 also informs us that God in Jesus is extending the opportunity of community to everyone, that everyone who believes in Jesus will enter his kingdom, a godly community of love, relationship and participation.

How does this impact how we live now in this present age? We understand from Scripture that in Jesus, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the kingdom now but not yet in its fullness. In John 15:19 Jesus tells us that we live in this world, but we are not of this world. Our true community is in heaven and he has called us now to represent this Godly community in our present world, in the communities that we live in.

What does this look like for us? Last months’ lead article focused on gaining a better understanding of the “Great Commission”—moving from a position of apprehension into a deeper understanding of who Christ is and who he is for us. Christ has been given all authority and he tells us that he will be with us always. In him we share in his ongoing work, to bring all who will believe in Jesus into the godly community of love and relationship where we for eternity will have the privilege of participating in what God continues to do. No apprehension necessary.

Therefore, as we think about being involved in community for the sake of the Gospel, let us do so, not with apprehension, but with the deep understanding that we are participating with Christ in fulfilling God’s purpose of sharing his love. It is about love and relationship. God is calling all his creation into an eternal relationship of love. At the heart of who God is, at the heart of who we are, at the heart of what we do, is love. Everything begins and moves from here.

So rather than figuring out something to do to impact the community, it seems clear we should start with a love for the community—for each person in that community.

There are practical things we can do to engage community that can be discussed at another time, but before we focus on what, we need to see and experience our communities as Christ does, with the Father’s love. In John 17:23 Jesus tells us, “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

As the Father loves the Son, so he loves us and all of his creation. This is the gospel. This is “Missio Dei.” Jesus is now sending us—sending us out into our communities to share his love. Through the indwelling of God himself, the Spirit, let us embrace our communities with a desire to build relationships and to share God’s love, as he is love and as he loves us.

God’s love is everything. Drink of it deeply and let it flow…….. Community.

Magdala and Capernaum

The location for the Sermon on the Mount—the Beatitudes—is between the ancient cities of Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene and Capernaum, the fishing town on the northern shore of Lake Gennesaret.

Magdala is a recent archeological find that has great significance. The population of the town was around 10,000 people and it was the place where archeologists believe most of the fish caught in the Sea of Galilee was processed for consumption and/or salted for storage. It is reasonable to consider that this was a town of some affluence. This site also contains the remains of one of the few undisturbed synagogues from the first century. It is very likely that Jesus himself taught and studied at this synagogue.

The Magdala stone is a carved stone block unearthed by archaeologists in a Galilean synagogue, dating to before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Capernaum was where Jesus lived when he moved from Nazareth. This is also where archeologists found many millstones (see Matt. 18:6). In fact, there were so many millstones in the ruins, archeologists concluded they were likely manufactured in Capernaum.

So we have two towns, both possible locations that provided a highly needed service or industry in the first century. Jesus likely spent a lot of time with residents from these two towns in the first thirty years of his life as he worked with Joseph and others. Most of us refer to Jesus as a carpenter, which we’ve interpreted from the verse, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Mat. 13:56). The Greek word, tekton, is more accurately rendered as craftsman or builder. Looking over the cities we visited, it’s clear Jesus could have been a stonemason as well as someone who worked with wood. Which job he held is irrelevant; the point is Jesus had likely done work for many of the people in Magdala and Capernaum before he started his ministry. Due to his trade, it is also likely he was known and respected.

Somewhere in between these two cities, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus shared the Beatitudes. —Mark Mounts

The Beatitudes

This article is written by GCI pastor Mark Mounts.

My wife, Debra, and I recently had the opportunity to visit the “Holy Land” with a group of GCI church leaders. It was a life-changing journey we will never forget. The geography and the sites we visited gave us a new perspective into the ministry of Jesus Christ. We were particularly moved by the place where Jesus shared the Beatitudes with his disciples. (For a bit more on the geography, see my accompanying short feature: “Magdala and Capernaum.”

