Friday, November 14, 2003

More recommended reading...

I've come across an extremely good study that examines issues of leadership, authority, submission, accountability, etc. This does a great job of tying together many of the components I've been sorting through and does so from a very biblical perspective. Highly recommended. Here's the link to it:

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

More Graham Cooke...

I've been reading "A Divine Confrontation" by Graham Cooke and have really been enjoying it and getting a lot out of it. Here's an excerpt from what I was reading this afternoon:

When we begin a new work, we receive a pioneering vision. A work can begin in the heart of a single individual who acts as a catalyst to launch into a new area of activity. His or her foresight, planning, focus, determination, and faithfulness make the vision a reality.

At this stage, the whole vision may be bound up in the life of this individual. The person sacrifices, works, sheds tears, and is misunderstood and written off by some as he or she faithfully pursues the call. Vision at this gut level is highly personal. As the work grows, other people come into it who did not pay the price of those early years. We have to own the vision in order to make it a reality. However, we also can embrace it so fully that we cannot give it up, not even to the Lord.

The vision we start with is never the vision with which we finish. Most vision only lasts approximately seven years before it goes through a cycle of necessary change. Pioneering vision must give way to empowering vision. The Lord never gives us the whole vision at the beginning. Part of His vision for our work is that there will be people He will give us who He wants to influence the ministry. God tells us enough to get us started and to keep moving. He does not give large visions at the beginning of new enterprises. Vision grows with the work. It is complemented and added to by the commitment and faithfulness of those whom God joins to the work.

The Lord always seeks to enfranchise His people within the work of the ministry. Vision must flow out of relationships with a common agenda and purpose. Vision that is set in concrete from the beginning will break people’s hearts by its unworkable nature. One man’s vision must be released into the core vision of the team that grows up within it. All vision changes in some way.

As the vision touches, releases, and builds people up in Christ, He will release vision within them that is real and personal. We do not need the clash between corporate vision and personal destiny. People must not be forced to choose. Corporate vision must breathe and be flexible enough to be inclusive, not exclusive, of people’s calls. This means that reasonable dialogue regarding the individual destiny and calling of people and the corporate vision of the work must occur at regular intervals in the calendar of the ministry.

If the church is running on one man’s vision, we are going to have real problems with divisiveness. If people have to leave the ministry on a regular basis, it is probably because the vision of the founder is consistently disenfranchising their lives. This is the dilemma for founding visionaries. In order to beat the odds, fight the circumstances, and press in God’s purpose, we had to own the vision with the Lord.

Later on, though, the Lord will bring in people who also must own the vision with Him. At this point, the main blockage is usually the founder of the ministry. We must pass from ownership with God personally to stewardship with other people corporately. If we fail this subtle and elegant test, we will insist that people are present to serve our vision. Yet, vision is given by the Lord. Ownership rests entirely with Him. He has enfranchised us with His vision and now He seeks to include others in the same arrangement. This is where vision must change.

The whole nature of the ongoing vision within the work must rest on the fact that sooner or later we have to find out what God is doing in the lives of people He has brought into the work. Leadership is really about facilitating the development of people whom God has given us. Understanding and cultivating their personal destiny is a core aspect of the growth and fulfillment of the wider vision.

As personal vision grows, God adds people to it. This causes an expansion of the work. In the process of that expansion, the vision changes from the personal foresight of one individual to the corporate activity of a group whom God has brought together.

Corporate vision cannot be founded on one man’s destiny. To develop corporate vision the founder must die to personal ownership and become a steward for a loving God who seeks to include others. This does not happen overnight. There is a process to follow. We must make time to talk with members of the church to begin to discover their identity in the Lord. What do they feel strongly about? What is the burden on their heart? What are they praying for in terms of working with the Lord?

Our role as leaders is to understand the vision that the Lord is actually building into the lives of individuals, and then make room to see that vision flourish. Individual vision must be heard, understood, and accepted by the leadership of the church. We need to enable people to actually understand where their personal identity can fit in and complement the corporate vision of the church. The corporate vision will be expanded by various contributions. The detail of the vision will grow and be enhanced by the additions.

