It was early in my relationship with Christ when my Grandma first thought I was acting strange. After a fantastic Sunday roast lunch at my Nanna’s house, complete with all the trimmings and topped off with ice cream, Nancy my girlfriend (now my wife) and I excused ourselves and started for the car.
Nanna, surprised with us leaving so soon questioned us as to the reason.
“We are going to church tonight.” I responded unable to restrain the excitement in my voice.
The look on Nan’s face was one of confusion and concern. “But you went this morning. Why do you need to go twice?”
“We don’t need to…. I want too” It was like an unfathomable mystery had just been presented to her or as if we had spoken an unknown language.
Church to her was a place of control, politics, religion and abuse. In her wildest dreams she could not imagine wanting to be at church and even more improbable was the concept that it could be an empowering environment.
Far too often this view, to varying degrees, is held and experienced by Christians. However the foundation of the Christian movement was accompanied by the words of Jesus “These things you will do and greater”. Jesus released and empowered His people to change the world with the full expectation that it would happen. There was no control, no politics, no agenda except for believing that Christians had the potential to change the world – that YOU have the potential to change the world.
What has been your experience of Christian community? Do leave church feeling tired and uninspired? Or do you leave believing that, through Christ, all things are possible and encouraged to accomplish more than you could hope or dream?
Here are some ways that you and your church leadership can create a ‘People Empowering’ culture within your local faith community.
1. Encourage and affirm those around you – Thessalonians 5:9-13
Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-13 charges the Thessalonian church to encourage one another, build one another up and respect those who labour amongst them. He prefaces this by reiterating that we have all been destined, not for wrath, but for salvation and that this great equaliser of unearnt and undeserved grace should reveal to us the value of the people around us.
Words that you speak can either crush or unleash a dream in someone’s life. Those same words can inspire greatness or bind a person with fear and uncertainty. Unfortunately many churches have inadvertently institutionalised a culture of suspicion, control and suppression of new things.
I have experienced this first hand within a church I attended. The process of sharing a passion for ministry usually moved along this path.
- A person has a dream or a passion
- It is presented to the leadership
- The leadership question it’s viability
- It is voted on by the leadership and possibly the church
- The person is allowed (or not) to run with it
- If it fails the person is seen as a failure!
Judgement and fear are built into the very system that is supposed to encourage and inspire people to do the same and greater things than Christ has done. I would love to see churches embrace an empowering attitude to ministry –
- That the person who has a dream and vision are encouraged and supported in developing the vision
- That the leadership cheer the vision within the church and resource the vision of the individual through prayer, finance and mentorship.
- That if a vision does not survive, the pioneer is revered as someone who had faith and tried rather than a failure
When I worked at News Ltd, Rupert Murdoch made a statement to the staff that he wanted to see more people make mistakes and fail because it indicated that they were trying new things! Why does the church not embrace this same logic? A good friend of mine often used the expression that “your passion for ministry was your permission to serve” and I believe that wholeheartedly.
Who are you encouraging in their vision and passion and who is encouraging you in yours? I believe that each person has a God given dream that is waiting to become reality. How are you unleashing that dream?
2. See potential in the people around you – Acts 1:8, Luke 9:46-48
Our natural condition to is see people as they are not for what the may be in the future. Jesus did not see tax collectors and fishermen he saw disciples and apostles. When Jesus sees you and I, he does not see a broken sinner or an accountant or a parent he sees his masterpiece awaiting to be remade.
An attitude of only seeing people as they are will limit and destroy your ministry in a church and more than likely destroy relationships and community in your church. Where the world sees the uneducated, weak and unlovable you are expected to see greatness and potential.
Jesus was about making the imperfect perfect not about finding and using the already perfect. Although we all know this to be true the way we live out our faith and ministry in churches can sometimes reveal our true belief – unless a person has proved themselves they are of little use. Paul Scanlon summed up this at Revive this year when he spoke about ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Change’. Often we expect ‘Change’ before we ‘Accept’, however in the Kingdom of God ‘Acceptance’ comes before ‘Change’.
