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National Conference 2018 Education Experience
Theme... ALL IN
Session One, Article  Two


He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life
will no longer live for themselves.
Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)

 
     The previous article took us inward in search of identity. "Who am I?" We identified body, mind, heart, and soul, each an aspect of the whole person. We considered personal mission. We touched personal passions. In the end, we pondered our ownership of the life we live - "our own or another's?" ALL IN begins with self-awareness that allows the true self to live. Here, we will consider the care of the whole person that we might truly have something to offer when we step forward to serve church and Kingdom.

WE HAVE A BODY AND MIND
     One aspect of preparation for being ALL IN for the Kingdom and ministry is personal health and wholeness, body and mind. Though we know we have a new and improved body on layaway, we are to be good stewards of the bodies and minds we have right now. They are the houses for the "me" that each of us are, as well as serve as the vessel/vehicle out of which we live and serve.
     Here, like we noted before, we need to "own who and/or what" we are. This matter of "identity integrity" is a step toward being able to work at health and wholeness. We might need to own: "My body is too short for its weight." "My body has bad eyes and limps like an old man after playing games on the floor with the 4th graders." Sometimes, these honest pronouncements are embarrassing - but each is necessary!
     ALL IN demands that we own who we "actually are," not who we imagine we are. Who we are includes strengths and weaknesses, capabilities and limitations. Sure, we want to be stretched, even set ourselves up to be stretched; but we should know ourselves well enough to know when we've had enough lest we break or crumble under too much.

     We also come preloaded with a mind, housed by our brains. Or at least usually identified with our brains. Minds come prewired for certain inclinations and preferences. Minds come prewired with certain potentials for capacity, "able to do" or "able to learn how to do." Minds come prewired to receive and process info, stimuli, and experiences. Our task is to figure out how we are wired and to make the most of who we are.
     Our minds need to be stocked with worthwhile information and experiences. We need to read or listen to audio books or podcasts and to calculate. Stretch! We need to memorize, play word and number games. Stretch! We need to protect our minds from junk! Junk gums up the works, somehow even manages to displace the good stuff. It's not unlike how some kinds of  cancer destroy a body. Ideally, as we live and serve we should be lifelong learners, never quite there yet; ever seeking to be better equipped for life, for service, for our ministry roles.
     In the end, as we think about our bodies - as in, bodies and minds - a noble goal is to be able to say, "I am the best (or healthiest) I can be." This we say recognizing that stuff happens; parts break down and systems fail. We can at least NOT be the immediate cause of such things. You know, by being stupid! (Can I say that in this publication?)

WE ALSO HAVE A HEART AND SOUL.
     Heart is the "who I am" that transcends body and mind. Nature or nurture, or both, this is who and/or what we bring to the table. Out of our hearts we get to say, "This is who I am." Owning our identity enables us to know and prove, "I am living my life (not imitating another's life)." Too often, too many of us are living someone else's life. A good test for "identity integrity" is answering the question, "How much of what people see of me parallels who I am or what I do when no one is looking?"
     Soul is the spiritual - maybe overlapping the heart - part of each person that lives forever in relationship and fellowship with the Trinity, or alone, forever separated from God. Our soul is the meeting place for self with the divine out of which we might proclaim, "I am abiding in Christ; he is my true source of identity."
     As much as our identity is built on nature and/or nurture, what we being to the table; we must not overlook the redemptive work of Christ redesigning us into his image as Spirit bearers, as image bearers, as children of God, as his hands and feet and voice. Think about this: How has God's presence in your life empowered you to be or become another?

IN CHRIST, we are stewards! We are stewards of Body/Mind, Heart and Soul.
     Stewards of Body and Mind need to be attentive to several areas of daily life. This attention is an attempt to care for and prepare ourselves for the day, as well as for ministry.
     *Nourishment
This would include maintaining a well-balanced diet of nonpoisonous foods, which doesn't mean French fries are anathema! Just eat wisely! Use common sense. I'm not your mother or your doctor; and I'm not all that good at this either. So, let's at least commit to "trying to do" what is best for life and health.
     *Exercise
As we care for the body and mind, we ought to be saying, "move that thing!" Joanie Greggains, an exercise guru chants, "You grew it, you lift it!" Pastors tend toward a more sedentary life, riding the dangerous chair behind the desk. We need to plan to get up and move every so often; we're not meant to be potted plants! We don't have to be the ultimate athlete; we just need to do what yields health and vitality.
     Another helpful principle is "use that thing!" Our minds! We should read, compute, ponder, stretch our minds; be lifelong learners. Hanging a degree or ordination certificate does not preclude ongoing self-improvement. The times keep changing; we need to keep up to be effective. Learning is part of that process.
     *Community
We have been wired for community, which is ironically in our favor as research has proven that self-care is easiest in community. Join the gym. Find a travel buddy. Share interests with others. Enjoy your hobby with someone else.

