Practical Matters

Keith Matthews Part 29 of 34

In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas’s last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor’s Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]


Dallas: Ok, we’re moving toward the conclusion. As we do so, we’re going to be looking at more practical matters about our lives as ministers and our work in the places where we are, churches or whatever it may be. We still have a little more work to do on specific disciplines and we’ll do that as we go along today. But, today, first of all, Keith is going to talk to us about how he works with this material, both in churches and in groups that form around conferences, and so on, and in his work as a faculty member at Azusa Pacific. And, this is in the back of the notebook; probably you should try to find that.


In any case, this is a real treat and I’m looking forward to hearing Keith and learning about how to get into this for real.


Keith: Okay, hey, let’s pray. Let’s pray as we begin. Father, we thank you for this new day. Lord, we invite your presence to be here, by your Spirit, Lord. Would you open our hearts and minds to the things of the Kingdom. We are open. We are eager to hear from you. Guide us, help us, use everyone in the room to help one another, Lord. We’re all in this together, so we give you great thanks that you’re with us; that you will never leave us nor forsake us. You’re with us always. Thank you, Lord. We pray this in your name, amen.


John Ortberg has a funny little writing that is very true. This – see if this describes your congregation: Ned has attended the same church for more than four decades. He was, by all accounts, a crabby little kid who grew into a crabby young man. After his religious conversion, he joined the church and became a crabby Christian. He gives no evidence of uncertainty about his faith. He believes the Bible from cover to cover, but there doesn’t seem to be any record over the last forty years of Ned ever changing his disposition, his mind, his expression, or his pew. He complained to me one day, about the lack of commitment in young people in the church and he launched into a litany of his own daily devotional habits. But, Ned, I thought, you’re still crabby. You’ve crabbed your way through 14,200 quiet times without changing. What’s the point of doing all this religious activity and still being the crabgrass in the ecclesiastical lawn?


Harold, on the other hand, had the kind of experience people write about in books. Marital problems, a history of substance abuse, and unemployment finally drove him to the church. The first week, he sat in the back row because the cross at the front bothered him but he returned next Sunday and he brought a Bible. Then, he started rising at 4 a.m. to read it. In a few months, he made a Christian commitment, was baptized, joined a small group, and got involved in ministry. Harold’s life changed so abruptly, I wondered if it would stick. But, now, several years later, according to his wife, his children, his friends, and Harold himself, he is a new man. [3:59]


Okay, two portraits in the church there—Ned and Harold. Um, do you know any of those in your churches? You got some Neds? Who outweighs whom? How many Neds and Harolds? What do you think?


[Student]: Neds rule.


Oh, Neds rule? There you go! That’s a good bumper sticker. Now, just think about those two for a moment. My experience in church life is that over time – I’m a product of the Jesus movement, so there were tons of Harolds in my new faith in the 70s. It felt like everyone was a Harold with vigor and excitement and passion, and then as I got into real professional church, the longer I got in, the more Harolds I saw, okay?


And part of that is, and you know this now, you’ve been in this class for a couple of weeks and you’ve done reading. A big part of that – at least in my context – my context had sort of conservative, evangelicalism, not fundamentalism. But, still – we were living in a gospel of the right, and what that means to me is that we were centered on conversion. That was our passion. At least in Calvary Chapels here in southern California, that was it – that was all we thought about was getting people saved, getting people converted because Jesus was returning at any moment. So, discipleship was not even on the radar. Now, granted, there were organizations – Campus Crusade and Intervarsity that actually had programs. But, when you thought about discipleship, it was a canned, programmatic, six-to-ten week kind of idea. And, even in that, it was very high on content loading. Content loading people with scripture, fill-in-the-blank, what does this mean. It was not about discipleship in attachment to Jesus with any clear vision.


So, the tragedy in the story of Harold and Ned is not that we have Neds in our congregation; it’s that we accept the Neds as the norm. That’s the tragedy that we live with in our congregation. Isn’t that true? We basically say, “Oh, Ned’s been a Christian for over forty years buy he’s got all these – that’s just Ned.” We don’t say, “You know what – there’s something wrong that a Ned could be a follower of Christ for forty years and not have a character transformation at all.” Is that not a tragedy? [6:41]


Please, I need feedback. If you’re in my classroom – that’s it, there we go.


Seriously, that’s where we’re at, isn’t it? Another big tragedy is that the pastorate; we are complicit in the game. We’re complicit in this activity of non-transformation and this is the challenge. It’s hard being a pastor. We really feel for you. This vocation, on one hand, is a wonderful, highly respected vocation and it’s a much-maligned vocation. Everyone thinks they have the job description for you. You will not find that in any other vocation alive. Would you? Yet, everybody will tell you what your job should be – feels the right to do that at some point or another.

So, we have a tough, tough job.  I think that’s why Martin Lloyd Jones said this: “A person should never enter the ministry unless they cannot stay out of it.  A person should never enter the ministry unless they cannot stay out of it.” I mean, I know my dean probably doesn’t like me saying that to our students because we want people in there but, I tell my students that because there is a lot of people that get into ministry that shouldn’t be in ministry. If you can do anything, with joy and success, outside of vocational ministry – tell people to do it. Tell people to do it. [Student asks what was that again?] “A person should never enter the ministry unless they cannot stay out of it.” Great, great statement. [8:26]


So, one of the issues we have to deal with in a real practical way – and I said this the first night – is if we want to see a difference in our congregation, it’s not by going to a seminar to get a silver bullet at what’s going to be or could be used. The answer is you. The answer is you. You need to drink deeply from the well. This is not rocket science or brain surgery. If we don’t drink deeply from the well of the Kingdom and Jesus – it’s not enough to point to the well and tell people to go drink over there.


That’s part of our problem in the ministry. Many pastors themselves haven’t drunk deeply at the well, and yet they point to it and say that’s what you have to do. We have to turn that around in a new way and say, if I can drink at it and I can arrange my life where I can grow and I can nurture myself with Christ and His Kingdom – it’s really easy then to tell somebody else to do that.


