Our Job Criteria (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 25, 2015)

We have several folks in my department who have recently retired or are about to, so I am serving on various search committees this year. In order to avoid a human resources nightmare and possibly get ourselves into legal trouble, there are usually only three reasons that we can use to justify not considering an applicant for a job: 1) they don’t meet the education requirements; 2) they lack the necessary experience; or 3) they fall short on some other aspect of the job description. When we make a final recommendation for the selected candidate, we have to explain why we chose that person over the other qualified applicants.

 

This painstaking process got me thinking about what Jesus went through when he selected his disciples. Granted, he has a bit of an advantage over us, since he knows our hearts (1 John 3:20, Romans 8:27), and we have to whittle down the candidate pool by reading resumes and cover letters. The four gospels include several accounts of Jesus calling his disciples (Ex.: Matthew 4:19 & 9:9, Luke 5:27, John 1:43).

 

Even though Jesus didn’t appear to conduct formal interviews with his would-be disciples, I did notice two things that were consistent in his search. First, Jesus expected them to follow him (see the verses in the previous paragraph for examples). Second, he expected them to stick around for the long haul. Matthew 10:38 gives us some insight into this second point. You may recognize it as the “take up your cross and follow me” verse. What does that really mean, though? The Message paraphrase puts it this way: “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me.” Jesus wasn’t looking for job hoppers or career-ladder climbers; he was looking for committed servant-leaders.

 

Jesus wasn’t bothered by the same criteria that we have to abide by in search committees nowadays. He wanted people who were ready and willing to join his work. The exciting thing is that the job notice is still posted! Are you committed to following him for the long haul?

I want to be a part of that! (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 2, 2014)

I try really hard not to single out one kid over another (for better or for worse), but sometimes one of them says or does something that brings me to my knees (usually in prayer for endurance & peace, but other times for gratitude that God is allowing me to witness his work in their lives). One such gratitude-moment happened the other day, when my eldest and I were in the car together.

 

He was telling me something the youth minister had taught about the apostle Paul. He explained how whenever Paul went to a new city, he made a big impact, and the place was changed for the gospel. The youth minister then told the teens that THEY could be like Paul in our community, to make an everlasting imprint here for Christ. My son finished the story and then said, “Man, I want to be a part of that!”

 

There are a bazillion reasons that I could brag about why this kid makes me proud. He’s bright, funny, has more musical talent in his pinky finger than I have in my whole body, makes good grades, is a huge help around the house and with his little brothers … the list could go on and on. Yet, none of those accolades compares to the joy I felt as a parent when my son said that he wants to be a part of what God is doing in this place.

 

That same missions-minded Paul also served as a mentor for a young man named Timothy. I don’t know exactly how old Timothy was, at the time, but Paul once told him: “Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4: 11-12, NIV).

 

Ministry isn’t just for the pastors, elders, Life group hosts, and other lay leaders. What are you and I doing to encourage each other – and even our youth – to become ministers in their own circles? We hear a lot about how our youth are the leaders of tomorrow, and while that is true, it’s not the whole story. They are leaders NOW. Let us encourage them in word and example.

The Intimidated Visitor (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 31, 2014)

I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty friendly person, and I frequently tried to find new faces to say hello to on Sunday mornings, but having the tables flipped and walking into new places as a single-again adult has been a humbling learning experience. I can’t think of very many situations that feel more intimidating than walking into an unfamiliar church alone. If you have kids, you can kind of hide behind them as you figure out where they need to go, but once you’ve dropped them off to the nursery, kids’ classes, etc., you are on your own.

In Acts 2, we read about how rapidly the early church grew. Verse 47 says that “the Lord added to their number daily” (NIV), and other verses mention the thousands of individuals who flocked to the new congregations. I wonder sometimes about the demographics of those newcomers, but we aren’t given much detail other than knowing that the sheer number of new believers was skyrocketing.

I think Crossroads, in particular, does a fantastic job of making people feel at home, but we can all get stuck in a rut sometimes, so maybe it will help to be reminded of how much courage it takes to walk into a new place alone. I’ve gone to church my whole life, and I’ve been a leader in several capacities, but still, walking through the lobby and finding a seat in a new church made me feel very self-conscious and awkward.

That isn’t to say that people were unwelcoming; on the contrary, several people introduced themselves and struck up a friendly conversation. But when it came to finding my seat and participating in church, I still felt alone. Worse yet, I felt like I stuck out. I avoided the temptation to fiddle with my phone or re-read the bulletin a dozen times to look like I was busy. I tried making eye contact and saying hi to people, but it wasn’t easy. With these things in mind, I would like to offer some practical suggestions to make intimidated visitors feel welcome.

First, don’t stop doing what you already do so well! Keep greeting people; introduce yourself; get to know them. Better yet, invite them to come sit with you. I would have really liked for someone to ask me to sit with them, just so I didn’t go through the worship service alone. (Sure, there’s a crowd, but I think most of you understand what it feels like to feel alone in a crowd.) Don’t stop there. Invite them to your Life group (even if you aren’t the leader!). Take it upon yourself to introduce them to the pastor, etc. Remember the story of the early church in Acts 2: they focused not only on the gospel message, but also on fellowship and nurturing new members.

Beyond Your Resume (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 27, 2014)

Twice in my career, so far, I have been tasked with building a team from scratch. As a hiring supervisor, I looked for a number of traits as I interviewed people, but I especially hoped to find folks who would bring useful skills and creative ideas to the table, demonstrate flexibility and a willingness to learn, and complement the group dynamic. That doesn’t mean that I wanted an office full of mini-me clones; however, we naturally had some similarities in our work histories and basic skills.

When I consider how Jesus selected his team of disciples, it doesn’t make much sense to me, from a supervisory perspective. It seems as though he just picked people off the street, with no real consideration of their qualifications. He chose fishermen whose education level was likely very minimal and assigned them the high-profile job of preaching and teaching his message. He even chose a tax collector – one of the most stereotypically crooked professions of all time – as a close confidant.

Jesus put together a team of individuals who, in any other context, might have little reason ever to interact with each other, much less drop everything and live in community together with a homeless prophet for the next few years.

I think what Jesus cared about most of all was not a bullet-point list of achievements on his disciples’ resumes, how many initials they used after their names, or even their connections in the community (because you and I both know that all of those things carry weight in today’s society, for better or for worse). Instead, he cared about their willingness to simply, “Come, follow me” (see Mark 1:16-18 and elsewhere).

Perhaps you know Scripture like the back of your hand because you were raised in church and spent summers attending Vacation Bible School and church camps. Or, maybe you came to faith more recently, and you are embarrassed to even pray aloud because you don’t feel knowledgeable or articulate enough. Regardless of where you sit between either extreme, let me reassure you that when he asks you to follow him, you are qualified to serve on Jesus’ team! Don’t let a supposed lack of qualifications on paper keep you from being willing to lead when he calls you to. (On the flip side, don’t let a litany of leadership qualifications keep you from being willing to serve, either.)