If people are being anointed with a personal call and destiny by the Holy Spirit but the leadership does not cooperate with Him, then we create double vision or di-vision. Many church splits have occurred over the issue of disagreement in vision. If people cannot see where their own calling fits in with the corporate concepts, they will be insecure.

It needs high levels of love and commitment to negotiate this particular situation. Neither side can hold the other to ransom. Both must be willing to believe the best of one another. Clearly some negotiation will take place. Neither side will be 100 percent right. Leadership may be too set in their ways. The individual may have delusions of grandeur about his or her role and function. Agreement will release covenant. If both sides are willing to die to self, the cross will make brothers of us all.

Individuals cannot insist on their rights. Leaders must become aware that members of the body are not present merely to serve the vision of the leadership.

Leaders model how a servant spirit should behave. Members follow that example. The result will be a partnership that enables us to look forward together, a partnership where leaders understand personal vision and where it fits in to the work of the church. The individual understands the corporate vision and knows where he can fit in to serve the church. In a true partnership, both serve one another.

Division occurs because we don’t actually take into account God’s call on the individual. The corporate vision may be too inflexible to allow individuals to shape it effectively. People become disillusioned and disempowered by such high-handedness. We cannot put people into a mold that we have created; otherwise, they may legitimately look elsewhere to fulfill God’s call upon their life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Good reading...

I recently came across a couple of old issues of "Cutting Edge", the Vineyard newsletter geared towards church planting issues. The Fall 2001 issue has a great interview with the leaders of the Vineyard Central Church in Cincinatti, OH, regarding their emphasis on community and house-based churches. The Fall 2002 issue has an interview with Randy Frazee, author of The Connecting Church (great book!), again dealing with community. Here are the links to the articles, now available on the Vineyard's website:

Friday, November 07, 2003

What we value vs. what we do...

Before Moses, people worshipped God at stone altars. The first example of this given in scripture is in Gen 8:20, when the ark settled onto dry ground and Noah came out, built an altar and sacrificed some animals on it. An altar was basically a bunch of rocks piled up to create a platform upon which to conduct a sacrifice. They could be built “ad hoc” and are often associated with spontaneous worship following an encounter with God. Altars were not a particularly “Jewish” thing. After all, all races came from Noah, and so the use of altars was quite common in Middle-Eastern cultures prior to the establishment of Israel as a nation.

In about 1500 B.C., God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, gave them a land and an identity as a people. As a part of this unique identity, he gave them detailed instructions on how to interact with Him. Moses was given extremely detailed instructions on building the tabernacle (also known as the “Tent of Meeting”) and worshipping within it (Exodus 23-40). These instructions came from God and were to be followed to the letter. They included exactly how to construct the Tabernacle and from what materials, what kind of fixtures and utensils to fashion, the uniforms to be worn by the priests, how to conduct the sacrifices, etc. All was done exactly according to the specifications that God had given. The presence and glory of God was a regular occurrence in the Tabernacle.

In about 953 B.C., David’s son Solomon built a temple for God. Solomon was the third Israelite king (after Saul and David). In 1 Sam 8:5 we see how the Israelites wanted a human king to rule over them so that they could be “like all the nations” around them. God’s reluctant answer to this demand was Saul. David expanded upon Saul’s kingdom and likewise, Solomon expanded upon David’s. In the culture of that time, however, a king wasn’t really considered legitimate unless he had a palace. Likewise a nation’s god wasn’t considered “legit” unless he had a temple.