That’s why I want us to buy some new metaphors for what we’re doing, for what our vocation is – those metaphors we cannot use the CEO as our metaphor for doing ministry anymore. We’ve used it for the past twenty years and this is what we’ve got – we’ve got a corporate, kind of top-down distance from the people kind of model. That right there has produced much mediocrity in our churches. We have to find some new metaphors. I challenged you with that one the first night – that may be a personal, spiritual trainer. I can’t go into all of those details, but just even think about what a personal trainer does and you can take that metaphor a long way, if you embody that type of ownership. Personal, spiritual trainer – you have trained enough to where you can tell someone else how to do it because you’ve done it yourself. It’s real simple; it’s real simple. [10:42]


Think about the metaphor of gardener. Gardening is a whole different vocation – the way we tend things – there is a process involved. We’ve got to think through some of that. So, this is how we have to begin – we’ve got to drink deeply at the well first. That’s where we begin. Once we get that and we start seeing in our own life the life of God developing and growing in us, then people get it – people start getting it.


But here’s the challenge, once you get into church, you have a whole other formation process that begins. You have the church that is now – that social context of the church now begins to form you. It has incredible affect. It really does, I mean, I would say – of the twenty-five years in church life, 60-70 % of my church experience – I saw the worst of what church could be. I saw things happen in the church that I thought could never happen, would never happen even in private industry. You know, the way people treated one another – power plays, insecurities.


I remember reading an article by Wayne Oates who is a pastoral counselor – the article called “The Pathology of Religious Leadership.” It’s an incredible article talking about that unhealthy people are attracted to religious life because it’s easier to go up the ranks in religious life for very unhealthy people, because of the vocation that it is. It’s full of a lot of trust and people generally want to believe the best and all of that. So, people can rise in different ways.  [12:29]


Boy, have I seen all that too. And you’ve seen it – if you’d been in church long enough, you’ve seen it as well. So – do you agree, we can’t do the same old, same old. That’s where we’re at, I mean, the statistics show that in regards to ethics and morality and all of those areas that we would judge people’s well being; the people in the Christian church are no different than people in the secular realm, statistically speaking. 13:04]


So, we’ve got to produce a different kind of person. That’s what I love about what you’re getting in this class from Dallas, and what Dallas believes. I say this all the time – for 27 or 28 years, I think that every day when I hear Dallas talk about this stuff, I think – that’s the God I want to believe in; that’s the life I want to have that he’s talking about. I believe it’s true. I believe that what you’re getting here is the Gospel and is what Jesus is talking about; and now we can take that back. Who’s going to do this? If you don’t take it back into your congregation, you have a pulpit and a venue that nobody has in our culture today – to take this over, to take this back to people. You have to see that calling, to take this back uniquely in your call. [Inaudible question from student]


I’m going to try to get practical here, so – know this, I’m going to jam a three day seminar into not even two hours. We’re going to have to go quick on this but I’ve given you a lot of material that we can talk about. But, that’s just kind of my preamble to where we are. Does this feel like reality, though? To some degree?


Ok, just take your Bible out – 1 Timothy 4. I do think that this is a chapter that as a leader, you want to soak yourself in. It’s a chapter where Paul is giving instructions to Timothy. It’s a great portrait because here is the veteran, father-in-the-faith, a mentor giving advice to his son-in-the-faith, Timothy. We can’t go through this whole chapter, but I want to challenge you – take this on your way back home on the flight, and just go through it and just in a sense of getting an overview and a paraphrase for yourself, go through that chapter and pick out what are the general concepts Paul is trying to impart to Timothy that are really important and look at it that way. Here is a mentor talking to an apprentice about what is important to make it in church. The important things he’s going to need if he’s going to make it. [15:20]


We can’t go through the whole thing but one of the first commands in that is found in 1 Timothy 4:7: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales.” What good advice might there be in that statement? Pastor, don’t get caught up in the peripherals of church life. There are so many things that will distract you from what’s important in the church. I’m surprised there’s no “Amens” to that – that you don’t say that. But there are – there are a lot of things we do that are peripheral to growth and life.


I think that’s all he’s saying here – “have nothing to do with godless myths” – don’t get caught up with the latest gossip; the latest things people are talking about. He says this, “Rather, Timothy, train yourself to be Godly.” Train yourself to be godly. Go to the spiritual gym for “physical training is of some value, but Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and also for the life to come.” His first command in this chapter is, “Timothy, if you’re going to make it, you better train yourself to be Godly.” Your church is not going to work out a training plan for you. They’re not going to do that. Now, people are more and more sensitive today, I think, to some of this stuff. But, in general, it’s the only vocation I know where people think you’re available 24/7, 365. Okay? That’s the only vocation that feels that way. If you’re a professional counselor – no, there are very strict boundaries about how people are to relate with you outside of the client room; is that true? Yeah. So it’s very, very different. But as the pastor; you’re available; you’re on. So, you have to know yourself and this is a challenge because pastors go into the ministry with great ideals and great desire to help people, and often times you get into the pastorate and you literally lose yourself in the pastorate.  [17:09]


You don’t know yourself and I just had a class this summer called Exploring the Pastor’s Personal Life. The first thing I say to the class is, as a vocational group, pastors are some of the most unaware people of themselves in general—in general. They’re some of the most unaware people of themselves because they are so desiring to help others; they’re busy and there is so much going on. So, you have to know yourself. Paul, right away, says “train yourself to be godly” – and he goes on, now down in verse 15, he’s summing up all of his advice, and he says, “Timothy, be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress.” I think that’s a fascinating little statement. All right, he said, “be diligent—of all the stuff I’ve said, Timothy, you better be on this stuff. Go for it with all the vigor you can so that everyone may see your progress. Now, what’s implicit in that?


Student: Making progress?


Keith: Making progress, well, yes. Making progress, but…


Student: That others will see it.


