guidance

Are you a designated survivor?

Sometimes, my wife and I have been known to watch a little TV. Recently, we’ve been into a show called Designated Survivor (click for the trailer). The basic premise is that the least likely candidate to be president suddenly finds himself in the oval office after an act of devastating terrorism. I believe one reason why we like the show is because we see and relate to the struggles our protagonist, Tom Kirkman, goes through. He’s constantly questioning if he’s doing the right thing. And it seems that when something is going well, it’s only a matter of moments before something unexpected hits. At one point, I turned to Jamie and said, “This show is like leadership therapy.” Perhaps, it points to an issue that we all face. Aren’t we all feeling that we’re in the fight of our lives? Don’t we all have days, weeks, sometimes even months, where it seems like one thing after another and we just can’t seem to get a break?

Recently, it does feel a little that way. We’ve been having difficulty in a couple areas of the ministry. There are struggles in the cafe, whether it be figuring out adequate staffing, meeting goals we set out for ourselves at the beginning of the year, or confirming that we’re accomplishing meaningful, impactful ministry. And we’ve been struggling with church ministries. It seems a lot of people are feeling drained and overwhelmed with ministry responsibilities. Across the board, many of our staff are transitioning or preparing to transition within the next year. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic. In fact, I love my life and really am thankful for all the wonderful things I get to experience. Yet, sometimes, I find myself questioning: am I really the person for the job? Is this the right spot? What’s even happening? And will tomorrow be worse? Perhaps, a lot of this is my fault. What could I do differently?

So, I’ve been taking more time to ask these big questions. What’s my calling/purpose/passion? Who are my friends? How am I supposed to accomplish what I’m called to with who’s in my life? A couple things have happened to me in response to this recent line of questioning.

First, I heard an awesome sermon about prioritizing God above all else, because, as the pastor says, “Our priorities are much different when we’re on the front lines. We don’t have time to worry about what’s not important.” Our calling is first and foremost to Him. We must hold on to that fact. Around this time, I recalled my dad’s life verse, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

Second, I read an article on frustration. In a nutshell, frustration helps us know a few things: 1) we’re getting close to breakthrough, 2) we still have passion, 3) we’re still in the game, 4) we know what not to do :-), and 5) we can find a better way. The one that stuck out to me most was regarding passion. Our frustrations help us see where our passions are and help us know what we need to press into. Yeah sure, there are struggles. Who doesn’t have struggles and frustrations? And if you have some of these, congratulations, you might just be onto something good (spelt G-o-d).

Finally, a friend encouraged me to read Matthew 6:25-34. It’s that passage that says don’t worry. We usually gloss over that, right? We know not to worry. But do we really? Do I really trust that God has treasures in heaven (6:19-24) that far outweigh anything this world has to offer? Do I really believe that generosity (6:1-4), prayer (6:5-15), and fasting (6:16-18) will make a difference? It seems, then, that this life is pretty straight forward. We put our eyes on Him, seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and in turn he prepares and provides everything we need (6:33). He provides the calling, the season, the anointing, the friends, the ministry strategy, the everything!

What does all this mean for me? It means that even when things frustrate me, lead me to feeling desperate, or to want to quit, if I’m still here, I’m the designated survivor. I’m the one God has chosen for this hour. If that’s true, then with God all things are possible (Mark 9:23). And what does that mean for you? Whatever you’re facing. Even if it seems everyone else is gone, you’re not sure if you are the right person, you’re not sure about much and everything seems to be creeping in on you, tell those lies to stop and remember, you’re God’s chosen designated survivor and He’s going to provide everything you need as you seek Him and His Kingdom!

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5Q: Answers to a Decade (or more) of My Organizational Questions

disclosure statement: I was given a copy of this book, 5Q, by Alan Hirsch to give an honest review of it.

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I can’t put this thing down. I’ve planted a church and started a business in Taiwan, a culture which has traditionally been more resistant to the gospel’s work, with around 3% of 23,000,000 people professing faith in Christ. There have been successes in our ministry. Just a few days ago we were recounting what God’s done and noted that 34 people have been baptized since 2012.  and I’ll be one of the first to admit I often feel I have no idea what I’m doing. The reason I couldn’t put this book down is because Hirsch is putting into words feelings I’ve had for nearly a decade (which is a lifetime for a millennial). The premise of Hirsch’s latest work is that Jesus Christ has already given us a blueprint for what leadership, mission, evangelism, care and teaching should look like and how it’s done. He’s calling us to allow the latent seeds of the fivefold gifts, also referred to as APEST or 5Q, Christ gave the church to begin to grow again. APEST, or apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, are five different gifts or ministries that Christ placed in the church as a result of his ascension (Ephesians 4:1-16). He writes, “In it’s simplest form, 5Q is the synergy of a holistic recombination of the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching (APEST) capacities referred to in Ephesians.” These gifts were given so that we could minister as the body of Christ and ultimately attain to the fullness of Christ. But Hirsch argues the archetypal evidence of APEST predates the establishment of the church and is actually part of the prevenient grace that God established when He created the world. Essentially, understanding and utilizing the fivefold is THE KEY to healthy, thriving organizations across the board whether in business, church or elsewhere.

