The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. – John 1:43-46
THE PROMISE OF SPRING: Yesterday’s post was fun (writing about travel never fails to stir the imagination). But this morning’s perspective is much more local; a gray, rainy North Carolina day focused on writing, errands, prep for some presentations, Bible-study, and walking the dog.
It all sounds very ordinary; unless, that is, you keep your eyes open. Like when I wandered out onto our deck with a cup of coffee this morning and noticed the dogwood beginning to break out in joyful bloom. Or when I walked Scout Labradoodle before breakfast, and caught a sense of emerging color – purples, yellows, reds, fresh greens – subtly shifting the hues of the trees that make our neighborhood so beautiful.
CONFERENCE CALL: And then the excellent conference call I enjoyed Tuesday evening with a group of men from several different states – a reminder that we grow the most when we live out our faith in the context of intentional community.
The monthly meeting is the brain-child of my friend Ray. Ray is the Disciples of Christ (DOC) men’s ministry facilitator who has invited me to speak at both regional and national gatherings. He saw a valuable opportunity for ongoing conversation between some of the leaders he networks with, and he was kind enough to invite me too.
Yesterday’s call included a Presbyterian leader, a DOC men’s ministry advocate, a United Methodist men’s ministry leader, a Quaker regional leader, a DOC pastor, and a “Torah observant believer in Yeshua (Jesus).”
THREAD: It was my turn to moderate and – I’ve got to tell you – it requires a great deal of “heads-up” concentration to keep everyone engaged when all you have is voices. But the call worked well, and there’s one particular thread of conversation that I’d like to share with my readers this morning.
Early on, during “check in,” one of the guys shared a little from his recent trip to encourage leaders in Africa. He talked about how critically important it was for him to listen first, rather than to step off the airplane preloaded with all the answers, ready to dish them out in pithy, neatly-packaged sound-bites.
LISTENING: So I framed a couple of good questions around the idea of “listening” as a spiritual discipline, and the ensuing conversation touched on humility, ego, teachable spirits, openness, and – eventually – the difference between real intimacy in friendships and the surface level banter that so many of us use to keep our relationships at arm’s length.
“Surface-level banter,” by the way, can be defined as: well-rehearsed stories, thinking about the next “clever” thing we’re going to say rather than actually hearing others, defensiveness, posturing, and water-cooler talk around sports and politics.
As we listened to one-another in our conference call, we all heard – in our own way – the following truth. As men’s leaders we are called to be evangelists of significant relationships. We will never successfully invite men into a deeper relationship with God unless we first invite them into real relationships with one-another.
As leaders we are called to be evangelists of significant relationships. We will never successfully invite men into a deeper relationship with God unless we first invite them into real relationships with one-another.
I believe we all felt a clear call from God to be more deliberate, more intentional, more evangelistic, in the way we reach out to other men.
So let me leave this post with the following question/challenge for all of us (men and women alike): “Who is God calling me to reach out to in friendship? Who is on the periphery in my faith community, someone I can invite to lunch, or coffee, and eventually into deeper fellowship and a renewed, transformational relationship with Jesus?”
If your answer is “Nobody,” then get on your knees before God and ask again. Because you weren’t listening….