Keith: That others will see it! In the pastorate today, often times, the larger we get in churches, the more distanced we get from people. How many times do people see the pastor and they don’t even know the pastor’s life. They don’t even know their pastor. This is a risky thing. I was told very early on, “Hey, don’t get too close to your people.” Why? What’s that advice about? You’re going to get burned. This is a tricky dance, but Paul’s not buying it. Paul is saying, “live in such a way that you’re growing, that you’re diligent so that others can see your progress.” You’ve got to be close enough to people for them to see your growth. That’s going to be a risk. That’s going to be a risk. That’s a different kind of pastor. We have to find a way where we are a part of the congregation. Yeah, we have a unique vocation in it. I’m not saying you bleed over your congregation from the pulpit every week. I’m not saying that but people have to know you’re a disciple of Jesus like they are and that you fail. You have to work your way into that. [19:52]


This came, really hitting me pretty hard. I have heard this since I went into ministry and I didn’t realize how easy “drift” can occur. When I was at the height of my ministry on the central coast in Pismo Beach, California—beautiful place. I was there for ten years and it was near the end of my time there before I went to Washington D.C.—I remember driving home one afternoon. The church had grown, and there was so much to celebrate. I mean, it was a beautiful day. I lived a mile from the church; nothing to complain about. I’m driving home to my house and there’s a bike path along this thing, and I see all these people riding their bikes and walking their dogs, and in my head – I start going “what is the matter with these people, these people should be working – what’s the matter with them?” And I felt the bitterness and resentment in me about their life and I thought “Wow, what’s the matter with you, Keith; what’s gotten into you?” And I remember that phase, I’d go home and you may have heard this – this is not and easy thing to hear from your wife – I remember at one point being home and I think one of my ways to deal with how I had drifted is I’d watch sports– I love sports, so I’d be watching sports at night. My wife said “Hey, you know, we’re all here. Your family is here. Your kids are here. When are you going to get home?”—and this was after two or three hours of “being home.” You get what I’m saying? You with me? It was a wake up – it was like how had I drifted; I mean, I know all these things. I’ve got these concepts. I realized how the church demands had started to form me in ways that were now working inside of me in a very unhealthy way. I was the “go to” guy, the fireman, the executive pastor so any many major crisis came across my table – either with staff or in the congregation. And here’s the deal: it was a seductive thing. I was really good at handling the crises in church. I got a lot of affirmation; I got a tremendous amount of affirmation for being the “go-to” guy but that wasn’t where I was called to be, but I found myself doing something everyone thought I should do because I was good at it and I got affirmation for it. You get what I’m saying? But that’s not where my calling was. My calling was teaching and spiritual formation and I found that all I was doing was all this other stuff and the church needed it and they would clap for me and say, “How great!” but I was dying. I started to die. I started to die but thankfully, I had some regular meetings with Dallas and even though I was across the country, at different times, I would talk to Dallas and I remember talking about this one verse that became my “wake up call” verse—Hebrews 13:7. It begins like this. “Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you. Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.” Now, when you hear that—what would you expect the next sentence to be in that? “Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you?” What would you expect the next sentence to be? Play with it. [23:37]


Students: Follow their example. Pray for them. Work your finger to the bone? [Other comments}


Keith: “Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you.” I think the most natural thing would be—since they spoke these words to you, put them into practice. Honor them by following what they have said, right?  Now, here’s what they said. Now, there is a U-turn. Remember your leaders that spoke the Word of God to you—next sentence. You ready for this? Now, listen carefully. “Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Think about that for a second. Hebrews 13:7-this says nothing about what they said, they preach or teach. It’s now talking about “consider the outcome of their way of life” so this verse nabbed me because at the moment of my darkest drift, I had to say if someone was to consider the way I am living and who I am, I could not say that. I would not want anybody to consider being in the life that I am in right now and it woke me up. Imitate their faith really means imitate the way they trust God—the way you see them trust in God. This is all about a model. This is all about how you live, not what you say. These scriptures are very powerful. Remember your leaders. That’s how you remember your leaders-consider the outcome, consider the way they live their life and how that outcome will be and imitate the way they trust God. Could you say that? Could you say that about yourself? Just ponder that. [26:13]


This is where we need to go. We have to get this in line before we then go to teachings and techniques. Doesn’t that make sense?  So, then, as we live in that as pastors and embody some of that, what happened after that though, I set about a whole change in my orientation. I went to my Board and the Senior Pastor that I partnered with and said, I am not going not be in until 10 in the morning. For the next three years, I got up every morning—I bought a treadmill, put it in my bedroom, and closed the door at 6:30 in the morning. Nobody bothered me. I would get on that treadmill for an hour and talked to God and sweated and let all of this gunk come out of me. I didn’t read scripture. I didn’t listen to praise songs. I didn’t watch t.v. I just sweated and talked to God and things started to loosen up. They started to loosen up for me and I started getting perspective and I started praying for people that had wronged me. I got to some of these things that were very, very helpful and then I set some boundaries of ordering my life that we are going to talk about pretty quick. Ordering my life from the life circle. Dallas helped me with this and I have used it with all my staff people but the life circle is those permanent relationships—I ordered my life with God in meeting with Him a very clear way and then my family. Instead of giving them the scraps because inevitably the church wants the whole—your family can get the scraps. Slowly, but surely, I was getting it back and I got back into the things that I’d heard but drift if very, very easy. It’s very subtle. It’s like the frog in the kettle; it starts getting warmer and warmer and eventually gets hot, you know? We have to protect what your calling is. You have to know yourself. You have to know the call that you have and you have to set your boundaries. Talk to your leadership about how you are going to live your life with them in a way that you can be your best. The bottom line is: does your congregation want the empty cup that you bring or a full cup coming to them? Don’t they deserve to have a full cup? The only way that is going to happen is you preserving a sense of your life in God in His Kingdom. That’s how your church is going to benefit. [28:53]


Then, we move to this. We move to those two questions I told you about earlier that we have to answer. As a pastor, you’ve got to answer these two questions. How will you initiate people into the faith? Because inevitably if the Kingdom is breaking in your place and Jesus is preached, people want to know, what do I do? How do I follow him?  How does that engagement occur? You have to be clear in your mind, in your local context, how will you initiate people into the faith. In other words, what is the Gospel you will bring to them and how do they engage that Gospel? [29:33]


And then secondly, how will you teach them to become like Jesus? If you just do those two things, you will see tremendous things occur in your context. Does that make sense? OK; any questions about anything I’ve said right now for me?


Q: What did you underestimate about being a pastor?