(The concept of temples goes back to the ancient Sumerians, one of the oldest known civilizations. Going back to Noah (and perhaps earlier), altars had been built on mountaintops or “high places” because a mountain was considered to be the place where earth touched heaven. Over time, ziggurats were built, which were essentially man-made mountains. These became more sophisticated and evolved into temples. It's interesting to note how many ancient cultures, all over the earth, built similar-style structures; from the ziggurats of the Sumerians to the pyramids of the Egyptians to the very ziggurat-like temples of the Mayans. All of these seem to speak of a common historical source, perhaps relating back to the flood. Temples were generally built on "high places". A Middle-Eastern temple then, was actually an architectural representation of a mountain – the place where heaven and earth met, and thus, the place where man and god met.)

For Solomon and the Israelites, having a temple and a palace was a matter of national pride and kingly legitimacy. The Israelites didn’t have experience with building temples, so they contracted the job out to the Phoenicians (via Hiram, king of Tyre - see 1 Kings 5-9, 1 Chron. 14). The Phoenicians are an ancient people who lived in what is now Lebanon and Northern Israel. They had built many temples to their gods and had developed a particular architectural form. The Phoenicians designed and built Solomon’s temple in this same form. Israel now had a temple, like the other nations.

In 2 Chron. 5 we read how the Ark was brought into the completed temple, accompanied by tremendous worship and how the glory of the Lord filled the temple, so much so that the priests couldn’t continue performing their services. Solomon’s temple was destroyed about 400 years later (587 B.C.) when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and carried the Israelites off into exile.

The rebuilding of the temple began about 70 years later (516 B.C.) by the remnant that returned from Babylonian exile, led by Zerubbabel and Nehemiah (see Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai). Because of the relative poverty of the returning exiles, compared to the long-gone splendor of Solomon’s day, the 2nd temple was much less grand. Also the Ark of the Covenant was now gone (to this day, no one knows what became of it, except maybe Indiana Jones). It’s interesting that we don’t read of God’s glory visiting the 2nd temple. Many scholars (N.T. Wright, for example) posit that even after the second temple, in fact even up to and beyond the time of Jesus, the Jews saw themselves as still in exile from God because His glory and presence had not returned to the temple.

King Herod the Great began renovating the temple in about 20 B.C. This work was still going on during the time of Jesus’ incarnation. The work was completed in about 65 A.D. In 70 A.D. the temple, and all of Jerusalem, was completely destroyed by Roman armies.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, when the temple still stood, he told a woman in Samaria that “…a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24).

There’s an interesting trend that appears as one looks over the historical progression from altar to tabernacle to Solomon’s temple to 2nd temple to Jesus. As we see more use of man’s patterns, we see fewer accounts of God’s power and presence. The move towards man’s patterns, to being “like all the nations”, coincides with a move away from covenant relationship with God. Ultimately, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Covenant and establish a New Covenant. We are now to worship God in spirit and in truth. The old forms and patterns passed away. The forms and patterns that we use to worship now are secondary to the heart behind our worship. We must always be careful, however, that the forms or patterns we take on aren’t an attempt to create another temple system. God’s presence no longer resides in a box.

God’s presence now resides in his church. His ekklesia: The gathering of “called out ones”. He has made us to be His Royal Priesthood, the household of God, the living temple of stones being fitted together (by the way, being fitted together means being hammered, chiseled and shaped. It means having edges knocked off. Did you know that difficult people or circumstances are a gift from God to help shape us? As Graham Cooke says, “Tension does not mean something is wrong, it means something is happening!” Also, look at Rev. 21:15-21. This is a symbolic description of the church. The twelve stones listed in verses 19 & 20 are all quarried from the earth and in their “raw” state are nearly worthless. They only become valuable after being cut and polished so that they reflect light. The pearl gates, by the way, are representative of Jesus. A pearl is produced through suffering and it is only through Christ’s suffering that we can enter into fellowship with God.).

So we, the church – the ekklesia - are the priesthood, the living temple, the household of God, the body of Christ.

Why did Jesus build an ekklesia (church)? To be the dwelling place of God. To glorify Him. To worship Him. To reflect Jesus, as He reflected the Father. To express Jesus wherever we go.