For the record, the speculation I will make in the remainder of this article is based on ideas expressed by our guide, and what I have personally considered since returning from the trip. So, for the sake of this article, please “play along.”

Jesus arrived during a time when Jewish residents in the Galilean area were expecting something big. In spite of the Roman rule, they had jobs, they were involved in trade and production of food and usable goods, but they expected more. They were expecting a leader—a Messiah—to rise up and start a political and religious movement that would eventually overthrow the Romans. Jesus had already performed a number of miracles, and many who were aware of his “great wonders” were asking, “Is this him?” “Is he the one?”

Jesus knew their expectations and they wanted immediate, as well as long-term intervention. The problem is, the intervention that Jesus was about to offer was not going to fulfill their expectations in any way.

I suggest a main purpose of the Beatitudes was because Jesus was preparing the disciples for what they would face three years later and during their ministry. So, let’s start there, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Just a few hours before he is to die, Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to Gethsemane to pray. There he pleaded three times with his Father that if there was another way, let it be seen. In spite of this overwhelmingly emotional experience that caused Jesus to sweat blood, he accepted his Father’s will.

Jesus knew what he was about to face. He also knew what his disciples would face—that Peter would want to fight in hopes of possibly starting the war that will overthrow the Romans. (Peter tried that very night and Jesus rebuked him for this attempt.) He knew that before the day was through, almost all the disciples would abandon him in fear. He knew he was about to be tortured, rushed to the cross, and quickly buried—and he knew the disciples would have no idea regarding what just happened or why.

That is part of what Jesus was telling them when he gave the Beatitudes three years earlier. He told them he knew there would be “trouble in their hearts” and they would “mourn”—but something miraculous was going to happen and they would be comforted. He told them they would become meek, but not weak. He told them this change would be so miraculous that it would be all they want, and they would begin to understand that it was the only thing that really mattered in life. They would become people of mercy, not judgment, because they would know and accept what it felt like to have none of their expectations met in the way they wanted them. He assured them they would be messengers of peace in spite of the persecution they would face. He told them they will be treated the same way he was treated, and indeed they eventually were.

This is not what the crowd wanted to hear. They wanted a physical, religious and political savior—one who would lead them to victory over the Romans—now. His words didn’t make a lot of sense until after his death, resurrection and ascension. When the Holy Spirit—the comfort he promised—arrived, things became to be made clear.

I believe the whole point of the Beatitudes is summed up in a statement Jesus made later in Matthew:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11: 28-30).

When we read the Beatitudes, are we looking to Jesus? Is there something troubling our hearts? Are we mourning? Do we think we have this “meek” thing down, only to realize that pride is still burning in our hearts? Do we become resentful and afraid because what we are hoping for—maybe even expecting—is not happening? Guess what, someone knows exactly how we feel; Jesus felt that way too. The difference is, of course, he fought the fight for us and won. Because of his victory, we can find a bit of hope in the middle of our fear, confusion, doubt and sorrow. We shouldn’t be surprised when we find ourselves “poor in spirit,” or mourning. Jesus told us he knows there are times we will feel all is lost and no one understands.

He told his disciples—and us—what we will experience in the “Beatitudes” (Matt. 5: 2-14), and then he told them and us where to go to find comfort and rest—where we find salvation (Matt. 11: 28-30). Yes, Jesus knows exactly what we are going through. As the Son of God, he also accepted the realities of experiencing the Beatitudes. The difference, of course, is that he knew the Comforter and he knew the Comforter would come to us. He knew the Comforter would give us new life—we would be born again. We are now in Christ, and he is in us.

Jesus was preparing his disciples and us to understand that in this life we will suffer and hurt just as he did, but he offers us love, comfort and rest—in him, we inherit the kingdom of heaven. The Beatitudes tell us Jesus really does get it.

Missional or Missionary

Churches often use the terms mission, commission, missional and missionary. While the words are related, we need to know the difference between missional and missionary as we participate in the Great Commission.

The Gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus commissioning the 11 disciples. Have you ever noticed that Matthew begins his Gospel in a similar fashion that he ends it? In the first chapter we find the angel of the Lord telling Mary that Jesus was being sent to be the Savior. He is the missio dei (mission of God). Then, at the end of Matthew we find that Jesus, by sending the 11 and the church, is inviting (sending) us to participate in that mission. (For more on this, see Rick Shallenberger’s article “Missio Dei.”)

The Gospel of John brings further clarity to this concept, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Our understanding of mission lies solely on who God is. He is a missionary God who has always been sending. He is the one who was sent by the Father to restore, redeem and reconcile humanity to himself. As stated by missiologist Christopher J. H. Wright, “It is not so much that God has a mission for His church in the world, but that God has a church for His mission in the world” (The Mission of God, 62).

The praxis of missio dei revolves around Jesus—he is the posture—the reference point—for our participating in mission. The mission is to make disciples—and I believe that disciple-making has a lot more to do with relationships than information. It is often said that the incarnational model of Jesus for disciple-making is life-on-life, sharing life with each other and carrying our burdens in unity with Jesus. If this is true, then we must be willing to go deeper and share our lives with those who Jesus has called us to disciple.

With this understanding, it is crucial for us to make a distinction between the different environments in which we do mission—both individually and corporately. I like to think of mission in the following two ways:

Missionary environments: a missionary environment is one where there is a great culture divide. There could be language barriers and drastically different life rhythms. People live and act different—it’s a crossover space that requires drastic change.

While most of us think of missionary environments as going to do mission in a foreign land, we can find ourselves in missionary environments in our own back yards. I am often reminded of the most difficult and frightening funeral I had to perform. It was for an 18-year-old young man who was viciously murdered by gang violence. He had a loose affiliation with a gang and came from a family with that sort of history. It was difficult because I had the privilege to journey with him as Jesus was transforming his heart, but it was frightening because I had never been in the same space with so many gang members as I was that day. As the clergy doing the funeral, I was made aware that LAPD had an undercover presence in the crowd. This knowledge did not put me at ease—on the contrary—I became more nervous. This was not the only funeral that I had to be a part of. A couple of years later I was doing another funeral for another young man. Soon after, I figured out that I was in a missionary environment where I was not willing to share life, and therefore disciple-making was hindered. It was not a missionary field I was being called to.

Not many are called to domestic missionary environments. If disciple-making is truly life-on-life, then we must ask ourselves if we are willing to share life with those who have severe addictions, those without homes (homeless), those involved in a gang life? These tend to be crossover environments that require calling and giftedness. Please don’t misunderstand the point that I am making. God is for all, but we have all been gifted differently.

Missional environments: this is discerning Jesus movements in our everyday spaces and engaging in those movements. It is activating the missional mind, heart, and hands for gospel proclamation and demonstration in everyday life. In living missionally, we purposely create missional spaces where sharing life can occur, and discipleship can flourish.

We all live in missional environments in the everyday rhythms of our lives. Most of us travel daily to a workplace, a school, a grocery store or a similar environment where we engage people in a marketplace-type setting. Some of us like to visit what are called third spaces—like a coffee shop—where we hang out or get some work done. These become part of our life rhythms. In these environments the Holy Spirit often creates opportunities for us to go into deeper conversations. We tend to befriend people with whom we share a lot in common; as conversations and relationships go deeper, we share life. It is easier to become more intentional in these environments. We can even create intentional spaces for missional living. Shared interests—like playing sports and creating book clubs—provide space where life sharing can go deeper.