A:  Here is what I underestimated—the stuff that I got from Dallas, the personal formational things, I don’t think I really lost but you see, different seasons of life (and you will notice this) mean that you have to re-arrange your life anew. Let’s say, you just start having kids or you are single and you get married or you have teenagers; you have to rearrange your life—your unique life to embody these things that we are talking about at every different stage so I think at some of the stages, I didn’t readjust and then I underestimated the formative power of the church itself. That’s all I can say is I underestimated that. Nobody was talking to me about church formation—the formation that I get from my church. I just didn’t know how to deal with that. Much of what we do is around Christina activities and things. We try to encourage fellowship with people. We have interactions with folks. We are interacting with the Scripture but you all know this as Senior pastors; if you are doing a message, you can do a message of parsing it and tearing it apart without having any quality of devotion even for your own life. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting any spiritual devotion out of what you are doing but there is a subtle thing—well, now I am in it so it is happening for me. So, the pastorate is a very weird kind of thing in our own formation. Just the activities of church life, sometimes we substitute in that this is now contributing to my devotional life or my life in God and some of it can be, but a lot of it can be totally just activity just like our folks in our congregation feel. So, drift is a funny thing. That’s all I can say. It’s a funny thing that happens in any job that we are in unless we are aware and unless we are people around us that support what we are after and are aware of things. Drift occurs. Does that make sense? You can go interview at a church, and this might be interesting for Tray because he’s back in a church for the first year, right? You can interview at a church and hear all the stuff that they say they area and what they want for you, but you will never know what you’ve got until you are there. You just won’t. [32:37]


When I went to Washington, D.C. and moved a family of three teenagers across the county, they said all the right things and I thought I did a good investigative job about what was going to happen but when I got there, it was about as opposite as I could have imagined. The reality of what I was walking into but this is the way things are. This is the way church life oftentimes is but the bottom line is—you have to take charge of who you are and how you are going to live your life in the Kingdom with God and then know the sense of your calling in a way that you don’t get side-tracked and if you are an associate, this is a hard thing because you come in with a certain job and oftentimes you will do the things that everybody else doesn’t want to do and pretty soon, you are doing things that you don’t feel called to do at all and what do you do then? It’s a very interesting vocation folks. It can be. So, these are some of the things that I think we need to look at here. [33:53]


Let me go to a few other things here. Let me give you six things—this is not comprehensive—Six Critical Components to Christ-like Transformation. These are some things that you have to consider when you think about Christ-like transformation requires certain things. There are six critical components for Christ-like transformation and they require these things.  The first thing is God’s grace. I have been frustrated over the years hearing about the spiritual formation movement and in different circles that where is grace? Where is grace in this whole thing? You’ve heard this, haven’t you, Dallas? People don’t understand. People think that if we are asking you to do something, now you are practicing works righteousness. Again, God is not opposed to effort; He’s opposed to earning. Those little statements have been pearls for me in teaching in the congregation. God is not opposed to effort but to earning. Effort is an action; earning is an attitude. If you practice something and your attitude is one of ‘Oh boy, God is going to count me as righteous because I did this,’ then you are earning. But your efforts do not mean that you are earning just because you practice something. WE have a role in our formation. We’ve got to get this across to our folks. We have a role in this endeavor of Christ-like transformation. We are not passive. We’ve got to get people out of that whole thing that I just have to wait for God to pour it on me and change me. [35:46]


Then, some of the pendulum has swung and the Charismatic movement is thinking that the charismatic experience is one that now transforms their character and generally that is just not the case. The gifts in operation, and I believe in them. I have some Vineyard in me. I’ve got Charismatic in me. That’s very important and we need to be encouraged by the gifts in the local congregation. That gives us hope that God is alive and fresh and on the move but gifts in general (and Dallas has said this) do not form our character. Is that accurate, Dallas? [YES] They don’t form our character in that way. So, we talk about God’s grace right off the bat. What is God’s grace? Grace is not just related to my sin.  Grace is related to my becoming Holy. Titus 2—you’ve got the passage. The grace that saved us and deals with our sin now becomes the grace that teaches us how to become holy. We must move to that next level on the whole issue of grace. People do not understand grace. Much of what we are doing from this class is re-evangelizing our own congregations to give them correct language about what they think they are saying. They think they know what grace is. They think they know what salvation is. They think they know what the Kingdom is and repentance but to be honest with you, those worlds now have very skued meanings for most folks. We have to talk about grace—it is God’s action in my life accomplishing what cannot be done on my own. God’s action—if we want to see real transformation, we are dependent on God’s grace. We drink it. I wake up today, “Boy, oh boy, I need your grace today to endure the things that I am going to face, the people that are going to come my way. I am counting on your grace today.” God’s action in my life; that’s number one. [38:04]


Number Two—Critical Component—Time and Intensity. Two words—time and intensity. Part of the reason that you are maybe finding some help in these two weeks is you are now exerting time and intensity in this place. None of us will change unless time and intensity is a piece of that and this is why generally a Sunday morning service is not enough. It has very little time and very little intensity. It’s like you going to the gym for an hour a week. If you want to get in shape and you go to the gym for an hour and a half on Saturday morning, what’s that going to do to you? What happens? [Student comments] You feel sore after it. What happens in the moment of that hour? [Endorphins] Do you think people’s endorphins are up at church? That’s why we just jam them with music, pump it up and they get excited. It’s very similar—the physical workout and a Sunday morning service in a spiritual sense. There is a high and you feel good and then you hit an adrenaline low later but it doesn’t actually change the system—not until you realize that you have to have time and intensity involved in your training. Any training is going to involve time and intensity so what does that mean for your spiritual life? Time and Intensity. I have to be clear about what I am practicing. When you go to the gym, it’s usually very clear about what you are doing. When Justin goes to the gym and works on these “guns” right here, those really good biceps, he knows exactly what he needs to do when he gets in there. Most people don’t have a clue what to do. In fact, Barna’s stuff—I mean my goodness—I’ve got some things here. From Christian Leadership magazine—Barna’s survey says, “American evangelicals are content to be average. When respondents were asked to name a single area they would like to improve, many had not even thought about it. The fact that so few people have thought about how they could intentionally and strategically enhance their spiritual life reminds us that spiritual growth is not a priority to most people,” said George Barna. “Americans are generally satisfied with being average in their spiritual formation.” They don’t have a plan; most people don’t. If you say to everybody in a group of people in a classroom, how many of you think your spiritual life deserves priority in your life? How many of you believe that? The whole room will raise their hand. Then the next question: how many of you have a daily plan for that to happen? Barely any hands. This is the massive disconnect that we have in our places, so time and intensity is a critical thing you’ve got to teach on with your people that if they want to grow, it’s like everything else in their life. If they want to grow in being a better employee, then they invest in some way; maybe they take a class or whatever. You know what I am saying? [41:49]


Q: Don’t most people measure their spiritual health by simple daily devotion?