By understanding 5Q, we are able to assess the health and capacity of our organizations, churches and businesses included. Hirsch traces biblical foundations, primordial forms and archetypes and ultimately the life of Jesus as the architect and builder of 5Q. Jesus shows us that the patterns of 5Q can be used to understand and assess His ministry as well as his commandments to the church. He outlines the fivefold functionality of the church and society at large. In utilizing 5Q, we have a clear trajectory for how to impart, empower and deploy the greatest move of God the world has ever seen! Hirsch gives numerous accounts of how utilizing 5Q in our organizations will invariably lead to transformation on all levels of society.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  1. It is not coincidental that this breakthrough has come at a time in my life when my spiritual life has never been better–I am experiencing God in a whole new dimension. I find myself spending whole days in prayer and meditation. My prayer life is rich to the point of overflow. In a real way, I believe that 5Q has played a significant role in this sense of overflow. 5Q feels both personal to me, but I also feel its universal significance.
  2. If you want transformational gospel movement–really want it–then you are going to have to unlearn some very ancient churchly habits and be willing to relearn some new–and yet paradoxically more ancient–more authentically biblical ones. You’re a leader; I speak to you as a leader responsible for your generation.
  3. In fact, I hope to show, fivefold-thinking (5Q) reaches into our deepest instincts for ministry by reconnecting the ministry of Christ with the Body of Christ.
  4. Jesus “gave” APEST to the church, distributing it among all the people as he sees fit. It is vital that you, the reader, feel the weight of the grammar that Paul uses to talk about the constitutional givenness of the APEST ministries to the church. The verb form used for “given” (Gk. edothe, the aorist indicative form of didomi) is an aorist indicative, a very resolute verb form perfectly suited for use in constitutions. This is because aorists reflect actions that took place in the past and as such they are once-and-for-all-time events. The effects of the past event are still felt in the present. They are historic in a similar way that the signing of the Declaration of Independence was historic—it will impact America’s self-understanding for all time…Jesus is actually present in the church, and by which he extends his own ministry through us.
  5. Because they operate within a system, each individual APEST function enriches, counterbalances, and “corrects” the particular bias of each of the others.
  6. The good news is that all five functions/callings are like seeds latent in the system. They are already there by virtue of the defining Word of God. This is a liberating idea—all the potential for a tree is actually already in the seed; we don’t need to mess much with that. What we need to do is simply focus on the environment that will allow the seed to flourish.
  7. [M]issional movements are essentially a recovery of the apostolic impulse; prayer and justice movements are manifestations of the prophetic impulse; revivals are an aspect of evangelistic; community and charismatic renewal is a recovery of the pastoral ministry; and theological renewals are largely related to a rediscovery of some lost motif in Scripture.
  8. It is this relationship between high internal resonance and explicit social patterning that this chapter seeks to address. The idea here will be to try to connect the resonance that you should feel in regards to APEST functions and callings with the community in which you are called to express faith.
  9. Giving the answer is always easier than teaching the process…I often say to leaders that we can change our structures in four to eight months, but it takes four to eight years to change our culture.
  10. We see the five marks of the church defined by APEST as follows: missional impact (A), covenant faithfulness (P), gospel proclamation (E), reconciled community (S), deep wisdom (T).

Near the end of the book, Hirsch quotes Peter Berger who notes, “Ideas do not succeed in history by virtue of their truth but by virtue of their relationship to specific social processes,” and as such we are called not only to revel in fun ideas, but to actually begin applying them. Thus, my personal plan to 5Q implementation: do it. In all seriousness, I am indebted to Hirsch and the rest of his team for packaging a biblical, theological treatise on 5Q. For me and my team, we typically think about church in three terms: personal growth, community growth, and missional growth. These are the outworking of pondering Jesus’ Great Commandment (love God, love others) and Great Commission (make disciples in the world). If we are affect the cultural fabric of society, speak truth to power and life to dry bones, plant the seeds of the good news and win souls for Christ, gather God’s sons and daughters, and ensure God’s Truth is passed on correctly, we are in desperate need of 5Q thinking, systems and action. APEST provides an excellent framework, aspects of which we are already integrating. We speak cultural transformation (A), share the good news regularly (E), and teach truth (T), but I have seen how we can and must grow in all areas of APEST and I’m confident with teaching and tools outlined in this book, we are already on the right path.

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and check out additional resources online. The diagrams offered are more than worth the price of admission. Hirsch will offer insights into the fivefold ministry that will shape your ongoing business and ministry endeavors.

Paths of Mentorship


Within many of my circles (family, professional development, ministry, business), we talk about mentorship, coaching, accountability, as well as a whole list of other words that carry similar meanings. 
I recently asked a person I consider as somewhere on this continuum about his thoughts on mentoring. As he began explaining how various people interact with him in different contexts, it became apparent to me that we often use a word (the choice differs depending on which circle you’re in) to indicate several options. The following four paths seek to describe basic functions a mentor-type person can take.

  1. Peer / Accountability Partner. A peer mentor, or an accountability partner, will challenge and affirm you. They are your own age and often understand the struggles you’re going through, because they are going through the same ones. You meet as often as you like. You can trust each other. 
  2. Sage / Back-Patter. A sage is someone who has gone through it all and stands there simply to tell you that you’re doing well. If you play your cards right, they will give some age-old advice that you’ll benefit from greatly. 
  3. Coach / Plan Maker. Coaches ask great questions and help you to make insightful plans. These are the people who never tell you what to do, but always find a way to make you do what’s best. 
  4. Yoda / Discerner. Whenever Luke needed it, Yoda was always around to blow his mind with insightful thoughts posed in backwards grammar. Your Yoda comes with timely emails, texts or phone calls that always seem to be right on target. Yoda shouldn’t be afraid to nail you for something you’re not doing right. Yoda needs space to speak into any area of your life. And when he speaks, listen, you should. 

One problem with our generation is that we shy away from some of these forms of mentorship. When we avoid allowing peers, sages, coaches, and yodas to speak into our lives, we miss the blessing that comes along with them.
It’s important that we have people around us who operate in all of these differing paths. Yet, we all tend to prefer a certain function. Did I miss any valuable paths? Which one of these fits you well? Which do you need more of? How can you pursue finding someone to fill this role. Do you have someone you are mentoring now? What does that look like? How does this add clarity to your relationship?