Vocation and the Serendipity of Exile

What if being out of the mainstream isn’t cool so much as serendipitous?

Hans Urs von Balthasar was an imaginative twentieth-century Catholic theologian.  Jean-Luc Marion notes that Balthasar:

  • Was ostracized by the Jesuits with whom he trained
  • Never became a university professor
  • Was ‘only’ a student chaplain at Basel
  • Was not invited to Vatican II
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Icon Painting – Holy Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar 110 by William Hart McNichols

But Marion says that good was brought from evil. Balthasar was freed from the procedural and litigious dimensions of a church council. He was liberated from faculty meetings and committees. He did not have to grade essays. He wasn’t formed by one particular spirituality (the Jesuit way).

The result of his “exile”? Marion says that Balthasar:

  • “Remains without doubt the best Barthian”
  • Was a practitioner of “ecumenism in the highest sense”
  • Was freed to become a great writer
  • Became the only real rival of Karl Rahner
  • “Was anything but dogmatic”
  • Was “truly and deeply spiritual”
  • Exuded a “humble and almost timid authority which earned him any number of students [i.e., people who learned how to do spiritual theology and theological spirituality from him] but no disciples [i.e., people who were copycats of his theology and spirituality]”
  • “Had a learning so sweeping that it gave you goosebumps”
  • Is “the greatest Catholic theologian of modern times”

Sure, you can be a part of an “inner ring.” You can get invited to all the important meetings. Your name could be called whenever NPR or Le Monde or the BBC need a reaction to the day’s news from someone in your field. You could have young people aspiring to be just like you. Some of these things may even be gained without succumbing to soul-suffocating pride and the deadliest variety of ambition. You could certainly be a star. And not all stars are self-promoted idols.

But it could be that you’re not doing anything particularly sexy. You might be in some backwater place doing some low-profile thing for a living. It’s possible that no one will ever invite you onto their podcast or ask you to write a guest post on their blog. The phone might never ring, and you might only get 3 emails per day for the next 20 years.

But imagine what all that time could yield. Twenty years of not being interrupted by other people’s sense of urgency. Twenty years of focus on what you deem important, regardless of whether it happens to be urgent. Twenty years of quietly becoming one of the very best at whatever it is you’ve been called to do.

One indispensable key to maturity, I am learning, is the ability to emotionally adjust to being sidelined from the main event, exiled from the place where “everything” is “happening.” To adjust to the reality that margin and even a certain type of marginalization is not only serendipitous for one’s soul, but  also for one’s vocation.

And don’t the two go hand in hand? My soul is maturing, is growing up into the stature of Christ, insofar as I am emotionally content and volitionally diligent in my calling.

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Of Pears and Porn

I’ve come to believe that one of the best tools in fighting sin is to meditate intellectually on how profoundly stupid and ridiculous the sin is.

Ideally, of course, one would leave vices behind simply because one was attracted to the good things of which those vices are a mere parody. But at any given season in their lives, every person is at a different place with respect to each vice.

Today, I might have lost the taste for drunkenness, and grown to so delight in sobriety that I’m hardly tempted to drink excessively, while at the same time I might be an overeater of junk food with no “taste” yet for things that actually taste good and would make me feel good after I’ve eaten in moderation. What I’d need in such a scenario (I speak hypothetically, of course!) is a physically fit foodie in my life, whom I admire, who would have the patience to teach me to savor delicious and nutritious foods until junk food tasted to me like the junk that it is. But, absent such a friend, I’m left with Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma to help me see food for what it is.

funny-stupid-signs-useless-pointless-11-571f374995df4__605.jpgAs Augustine undertakes his famous protracted analysis of his adolescent pear-stealing night with his friends, he engages in precisely this sort of intellectual meditation. Writing as he is in his adulthood, he’s presumably gotten over the particular vice of Theft with Friends. But certainly as a Christian bishop he is now sensing the lure of new and more pernicious vices—perhaps pride and envy in particular, temptations which seem to go hand-in-hand with ministry.