A: Yes, you see, you’ve got to unpack this. You’ve said a great sentence, that’s the language they use, Doug but you have to unpack that. Maybe that would work for you. I can’t use that language because I can’t train that way personally but you use the language that the majority of people use. I did my devotions and I did this and without understanding; for instance, I am a product of the Jesus movement. I had one discipline I was given as a new “Jesus freak” and that was this discipline called “a quiet time.” Yal know that phrase, right? What is a quiet time? I don’t know any systematic teaching, really—I guess there are a few books that have been written on it. I had to put in what I thought that was; read a chapter in the Bible every night when I was a new Christian. I was a freshman in high school. In the early days of my freshman/sophomore year, I couldn’t read enough. I was just thirsty for reading the scripture. It was unbelievable. I kept that going but you see, I had no grounding in what that was about or for, other than just getting more knowledge so what that did though, by my Senior year, it turned into rampant legalism. I would do it if I got in at 3 from being out with my friends, I would read my chapter religiously and then where does legalism go? After legalism? It goes to superstition. What’s that? If I don’t read this, then God is going to be mad at me. I started forming a lot of things that legalism will push you into. Now, we’re in the realm of magic. We are not in the realm of God’s character and any sense of healthy spiritualty is not in that at all but we have to teach what these things mean. That’s why I love Dallas going through each of the disciplines because we see what it really means. He says, “The spirituality without a proper understanding of ontology will usually degenerate to legalism and possibly superstition.”  Ontology is the nature of being. So, we have to have a spirituality that is clear about what these things mean. That’s what’s so wonderful about what Dallas gives us. He gives us meaning. He gives us practice and experience that you can hang onto. Once you get that, you’ve got to put time and intensity in the mix. You got that? So, number one is God’s grace; number two is time and intensity. [44:47]


Number Three: Feedback From Others This is another knock on the spiritual formation movement. Many people that see it from the outside say it’s about a privatized faith—individualism—privatization. They’ve got a good critique for us because, to be honest with you and this is just my opinion, and you can push back on this, I personally think we don’t know how to do community very well. I am talking about real community where people are invited to speak into your life like John Wesley’s Bands. The stuff that they did—the reason that second Great Awakening occurred was in great part because of the quality of the relationships that they had where they literally invited people to say, “Tell me what you really think of me? What do you see in my life?” So, feedback from others in our growth is absolutely critical. Do you have two or three people that they know you, not as pastor but as George, Richard, Tom and a fellow disciple of Jesus where you can be totally “on the table” about your faith. I am not talking about forming an accountability group; I am talking about friends who invest life together in each other. That’s a huge piece. If you want to grow, you better have that. A critical piece is having that kind of feedback from others. A good friend of mines says, “there is no transformation without feedback” and it hit me big because I realized that I could go the Monastery for the next twenty years and God could do a lot in me, but there are some things that He will not do without me getting feedback from some eyes in front of me. Are you with me on that? Do you hear what I am saying? We really need people in our life. If you don’t have somebody, and the pastorate isolates us and it has that tendency to do that, and that’s when we get into trouble. You need some people in your life that will give you real, real, feedback—strategic feedback. All right, that’s number three. [47:04]


Number Four: Christ-like transformation requires Critical Reflection in Specifics—You’ve had the opportunity here to maybe look at very specific areas of your life. Nothing changes if we are into generalities. Nothing is going to change if we just stay general and abstract about my life. “Well, I need to grow spiritually.” That’s a great statement.  Well, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything. [Student comments—it means you need to stop lying.] Exactly. So, if we are going to grow, we have to critically reflect on our self in a way where we see these things and we can be reflective on these specific things in our life.


Number Five: A Vision for a Different Reality—now, we are back to VIM and I’ll just keep pounding and dripping the same faucet. The VIM model is an incredible model but you cannot move quickly through vision. You have to stay in vision. Please real the prayers of Paul in Colossians 1, Ephesians 2 & 3—the prayers for those churches and you will see that his prayers are filled with vision and they are not a vision of how bad your sin is, okay? We recycle sin reflection and I am not down on sin, believe me? But the spirit of God is pretty good at dealing with sin for us so I think sometimes we feel like we have to be the Holy Spirit for people. I challenge you to look at those prayers and look at the language he is using for prayers for them and it’s all about vision. Paul, I believe, when he was—think about it. Paul had to have an incredible vision. How could he go from persecuting the church and hating the Gentiles to loving the church and being the Apostle to the Gentiles? That Grand Canyon from there to there is the most—you want to see transformation? Paul is it. Paul is the picture of transformation in the New Testament like nothing I could ever even imagine. I can’t even imagine that he and his own life changed from one way to another.  Now, that’s because but he got a vision from Jesus. What do you think was going on for those years in the desert being discipled personally by Jesus? I think Jesus just taught him about the Kingdom, taught him about the love of god, totally helped him get things lined up and he came out and he literally loved the Gentiles. He was a transformed person. So, vision is critical. If you are going to change in a different way, you better have a different vision—a vision for a different reality of life that I am not going to live the way I used to live. I want something different. So, that’s a critical piece.

