Tag Archive: kingdom

We Need Each Other

Over spring break I attended a week long Intervarsity program called CityLights in St. Louis.  CityLights is an Urban ministry which serves the poor and neglected people of St. Louis.  Every day, we were asked to read a chapter from a book called Theirs is the Kingdom by  Robert D. Lupton.  Although it is written about the urban poor, I think that this passage contains many lessons about leadership.

“I came to the city to serve those in need.  I have resources and abilities to clothe the ill-clad, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.  These are good works that our Lord requires of us.  And there is blessedness in this kind of giving.  But there is also power that allows me to retain control.  My position as a helper protects me from the humiliation of appearing to need help.  Even more sobering, I condemn those I help to the permanent role of recipient.

When my goal is to change people, I subtly communicate:  Something is wrong with you; I am okay.  You are ignorant; I am enlightened.  You are wrong; I am right.  If our relationship is defined as healer to patient, I must remain strong and you must remain sick for our interaction to continue.  People don’t go to doctors when they are well.

‘It takes everyone of us to make His body Complete, for we each have a different work to do.  So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others’ (Romans 12:4-5).

I need the poor?  For what?  The question exposes my blindness.  I see them as weak ones to be rescued, not as bearers of the treasures of the kingdom.  The dominance of my giving overshadows and stifles the rich endowments the Creator has invested in those I consider destitute.  I overlook what our Lord saw clearly when he proclaimed the poor to be especially blessed, because theirs is the kingdom of God.  I selectively ignore the truth that monied, empowered, and learned ones enter his kingdom with enormous difficulty.”

I love this passage because it is so rich with information.  Here are some of the things that I get from it:

Leaders need to be able to change their role in their relationships.  As time passes and as a relationship develops, people will relate differently.  If a relationship is started as teacher to student, one day the student will graduate.  Keeping the same attitude towards that student could hamper further growth, and the relationship my die.  Do not be afraid to upgrade someone’s status!  If someone no longer needs help, become their friend instead of their provider.

This is a difficult one – leaders should strive to work themselves out of their job.  It’s about legacy; leaders should be dispensable and give way to the next generation.  If a leader sets up systems that only they can run, the system falls apart once they leave.  The mission of the organization should not be about the leader, but about the mission.  Leaders need to think about who will come after them and train the next generation.

All people are valuable, everyone is a bearer of God’s image.  Everyone brings something worthwhile to the table even if it is hard to see.  Do we treat people as bearers of God’s image, even the annoying, or disadvantaged ones?  To the Christian it means welcoming the alien, poor, and vulnerable among and around us.

Another profound lesson is that we all need other people to be the person God has called us to be.  Our conversations and interactions will change if we need those who we interact with.  We normally treat people of power with a sense of need because they have positional or material power.  What if we treated everyone, even those who do not have obvious gifts for us, as if we needed them?  As leaders, we need others’ perspectives, challenges, and correction because our vision is so limited.  We need others’ support because the challenges of this world are far too heavy.  God brings people into your life for a reason.  He wants to give something to you through them.  I encourage you to try this out in your interactions with people.  Approach it from a stance of needing their input, perspective, and abilities.  Leave a comment for what you find out!

Update: found this quote the day after publishing – “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Stories of Encouragement

Last semester Bethany and I joined a small group through our church on campus.  Through that small group we met an older couple named Barb and Dave.  They learned we lived in Peoria and asked us if we would be willing to take a package to one of their old friends, a retired missionary woman.  This past weekend I was able to complete the delivery.

Gertrude is almost 90  years old, but by the way she talks and walks you wouldn’t think she is over 40!  She spent 37 years in South Africa as a missionary and has even written a book titled Africa Treks: Stories of Victory from the African Bush.  The book contains encouraging stories of victories for the kingdom.  I went to deliver the package prepared to spend some time getting to know her, and I’m glad I did!  She first invited me to see the nursing home she lives in.  The first thing she showed me was a quote on the wall which read “Blessed is this place because it is called home.”  She read it to me with strong conviction and to her it meant that even though she was in a nursing home, she had God and other people; she was home.  What an encouragement that Gertrude could be home in a place where others are lost and that all she needs is to be with God.  She can be home anywhere on Earth.

Next, she showed me her room and we talked for a while.  She had so many stories to share!  She talked of her experiences in Africa.  She related her experiences as a  younger girl in Intervarsity at the University of Illinois.  She shared about her current prison ministries.  She told stories about various people around Illinois that she knew.  All of these stories shared a common theme – Christians succeeding in kingdom work.  In the middle of these stories she paused and taught me this lesson: it is so wonderful to hear stories about God’s work in this world, you need to share joy with other Christians and to rejoice together in what God has done.  Gertrude was leading by example in the joy department.  She is one of the happiest people I have ever met, especially for things concerning the Lord and His work.  I pray that I would have her joy in my walk.  I wonder what the church would be like if we could rejoice together in the work that God is doing more often.  If we could share in joy over those being saved and their progress around us.  Are people being saved around us?

I have been learning that everyone and every place has a story.  These stories are worth knowing!  I took the time to learn part of an old missionary woman’s story, and I was so encouraged and blessed by it!  When you meet someone new, ask them their story and be able to share your own.  What is the story of the town you live in or of your family?  Could you write it down?  If you are a leader, can you write your organization’s story. Where you have been will shape where you are going.  Take some time to “look down the mountain” alongside your followers.  Share your stories of encouragement more often.  We all love to get encouraging news from our friends about their current projects, dreams, and work.  So be sources of encouragement for one another.