He unpacks the pear-theft ad nauseam. 

He is succinct, however, in describing, what the theft was not:

“Those pears were truly pleasant to the sight, but it was not for them that my miserable soul lusted, for I had an abundance of better pears.”

A married person with a loving spouse has an abundance of better pears. Whatever is going on when one goes after porn, it’s not images of bodies of other people after which the soul lusts. Those bodies may be pleasant to the sight like Augustine’s neighbor’s pears, which he praises because they were carefully and wonderfully made by God their Creator. But when the miserable soul lusts, it’s not for pears or porn per se.

Augustine goes on famously to detail the intricacies of concupiscence—of the deformed workings of a soul that in one respect or another is dead to true delights and delighted with dead things. And it is worthwhile to follow his exposé of such a soul as his (and yours and mine) in the fight against vices.

But the first and proper step is to learn of and meditate upon the sheer stupidity of eating junk food when there’s real food available, of stealing your neighbor’s pears when there’s better pears available in your own orchard, and of stealing glances at mere images of the bodies of anonymous humans when you have infinitely more in a good wife or husband.

Education can’t save the world. Knowledge is not really power. Rational Choice Theory doesn’t explain behavior. Reading proverbs won’t automatically make you wise and reading Aesop’s Fables doesn’t mean you’re going to avoid the folly in the fable. There’s much more going on in the soul of which the mind knows little.

But still, nobody wants to be stupid.

Grasping the stupidity of porn and telling yourself “Self, don’t be stupid. You don’t want to be stupid, do you? C’mon, stupid!” seems to be a worthwhile strategy.

Don’t call it an “office”

There are a couple things in life that I’m passionate about. Hills upon which I am willing to die. In no particular order:

  • One does not put two spaces between sentences; the computer will space it appropriately for you.
  • One does not grind one’s coffee until it is time to brew said coffee.
  • North Carolina is in no wise “first in flight”; Ohioans commandeered their beach and wind.
  • The bottom button of one’s blazer, suit coat, or sport coat is to remain unbuttoned.

And, more recently, a new rule:

Don’t call my study an “office.” It’s a study

Nomenclature matters, folks. Our words create the worlds we experience and the quality of our experiences therewith. John Culkin famously said that “we shape our tools, and afterward our tools shape us.” Names of things are human-shaped tools, which thereafter shape us. They shape our expectations and our realities.

I don’t have a classroom of my own. I instead have a tiny room at the end of a hallway. I love this arrangement. I get lots of privacy and in turn I get lots of things done. And, by “things done”, I mean principally “thoughts thought” and “learning learned.”

That’s because my room is my study.

When I tell a student to come see me in my study after school, I am indicating to them that we are going to learn together. Whatever problem they may be having with their grade, the paper they’re writing, their attendance record, their behavior, their language acquisition process, or their mastery of the course content will be approached in a specific way: it will be approached with the conviction that we are, together, learning.

Consider the alternative. I could call my room my “office.” What experience can a student, a colleague, a supervisor, or a parent expect to have in my “office”?

They can expect to have their problem dealt with administratively. They expect their problem to be solved like the unclogging of a procedural bottleneck. They show up to get a grade fixed, a paper corrected, an assignment postponed or a concept explained. People who come to an “office” expect bureaucracy, and they pray that maybe this will be the one time in a hundred when that bureaucracy actually works efficiently, achieving the results desired. They expect, though, to be processed like any other data input that might come into that space, whether through paper and ink, email, telephone, or flesh and blood.

As for me and my study, we shall serve the learner. The learner inside me, and the learner inside student, teacher, administrator, and parent. I want people to come into my study–myself included!–with the expectation that both solitary and collaborative learning takes place in this sacred space. The sofa and armchair, the bookcases, the coffee station and the aroma that regularly makes it into the adjoining hallway, the round table (as opposed to a desk, aka bureau, hello!), and the natural light coming through the windows–all of these things help indicate what this space is for.

But especially the name of the space. Don’t call it an office.