Number Six: Training, Not Trying—this is a big deal—this training and not trying. That’s the issue for us at hand. That’s why you have got to train. If you have trained—now, Justin, if somebody said, “Hey I really want to work on my biceps, you’d be able to say what?” [I can help you] Would that be arrogant? No, it’s not being arrogant. He can help because he has experienced it and he knows how to do it. This is what we’ve got to do. As a pastor, you are a personal spiritual trainer and it doesn’t mean you are perfect in any way. It just means that you’ve been training and you can help others train. You hear people’s lives and you say, “Why don’t you try this? How does this work?” This is a way you could place yourself before Christ. It’s an opportunity. [51:37]


So, here are the six again: God’s Grace is Critical; Time and Intensity; Feedback From Others; Critical Reflection in the Specifics, Vision for a Different Reality, and Training, not Trying. Any other comments or thoughts about that or questions? This is not comprehensive but these six can be very potent. You could teach on these.


Q: So then you are saying to work on specific disciplines? (Overhead has a mis-spelled word]


A: Absolutely and the things that I would use in a congregation—I would use the VIM. I would teach and explain the VIM—huge teaching on the IVM model. What does that mean? Secondly, the golden triangle; that’s a very good other transformative tool to teach on. As a follower of Christ, once they’ve made that commitment, they need to know the avenues that God uses in the transformation and a big piece of that is the one side of the triangle is the daily disciplines that I employ so then they see that I have a part in the transformation. Daily activities of life, trials and tribulations—one way, the next—the personal work of the Holy sprit corporately as well as personally and then daily disciplines that I employ. When they get those three, now they see how this works and then I am going to give you one more thing on transformation in a bit which I think makes these three things powerful in teaching people about the process and you can do this in a congregation. [53:03]


Q: Are you saying that we become the wise master and be hidden in our messages?


A: No, I am not saying that at all. I mean you are not trying to be hidden about anything. I think it would be just like going into a gym and asking that personal trainer, “What do I need to do for my cardio vascular or a certain aspect?” We are in training ourselves. All you are doing is saying that I am in training myself but we have to know people to help them and we have to give them a theological foundation of how transformation occurs, how God interacts with them and how it works so VIM is a great teaching and by the way, the biggest part of all that I am saying here is you have to find a venue of where you are going to teach. This is tough today in the church because time is the biggest commodity in people’s lives today. Where are you going to find a place to teach? A lot of our churches don’t even have a Sunday School anymore. A lot of them just have a Celebration Cell Model and that’s a challenge. Where are you going to do this? And I don’t have the answer for it. You have to look in your unique setting and say where are the avenues that I am going to teach some of this stuff. And this is what I have had to do in every congregation that I was at; that was one of my first things. I am now in this different church. Where is the place that I can get in there and start to teach some of this stuff? Not preach; but teach. Teaching; having a dialogical kind of experience with people where they can chew on something, they can talk back; they can ask questions. We are not going to get there unless we have some of those venues.


Q: Do I think of myself as a personal trainer for 150 people then?


A: No. Well, you have other people you are working with. You have people that you train under you that have interest and desire to grow. We will save us a little time. You start in your congregations with those ready to run. You don’t try to do this with the mass of people. The pulpit can be a great vision creator. In fact, I do think that’s what the pulpit is for. In fact, I would challenge you to now maybe go back and do a three-week series on entering the Kingdom. I just did this in my church. There are three passages that talk about “you will never enter the Kingdom unless something happens.” Go teach on that. You have three messages built in for you right now from the pulpit to salt people on the Kingdom and numerous other Kingdom parables but three of them. What are those three? “Unless you are born from above, you can’t enter the Kingdom; unless you have the humility of a little child, you will never enter the Kingdom; unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Three very different teachings but they all say the same thing. It’s like me saying, “Hey, I want to invite you all to Disneyland but here’s the deal. You can go to Disneyland but you will only get in through Gate G.”  Do you think you should be listening or would be listening? Yes, you will. You would absolutely be listening. If our congregations get an idea, we are not going to enter the Kingdom, there’s something—it’s not a punitive thing that you are saying. This is how you move into the Kingdom with these traits and qualities. I just challenge you to preach that but find a place where you can teach. Find a place where you can teach. [56:34]


OK, this is what I what to do here. That big handout that I gave you that says, I think it’s 12 pages—13 pages. Take that out and put that in front of you. We are gong to fill in all the blanks because I know there are some of you that need blanks filled in so I am going to fill all of them in and we will go back at some point and talk through them. We won’t have enough time to get through all of these but I want you to see them and you can use anything in here in your own way, shaping it for your congregation, shaping it for a Sunday School class for some sort of a class you do. Use any of the material. [57:20]


Page One: The inherent nature of leadership is influence.


And, my question to you as a leader is, –just the nature of you being a pastor, you have influence. The question is, “How are you going to use your influence now? You have it. You have positional power. Now, are you going to use your influence through positional power or the power of your character? That’s where you have to decide and that’s where you have to go with this. OK?


The bottom of page one: This is a very simple definition I use with folks in the church here.—what a disciple is; the portrait of a disciple or a learner.


A disciple is one who desires above all else to be like Jesus and intends to be so.


Now, that’s a mindset that somebody may state but it doesn’t work without two.


Number Two says: A disciple then is also one who arranges the affairs of ones’ life to bring that desire to pass.


It’s not enough to say—this is like the rich young ruler—“what must I do?” Jesus say, “Well, now you’ve go to arrange your life this way.” And he said, “Uh, oh, can’t go there; I’m not ready for that.” See, the disciple is the one that presupposes a vision of Jesus as we are following. Without a magnificent vision of Jesus, people are not going to arrange their life in such a way that they are going to follow Him. So, we have to paint that picture of the sufficiency and magnificence of Jesus. So, that’s how you get there.


Turn the page over; we will fill these two in. You heard a little bit about this doing something in somebody name: one is doing something in that person’s authority, Col 3:17 and number two: doing something in the character of that person.  You can do a good little teaching on doing something in the name of somebody meant two different things there.


Key Truth: Practice makes habit, not perfect.