How do we do this? By participating in the Kingdom of God (His rule and reign). By giving to those in need. By being servants and servant-leaders (seeking to be the servant of all, not the ruler of all). By worshipping with our whole lives. By being accountable to one-another and in submission to one-another. By encouraging one another. By laying down our rights. By being relational-evangelists – sharing the Good News with those we come into contact with. By walking in integrity. By being compassionate and merciful. By being inter-dependent upon one-another. By the functioning of each one’s spiritual gifts, for the building up of us all. By being woven together into a community. By loving one another in both word and action. The list could go on, but notice how it’s all relational? These are the things we value. They come from what Jesus has revealed about who the Father is. They are reinforced by early church writings and practices (such as those of Paul).

These values are the wine that we bring forth.

What’s the wineskin that holds this wine? What are the visions and actions that proceed out from our values? We need to ask honest questions about how well the things that we do reflect the things that we value. The way we do things is just methods and tools and props and containers. What’s important about the way we do things is whether or not it accurately represents what we value. Does the wineskin hold the wine? By honestly asking, “Why do we do things this way?” we are seeking to keep the wineskin supple and flexible.

Remember God’s elaborate and detailed instructions for Tabernacle worship in Exodus 23-40? Well here are His instructions for Ekklesia worship:

Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

1 Cor. 12:7: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

1 Cor. 14:26: “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

Col. 3:16-17: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Notice that we are not given specific guidelines on how to conduct our meetings or be the church. What we are given are values. The values I see in these passages include those I listed earlier and they all emphasize relationship and mutuality and "one-anothering". There is no set method for "doing church". This means that there is no singular “right” way to meet as church. There are, however, plenty of “wrong” ways. Anything that violates or betrays God’s values is wrong, even though some good may come from it.

I’m pleased that nearly every Friday night ekklesia meeting we’ve had has been different. I’m hoping that as time goes on, our meetings will become less and less predictable, but are always consistent with our values and with those scriptures given above.

The heart of the matter, and the fundamental question then is, are we doing things that are consistent or inconsistent with our values? Since we claim to subscribe to the same values as the first believers, might it be helpful to see how they applied them in practice? Is it possible to find out, to any degree, how the early church functioned in light of these values? Might some of those practices still apply today? Could such an exploratory endeavor be helpful? Should we be open to reevaluating our current practices, traditions and presuppositions in light of this?

I’d like to speak very personally for a moment on a few specific examples of this:

First off, I am not a Pastor. I “pastor” (or “shepherd”), but that is not an office or title – it is a function. The only individual referred to by the title of Shepherd (Pastor) in the New Testament is Jesus (OK, not including the literal shepherds in the nativity story). Throughout the New Testament scriptures, “shepherd” is a function. It’s what someone does, not who they are (except for Jesus, the Great Shepherd). It’s something that is done by certain elder, mature believers. The early churches were led (not ruled, but led) by multiple elders, some of whom functioned in pastoring and teaching. In our ekklesia, I’m an elder and sometimes I have a gift of pastoring and teaching. Many of the adults who meet in our Friday night ekklesia are, in my estimation, elders too. I do not out-rank them. “Rank” is a worldly concept, not a Kingdom truth (see Matt. 20:20-28). Everyone who meets in our Friday night ekklesia has gifts. I want to learn what their gifts are and be blessed by their functioning in them. Only then can we all come to maturity together. I’m not anyone's “spiritual authority” – Jesus is. You don’t need any other “authority” in your life but Him. You are not to be in submission to me – we are to be in submission to one another. We are to be accountable to one another. We all have a part to play and we all have gifts from God to enable us to function. This is for the good of the Body:

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Rom 12:3-8

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Cor. 12:4-13

On another personal note, it’s been said that I’m against buildings. That’s not necessarily true. Like anything else, I think what we have to ask is to what degree a building (and the associated overhead) supports our values. We certainly don’t need a building to be the church. The question then is whether or not having a building moves us forward in our core values (such as relational intimacy and giving to the needy) or holds us back from our core values. If one of our core values is caring for those in need (and it should be), how would we then justify spending a disproportionate amount of money on a building. Would the building serve us, or would we serve it?