Sloth and Our Lazy Loving

I am in the midst of teaching through a course on The Seven Deadly Sins for the 5th time. This repetition has occasioned something of a seasonal self-audit of my own spirituality. Each time through, the study of each vice (aided mostly by Rebecca DeYoung’s great book on the subject) diagnoses things in me that make me uncomfortable and, hopefully more often than not, repentant.

DeYoung’s fantastic definition of sloth continues to haunt me. Sloth is not laziness, but laziness in loving. Sloth is “resistance to the demands of love.”

We are about as slow and as tardy to love as this sloth is lazy and late in Win, Lose, or Draw:

As I’ve studied the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion, my mind has been blown by two dynamics in this respect:

  1. The reality of our creaturely, finite, temporal natures means that we are constitutionally “late” to love–not in the tardy sense, but in the responsive sense. God loves first and best. We love, but any love we give that is worthy of the name is always already a citation, a response to a call that precedes us. This is not bad. It’s good. We are imitative beings through and through.
  2. We are fallen creatures. We are late in another sense. We are lazy in love. We resist love’s demands. We hear and see the speech and action of our Creator-Lover, and we kick against the goads. We instinctively know that if we are to truly receive such love, we will be compelled to give it again. And we know and can name the people in our lives we regard as unworthy of our love. And so we push away the love of the first and best Lover, thinking this releases us from our status as imitative beings. We reject love, so we won’t be compelled to love the unlovely.

I’ve read in several places recently that one major malaise of our current culture is its boredom. Marion suggests (in his own way) that boredom is the result of our systematic resistance to the demands of love. What is left when the receiving and giving of love is eschewed as our ultimate vocation? Boredom. The residue of an always-unsatisfying saturation with entertainment, diversion, distraction.

Our relationships feel like work and so we check out from them—often with entertainment.

But often with work. Busyness is the other side of the Boredom coin.

Or we view our work as something other than a response of love and a reiteration and imitation of that love in the direction of our neighbor, and so we avoid it.

A resolution or two:

  1. Some productivity guru once said that you should swallow a frog first thing every morning. If you do, you can be sure that you’ve done the hardest, most unpleasant thing you’ll do all day, and now it’s done and out of the way. If I know a demand of love faces me, and its demand is less than fully pleasant, I need to swallow that frog. Have the hard conversation. Put down the phone and look the person in the eye. Give myself in full attentiveness.
  2. I need to stop myself before every new vocational task. I need to remind myself that I am doing that task out of love for my neighbor, my colleague, my student, my friend, my children, my wife. I need to imagine the face of the beloved for whom I work, sitting there in the room with me as I work, asking for my love through my work.

All said, to love well, I need to resist my resistance to the demands of love.

When Will We Finally be Done Following Jesus?

When we talk about following Jesus, I wonder if we assume that this following is done
with when our earthly days are done; that our following will be over and our chillaxing will commence once we’re over Jordan.  

It’s like we think that spiritual and vocational effort (and aren’t these ultimately the same thing?) are a consequence of the fall, and that one day, in the sweet by and by, we won’t have to work to know Jesus and follow him faithfully.

We are allergic to effort, we champions of grace. But as Dallas Willard has told us, grace is not opposed to effort, but only to earning. In the New Creation, we’ll labor–but not just in our “work.” We’ll work to know and follow hard after Jesus in, through, and after any honest day’s labor. 

We won’t struggle against the world, the sinful flesh, and the devil as we try to know and follow Jesus in the age to come. But exhaustive theological knowledge and unabridged discipleship blueprints will not simply be downloaded into our heads when the trump resounds. Jesus is too mind-blowingly infinite and loving, and his (new) world is too full of places to venture further up and further in, for us to expect our following days to be done when the roll is called up yonder. 

And that means we’re practicing now. 

