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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Summit: Session 2

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from Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2008: Session 2, Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission, Just Courage: Charging the Darkness I can't remember when I first learned about Gary Haugen and the International Justice Mission.  I heard him at The Urbana Missions Conference back in 2000.  He was inspirational then, and has continued to be in my life.  Haugen wrote a book years ago now called The Good News about Injustice, which has been meaningful and foundation text in my life.  I haven't seen the most recent version, but when I read it, it was foundational to God's plan for dealing with justice in the world.  (see Gary's talk below)  I had the privelege once to meet him in Ann Arbor at small talk he did to law students at the Law Quad at the University of Michigan sponsored by Intervarsity and James Paternoster, I think.

Leadership Matters

Leadership that matters to God deals with issues that matter to God.  So, we need to ask ourselves the question, "Are Jesus and I really interested in the same things?  What is God passionate about?"

Two fundamental, and unfamiliar passions of God

  1. God's passion for the world. (John 3:16)  The whole incarnation was motivated by God's passion for the world.  What's the hardest thing for our world to believe?  That God is good in the midst of all the pain.  What is God's plan for making it believable?  We are the plan, and God doesn't have another plan.
  2. God's passion for Jusice.  The Scripture is replete with passages about God's desire for justice.  (cf. Psalm 11; Micah 6)  "What if justice is not my thing?"  Then God says, "You're not my thing."

But the work seems hopeless, scary and hard.  How do we lead in times when these are the circumstances?  Here is what IJM has learned in these times:

  • What have we learned with the task seems hopeless?  By recentering the basis of our hope.  When we focus our eyes on what we do, it leads to dispair.  Hope is recovered when we remember who God is.  If God is passionate about it, he's responsible for it, too.  Jesus asks when he feeds the 5000, "What do you have?" and then invites them to give it to him so that he can do the work through what they have.  Sometimes God is asking you to lead in a situation that seems hopeless and give Him what he have, and that the miracles are His job.
  • What have we learned with the task seems scary?  Jesus didn’t come to make us safe, he came to make us brave.  If my life isn’t scary, I might check if it’s really Jesus I’m following.  Jesus is asking us to lead out of lives of triviality through his passion for justice in the world.  The church today is too often like spending your day in the visitors center, safe, but missing the vigor and life of the real mountain.  "I sense among many of my Christian friends that we're on the journey with Jesus but we're missing the adventure."  God invites us to follow him beyond what we can control, and we will experience Him and His power, and His wisdom and His love.
  • What have we learned with the task seems hard?  God wants to take our strengths on a more demanding climb in which we will actually need Him.  Effective Leadership comes from  four choices:

    +Choosing not to be safe - this will be evidence in our prayer life because our prayerlife will demonstrate that we are out of control and actually need God.  We don't need God at the visitor's center.

    +Choosing deep spiritual health - the more demanding climb requires a higher level of spiritual health.  We can't do hard things without it.  Our devotional lives are boring in the safe, suburban suburb of the safe Christian life.  Our spiritual disciplines, on the demanding climb, have a desperate purpose.  Discipline turns into desperationObedience turns into urgency.  If you want to ignite purpose and passion in the people you lead, lead them to a place that is unsafe in which they need to depend on God.  Real justice in the world is that place.  Nothing will get done unless we take an hour doing nothing but seeking God.

    +Choosing excellence - the church is generally not known for excellence today.  That wasn't always the case.  In years past, the opposite was true.  As Christianity in the last century has moved into climate controlled cul-de-sacs, something has changed.  Rigourous of thought and excellence in execution matters, and in areas of justice it is often a matter of life or death.  Enough of the Christian adjusted scale of mediocrity.  It is bad for those we serve and for our own souls.

    +Choosing to see the joy - Dallas Willard:  "The first thing to disappear when spiritual health declines is laughter." [paraphrase]  It is humorous that God deploys such flawed and humorous people as us for His plan and his appeal to the world.  That's hilarious!!  Jesus came to bring us his joy, to make our joy complete, and to fill us up to overflowing with the joy of the Lord.

If you think about what Hybels said about axioms, here is Haugen's leadership axiom: If you want your leadership to matter, lead in the things that matter to God.

This all reminds me of a CS Lewis quote that talks about our contentment to make mupdies on the yard in exchange for what we could have - a vacation at the sea.  We are near-sighted, and we exchange the glorious, beautiful, amazing things that God has for us.  So, here's my own personal question:  why do I settle for comfortable, controlled-environment cul-de-sac Christianity instead of seeking the adventurous battle of hopeful, meaningful, and passionate journeying with Jesus as he ushers in his Kingdom of love, justice, and joy?

"Your courage asks me, 'What am I afraid of?' Your courage asks me, 'What am I made of?'"


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