Stewards of the Heart attend to the less visible, though very real, aspect of who we are. No heart, no life. We need to work to know ourselves.
     It is always easier to go with the flow, to walk off the cliff with the other lemmings. But God designed you to be you. So, find your heart and live your own passions. Self-study is a good investment of time. Allow Scripture and prayer to guide your thoughts. Invite a trusted and honest friend or peer to describe for you what they see in you. Invite a spiritual mentor/guide to walk with you for a time of introspection. Hire or pay for a life assessment; there are many of these on the market. Again, I mention the DiSC, Myers-Briggs, TJTA, and GRIP-Birkman, as well as the many other tools that are available.
     All of this feeds into  - and is vital for - "fit and flourish." ALL IN is simply not possible if we don't know what makes us tick, or how we work best.

Stewards of Soul cultivate a healthy relationship with God. There is no ministry if we are not alive in Christ. There is just busy. 
     Abide in Christ! This is the heart of the matter. This is not simply racing through morning devotions. Not just working that prayer list. Not just writing sermons and lessons, attending worship and Bible studies. Listen to Jesus on this topic...
     John 15:4-5 (NIV) ... "Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
God loves us. God likes us. God aches to hang out with us (Yeah; I don't get that either!)
     ABIDE, rest in his presence - long and slow and deep. No agenda, just be present. Pray, or not. Be! Read, or not. Be! Walk in the woods or lay on the sofa. Be! God is there waiting for  us to slow down and to be with him. It's okay to allow the moment to design the way we'll be together. We don't have to micromanage time alone with God.

Let me summarize some of the tools I've mentioned (and a few others).
     *Body/Mind
Join your local gym or rec center. And go! your home is probably surrounded by miles of sidewalks and roads. Your yard (see those weeds!) is a natural exercise arena. Sports, besides watching sports (walking to the stands is ONLY slightly better than sitting on the sofa), and hobbies (besides napping) can be ways to care for your body.
     Your local library, the newspaper, puzzles, hobbies, conversations, common interest groups could all be means to strengthen your mind. Read. Discuss. Stretch. There is a significant Kingdom aspect to this slice of life; doing things with others OFTEN leads to sharing lives. Witness can accidentally take place.
     * Heart
Find or hire a life coach, mentor, counselor. Find a travel companion, an honest "other" who can help you see yourself with new eyes. Life assessment tools help you answer, "Who am I?" in ways you otherwise might miss. Personal escapes to listen to your heart's desires can also be valuable investments in your own health and well-being.
     Honestly! Do you know what makes your heart beat faster just being close to or hearing about? Passion. Passion drives our lives. Does your life, or a significant part of your life, rise up out of your passions?
     There is a principle that applies here. We do well to honor the 65-35% principle for life (or 60-40 or 70-30, depending on which book you read). We should balance what fills or thrills our hearts (at 65%) against experiences that suck the life out of us (at 35%). Ignoring this principle is a set up for burnout.
     *Soul
We sometimes need assistance to be soul healthy. Helpful resources include spiritual mentors or guides, soul care retreats (camp out at a monastery or retreat center), disappearing for hours or days with your Bible. There are a significant number of retreat centers designed specifically for pastors (and spouses). Many are free or very inexpensive. These experiences are not to study, but to listen. You'll want to practice the skills of dwelling, abiding, lingering and resting in God's presence. The goal is to be with God wherever you choose to be. It is when we become silent and reduce distractions that we most clearly hear ourselves, and hear God.

There are several hard questions that could help you decide where to start...
  • When was the last time you took a day off more than two weeks in a row?
  • When was the last time you disappeared for more than four hours to be alone with God?
  • When was the last time you had a complete physical and the doctor didn't say you need to change your life style?
  • Have you confused serving, even leading, the church...with being lord of the church?
  • When was the last time your wife, kids, friends, or peers in ministry said, "I've been missing you?"
​These several questions confront us with the difference between busy and hurried. Life is busy, and ministry can be even more so. But it is possible to live with busy as long as we avoid hurry. Hurry is the enemy we must master.
     Sabbath is a gift from God to you and to me, as well as to our churches. Sabbath helps us defeat the "hurry" temptation/trap. Woven into the fabric of Creation is rest, taking breaks, doing "something else or other" every seventh day. From the very beginning, God planned that Sabbath would be part of life, part of our lives. Incorporating a personal Sabbath into our week, our month, our year goes a long way toward rescuing us from ourselves.

ALL IN is NOT just a cute National Conference theme. This is our high calling in Christ for daily life and for ministry. As I've thought about our theme, ALL IN, I've wondered if it is possible to be ALL IN...
  • IF we don't know who we are?
  • IF we're not maintaining something that looks like good health?
  • IF we're imitating a life we wish we were living?
  • IF we're not staying fresh...learning new tools for ministry?
  • If we're not planning to play at the top of our game?

YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE.
     Who are you?
     What are you doing with who you are?
     Are you approaching ALL IN?

In the next article, we will apply these principles, and a few others, to the work of determining who we are as congregations. Once again, self-awareness, is a good place to begin.
     Until the next issue, I am available to discuss this article, as well as what will be shared in the previous or subsequent articles. Feel free to reach out (717-951-8433 or revcool@ptd.net); I will respond.

Les Cool, Kingdom Extension Associate

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • What did you hear/read?
  • What do you think about what you heard/read?
  • What will you do because of what you have heard/read?
  • When do you think you will do this?
  • Who do you think needs to be part of this conversation?