Dulcis Loquela, Dulcis Oratio, or Un-Umming Your Speech

‘If you’ve done your homework you’ll know when one of your credibility killers is just about to escape from your mouth. Then, all you’ll need to do is to keep quiet. I know, easier said than done. At first you’ll have awkward pauses in your speech, but that’s still better, actually far better, than speech peppered with “likes” and “ums.” Eventually the pauses get shorter.’ – Lisa B Marshall in Business Insider
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I once interned under Sinclair Ferguson, one of the great preachers alive today. In one of the few chances I got to sit down with him and really talk about ministry and preaching, he charged me to eliminate “umm” from my speech. He insisted that in order to get rid of it from my preaching, I would have to get rid of it from my everyday conversation. I worked hard at it, and made a lot of progress.
Lisa B Marshall calls “um” a “disfluency” and a “distraction.”  I think that might be a little harsh. They are natural from a linguistic perspective. As she says, every language has them. And perhaps 20% of our utterances in casual conversation are of this variety.
But it is true that in certain contexts these space-fillers can be “credibility killers.” They call attention to the fact that you’re still trying to form your thoughts, and maybe even your beliefs, on the fly, in your head. On the other hand, the elimination of disfluencies will make it sound like your opinions and beliefs have taken shape over time, and that you are confident in them.
I think the tricky part is, what if you actually are not sure what you think? The reason we give a negative connotation to “rhetoric” these days is because so many people have waffled back and forth, forming their “beliefs” at the drop of a hat to suit the occasion.
It’s important to make sure that one’s public speaking doesn’t project false confidence. The key, as far as I can tell, is to confidently state that we are less than certain about the things we are less than certain about. (See what I did there?)
If I had to guess, I’d say our world contains roughly:
  • 5% smooth talking and successful purveyors of empty rhetoric
  • 15% honest, quite intelligent people with unfortunate rhetorical habits, who utter lots of ummmms and leave a lot of us bored, distracted, or unconvinced
  • 30% people who are blustery, cocky, and who darken counsel with all kinds of crummy ideas and logical fallacies spewed with inarticulate garbling passed off as persuasive speech
  • 40% people who are not likely to try to persuade others, simply because they’re not disposed to leadership

That’s 90%, which leaves 10%, I suppose, who have something valuable to say to people who need to hear it, and can speak with confidence, elegance, and persuasiveness, and who probably don’t distract from the content of their thought by habitually resorting to disfluencies.

My experience, especially during this election cycle, is that the hot-headed 30% are not going to lose their unsavory rhetorical tendencies soon. It seems to be a matter of the heart, and while the heart can change, it usually takes time. I know, because I used to squarely belong in that 30%.

However, I would be difficult to overestimate the difference that could be made in our world if some of the 15%, whose voices we need to hear, would make themselves better-heard. In their case, change can begin to take place immediately. If you’re one of them — part of the 15% that ought to move into the 10% — then start small, but start today. Drop the “umm.” Embrace the silence left in its place. Gather your thoughts but keep your mouth closed while you do it.

Let’s all give up “umm” for Lent.

Be a ‘Food Church’ // The Churched Disciple: Sabbath / In / ‘Feast’

Much of what we’ve been talking about under the Sabbath rhythm of church life has already involved feasting. We believe that the best way to facilitate enjoyment, expectation, and even submission as we receive from Jesus on Sundays is to do so in the context of a feast.

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OF COUSE WE’RE A ‘FOOD CHURCH’

Scholars have observed that Jesus essentially eats his way through the gospel of Luke. He is always on his way to a meal, at a meal, or on his way from a meal. That means that every miracle of his goodness, every challenge made with love, every surprising embrace of his grace, every rebuke and warning to the self-righteous and hypocritical, and even every movement of his passion, occurs in the context of food and drink.

If you don’t eat and drink with your fellow disciples of Jesus, it’s very difficult to claim that you are, in fact, Jesus’ disciple. If you don’t share meals together with the family of God, it is very difficult to maintain that you are indeed a member of the household of faith.

A mark of a truly “churched disciple” in our context will be an increasing commitment to break bread on Sundays with your spiritual family. You should find it awkward to show up right at the time the service is supposed to start, and to have a seat with your hands folded in your lap. Hardly anyone else should be there; they ought to be clearing their plates, stealing a few extra moments of feasty togetherness around the tables, and savoring the bonds of friendship that are formed and strengthened over bagels and coffee, or pot luck fare.