I believe we need to give thought to these concepts as we plan outreach for our congregations. I would rather mobilize my congregation to sponsor financially and participate with a kid’s soccer team in my local park than participate and sponsor a prison ministry. When we plan mission, we want to be sure we are aligning our values and our calling and we are making connections back to the local church – the body of Christ where people can be discipled. Church leadership carries the responsibility to create spaces for missional living for the church body; in doing so, it is healthy to consider our posture in the love venue and what kind of missional environments Jesus has already created for our participation.—Heber Ticas, GCI pastor, Superintendent of South (Latin) America and Church Multiplication coordinator.

Engaging Leaders

This article is written by Jeff Broadnax, Director of Generations Ministry and Assistant Regional Director.

When someone becomes one of the answers to your online banking “security questions,” you know they have made an impact in your life. Hollis Dane Mitchell was such a person. For years he was an answer to the question, “Who is your favorite high school teacher?”

But why Hollis Mitchell? Well, when I was a junior in high school, he was my Advanced Math teacher. I was a good student overall, but I was definitely an undisciplined and distracted student. My character might have reflected my Christian values, but my grades had begun to reflect my lack of discipline at this critical time in my high school career.

One day Mr. Mitchell asked me to stay after class to “chat.” As I sat at my desk wondering which of my in class “activities” he was going to correct me for, he asked me a very pointed question: “Jeff, what do you want to be when you grow up?” At the time, I saw him as a great example and told him I wanted to be a teacher. He said to me, “Jeff anybody can be a teacher, look at me! You have the potential to be something great but you have to get off your ______ , do the work and stop letting your friends lead you around by the nose.”

This stunned me. Mr. Mitchell thought I could be something or someone great! I thought he was great (and I still do). This guy whom I thought was awesome paid attention to me. He told me he saw something special in me and called it up in a way that I would never lose sight of.

In last month’s Equipper, Heber Ticas gave an overview of how healthy leaders create healthy teams by engaging, equipping, empowering and encouraging others. When it came to engaging he said,

…as leaders we must be sensitive to the work and calling of the Spirit in the life of others. As we recognize the gifting in others and we acknowledge the needs of the ministry, we intentionally invite others in and give them opportunity for participation. Let’s acknowledge we sometimes (often) struggle with giving ministry away, and with leader readiness; however, we must be willing to engage the journey.

Just over a decade after my conversation with Mr. Mitchell, I went to see him while on a visit back home to Cincinnati. I told him how much that conversation meant to me and that it planted a seed from God into the soil of my life and that this teachable moment had become a teaching tool in my pastoral ministry.

As a Christian himself, I know Mr. Mitchell understood that God had taken a humble servant and allowed him to see a young man full of potential and invite him to become engaged in a future full of promise, hope and service to God and humanity. Hollis Mitchell is a healthy leader of leaders.

In my life he will always be a reflection of Jesus’ pattern of calling others into discipleship. Like Jesus his approach was simple:

  • Pay attention—Whether a woman at a well, a blind man wanting to be healed, or a fisherman needing transformation, Jesus noticed individuals for who they were and gave them personalized attention.
  • Say what you see—Throughout the Gospels, we see our Lord show those from the least to the greatest something valuable about themselves that he wanted to transform and use to bring glory to the Father.
  • Call it up—Jesus always left those he encountered with the invitation and sometimes the challenge to engage with him and learn to engage others in his high calling of service to the Father by the Spirit.

Consider the calling of Simon Peter. We often quote the calling up moment when Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matt. 4:19). But I challenge you to read John’s account of Jesus and Peter’s first meeting (John 1:36-42). You will note that this is the moment Jesus paid attention to Peter and told him what he saw in him: “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.” (“Cephas” means “Peter.”). Notice how this shows that Jesus patiently and intentionally engaged Peter on multiple occasions.

As we read in Luke 5, it was in a second meeting that Jesus famously gets into his boat by the Sea of Galilee, challenges him to put out into deep water for a catch, reframes his view of vocation and calls him up to ministry.

Jesus has invited us to join him in engaging others for ministry the same way. Who does he want you to pay attention to, validate and invite into ministry? Who knows, you might become the answer to their “Who influenced you the most?” ministry security question.