September 26, 2016
“What do you guys do in there?”
It was a private club – in a downtown setting – where we hold our all-day quarterly sessions for The Master’s Program. The young man is part of the club staff who serve us through the day, but is never in the room when we’re underway. He sees the sign outside our door – “Preparing Christian Leaders to Change Their World” – but was nonetheless mystified about what we might be doing – from 8:00-4:00 – with a posted message that sounds so Sunday oriented…
His question was understandable; though he doesn’t represent our target prospect, even the men and women who are invited to consider enrolling in this three-year experience have a difficult time putting TMP into a familiar “box.” We’re not a business seminar; we’re not a Bible Study group: though portions of our day-long sessions could be replayed in either of those settings, our approach is unique from both the church and the conference room. What is it that we’re doing?
Ours is a modern-day approach to a powerful model that was pioneered by Jesus, with the first wave of prospective leaders he prepared to succeed him, becoming the next generation of movement leaders tasked with developing the most successful global brand of the last 2000 years.
Jesus described the process of recruiting participants in the movement, in a story told early in his three-year public campaign: “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.” (Matthew 13:3-8, from The Message)
An agricultural allegory that his 1st Century audience could easily imagine, told in the midst of their weekday career activities. The parable was intriguing, but the 12 men who had left their prior assignments to be his understudies didn’t want to presume the meaning: they wanted him to clear their confusion and make his point.
His response to them: “Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road. The seed cast in the gravel – this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it. The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.” (vs. 18-23)
People come in lots of flavors: regarding God’s truth – the “news of the Kingdom” – their reactions are telling. Condition #1 is a complete blow-off; God’s truth makes no impact, none. Condition #2 is rocky regret: the feelings recede, and the opposition hits… and they move on. These folks are lost.
The third and fourth categories both come to life… but their experience is far different. #3 lives in a financial fog, with worry over loss and ambition for more distracting them from what matters most. #4 comes alive, and becomes dazzlingly productive: “a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”
The New Testament makes productivity – as God defines it – really clear: it’s the person whose influence on other people results in increasing the population of heaven. That’s all that matters to God…
“What do you guys do in there?” We help #3’s eliminate their unhealthy worries and distractive ambitions, making it possible for them to become #4’s. And… we help #4’s increase their productivity, from 30x to 60x to 100x returns (Jesus’ comparison of #4 returns, from the original texts…).
So: where are you, in that story? And, where do you want to be, when he comes back?