There are ten principles by which I attempt to operate as a leader in the church.
These may not seem like the most important principles to everyone. But, in my life and ministry, these are the commitments which have tended to steer the little ship of ministry in which I sail in a more life-giving direction. Here are the first five. (I will post six to ten tomorrow):
1. Put first things first
In order to put first things first we need to be clear about what the first things are.
In the church, the first thing is always honouring our call to be a place in which all people are encouraged to open more deeply to the Spirit of God in their lives. We seek to affirm the truth, light, beauty, and love that reside in every human being and to live together in light of the wisdom that resides within us as beings created in the image of God.
Let anyone with ears to hear listen! (Mark 4:9)
We all have “ears to hear” the only question is whether or not we are willing to use them. Church exists to encourage everyone to listen deeply to the Spirit who speaks within. Our mission is to be a place in which hearts open to perceive the Spirit at work in all of life.
Being attentive to the Spirit is the first thing. Everything else flow from this place of deep listening to God, to one another, and to the world in which we are called to live responsively to God’s presence.
2. Make machinery serve mission
Jesus is reported to have challenged the religious officials of his day saying,
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition. (Mark 7:8)
According to Jesus the first “commandment of God” is
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love… (Mark 12:29,30a)
Love is the meaning, the purpose, the goal, and the ultimate mission of the church. We come together in order to open more deeply to the reality of love at the centre of our being. We seek to support all people in living in response to the power of love we see embodied in the person of Jesus.
When any machinery gets in the way of the mission of love, the machinery must be abandoned. Never let the machine dominate the mission.
3. Avoid GMSP (Guilt, Manipulation, Shame, Pressure)
According to Paul it is,
For freedom Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)
GMSP never leads to freedom and therefore has no place in the fulfillment of the mission of the church. No action motivated by GMSP can ever further the mission of serving the freedom for which “Christ has set us free.” A gift that is not freely given is not a gift that is motivated by the Spirit of grace that is the Spirit of Christ and so cannot lead to the light and life Christ desires to nurture among us.
4. Cut your coat to fit your cloth
No one can do everything. If we are going to avoid the trap of using GMSP to try to motivate people, we must tailor what we do as a community to fit the available resources. Some things may not happen in some communities. We need to nurture and support the ministries we are able to conduct without resorting to GMSP.
Some things may not get done.
5. Make “Yes” your first answer
There are times when it is necessary to get to “No.” But we try to start with “Yes”.
Church is intended to be a place in which people experience freedom offer the gifts they feel called by God to offer. We are not a community of volunteers. We are a community of obedient servants who give in response to the prompting of God’s Spirit in our lives. When anyone feels genuinely called to offer a gift in obedience to God’s Spirit, we hope to be able to recognize and support the full offering of that gift. So we start with “Yes”.