This past weekend 14 of us loaded into a 15 passenger van and headed down to Philadelphia for the Thriving Conference. We had a pretty smooth drive down except for an improperly executed New Jersey jug-handle turn (great job Clete!) that got us pulled over. The officer kindly reminded Clete, “you’re not in Michigan anymore!”.
We had a great time of fellowship with our Restore family, exploring Philadelphia, checking out the Liberty Bell (not sure it was worth the half hour line…) and hunting for a great Philly cheese steak sandwich! If you are heading to Philly in the future, do yourself a favor and avoid Jim’s Steaks!
Our two days at the Thriving Conference were great! The Thriving organization exists to equip and empower missionally minded church leaders and planters in the toughest inner cities to go from surviving to Thriving. We had some incredible speakers who poured into and encouraged all of us. Instead of just talking about strategies and methods, the speakers looked at the urban church through the lens of the person and work of Jesus. By doing this, it stirred afresh a love for Jesus and HIS mission. It was encouraging to see so many others who were fighting the same fight and pressing through the same struggles of urban church planting. We were able to meet so many people from all over the country and encourage each other, talk about struggles, discuss methods and share about the joys of ministry in our cities.
One session in particular really resonated with all of us. Crawford Loritts spoke on reconciling the leader’s character. Crawford had been reading a lot of books on Christian leadership and found that a lot of them were just wordly widsdom repackaged with Bible verses attached. This prompted him to take an in-depth look into Scripture at every man or woman that God used to carry out an assignment. He learned that these men and women had no certain personality profile, no common pedigree and no common set of experiences or education. What he did find was that every great man or woman of God that he gave an assignment had these four things in common:
1. They were marked by BROKENNESS
-This was not a lack of self confidence, but a God needines. A holy handicap that kept them dependent on God.
-God never uses anything that comes to Him “together”. He never uses anything that He has to share his glory with. God does not use what we bring to the table, He uses what we surrender to Him.
2. They were marked by UNCOMMON COMMUNION
-These men and women of God were marked my uncommon communion with God.
-Crawford spoke on how when Moses was leading the Israelites, he would go outside the camp and pitch his tent of meeting and he would commune with God.
-The most important thing you can do for the people you’re leading is to commune with God. It is more important than planning, strategy, you name it.
3. They were marked by SERVANTHOOD as an IDENTITY and NOT as a STRATEGY
-Servanthood is not utilitarian. We do not serve to get something in return. Many leadership books talk about serving as a way to affect the bottom line.
-If you give to get something in return, it is no longer called giving- it is called INVESTING.
-Servanthood is not a strategy, it is an IDENTITY.
-Jesus, the Lord of history, washed the feet of those that he created and died for.
-Don’t ever ask anyone to do anything you haven’t done or aren’t willing to do yourself.
-The platform to lead is only given to servants. Greatness finds servants, not those looking for an ego boost. Nobody should serve your wife like you do. Nobody should serve your children like you do. Nobody should serve your church like you do.
4. They were marked by RADICAL IMMEDIATE OBEDIENCE
-You don’t have to be successful, but you do have to be obedient. Our struggle is that we are tying the last to the first. We think that if we’re not successful then we are not being obedient. If you’re not successful- Don’t quit! Did God tell you to leave? Did God tell you to quit? Did God tell you that you can change the assignment because it’s hard? Your job is to be obedient to God. This doesn’t always mean we will be successful.
We left this conference extremely encouraged by what GOD IS DOING, not just in Detroit but in cities all over the country. We left excited about what God’s vision is for the city of Detroit. It is His vision that we align ourselves with. It is His mission that we are joining. It is by His power that we do anything. We are just instruments in His hands.