Unless you are practicing rightly, you will be very far form perfect. You’ve got to have a certain—and people that play instruments or do sports know this. If you are not practicing and using the right techniques or the right clarity about what you are doing, you are going to get a habit that is going to be hard to undo. I’ve been playing on the guitar for 25 years and I didn’t get a lesson until about year 10. I remember the person saying, “Well, we’re going to have some work to do because you have a picking style that we will have to un-do. It’s going to take awhile.” I had formed some habits that were not going to help me. It’s that simple and we’ve practiced habits in the church that have not created perfect—far from it so we have to realize that. [1:00:32]

I put this little thing on the “Wisdom Literature.” I love that we have the Wisdom Literature because it teaches us as Westerners that “tests to the reality that life is neither logical nor linear.” Life is neither logical nor linear so in all that we do, we always have to step back and say, “We’re doing the best we can.” God works in different ways. It’s not a linear line. It’s not 1,2,3,4 5. Things can go in a lot of different ways and I think if we all in this room charted our spiritual life from when we became a Christ follower, it’s probably not been a straight line. Would you agree? It’s probably been a pretty zigzag reality. I always have to remember that.

I am going to give you two right after our break here—on page two, that other stuff.

Page Three: Conversion Process—three processes to consider. One is to consider, number two is decide and three is surrender or repent. You could say forsake, surrender, repent so one is consider, two is decide and three is forsake, repent, surrender—as many words as we can to help people get it. That’s a very important process. I think, Josh, you had talked about that. There is a place to talk about conversion that is helpful. I personally think the past generation was obsessed with conversion as the end but we’ve centered fully on conversion in a way that has been very unhealthy. I would venture to say if we asked, even in this room, if we did a sample of, “do you know when you were converted?” We would all have a very different answer to our own conversion to show that conversion is not necessarily something you can—I mean, if you want to make that your hallmark, you better be careful because it will be very illusive. It is important to understand a conversion process and that’s why if you look at Luke 14, you will see these three pieces involved in a process toward conversion. I believe that it’s okay to let people stay in the consideration stage as long as they need to and then there will be a time where you will want to talk about it and they may have a decision—making a decision that Jesus is who He says He is doesn’t mean they are a Christian or a disciple of Jesus. They can decide that but still not be there. Do you realize that and Dallas has said that. You can decide that you need a new car tomorrow but you may not get one for a couple years, right? So, decision does not mean that’s it. The point of entering this life; I think, the operative word is repentance—the point of repentance. Would you agree on that, Dallas?—that that’s the entrance in the door. So, repentance becomes that last piece. [1:03:47]

Now, I’m going to go through this Three Streams of Conversion just a bit here. So, turn that back over. Nothing on four, right?—nothing on 5. We will go through that. Six—here we go. Let’s fill in these here.  This is something that I think you can teach. It’s wonderful to do this in a class.

Once people have committed to be a disciple, I go through these obstacles because once you are in the Kingdom there are obstacles to the Kingdom life once you’ve stepped in so you’ve got to talk to people about the realities of the world they live in and these are the ways I get into that.  The first thing I say to folks is that you have to come to the grips once you’ve stepped into the Kingdom is you have to still deal with your own rebellion. There are still remnants of the old man or woman in your flesh and your bones that you have to deal with and that will rear itself up and there are two kinds of –one form of rebellion is basically God says I want to take you this way and we wake up and say, “No, I’ll be the ruler of my life today.” That’s just saying, “No I’m going to do it. I’ll do what I want to do.” There’s another form of rebellion that I would say is passive rebellion but it is active but passive in the sense that we don’t look at it as a defiant “No.”

The two terms are procrastination and neglect; they are passive forms of rebellion where we say, “Ok, God, later; I’ll get back to you when I need to.” It’s not necessarily saying no and being defiant but it’s just letting yourself drift. It’s drift. Drift can happen that way so number one is your own rebellion. Number two is the constant demand of hurry and busyness. If you don’t talk to your folks about that reality in the world they live in, those are—hurry and busyness are major barriers to the Kingdom life being formed in our life, so you have to talk about it. You have to talk about the realty of it and some people stay hurried and busy for there is a payoff in it. There is a great payoff in it. I don’t have to deal with my stuff that way. I can close it off and say, “I’ll just run. I’ll go buy clothes or whatever.” Hurry and busyness are huge topics to talk about and teach on. [1:06:30]

Number Three—next obstacle—our inability to manage distractions. If we want to grow in the Kingdom life, we have to manage distractions. And I tell you, as a pastor, I think this is why we get undone a bit. The pastorate is about distractions oftentimes. We are constantly distracted by things to do for people. They are good things.

Distractions don’t have to be bad, but I do know this in my life—when I really tried to get more serious about my own formation, I came to realize that with my personality, I am an extrovert. I am one of the few spiritual formation people that is a high extrovert. Most of my dear brothers, Gary Moon included, are good introverts and some people think that spiritual formation is made for introverts but I am not; I am an extrovert. I know what I need and I can’t do a devotion in ten minutes and think that is going to be—I have to take blocks of time because I have to detox; any of you there with me? Inevitably—here is my issue—when I started to plan—when I was in church I would go away to this little retreat center about an hour away and spend a half a day and it would take me the first three hours just to get in touch with all the things that I was supposed to be doing. So, I had to let that shut down—it took a long time—and then I would start working for me. But, for me, blocks of time are what I need? So, what does that mean? If you are that kind of person, you have to arrange your life to have a block of time. And, what would happen the morning that I had my block of time?  What do you think would happen? The phone would ring; my kid needed something; my wife says here is the honey-do list; you didn’t do this or somebody from the church. You see, if I let those distractions—if I have to be at the beck and call of all those distractions, I’ll never grow. You have to manage distractions. You have to say, “All right, for a period of time you plan with your family and say I am going to be gone.” Talk to you aboard. You’ve got to be clear and strategic. You’ve got to know yourself and know what you need and what to do? Are you with me? Making sense?  So, manage distractions.