A PRIORITY AND HABIT

So, make it a priority and a habit to feast with God’s people on the Sabbath, for this, in large measure, is what will make you Festal Sabbatarians, and not obtuse people who woodenly adhere to an ancient law.

In a sense, you owe it to your spiritual family members to show up ready to feast, just like you owe it to your mom to come to the table at dinner time, and just like you owe it to your grandmother to be at the big table on Thanksgiving Day. Your presence and your readiness to feast enriches the experience of the whole family.

And if your propensity is to keep the feast straight through the afternoon between festal gatherings, then have someone over for lunch or head to an Old Town eatery together.

HARD PLAY IS HARD WORK

One other thing to keep in mind: while the Sabbath is a day of rest, and may well involve a holy siesta, the growing disciple of Jesus recognizes that hard play is hard work. Do what you can to prepare your food on Saturday. Do what you can to leave the clean-up till Monday. Recognize that you’ll need energy to be joyful for a whole Sabbath feast, especially as you turn your face and your life toward your spiritual extended family in a posture of acceptance.

Trying to do everything on a Sabbath feast day, including making lots of meal preparations and cleaning your kitchen, will make it so that you won’t enjoy much of anything. Conserve your energy for the uniqueness of the Sabbath feast day.

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The Churched Disciple: Sabbath – Be Contradictable

Are you contradictable?

It’s time to get back to my string of posts on how a church, and especially a church plant, can become the kind of holistic discipling culture that would make underwhelmed veterans of evangelicalism like Donald Millers stay put and dig deep.

Today, a first swipe at why “going to church on Sunday” is still a really good idea.

This is probably the least sexy reason I’ll give.

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Community. Dialogue. Living life together. Going on mission together. These are the necessary antidotes to the truncated version of church that many evangelicals have regrettably experienced. They’re also the things that many people have begun to find outside “traditional church” (whatever exactly that means). A lot of such folks, according to Donald Miller, just don’t go to church much anymore.

But consider this:

Scripture is the breath of God, given so that it might teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us to be godly and ready for every good work Jesus calls us to walk in. Agreed?

‘Organic’ is Great, But …

Humanly speaking…

When you’re reading your Bible alone, your mind is the limit of what you’ll see in a chunk of Holy Scripture. Your own heart is the limit of how the sermon you’re preaching to yourself will be allowed to get at you. Your schedule and personal discipline are the limits of how much listening to Jesus you’ll do in one sitting, and how frequently you’ll sit and listen.

When you’re dialoguing about the Bible with friends, your friends’ minds become the limit to a potentially enlarged understanding. Your friends’ willingness to say hard things to you, often with others sitting right there beside you, now becomes the limit to how closely the Bible will press in on you. Your friends’ schedules are another limit to the quantity and quality of these Bible reckonings.

There are a lot of factors that make these group and individual encounters with God’s word potentially powerful. And there are even more ways to make a sermon in a church on a Sunday almost useless to discipleship.

What makes your eardrums beat?

But the advantage to sitting still for 30 minutes every Sunday and hearing someone give a monological discourse from God’s word is this:

You cannot control what is said. You cannot direct the conversation where you want it to go. You cannot pick the passage. You cannot determine the trajectory or scope of its application.

You also aren’t dependent on the guts of a person in a group setting to say something difficult to your face. You don’t have to wait around for your friends to get there, move past the chit-chat, hope the vibe is right, and then, hopefully, hear something insightful, life-giving, and perhaps even challenging. You don’t have to send 291 emails to reschedule when life gets busy for this organic group of Bible-appliers.

At both 10:25am and 7:25pm every Sunday in our church a fresh, never-before-heard, well-struggled-over, well-prayed-over, very much fallible and sometimes even outright boring, but always earnest, gospelicious, challenging, provocative bit of teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness aimed at equipping the body for every manner of good work can be heard.

