We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. Col. 1:28-29
Every now and then I see something, or hear something, that just really bothers me and leaves me with such a powerful concern for God's people.
The other day I was flipping through the channels, looking for a basketball game, when Rick Warren's face appeared on the screen. This was a big shock since Rick doesn't do any TV in our area, in fact I don't think he does TV anywhere. But there he was. So I stopped just to hear what he had to say (I have always enjoyed listening to him speak.) And then the bomb dropped...Rich Warren was pitching a christian diet and exercise program!
Yep, a diet and exercise program called, "The Daniel Plan." I was completely blown away! Here are all these folks doing exercises and talking about how buff you can get by working out to praise music and repeating uplifting phrases to help motivate you to go to the next level. And there's a diet plan with recipes and all kinds of encouraging information and support tools and groups. And oh by the way, you pastors and leaders can get your congregations going with a boatload of resources and marketing materials and sermon outlines, etc.
I've got nothing against diet and exercise, but in an evangelical world where people are leaving churches in droves, are biblically illiterate, rarely pray, hardly read the word, are terrified of speaking of Christ to others, can't find a way to connect their faith to their daily lives and have lost all sense of calling and purpose...we offer God's people (and the rest of the world watching TV) a get skinny/get fit plan endorsed, if not developed, by Rick Warren.
I have a feeling Paul is rolling over in his grave!
Paul was such a stark contrast to what we see around us. He was striving with every fiber of his being to provide God's people with what was truly necessary and profitable for them. He provided the wisdom, knowledge,teaching, encouragement, support, self-sacrifice, example and engagement that resulted in them being presented complete in Christ!
What a powerfully uplifting and glorifying vision Paul had for God's people and for his own work and ministry! Do we share that same compelling vision, or are we worried about our six-pack abs and bulging biceps!
A View to What Really Matters
Paul was laboring with such focus and intensity, on behalf of God's people, because he knew there was a day of presentation coming and that they needed to be prepared for it. That day is not about judgement in the sense of losing my salvation or incurring God's wrath, but it is about an assessment or evaluation of my preparedness for what God has intended for us in eternity. We are all going to pass in review before him and be judged as to whether we are ready for "adult" participation in the Kingdom of God.
The Greek word teleios translated here as 'complete' is the word that means "brought to its end, finished; lacking nothing necessary to completeness; perfect: full-grown, adult; of full age, mature."
It is a picture of the person that has come to completeness by "going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, i.e. developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process (spiritual journey)" (HELPS Word-studies). They have grown up, matured and developed their talents, gifts and character to the place that there is nothing lacking with them. They are completely prepared and capable of shouldering the full burden of adulthood in the kingdom with its privileges and responsibilities.
Dallas Willard put it this way, "...the intention of God is that we should each become the kind of person whom he can set free in his universe, empowered to do what we want to do...But character, the inner directedness of the self, must develop to the point where that is possible."
Think of it...men and women released into the universe to follow their passions, do their will without constraint or compulsion, and engage in the ongoing unfathomable creativity that is God's eternal kingdom.This is what really matters. This is what God cares about -- not our pecs, gluts and abs.
The Exercise of Engagement
Paul was 'all in' when it came to doing what needed to be done so that God's people would be ready for the day of presentation. He taught, admonished, encouraged, visited, mentored, supported, sacrificed, bled and eventually died in the service of others. He extended himself to the limit for others, being willing to go into dangerous and potentially deadly situations so that God's people would not lack anything.
Think about it for a minute...what are you willing to do to help in the preparation of another for presentation? Are you willing to engage, get your hands dirty, learn what you need to know to be helpful, exert the effort to have an impact, and commit completely to the process?
I know what you're thinking, "well that was Paul and he was special and God blessed him and, and, and..." And you are so backpedaling out of your privilege and responsibility!
Paul said, "We..." and he meant we. We are all members of the same body and it is by the exercise of each individual part that the body is built up in love. And that means that we each have a responsibility to be engaged in the exercise of helping one another come to perfection -- to be fully prepared for the day of presentation.
It's not on the pastors, leaders, teachers, etc. to do that work. They are, after all, just part of the body themselves and they need our help to come to perfection just as we need them. In fact, if they are not embracing the responsibility of rolling up their sleeves, getting real and pouring out their lives to help us grow up and develop fully, than I wonder about the legitimacy of their "calling." (Don't get me started about the leadership in the church right now!) We are called together to help each other prepare for the glories that are to be revealed.
So that means we need to be exercised. We need to be spending time developing a nearness to Christ that makes us sensitive to his heart and will. We need to be in the word; wrestling with it, searching it, and enjoying it, that we can be like the noble Bereans. We need to be letting the Lord guide us in our prayers for others, not to satisfy some silly prayer program or religious requirement, but out of genuine care and concern for them. (After all if you are going to be let loose on your own in the kingdom, you can start in prayer now! Pray for what you have a passion for. Pray for what you want to. And don't worry about eloquence, duration or depth.) And we need to be involved in meaningful relationships with one another that are a catalyst for growth.
Who's in Your "10"
If we are going to be a catalyst for one another's growth, we need to be developing relationships of increasing trust, transparency, vulnerability and safety. To put an 'intentional' spin on developing these kind of relationships, I want to introduce you to the idea of having your 'Ten'...
The concept of the Ten did not originate with me. I heard about it from a friend (thanks Dave) who told me the following story about a man named Gerald. "What Gerald did was pray and seek the Lord for his calling. He wrote down on an index card the name of ten people. He said, 'This is my calling - to impact these ten people.' Each month, he finds a way to intentionally impact his ten."
So that's the idea of the Ten...identifying 10 people that you are going to commit to developing a relationship of depth and significance, so that you can have a positive impact on them at least once a month.
How to start? First you pray! Then start with those closest to you. Start with your spouse, your kids, your friends. Start with people you share a ministry with. Start with those you have had a burden for, but have never reached out to. Start with your pastor, boss or co-workers. Start where God leads you! And start with the right perspective and attitude.
This is not about being superior and condescending. It is not about being a know-it-all or spiritual giant. This is about embracing what it means to be a brother or sister in Christ, a fellow-member in the body and fellow-heir of God's intention through the ages. It's about sharing life, and life's lessons, together.
It's about embracing what Peter says in I Peter 5:5, "Clothe (apron) yourselves, all of you, with humility [as the garb of a servant, so that its covering cannot possibly be stripped from you, with freedom from pride and arrogance] toward one another. For God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing, the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful)—[and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble." (AMP)
Remember, the Ten is essentially bi-directional! It is about ministering to one another the grace of God. So when you select your Ten, understand that you are going to be growing together. You are going to benefit as well, through their impact on your life.
After all, isn't that goal? That we are all presented complete, perfect, fully equipped and thoroughly prepared for what God has prepared for us in eternity!