IDENTITY MATTERS

One of the most basic questions that we all ask is, “Who am I?” This question is usually followed by another question that goes something like this, “Do I matter?” Everyone wants and needs to feel valued and accepted. We have an innate desire to know that who we are and what we do counts for something or someone bigger than ourselves. And so we do, strive, work to become someone who contributes something to someone. 

We want to matter. I wanted to matter.

 

For much of my life I struggled to believe I had worth and value, and hid my struggle really well. I had loving parents, but often felt as though I couldn’t measure up. And so my identity became deeply rooted in a desire to perform and please. I needed that “A” in EVERY subject. I needed to be the captain of the basketball team and the president of the club. I needed to be the Resident Assistant in my dorm and the leader of the Youth for Christ intern team. It was more than using gifts and abilities, I needed to lead and to achieve because I placed my identity in my achievements. Graciously, God still used the talents He had given me and, graciously, He kept prompting me to face my own false thinking.

The more He prompted me, the more I became aware of the false identity I had created. I realized that I was living out of a false sense of self and that I believed the lie that God loved me more when I was good, successful, serving, and “put together.”  

My first real step toward a true understanding of identity was when I truly believed that I was loved no matter what I did or didn’t do. As I surrendered my need for approval and accepted that I already had God’s approval, I began to see myself differently. I began to believe that who I was could best be explained by seeing myself through God’s eyes, and I began to live from a deep sense of wholeness. God began to integrate every part of me into one complete person. I accepted His identity for me. I am His beloved daughter, no matter what.

Identity does matter. The Creator of the universe desires to be our Father and give us our identity which is far greater than any identity I can create on my own. Will you give Him permission to “poke and prod” at your thoughts and beliefs? Will you then allow Him to transform and change your very identity?  You are a new person in Christ; live that way!

 

Deb Hinkel is the Director of Spiritual Formation and Family Ministry at Hershey Free Church. She joined the church’s staff in 2015 after spending fourteen years as an assistant professor in the Church and Ministry Leadership department at Lancaster Bible College. Deb holds a Master of Arts degree in Ministry from Lancaster Bible College; and prior to her work there, she spent fifteen years in church ministry, developing programs in Christian education, children’s ministry, and women’s ministry.

A 2018 KIND OF LEADER

I’ve been deeply committed to growth as a leader for more than 20 years. Admittedly, I haven’t always had the same idea of what kind of leader I should be. This has often looked different to me, according to whatever stage of ministry or season of life I was in at a given time.

For example, in my earliest years as a pastor, I would often say that John Maxwell was helping me pastor my church. I read everything he published, listened to every cassette (it was the mid-late 90’s!) or CD he released, and I took dozens of church members and staff with me to his conferences. Sp, for about 3 years my two biggest influencers were Jesus and John Maxwell. Jesus was certainly my Lord, but John was my leadership guru. It was a great season and I grew a lot.

As time progressed I found myself being deeply influenced by other leaders with more Church-specific expertise, such as Tim Keller, Jim Cymbala and many other lesser-known but incredible leaders.

Reflecting on this makes me recognize that the objectives of the organization and needs of the people I lead determine what kind of personal growth I should invest in at any given point. 

Because I knew very little about providing clear and concrete leadership, John Maxwell was perfect for me in those early days. When I moved to Staten Island, NY I needed to build on that knowledge base and get more specific to NYC so I could effectively lead there. I chose to learn from other very gifted, more experienced local leaders.    

One thing is certain and unchanging – leaders need to be committed to grow in character and in skill at every stage and in every season of life. And we need help from others on the journey.

Where are you leading others to in 2018? What are your God-given goals? What are your plans to accomplish them? Who are you learning from?