You can doze off, play on Facebook on your iPhone, harden your heart, or even make better discoveries from the passage than the preacher makes. But what sets your eardrums beating will not be your choice. You will be contradicted. You’ll be called to change your mind and to change your life. You’ll be called to quit proving yourself right and instead rest in the righteousness of Jesus given to you.

Relationship Requires Contradiction

As Tim Keller has suggested, admitting that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself so much as it contradicts you is the crucial step toward being in an actual relationship with the God whose breath the Bible is. From there, the question becomes: how can I ensure that I’m regularly opening myself up to being contradicted by the God who speaks in the Bible?

One of the most basic answers to this is, yes, to sit under its preaching.

Even if you have an exquisite preacher, you can still spend your life ignoring everything he says. But it’ll get said. Over and over. And much of it—especially the bits that contradict you—won’t get said by your private homilies to yourself or by your friends around the table, no matter how much they care for you.

Be contradictable.

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Know Your Role

Just as a snowpocalypse is heading for the Southeast, I’m heading into a new work week. (I take Mondays off.) I want this work week to be apocalyptic. I’m realizing that I let The Mundane have an uncontested victory too many weeks.

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What I’m going to do to try and make this week apocalyptic will itself seem ironically mundane. I am going to spend 45 minutes in the morning reviewing my roles and establishing my goals. Sheesh. Even typing that last sentence feels boring.

My biggest takeaway from my most formative personal development book (Stephen Covey’s First Things First) was exactly this. I want to quit floating through my work week looking for the next least-boring thing that I can still justify as ‘work’ to do. I want to move the needle on my life’s work in a significant way by the time the week is out. And so I will sit down with my roles and goals.

Know Your Roles

What are they?

In more-or-less their order of importance, my seven personal roles are:

1. Husband.

2. Father.

3. Pastor-Church Planter.

4. Disciple-Maker.

5. Gospel Neighbor.

6. Community Group Leader.

7. Entrepreneur.

A couple of things to notice:

  • I’m entering a “work week”, but only one of these 7 roles—number 3—is actually my paid vocation. All 7 are my vocations, but only “Pastor-Church Planter” generates income.
  • My callings are life-specific. There may be 5,000 other Americans with the exact same vocational breakdown. That’s not many out of 315,000,000 Americans. Yours is probably different.
  • My callings are overwhelmingly relational. Most people’s probably are too, even if they don’t recognize them as such.
  • Most of my roles don’t immediately suggest obvious key actions that would move the needle in each calling. Most don’t seem to set me up for an apocalyptic week.

Know Your Goals

The only person who can discern what key actions in each of your roles will make for a well-worked work week is you. Ask yourself: “What’s next? What one action in each role, if tackled with zeal and followed through to completion, would enable me to say, at the end of this week, that I was faithful and fruitful across all my callings?”

The answers to this question are your goals for the week. Simple as that.

You will still have all your tasks, which are pressing and urgent. These aren’t your goals themselves. Your goals are the non-urgent, super-important things that will get lost—if you’re not vigilant—among the next-least-boring tasks and the distractions. Commit to these goals.  Schedule them. What block of time are you going to be working on it?

Reckon

Before you start the next week, sit down with your list of roles and the prior week’s goals. Evaluate yourself ruthlessly, and honestly. What kept you from moving the ball in the way you intended to? Were you faithful? Were you vigilant to schedule your goals and stick to your schedule?

Plan

Here’s where the work week gets apocalyptic. Working on the goals in each of your roles reveals what the next goal really ought to be. The apocalyptic boon of charting a clear course is in the fresh view afforded you as you arrive at the end of the charted course.

Adjust. Regroup. Make your goals more realistic, more achievable, more concrete, more measurable. Build on the momentum of what was achieved the prior week. Set aside this 45 minutes at the beginning of every week and make sure the prior week’s work reveals where you really are, and what’s really next.

_______________________

Look. I’m not speaking as an expert. I’m speaking as a church planter who floats and seeks distractions, who feels too often that his energy is not being channeled into the things that matter most. I post this not to lecture you. Mostly, I post it to keep myself accountable.