Number Four: Our radical addiction to comfort and ease—here you go. Here’s a good one to preach here because to be honest with you, if your people literally are buying all the commercials they see on t.v., that they are entitled to comfort and ease and a picket fence and a house and two cars and a certain pay grade and that’s their pursuit, the Kingdom will be missed. Comfort and ease—it’s a very western issue. We all deal with this but one of the ways we really grow is not through comfort and ease but a sense of dealing with the disequilibrium. There is something that propels us into growth when we have that. I think that’s why Jesus preached in parables. He was constantly creating disequilibrium and downright pain for folks but it propelled them into a different reality. [1:10:27]

My contention is that sometimes as pastors, we feel our role is to make people comfortable constantly and I think there is a great danger in you playing that role—buying that role because the discomfort some people come to you with is exactly what they need in order to propel them to where God can change them. Our job and this is my opinion and you can push back is, I’m not there to solve people’s problems. I am there to help stand with them in love and care and help create meaning for what they are going through in God and to give them a sense of meaning and growth for what is going on in their life. I’m not there to fix them. I’m not there to say, “You know,” but help give meaning because I can guarantee –we are going to do a little exercise when you come back. You are going to see how important discomfort and pain and other things are to our growth. We will play this out but our radical addiction to comfort and ease is an obstacle to growth in the Kingdom. [1:11:30]

Number Five: Faulty Theology or Instruction is an obstacle to the Life in the Kingdom. For example, the theology of a conversion gospel is a barrier to the Kingdom. Are you convinced of that? You should be, by this time. If you are going to preach, that becomes a barrier for Kingdom life for people. So, that’s faulty theology in instruction.


Number Six: Our Fear of Critical Reflection—now, this does relate to number two—hurry and busyness. I do think people stay hurried and busy so they don’t have to critically reflect. I don’t know what comes first with that one—the chicken or the egg but people do not know how to do that. One of the activities—this is what we did in a church that we thought was helpful was we created like on a Saturday, we would create a solitude and silence exercise where people could drop their kids at the church and they would spend three hours—the Moms and the Dads— in a very nice park and then they would have a little opportunity to reflect. Those are some things you can do. You can get creative about giving your people experiences with these kinds of things where they can critically reflect. Help them. Walk them through it. I give my class at APU—one of their assignments is a two hour exploration of solitude and silence and they have to enter—I don’t care if you had a bad experience, just tell me what happened because you can learn—the goal is not to succeed and have an “aha” experience, the goal is to learn something about yourself and God. Your failure in that experience could be really instructive. We could learn a lot in even failed experiences so—critical reflection. [1:13:29]

Number Seven: Our misunderstanding of spiritual disciplines—what do I mean by that?  That is if you see spiritual disciplines as righteousness, which many people do. Many people get caught up in means and they get into that legalism and that superstition. We’ve got help them see that it doesn’t earn a thing with God. It doesn’t earn anything at all but a misunderstanding to the spiritual disciplines will be a barrier to their Kingdom life.

Number Eight: this is a tough one in our culture—our expectation for instant change—we are so used to seeing technology move so fast. We are so used to infomercials that say if you do this in three days, you will have whatever, anything you want. Everything is at a speed and a timing that people expect that when they come into church, it happens there, too in the same way. This whole idea of instant change and I’ll leave you to that saying on the very front of this by again, Houston, James Houston on the speed of Godliness is very slow. [1:14:33]

Number Nine: Due to guilt and shame, we lack confidence that God really will speak to us—we have countless people that walk into our congregations that have had abuse, addictions and all of these things and if they can’t move to a place where they believe that God wants to talk to them, then that’s a big barrier to the Kingdom life. I think a big part of what we are trying to do with our people is to give them a sense of confidence that God will speak to them. In Hearing God, one of Dallas’ chapters that I have used for years in the church has been Recognizing the Voice of God out of that book. That chapter alone is so powerful on how to help people recognize God’s voice and to be more confident that God really wants to speak to them. [Comment from Student] You can teach on that. You can do a class on that chapter and it would be very profound for folks so those are some things that you do.

So those are nine obstacles; they are not comprehensive.  So, can you see yourself preaching or teaching in some way on some of those? I hope you can.

So, now let’s go on to page seven—you’ve heard these statements; these are great little saying that have helped me over time as I teach in classrooms—(1) God is not opposed to effort but to earning. (2) Practice makes habit, not perfect. You have to help people see that we build habits. That’s just the way people are. (3) Trying is dying but training is reigning—sounds quippy but there is a whole teaching that goes around that. Trying is dying but training is reigning.

You do know that when we tried the model not too many years ago; it was a program called WWJD. What was that? What Would Jesus Do? That was a sincere effort to deal with our growth or be more Christ-like through a “trying” model. OK? You realize that that’s what it is. What would Jesus do? And the whole idea was from Sheldon’s book, In His Steps, and good sincere things. I want to be one that does that. What would Jesus Do? But the fact it, when you leave here and you get on the 210 there in greater LA traffic and somebody cuts you off, I guarantee you that I don’t care if you have a bracelet on or not, you are not thinking what would Jesus do? You are already into action? [Comments from student] Just think about, what would you do? Seriously, you see, we are on automatic pilot and rarely in the moment of the “squeeze” do we say, “What would Jesus do?”
We are already responding because it’s already in us. You can’t just try to do what Jesus did without training. A trying model; trying is dying. My wife does get me on this—I get this. You need to do this. Well, I’ll try. That’s not good enough. Trying means nothing. Right? It doesn’t. Trying is dying. Training is reigning. [1:18:33]

Q: Is what would Jesus do a goal to try for?

A: Just trying alone. I mean, anybody that has had addictions and goes to 12 steps, realizes that that’s not the language you use because trying doesn’t mean anything. When you train—when you take on a training, then it comes out of you automatically. That’s what the hope is. Michael Jordan didn’t say, “Well, I am going to go try and do this “dunk” on this guy in front of me.” He didn’t say, “I’m going to try to do that.” He trained in such a way that when the situation presented itself, he was automatically ready to do what needed to be done. See what I mean? So, it would be just like us to say, “I’m going to try to be like Michael Jordan.” Well, that’s not a bad thing but do you really want to have some efforts towards that end, well, you are not going to do that unless you train. It is not going to happen at al unless you train, right? So, again, it’s explaining the difference between trying and training. I am not saying WWJD is a bad thing but I think it can work in reverse for numbers.

That’s it on the fill-ins right there.


What I want to do is give you a ten-minute break. We’ve gone fast and furious and then I want to put this chart up on the board in regards to the Gospel. It will help you explain this to your folks. OK? Ten minute break.

Listen to all parts in this Spirituality and Ministry 2012 series