By Jason Allison
When you think back on your school years, I’m sure there are a handful of things you learned that have stood the test of time. For me, one of those lessons was in the sixth grade. My teacher taught us that the definition of a preposition was anywhere a mouse could go plus “to” or “for”—and I’ve never forgotten that.
Recently, I’ve realized that those same “to” and “for” prepositions have defined most of my adult years. I’ve tried to go TO the place I thought I could be most effective. I’ve been living my life FOR God, FOR His glory, FOR my own success, FOR influence, and FOR popularity. I’ve let my prepositional life dictate where I was going and what I was doing.
I’ve let my prepositional life dictate where I was going and what I was doing.
I’ve never done this before, but this year I decided I would spend some time asking God to provide me with a focus word for 2022. I wasn’t looking for a word of prophecy or even a word of encouragement. I was looking for a word that would help me center my thoughts, intentions, and priorities solely on God’s plan rather than my own. I mulled over several ideas but finally settled on “with.”
This word stuck out to me because it was so different from the prepositions that had always driven me. “With” is more about the process than the destination. It’s focused on the present rather than the future. It’s a communal word that assumes some form of being together. Having “with” with me is helping me refocus the framework of my priorities.
“With” is more about the process than the destination. It’s focused on the present rather than the future.
While I’m not saying that you need to adopt my word for the year, I would like to challenge you to think about your plans and priorities for 2022. This year is already turning out to be a pivotal year for pastors and leaders. The church has gone through some pretty seismic shifts over the last two years (Dale actually dove into this in his recent blog titled “From Sifting to Shifting”), and it’s not going back to the way it was. We’re settling into a new normal, and it’s unfamiliar territory for everyone!
In years past, my focus would have been on how I could leverage these changes to make an impact for God’s Kingdom. I would have been trying to develop strategies that would make my ministry more successful so God would notice my efforts and pat me on the back. I would’ve been asking how I could use this time to move closer to God’s ring of honor. The more I reflect on these thought patterns, the more I see how much I need to confess!
I would’ve been asking how I could use this time to move closer to God’s ring of honor. The more I reflect on these thought patterns, the more I see how much I need to confess!
But this year, God has challenged me to steer my focus in a different direction. He’s asking me new questions moving forward, and I think these questions reflect His intentions for the church in this new era of history. Here’s what I believe God is asking me:
- Will you do ministry with me instead of for me?
- Who will you bring with you so I can bless them as well?
- Will you remain fully present with Me and those around you?
- Will you trust me when I say that you don’t have to accomplish anything extraordinary for me?
The shifts in the landscape of the church in America go beyond the pandemic. We’ve seen churches implode and national leaders (and movements) pursue power instead of the Cross. We’ve seen political ideologies preempt spiritual formation. We’re experiencing the consequences of those who claim to be members of the church allowing the mainstream and social media to disciple them instead of the Bible. Whether we like it or not, the systems we’ve formed for the last several decades are producing exactly what they were designed to produce. That’s all they can do. Sure, we could complain about the results or point fingers and blame. But what if, instead, we answered God’s call to change our entire paradigm of ministry?
Rather than trying to build powerful ministries that make a massive cultural impact FOR God, maybe it’s time we slow down and ask how we can walk WITH God.
Instead of measuring our success and impact by the same standards our culture uses—power, prestige, influence, wealth, popularity—it’s time the church begins trusting that God doesn’t need us to be successful. He simply wants us to work with Him in a new way.
This new-creation way centers on living a cruciform life shaped by the way of the Cross. It’s measuring your success by how God’s love is expressed to the people around you. It’s a life, and even a ministry, centered on sacrificial love. It’s a life lived with God.
As you begin this new ministry season, rather than focusing on what you think you can do for God, ask God what He would like you to do with Him. Today, I challenge you to slow down for a few minutes and just enjoy being with God. I can promise you that God enjoys being with you!
Get to know Jason Allison better by visiting our “Who We Are“ page.
Be sure to stop by our 95Network.org/online store to find helpful resources designed to encourage and strengthen your ministry leadership.