February 14, 2011
Back in grade school – when I was a kid – today (February 14th) was a day of ritual. Everyone brought everyone else a “Valentine;” each desk in the room had a stack of hokey heart cards with the name of a classmate etched on the back. If you had a “special friend,” you might add a touchy tagline above your signature, but that was risky. Everyone was everyone else’s Valentine…
By high school, symbolized romance was no longer practiced with everyone in the room. If you bought a Valentine, it didn’t come in a box with 24 others; it came off a rack at Hallmark for a very specific person. All of the cards in third grade said, “Be my Valentine;” the offer went out to everyone. Later, when you had a drivers license, it was no longer a shotgun request, but a sniper solicitation.
Key word: “my.” Webster paints “my” as: “belonging to or associated with the speaker.” Possession is not just implied; it’s declared…
During this Valentine month – February – hundreds of Christian leaders will be participating in Barnabas Groups, from San Diego to Charlotte, from Danville to Chicago. I was at the “mothership” for The Barnabas Group last week in Orange County, and was introduced to the +300 people in the room as the “co-founder” of the movement.
After the morning event, a first-timer – a seasoned Christian marketplace leader – spent some time debriefing me about what he had just witnessed. Over and over again, he used a phrase to describe the entrepreneurs who had just surrounded him for four hours: “your people.” In context, he was asking me what I was doing with “my people” regarding some key Kingdom initiatives.
I thought immediately of that iconic scene in the wilderness, where Moses encountered God in a burning bush:“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”’” (Exodus 8:1) Whose people?
It happens 220 times, from Genesis to Revelation: the word pairing “my people” is used to describe a relationship. In most, it quotes God and His perspective about His position of hierarchy with His own. In the remaining citations, it denotes a peer position, claiming membership in an interconnected community. There are no healthy contexts wherein a person sanctioned by God with spiritual leadership claims ownership and control over people placed under their care.
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4) Whose sheep are they, anyway?
I responded to my new Barnabas friend that my relationship with the leaders in the room was not a command-and-control role. For many, I have been a mentor. For all, I am a partner. For the whole, I have no directive authority. They are under the command-and-control of the Chief Shepherd. He calls the shots for their stewardship, not me. They aren’t my people; they are His.
The biggest challenge we have in advancing the movement – The Master’s Program and The Barnabas Group – is not an external threat, but an internal one. We bump up against MPS (that’s My People Syndrome) constantly. Unfortunately, there are some church or ministry leaders who don’t want to “lose their people” by “allowing” them to participate in a specialized ministry that will help them identify and pursue their Kingdom Calling. Why? The risk that their Calling might lead them away from their captive environments. What they don’t realize is that we love the opportunity to partner with the rest of the under-sherpherds in the care and feeding of His people, growing His church.
Let me put a Valentine on your desk today, and tell you that I love you and am honored to talk to you about Kingdom stuff every Monday. That said, I’m taking Cheri out tonight for Valentine’s Day!