Below are five characteristics that should be true of every Christian leader. You will also see some related blog posts. You may want to subscribe to one or more of them in order to help you grow in 2018. The right blog posts often prick my mind regarding important things and connect me to other pieces of information that I might not know about. Take a look…

Holy: 10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

Humble: 5 Bad Habits to Break for a Better New Year

Hungry: Ten Critical Trends for Churches in 2018

Hopeful: 19 Leadership Hacks to Start the New Year

Helpful: Hero or Hero Maker: Which Will You Be?

I hope God makes 2018 the most fruitful year of our lives as we become the kind of leaders He wants us to become.

Blessings to you and those you lead!

Eddie

CUT ARIGHT! A WORD OF CHRISTMAS ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PREACHERS AND TEACHERS

Years ago I heard RC Sproul say that Christmas can be a time of anxiety for pastors/teachers. Teachers and preachers deal with the same stressors as everyone else, but are also tasked with teaching on an incredibly familiar story. Because of its familiarity, teachers can overthink it and get too fancy with it instead of simply letting the biblical story speak for itself. This anxiety can even be worse for teachers who’ve been in the same church for many years.

It’s a little crazy that Christmas can cause this angst, but it does. I know because I’ve experienced it myself.

In light of this, I want to share some words, first from John Calvin, and then a few of my personal thoughts to help those of you who may be dealing with this anxiety right now.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, where Paul tells Timothy to “rightly divide” the Word, John Calvin explains that Paul,

“…advises Timothy to ‘cut aright,’ lest, when he is employed in cutting the surface, as unskillful people are wont to do, he leave the pith and marrow untouched. Yet by this term I understand generally, an allotment of the word which is judicious, and which is well suited for the profit of the hearers. Some mutilate it, others tear it, others torture it, others break it in pieces, others, keeping by the outside never come to the soul of the doctrine. To all these faults he (Paul) contrasts the ‘dividing aright,’ that is, the manner of explaining which is adapted for edification; for that is the rule by which we must try all interpretation of scripture.” 

Said simply, teachers should aim to teach the Word to edify the listeners. The seasonal task, then, is to build our listeners up with the great truths of Christmas.

Here a a few suggestions to keep anxiety down and yourself on track this Advent season:

  1. FOCUS: Commit extra time to be quiet for prayer, study and worship. This season is so filled with Christmas “stuff” that you can end up filled with the stuff of Christmas and not filled with the Holy Spirit. The people you influence need YOU to be a stabilizing reminder that Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus.
  2. SIMPLIFY: Instead of preaching or teaching to other teachers or to find a new angle on an old story for people who’ve heard the Christmas story for decades, speak in simple terms about Jesus and why His birth STILL matters. It’s the greatest story the world has ever heard and it’s interwoven with the story of every individual in the room. 
  3. ENCOURAGE: Statistically, the holiday season has a higher rate of depression than any other. It’s impossible to understand everyone’s pain, but you can encourage them that we have a Savior who does and who will one day wipe away every tear. His first coming should encourage every heart to remember that the Gospel promises He’s coming again.

Believing Him for You,

ULTIMATE ACCOUNTABILITY: LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE PAINFUL FALL OF MEDIA GIANTS

Americans have recently witnessed the fall of some media giants. Wow, these stories have been disheartening to say the least.

Amidst my sadness over these stories, however, I’m actually glad about a couple of things:

  1. I’m glad that some of the wounded women have found their voices and mustered up the courage to speak up and say something. Because they did, though they were victimized, they are no longer victims; they are overcomers. They might not feel that way yet, but they are in my eyes. I applaud their strength and I hope each woman who was assaulted finds help toward healing and moving forward with peace.
  2. I’m also glad that people who seemingly got pass after pass to behave badly because of their position and power are finally being held accountable. Talent and profit should always be trumped by truth and character. Maybe accountability among the powerful will become more commonplace as a result of these events. I’m hopeful that is the case.

Speaking of accountability, the truth is, we all need it. We may not be high profile predators but we all have struggles and temptations. But we don’t just need accountability because of the possibility of how badly things can go without it – we need it to help us reach our potential. A little accountability can go a long way in keeping us on the right track toward reaching our goals.