We not only miss seeing the potential for greatness in the people around us, often we fail to see that potential in ourselves. Perhaps God has you reading this article at this very moment so that I can tell you that you come from a heritage of greatness and you have potential for greatness in the kingdom of God. All your mistakes and weaknesses, that you feel are chains that prevent you achieving for Jesus, are in fact your perquisites for greatness. You are, through Christ, able to do abundantly, immeasurably more than you could hope or dream. The same spirit that dwells in you is the same spirit that empowered the apostle Paul, the same spirit that gave voice to the church fathers and released salvation through the Billy Graham crusades.
Allow yourself to see as Jesus sees – not as things are but as they could be.
3. Nurture Creat ivity in the people around yo u – Exodus 35:10, Colossions 3:15-17
I believe that in our God given DNA we have a creativity that is waiting to be released. For too long it has remained dormant in the church, confined to the music ministry. However the creativity that has been invested into us by God is more than that, it has the potential to transform all aspects of life and ministry.
Creativity in our teaching, fellowship, mission and discipleship leads to new ways in which we can fulfil our purpose as individuals and as communities of faith. It helps us to not stagnate but to flourish in an ever-changing world as we discover new and varied ways to communicate and live an unchangeable message.
We nurture creativity when we:
Educate – Teach that creativity is not just music, just as worship is not just music. Creativity pervades every aspect of our lives from administration, parenting, work and art.
Allow space – Is there space in your church program to help people explore their creativity beyond the worship team. One of the biggest challenges to a person discovering their creativity is the predefined categories that we have made. By allowing space for a person’s creativity to be released you are empowering them to live out God’s will in their life and freeing them to serve.
Offer Opportunity – How are you allowing a persons creativity to impact your faith community’s life. If God has brought a creative gifting into your church then God is expecting an opportunity to be offered for that creativity to be expressed. This may be a creative preaching team, mission team or a multitude of other possibilities.
In my experience creativity is the single largest untapped resource in your church. What are you doing to unleash it?
4. Redeem the Secular – Acts 17:22-23
At first glance this may seem a peculiar point to be making in a People Empowering article – let me explain.
The divide between secular and sacred in the church has been established for millennia. The church happens in one space while life and work happen on a completely separate plane. This has begun to break down over the last few decades but an attitude still exists within the church that the secular life should not influence the working of the church and the church should try and change the secular to be more holy.
My wife is a very successful senior director in one of the largest media companies in Australia. She has worked in senior positions for many years and led teams of people in many different situations. However, the single most significant struggle she has experienced in church ministry has been how to utilise her experience and gifting within the church context. Often she was met with the argument that secular leadership is different to church leadership and that the skills were not interchangeable.
It was not until she understood that Christ has redeemed her secular experience of leadership that she felt empowered to lead within a church context and to incorporate the redeemed leadership experience to influence her secular leadership style.
This redeeming attitude towards her secular experience allowed her professional leadership to be brought into the church and influenced her corporate leadership to be refined with a pastoral/biblical leadership style – making both more effective.
Are you empowering people in the church and in your life to redeem the things outside of church so that they can be useful for the kingdom and the work of God?
This is beyond just telling people about Jesus, it is about incorporating the things of God into your leadership, parenting, profession and friendship whilst also allowing them to inform your understanding of God, church and ministry.
5. Seek discipleship rather than perfection – Matt 4:18-22; 10:5-15, John 14:12-17
Finally, have a culture of discipleship rather than perfection.
Discipleship in the eyes of Jesus is threefold. It is reaching back to those who are not as mature as you, pulling them up alongside you to be taught and coached in the things of God and finally releasing them to be greater than you in ministry, understanding and life.
Often we hurry this process expecting people to become perfect at ministry or life and feeling disappointed when they do not live up to that expectation. Discipleship however is a journey of relationship and spirit empowered change which fluctuates with life situations. A strong Christian may struggle for a time with faith just as an immature Christian may flourish for a season.
True empowerment is releasing people to be disciples rather than expecting them to reach perfection. Part of our role as followers of Jesus is to empower people to be all they can be for Christ. It is a call on every believer’s life which transcends age, gender and theological slant. God has chosen to impact this world through sinful, fallen and weak people. Are you seeking to empower those around you or are you complaining, criticising and judging? Let’s take our responsibility seriously and seek to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and encourage others to do the same.