How about sermons? We’ve come to accept that the monolog-style sermon is the centerpiece of a church service. But sermons as we know them have only been around since the Reformation of the 1600’s. Prior to that, the Eucharistic Mass was the centerpiece of a church service (with little or no biblical teaching) for over a thousand years. In the earliest centuries it seems that the Christian teaching style was more informal and interactive. It appears that Jesus and the Apostles engaged in more of a dialog-oriented style of teaching. The Gospels are full of exchanges (dialogs) between Jesus and other people (from Pharisees to tax-gatherers to prostitutes). Likewise with Paul. It seems that the closest thing to a one-way, monolog style of communication in the early church was “preaching”. Preaching, however, was evangelistic in nature. Preaching was the proclamation of the Gospel to unbelievers. Teaching was an interactive dialog amongst believers. Since the concept of “sermons”, as we practice them, is foreign to the New Testament, perhaps we should reevaluate their usefulness. Perhaps we’ve taken a tool designed for evangelism (preaching) and tried to use it for instruction. Perhaps that’s why sermons don’t seem to accomplish a whole lot. Still we doggedly preach on. In the secular education world, it’s becoming more and more of an accepted and quantified fact that interactive, dialog-style, participatory teaching methods are much more effective than monolog-style lectures. So, if teaching and discipling are things that we value (and we’d better in light of Matthew 28:18-20), we should examine why we do it the way we do and how fruitful it is.

Buildings and salaries and sermons and worship teams and chairs and programs and sound systems and all that stuff are peripheral. They’re just tools. The priority that we give them, however, does say something about what our values are. How we approach these things can radically affect the degree to which our values come across and are lived out. The real issue here is about giving our presuppositions and baggage and agendas to God and then asking Him to show us how to be most effective in our job of being His church. All the traditions and methods and trappings and props that we’ve added on should be extremely expendable and open for review in light of being who we’re called to be as a people. That’s how we keep the wineskin flexible. Likewise, how we do things, how we lead, how we follow, how we make decisions, how we interact with one another; all of these things should be consistent with our values (which we hold because we understand them to be God’s values). If these things don’t embody what we value, then we need to have the courage and humility to ask why.

I'd like to finish with a quote from John Stott (Founder and Honorary President of the London Institute for Christianity and author of over 40 books, including Basic Christianity, The Cross of Christ, and The Contemporary Christian):

"The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions, but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh Biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform."

Sunday, November 02, 2003

More wisdom from Graham Cooke,

Remember also, there is a huge difference between truth and perspective. Truth is a Person. His name is Jesus. Truth is what God says in Scripture. Everything else is perspective. In emotional difficulties, no one tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Our version of events is shaped by how we feel and their effect on our life. Our thought processes can be influenced by a number of things, such as our general disappointment and our particular reading of events. We do not have access to how other people felt or how their mind was working at the time that something happened. What they thought they said, what they actually said, what they really meant by it, how we heard them say it, and what effect it had on us are probably all going to be wildly different. That's perspective!

We will never get to a place of total truth, because the event will mean different things to different people. If everyone were to examine themselves thoroughly instead of each other, if we had a real desire to win one another's hearts, we would stand a good chance of not separating over general issues (see Matthew 18:15-17).

Relational difficulties in most cases cannot be resolved, only harmonized. Harmony is the simultaneous combination of several tones blended together in relationship. Tones that are opposites, or that are running parallel but not together, can be blended with other tones that are mutually relational to both to create a common sound - a harmony.

In relational difficulties, we find just such a disparate grouping. There are people on opposite sides of the fence to us; people on parallel lines with us but still with a slightly different track; and people who agree that both sides have something to say and that they can see the truth in both. Tension is one of the ingredients of relating in depth. There is no movement without tension.

