Connecting People to Purpose, Part 2 – Jim Graff

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In my last blog, I shared with you how it is our responsibility as pastors and leaders to develop within our people the ability to do God’s work to an even greater degree. Why? Because when someone who uses the gifts God has given them steps into people’s lives, three things happen: One, Jesus helps us believe what we would never believe about ourselves. Two, Jesus develops a competence within us that causes us to do what we could have never done before. And three, Jesus stirs us to compassion so that we do the work He wants done, not just the work we’d do if we had our own way.

But how do we get people to this place of competence and compassion and courage? Well, there’s a template I want to give you today, three things I want you to think about as you consider your ministry.

1. It starts with optimism. Optimism is a hope-filled confidence that there will be a successful outcome in a future endeavor. How does the cynic view life? He says, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” How are we called to view life as believers? We’re called to view life this way, ”I’m going to believe it because God said it, and because God said it, if I do the right things, I know that I’m going to see it.”

I know that’s how Jesus has worked in my life. It’s how He’s worked in so many of our lives. Jesus gets things done by believing in people other people wouldn’t have believed in – like you and me – and then developing them to do things they could have never done if it wasn’t for their relationship with Him. He calls us to do the same thing.

Walt Disney maximized this skill from a human perspective, didn’t he? I know some don’t want to talk about Disney these days, but the truth is he was raised in a Congregationalist church. He had Congregationalist ministers dedicate all of his properties. He was a man committed to wholesome, clean entertainment for our country. I’ve always loved this story that I’m sure you heard regarding Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The dream was first in Walt Disney’s heart. He had things developed and sadly, as he was developing them in 1966, he passed away. His brother Roy took over the leadership and construction began in 1969. At the three-day opening celebration in Orlando, Florida, Roy Disney said to Walt Disney’s widow, Lillian Marie, “Oh, Lillian, I wish Walt was here to see this.” To which Lillian replied, “Walt did. That’s why it’s here today.”

Everything starts in the heart of a visionary. That’s why God has put His vision in your heart, Pastor. But listen, someone has to believe for it before it turns into what’s possible. That’s the work of a parent, pastor, and spiritual leader of any kind. Do we believe what God is believing about the people who are before us? 

Here’s what I want to ask you: Does your new members class communicate that? Do your leadership classes communicate that? Because that’s the beginning of the template. If that spirit isn’t in them, then they’re never going to transform lives and you’re never going to transform a community the way that you’re capable of transforming it.

2. It takes positivity. Positivity is characterized by the presence or possession of features, rather than their absence. In other words, positives are based on potential. I’m positive that you can grow in ministry because the capacity to do this is inside you.

This is what a lady named Marva Collins had. She started her career in the Chicago Public School Systems, and she was passionate about developing undeveloped potential in students. But she saw students being labeled as “learning disabled” that she was convinced didn’t have to be labeled that way. She thought their education was being dumbed down because people weren’t optimistic about their futures, so she examined data and concluded that she truly believed she could talk these students into overcoming the false beliefs and behaviors that were keeping them from reaching their potential. 

It’s said that Marva would put her hand under the chins of her students and say, “You’re brilliant! I need you to believe that.” Pretty soon students were becoming nurses, attorneys, and teachers like her who served in underserved communities. Before she was done, she was honored in the Oval Office by former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura as a National Medal of Humanities recipient. But what’s sad is the school discontinued her program when she stepped down. There was no lasting multiplication of her efforts. That’s why God needs so many of us right now to focus not just on what He’s put in us but what we are doing to make sure that it happens. What are we doing to see God’s work multiply in this hour?

Think of what Jesus taught in Luke 6:40. He said, “The student is not above the teacher but everyone who’s fully trained, will be like his teacher.” We need to be leaders who don’t just have curriculums and classes. We need to be leaders who have optimism that the people in front of us have something big God’s dreaming about. We need to be Ephesians 1 people. We need to pray for people like Paul did, that the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened, that they’ll know the hope of the rich calling that God’s placed upon their lives.

3. It needs belief. Belief is defined as a confidence in someone or something. It’s the confidence that someone will succeed because the competence is within them to succeed. They have the competence, they have the compassion, they have the courage, and because of that, God’s going to do something big in the world. This doesn’t happen automatically. We have to develop belief in people like Jesus did.

Let’s face it: We’ve all had people who looked at us and said, “I want you to believe in me,” and we’re thinking, “I’d like to believe more in you. Can you give me a little more to believe in?” The reality is we’ve both seen people like that and we’ve been that person. But in ministry, as we work Jesus’ template, we have the amazing privilege to look at people we deeply believe in and show positivity that they will astonish the world with the things that they do.

Now what if that doesn’t happen?

William Bratton was a New York City Police Chief under Mayor Rudy Giuliani years ago.  In the 1990s, crime was such a problem that people were at the tipping point and they were determined to find somebody to fix it. Of course, Giuliani won the election. But if he failed, they were going to give another mayor the chance, and that motivated Chief Bratton to ask all five borough police chiefs of New York City this question: “Do you believe crime can be reduced in your area?” Three of them said no. They didn’t believe they could overcome all the obstacles. Bratton said, “Okay, I’ll have to let you go and find some optimistic people that I can develop.” Bratton did, and crime was reduced in New York City in astonishing ways. Why? Because he followed the template of Jesus, and the template of Jesus works.

Whenever we’re optimistic and we develop our teams, belief is going to come and amazing things are going to happen through the teams that we develop competency in.

Here’s the bottom-line, Pastor: Something’s going to win. Either the fears of our team, the lack of prayer of our team, the lack of discipline of our team, the lack of hard work of our team, or faith and development and courage and compassion are going to win. Something is going to win in our town. Let’s make sure it’s the Jesus way by using His template to activate our people to do great things for God in our churches and our communities.

I want to see God do something bigger than He’s ever done in this season of my life. Don’t you? I’m confident it can happen with this template. It worked for Jesus, and it will work for you!

This blog was created using content from the webinar How to Connect People to Purpose.