Session 4a: How Should We Measure Success by John Messer

Oh, thank you so much. The topic of a liminal state or being in between, also we’ve been told it’s a painful disorientation, that we were oriented and now we’ve entered painful disorientation. It’s referred to as so many different ways. It’s called the wilderness. It’s not the land of slavery, it’s not the promised land. It’s the wilderness. I’m going to use that metaphor. The wilderness.

Think about it, as the 12 tribes came up to the promised land and the border of the promised land, Moses sends 12 spies and the 12 spies, by the way, I miss this for so long, they were all leaders of the tribes. They were leaders. They were not just leaders. They were senior leaders of the tribes. Kind of like us, get that so far? Yeah. Senior leaders. They went into the land and we all know the story. 12 of them came back. They looked around, saw giant grapes and figs and all kinds of stuff and big people. And they came back and the report was, “oh, no, there’s no way. No, no, no, no. We can do that. These people are huge for it’s so big. We couldn’t even carry it out with us”.

Couldn’t do it. And then Joshua and Caleb said, “oh no, we can, we can do this. The Lord has given us this land. All we have to do is go and take it”. What happened? Well, the 10 who are focused on the problems said “We can’t do it”. And the people believed them, what’d they do? Spent the next 40 years in the wilderness. The two who saw the promise, failed to be able to communicate that because they were overtaken by those who are promise, excuse me, problem focused in the land in between we can focus on the problems or we can focus on the promise. And it’s our choice. People will listen to those who are more problem focused because it’s easier, focusing on the promise, isn’t easy. It’s full of challenges

Because people naturally want to go back to where they knew, what was going to happen. And that’s the land of slavery. And we have the same temptations now, why can’t we just go back to Egypt? At least then we knew we were going to eat, at least then we knew it was going to happen every day, we hated, but at least we knew

In the land in Between where we are right now is the wilderness. And we have the exact same problems as leaders. Are we going to focus on the problems? Are we going to focus on God’s promise? Cause there’s a big difference. And I would suggest that it’s not that we focus on either one or the other. It’s not either-or. It’s that, do we see the problems in the context of God’s promise or do we see God’s promise in the context of problems? If you see the context of problems, controlling the promise, guess what? You’re going to end up exhausted. You’re going to end up pessimistic and you’re going to end up not accomplishing what you say you’re out to accomplish.

If you see the problems in the context of the promise, you’re going to be more likely optimistic, hopeful, you’re going to be more successful, and you’re certainly going to be more joyful. So the question is, are we problem focused or are we promise focused? You see the wilderness folks is not a destination. The wilderness is a transition to get us ready for what comes next. The problem is we don’t know what comes next. That’s why we keep wanting to keep going back to where we knew what was going on. That’s why we want to go back to Egypt.

But God didn’t put us in the wilderness to send us back to Egypt. He took us into the wilderness to prepare us for the promise. And If we keep trying to look at everything as a problem to be solved, we will fail. I love having my time countdown in front of me. It just makes me, I feel so ashamed.

Gil Rendell wrote a great book called ‘quietly courageous’. And he talks about this very dynamic, and he says that he believes that in the future, we need to be capable of discovery, of exploring the land. See, we do that because we don’t know definitively what comes next. It has to be discovered. It has to be explored. And if you approach everything you see as a problem, you’re not going to be willing to continue on because you’ll be too depressed. You’ll be too de-energized you won’t have what it takes.

And by the way, it also won’t be ministering to your neighbors, it won’t be reaching out to your communities, it will be self-protective, it will be isolating, rather than generous and outgoing. There’s no hospitality in a problem, focus, because hospitality sees people as a gift.

If you see a person as a problem, you can’t treat them with hospitality. So what, well, here’s my so what and kind of a scorecard, if you don’t mind. People who are focused on problems like I tend to be, and I do have to repent of this. I tend to be a problem focused person. That’s because I emphasize thinking over feeling and the problem is, again, it’s not either-or.

It’s do I feel in the context of thinking or do I think in the context of feeling? You know what I’m talking about. See, it’s really important for us to understand that the 12 spies, the 12 explorers who went into the promised land, knowing the promise was not their problem. They knew the promise. They knew it, they grown up with it. It was written on their hearts. They knew that, the problem was they were thinking about the problems they weren’t believing and trusting in the promise.

So here’s my so what three Ds, the 3D approach to measuring our time in the wilderness, preparing us for what’s coming. Number one, ‘Dialogue’. Dialogue is so critically important. And if I may say the church has lost its ability to foster and generate God centered Christ, honoring dialogue. Dialogue isn’t just about conversation about the weather or how I feel after I ate burritos last night, that’s not a conversation. That’s not dialogue. It might be good conversation, but it’s not dialogue.

Dialogue is listening, first and foremost, it’s hearing what’s going on? What are your needs? Where are the tender spots? Where are the strengths? Where’s the courage? Where’s the fear? Where’s the anxiety? Dialogue is above all else. Boldly courageous to be honest about what’s going on with me and with you without condemnation.

So dialogue and see dialogue is the basis then of the next D, which is ‘Dependence’. We cannot learn to depend on God by ourselves. If I am going to learn to depend on God, truly, as he intended, I need to depend on you. I need to talk with you and trust you. You need to hear me. I need to hear you. I need to hear that in your weak spots, God was all and in all. I need to hear, I need to know. So dialogue builds into dependence, believing, trusting the promise requires other people to help me.

Maybe that’s what part of the reason of the church is, is community? I don’t know, interdependence and whole systems thing about everything’s interdependent. Everything relies on everything else. I think there’s something there, not just one another on this plane, but one another on this plane. Me and you and the holy spirit, God, father, son, all together in dialogue. So we learn on our plane to depend on that rather, than problem solving my focus will be risking to believe, courage to trust the promise of God.

And finally, not only is discovery, which leads to dependence, which then leads to excuse me, which dialogue, which leads to dependence, which leads to discovery. It’s only then that we truly discover the promises and the opportunities, the opportunities that God has given us in the land in between. The opportunities to not have to go back, but to be able to go forward, to be prepared, the opportunities to be ready for what he’s bringing, because we don’t know what that’s going to be. So the preparation is not going to be because I’m in control. And I know it all, but it will be because God prepared me through the Kairos moments, the opportunities, the land of opportunity, the wilderness is the land of opportunity.

And that is ultimately what we want to do. And one last thing, I’m over my 10 minutes, the number one thing that will change, the number one thing that will change in the wilderness is our mental models about all of this. And number one thing that will change is our mental models about all of this.

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