How can we help new (and old) disciples stay motivated, enthused and on mission?
To begin to answer that, allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Anonymous.
Anonymous is in the Christ-following Underground. In mission circles they are sometimes called M’s. “M” is code word for an overseas worker that is deeply embedded in a part of the world where the gospel is forbidden. “M” is also a part of a code that is used when communicating with these undercover missionaries via email or phone. This reduces the chances that their cover will be compromised. In this code, we…
- Never say, “missionary”. They are illegal. We say, “M”.
- Never say God while speaking on the phone to an M. We only talk about “Dad”.
- Never write in an email, “We’re praying for you”. We only write, “We’re thinking about you.”
Even today here in the States, I often write, “I’m thinking of you” when I mean, “I’m praying for you.”
It was easier for me to change my language all together than to risk a slip when talking to an M.
I learned a lesson from an M that can serve us to answer the question of maintaining motivation, enthusiasm and focus on mission.
Once, while meeting with an M overseas, I noted my admiration at their commitment to follow Christ overseas. To me, nothing could be more exciting, nothing more central to the gospel, nothing closer to the heart of God and the calling of Christ, than the “whole bodied” act of translating the gospel through missionary service. I had come to understand, though, that few Christ-following people live with this reality close to the heart. In light of this reality, I noted that it must have required an extraordinary commitment for them to leave their home and make Christ known among the nations.
They set me straight. Regardless of what the reality is within the churches, they were not making any greater commitment than the Christ following people who were obeying Christ back home. Those who remained in the states weren’t less committed because they had stayed. They were less committed because even at home they didn’t obey Christ. But, those who obeyed Christ, whether overseas or in their hometown, were all equal in their commitment. Geography is irrelevant. For these overseas workers, it would have been a sacrifice to stay behind.
If geography is irrelevant, then thinking of the life of M’s on the field can give us a new slant on spiritual formation for those serving here. Often, M’s don’t have churches that they can attend. Churches don’t exist where they serve. They don’t have pastors to preach to them every week. There is
no band to get things rocking. No video to inspire them. No drama to make them cry. They don’t have their profiles splattered all over the internet. Few know what they’re doing. They are not celebrities. They are anonymous.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey counseled that we should “begin with the end in mind.” As we think of the spiritual formation of those in our churches, we should begin with the M in mind. We should ask what keeps the M going on the field? The M does not require a huge staff to move heaven and earth to provide a sunday program. Perhaps we have become accustomed to making disciples “in the loud”. [Yes, I just made up this term.] Making disciples “in the loud” requires screaming guitars, thumping bass lines, critical mass of excited people, charismatic “public” leaders. In other words, making disciples “in the loud” is about energy: the energy of crowds, the energy of noise, the energy of activity, the energy of energy.
It is all about the buzz.
Who can dance? Who can sing? Who can speak? Who can be the guy up front? The stage and the spotlight is the focal point of the entire experience. Not much room or need here for Anonymous.
But from where will new believers get their spiritual adrenalin if there is no rocking service? How will the new convert develop himself if there is no weekly service or pastor to “feed” him? How can a new believer maintain his enthusiasm and motivation for mission if there be no crowd, no noise, no activity, no buzz?
We must do “the loud,” but we must also learn to make disciples “in the quiet”.
The person who must have his fix of “loud” should also seek the quiet because
When the pressure from the “loud” that is pushing in upon a person from the outside exceeds the pressure from the “quiet” that is pushing out from within the same person, an implosion is imminent.
The person who must be seen, must be in the center, must be on stage should practice being anonymous. The person who avoids the quiet of aloneness, the solitary search through the scriptures, the moments of prayer, the intimate conversation should fear the “loud”. Sometimes we fill our minds and hearts with sound, with noise so that we don’t have to hear the messages from within. Pain. Loneliness. Shame. Humiliation. Fear. We can keep these quiet with noise, but at great cost.
Spiritual formation in the quiet, where the inner voices can be heard, may become the way for everyone to become an M. The quiet feeds and the quiet forms. The quiet speaks and the quiet listens. The quiet is where deep convictions arise. The quiet is where one human being can connect with another. The quiet is where forgiveness happens. The quiet is where a person’s mission takes shape. The quiet is where voices from eternity make contact with minds locked in the here and now. Without a personal sense of calling and mission, we’ll always need outside forces to keep us going. To get the inside forces flowing, we’ll need to get quiet too. This is not the only thing but it is an essential thing.
When the music in a person’s heart begins to make them sing, the church band is a great added value but not an essential. When no one and no church, regardless of the quality of the worship experience, can ruin your worship, then the quiet is doing its work. When you deploy yourself because you know what your mission is, then the quiet becomes a thundering quiet. When you no longer shop for a church that meets your needs, but search instead for ways to serve, then the quiet is establishing its roots. Being formed in the “loud” alone may lead to a consumer mentality that demands much but is able to give little. But when the spirit works from the inside out, then we gather with something to give. [That leads to second essential: working with a team. We'll leave that for a later post.]
Sound boring? Fear not.
In my experience, those whose spiritual formation includes “the quiet” are not prone to a solitary life. They tend to be party animals who love screaming lead lines, booming drum and bass, and crowds going wild. [Or wine, cheese, jazz and conversation.] They like being around others. They like recognition. They enjoy Sunday services. They appreciate youth groups. Etc…They just don’t need them. Christ, his mission and their co-conspirators give them everything they need. They are M. You may never know their names. They’re OK with that. They’re anonymous. Imagine the impact of a church of M’s on a community or culture. Disciple new converts with that end in mind.
- How much emphasis do you place on planning “the loud” with your leadership team relative to encouraging “the quiet”?
- How do the pressures of putting on the weekly service impede or encourage “the quiet” in your life as a leader?
- How can a rocking service be tools that serve spiritual formation?
What do you think?
See you in the mystic…
If you enjoy these conversations, consider enrolling in an IMN training opportunity.