I’ll follow up in the days to come with some insights I gain as I actually commit myself to the task of seeking an apocalyptic work week.

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66% is a “D”. We Don’t Need “D” Church Planters

Actually, it’s an F where I’m from.

What kind of work is church planting? What does it take to be an effective church planter? How should we assess church planter candidates?

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Todd Henry describes 3 types of work in his new book Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day(It appears he also blogged about it here.)

  1. Mapping: This is what you do before rolling up your sleeves and doing ‘actual work’. But it’s still work. It’s the important, non-urgent work that determines what kinds of work you should be doing. It’s the act of discerning between merely urgent things and truly important things. It’s planning and conceiving, incubating and sketching, whiteboarding and prioritizing, envisioning and preparing.
  2. Making: This is the deliberate tackling of a task list. It’s the act that produces something you can point proudly to at the end of a day, week, month, or year, and say “yep—I made that.” It’s follow-through. It’s often urgent, and it should be important. But by the time you’re in the throes of Making, it’s rather late to be making those distinctions, because when you’re making, your head is down and you’re banging away at something till it’s done. Till it’s made.
  3. Meshing: This is the ineffable work of synthesizing the work you’re doing on a number of fronts by making note of their interrelations. It’s the act of aligning your various callings so that there is synergy and integrity between them. It’s the work of discovering, by reflecting on the work while you’re not mired in the work, exactly what sort of person you are, and might become. It’s the slow arrival to consciousness of your emerging legacy.

Which kind of work are you predisposed toward?

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My ‘boss’, the fella who chairs the committee that oversees my church planting work, once said to someone, and I quote: “Just plant the stinking church.” What is he getting at?

Todd Henry says that …

  • … if you Map and Make, but don’t Mesh, you’re a Driver. You can get things done, and often the right things. But you fail to become a more effective human being. You’re too busy ‘accomplishing’ to become truly accomplished. You might actually be a decent church planter with this mix of competencies—even if you never become a Tim Keller.

And then there’s two work ruts that seem to plague church planters.

  • … if you Make and Mesh, but don’t Map, you are a Drifter. You end up with a thousand little ideas in no particular order. Some of them see the light of day, but most of them are abandoned after the initial fun of dabbling wears off. “Dabbling”. That’s essentially Mapless Making. You see the big picture and you are a well-rounded human being. But you don’t ultimately never decide which ideas should become projects and which of them were simply brain exercises.
  • … if you Map and Mesh, you are a Dreamer. You have many ideas about many important things, but you’re all forest and no trees. Instead of a thousand unfinished projects, you almost never begin anything. In the creative economy, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we can be cerebral and visionary without ever undertaking something that has an explicit beginning, middle, and end.

I’m sometimes the Drifter, sometimes the Dreamer, just in case you were curious. So I’m often a well-rounded fella who fails to distinguish important from unimportant work (Mapping) or who fails to actually get to work (Making).

We need to honestly determine whether we are prone to be a Driver, Drifter, or Dreamer. And once we do, we need to determine who to let into our life in order to challenge us to include the type of work we love to exclude from our personal workflow. Do you have a sidekick who covers that base for you? Do you have a coach who can call BS when you’re excusing yourself for not owning all 3 types of work? Are we who assess church planting candidates prepared to spot Drivers, Drifters, and Dreamers? Do we have the guts to flunk them, or at least send them ‘back to the minors’, if their work-neglect habits are acute? 2 out of 3 is 66%. We don’t want D-level workers planting churches.

Die Empty is all about making the unique contribution that you were put on planet earth to make. It’s about moving from being a Driver, Drifter, or Dreamer toward becoming a true Developer. And this is what church planters ought to be: developers. We ought to be people who determine what counts as valuable work, people who do that work, and people who become better people because they integrate their It’s narcissistic to obsess about your legacy. But it’s just plain obedience to be faithful across all three dimensions of work, in order that you might be, at the end of your life, counted a fruitful servant of Jesus.

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