Church is a people paradox. Relationships in church (or any people group for that matter) are about holding different personalities, ministries, visions, and perspectives in tension with one another. Tension does not mean there is something wrong; it means there is something happening! We do not want to have the Frank Sinatra style of relating together: Do it my way or take the highway.

If you look at the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, you have four versions. Each account is complete, yet incomplete. That's the paradox. We don't use them against one another to contradict one another. We agree where we can, and we celebrate the different nuances of each author. The point is that all the Gospels agree on the main elements of the Kingdom message. That's what we look for, that's our harmony; everything else is a bonus.

We will probably have to agree to disagree over some issues and come to a place of broad agreement over the central issues without compromising ourselves.

From “A Divine Confrontation” by Graham Cooke

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Words of wisdom from Graham Cooke...

Some situations weigh heavily on our conscience. We cannot make agreement with people no matter how much we love them. There is a very great problem in some church circles with leadership being out of control. Some leaders rule over their people in a very unhealthy and ungodly way.

The proper structure of authority in the church is firstly God; secondly, the infallibility of Scripture; thirdly, the conscience of the individual; and finally, delegated authority recognized through apostles, prophets, and local eldership teams.

True leaders, ones with a fathering heart, will always teach people how to live in and before God. They will not violate people’s conscience but will nurture it and appeal to it in times of tension. The apostle Paul spoke about how “by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2)

In some churches and organizations, delegated authority is placed ahead of conscience. Leaders control how people think and behave. People are not taught how to grow up in God, but how to submit to leadership. In some cases, to have a different viewpoint than your leaders is seen as being rebellious or a troublemaker. The process of alienation begins so that your “Jezebel spirit” does not contaminate the rest of the body. In my understanding of the Jezebel syndrome, the problem was with designated leadership using prophecy and power to control and manipulate the people (see 1 Kings 16-21; 2 Kings 9).

Leaders are meant to be so in love with God and to display such great humility and servanthood that, by their fathering spirit and example, they provide a model in self-government. They teach people about self-control (one of the fruits of the Spirit) and how to live in their conscience before the Lord. Paul spoke to Timothy about the hypocrisy of liars, seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (see 1 Tim. 4:2). We must not destroy one of the main qualities in people whereby they can receive progressive truth. The conscience of our people must be as highly prized by the leadership as the development of their inner man of the spirit.

Disappointment can lead to frustration, which is another facet of reaction. We can blame others, get mad, or get even. Moving in the opposite spirit to what you are experiencing is a difficult but attainable discipline. Jesus spoke about it in Luke 6:27-28: “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

If you move in the same spirit that your opponents move in, then you establish your own carnality rather than the nature of God.

In reaction, we often suffer a sense of loss and grief. We grieve and sorrow for how things have turned out – at least we should. If we leave angry, we will take longer to process how we feel.

If you feel compelled to leave or are unable to stay in certain circumstances, you must do this next step before you go. If you do not, you will wander in an internal wilderness until the effect on your heart is resolved.

Before we withdraw physically from a situation, people, or circumstances, we need to question ourselves and our motives. We must review all the circumstances, taking on board the opinions of friends and seeking the viewpoint of mature people. We also must correctly diagnose the real reason why we are disaffected. Finally, we must recognize our own part in the failure as well as the failings themselves and deal with them positively and effectively.

These four elements of examining internal motivation, seeking external reviews, coming to an accurate diagnosis, and recognizing our failure, are a critical part of our reflections. If they are done as humbly and as honestly as possible, we can face the circumstances with an open heart and deal with our excess baggage accordingly. Reflection is the unpacking of all the mental and emotional baggage that we gather in the process of gaining closure.

If we work through these with honest transparency before the Lord, then our closure will be a positive learning experience and our capacity to be joined elsewhere will happen much more smoothly. Failure to reflect and learn will mean that the bitterness and the hurt will remain with us to adversely affect our ability to relate in the next place that receives us.

From “A Divine Confrontation” by Graham Cooke