Inviting accountability into our spiritual lives is absolutely essential. The beloved Howard Hendricks (aka, “Prof”) from Dallas Theological Seminary used to say that we are all headed to an ultimate final exam and because of that we need to check in on one another and see that we’re staying on track, getting ready for that moment.

The ultimate judgment is not in the eyes of public opinion; it’s in the presence of God. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

According to scriptures, judgment will be different for those who do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and for those who place their faith in Him.  In the end, unbelievers will ultimately receive judgement for their sin (Rev. 20:15).

On the other hand, believers will be welcomed into His glory. There, in His glory, believers will give account and receive rewards for deeds of service done for His kingdom. This is what Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

Before God is where each of us will have our ultimate moment of accountability. When I think about that moment I don’t look with disdain at fallen media figures, I look with absolute awe at the Savior who made a way for me to be forgiven of my sin.  And I thank God for my family and friends who encourage me and hold me accountable to stay the course of faith.

For His Glory,

BUILDING A LEADERSHIP PIPELINE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

The chair was oversized, soft and the perfect place for a late afternoon nap. With kids running around the living room and dinner preparations clanging in the kitchen, he slipped into blissful slumber. We watched in amazement as he slept through all the commotion. Nothing could wake him.

Without warning the incredibly annoying alarm vibrated the entire condo signaling the dryer was finished. It was as if that wonderful comfy chair transformed into the electric chair. The sweet slumber instantly turned into wide-eyed panic. Jolted, his arms flailing, feet running but not yet on the ground, the alarm sent my friend into a flurry to save himself, and our vacationing families, from certain peril. The memory still produces side splitting laughter to this day.

I occasionally find myself in similar situations, but it has nothing to do with sleep. The daily routines, the regular commotion of life and the endless to-do lists swirl around enough to keep me, and probably everyone on occasion, from being aware of some underlying issues that need attention.

It often takes an alarm to jolt us into paying attention to something important. This is true for organizations as well as individuals.

In the EFCA, we had a recent alarm that sounded in the form of some research stating the average age of our Senior Pastors is 55 years old and the we have an increasingly aging missionary force here and around the world.

While we thank God for these faithful servants, this discovery left us with some very important questions for our movement. Where are our young leaders? Who is going to take the place of our retiring leaders when they are done? What are we proactively doing to mobilize the next generation?

The alarm is sounding in the EFCA!

This alarm is why I’m giving the next season of my life in ministry to Apex.

Apex serves the local church by mobilizing emerging leaders who advance the Gospel from here to everywhere. Our experiences in cities all over the world provide the context for Gospel Fluency to see and speak the Gospel in all of life. We exist to provide a variety of training experiences and missions opportunities to young people in order that they might glorify God and build His kingdom with their lives.

It is our clear directive to be a leadership development pipeline from middle school beyond college graduation providing the clear and reachable next step for each participant’s faith journey. So many young people are being asked what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. We believe that if we can motivate and train for next week it will set the direction for the rest of their lives. It’s our deep desire to build an environment where young people are inspired to give their best to building the kingdom of God right now. We want to see a generation of servant leaders introducing their peers to Jesus and that starts the moment they return home.   

Apex is doing its part to answer the alarm bell. We are proactively working with churches to mobilize the next generation. It would be our privilege to partner with you as you seek to leverage every part of your ministry to help students be disciples who make disciples.

If you have any questions or want to get more information on who we are and what we do please visit our website where you will find more in-depth descriptions of our experiences and contact information. 

 

David and Shawna Boerema serve as US Project Directors for Apex. For 20 years they have served in local church student ministry and are passionate about helping students take the next steps in their walk with Jesus. David also serves as the Associate Director of ReachStudents for the EFCA’s Eastern District. Dvid and Shawna live in Central Pennsylvania with their two boys and love to be outdoors, travel and appreciate a cup of finely crafted coffee.

david.boerema@efca.org  –  Shawna.boerema@efca.org