What Is A Mission Mindset?

September 23, 2014 — 3 Comments

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 

John 13:14

Following Christ fully implies a life of service toward others.  We are called to set aside our best interests and to take action by serving others.

When we serve, it’s not to raise our own name.  We are called to a lowly position, so Christ can be glorified in and through us.

A mission mindset is focused on glorifying God and bring others into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you want to see this fleshed out, read John 13:1-17.

How do you define or describe a mission mindset?

 

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.
Augustine

Even a step of faith can seem like a leap of faith.

What is faith anyway?

Faith is trusting in things we can’t see, in things we can’t control, and in power beyond us. Faith is about dreaming big.  Faith is believing that everything will be okay in the end even when we can’t see the way right in front of us.  Faith is being able to put aside our fears – or maybe to face our fears – and trust that God will take care of things.  Faith can help us break the paralysis of analysis inflicted by life’s anxieties.  Faith is more than just words – it’s followed by actions.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Developing a mission mindset requires faith.  Without question, it can be scary to consider traveling to a foreign country to help others.  Taking a trip of this nature requires faith.  Having said this, it can be just as scary (maybe even more scary) to consider walking across the street to help out a neighbor.  Taking a trip across the street or down the hall to a co-worker’s office requires faith.

If we are serious about getting outside our comfort zone, we will need faith.

What step of faith do you need to take?

Why do you think faith is such an important ingredient in developing a mission mindset?

 

 

The Power Of A Post

September 20, 2014 — 3 Comments

We live in a world of quick posts and status updates.

Social media is filled with short blurbs documenting our experiences, our thoughts, our observations, and our reactions to life.  For the most part, I love it.  There is something incredible about connecting with people from your community, your country, and your world.  I truly believe social media can be used for good.

However…

Social media also provides a “danger zone” for all of us who fail to think before we hit post.

In 140 characters or less, you and I have the power to build up or destroy.

If James were speaking to us today, I think he would say this:

Be quick to think, be slow to tweet (or hit post), and be slow to react.

This is a lesson we all need to remember.

Have you ever posted something on social media or on a blog that you regret?

 

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

This week’s Ice Breaker is inspired by this season of high school sports.  My daughter runs cross-country, and my son marches in the marching band.  This means we are at most of the football games.  Tonight, we’ll be heading across town to see our school match up against another school.  Our son will be playing the pregame show, and then we’ll sit back and watch the game.  It’s also a great opportunity to catch up with other parents.

Question:  When you were in high school where were you likely to be during the football game?

My Answer:  I marched in the marching band, so I was likely to be in the stands watching the game and playing the fight songs.  I was (and still am) a big sports fan, so I loved being at the games.  My sophomore year, our football team won the state championship which meant I played in a few extra games.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We’ve spent the last few days talking about the American Dream.  This wasn’t supposed to be the focus.  My real intent was to challenge (or stretch) readers to start thinking beyond themselves and the comforts of their everyday lives.  My hope is that I might challenge readers to become curious and even eager about developing a mission mindset.

We can accept the status quo, or we can do something about it.  In other words, we can keep going in the same old direction, or we can seek to cultivate a mission mindset.

It’s a scary proposition.  As we discussed earlier, it’s not easy to break free from the patterns in our lives.  And it’s natural to fear the unknown of what lies ahead when we consider acting on a desire for a missions.

Let me encourage you.  Faith is not about knowing all the details about the steps in front of us.  It’s about trusting God in the next step.  We often want to know the whole path in front of us before we are willing to move.  We over think, and we soon develop a paralysis of analysis.  We allow our fear of the unknown to hold us captive in the confines of the “comfortable.”  And we ultimately fail to act on the faith we profess.

Faith is nothing without action. I can believe until I’m blue in the face, but it’s nothing if I don’t follow through on it.  James says it well:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:14-17

In the coming days, I hope to share more of my own journey of faith.  In addition, I will help you identify a way you can take a practical step forward in developing a mission mindset right where you are.

Tell me about a time when you took a step of faith not seeing clearly the final outcome.  Why do you think it’s important to take steps of faith?  What step of faith do you need to take in order to move forward?

Redefining The American Dream

September 17, 2014 — 3 Comments

With all this talk about the American Dream being misguided, it might be easy for you to think I’m being anti-American.  This isn’t the case.  In fact, I’m proud to be an American.  I’m thankful to live in a country where we experience so much freedom and prosperity.  I’m glad I have the right and privilege to vote.  While I don’t always agree with our country’s leaders (past and present), I respect them, and I’m thankful for the thought that went into setting up a government designed to have accountability.

The conversation in the comments the past two days has been challenging and mostly rich.  It has been healthy to dialogue about the American Dream and about our call as Christ followers to pursue a life that may run contrary to the modern-day definition of the American Dream.  One of the comments in particular sums up my feelings related to this, and I think it is worth sharing here:

This is a very good post, Jon. I could easily write a reply that is as long as your post.

I think the founding fathers stated what is still the best definition for the “American Dream”; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness … “

I believe part of the problem in America now is that, as a culture, we’ve substituted “pursuit of wealth and material things” for “pursuit of Happiness”. Larry kind of alluded to that sentiment. But I think the happiness the founding fathers may have been talking about is closer to meaning freedom from the oppression of a tyrannical king and less about material acquisition. And we now mistakenly see acquisition of material wealth as proof of God’s blessing.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe God has richly blessed this country. I believe He had a hand in the founding of this country. But I think that blessing was a by-product of our collective faith – a faith that now wanes in light of the post-Christian era we now find ourselves in this country.

Many years ago I read a good book about seeing God’s hand in the formation of the United States. It’s titled “The Light and the Glory” and it is still available at Amazon.

Great post, Jon. Thanks.

David (not my brother)

Another sentiment that has been repeated in different comments from different readers of the blog is that our primary loyalty should rest in serving the Kingdom of God.  I agree, and I don’t think this means we have to put aside our patriotism.  It does however seem to point to the need for us to stand up for what we believe in, to respond with love and respect, and to always seek to represent Christ well.  And perhaps, it means we need to redefine the American Dream.

Serving Christ in the American culture may be more challenging today than we care to admit.  It’s easy to become distracted by the pushes and pulls of this culture.  It’s also easy to become self-absorbed and to forget the responsibility we all have to follow the directive found in the Great Commission.

If we are truly convinced that Jesus Christ is who He says He is – the Son of God, then we have a choice to make.  We can ignore His teaching and His direction, or we can take Him at His word by having a mission mindset in all we do, in all we say, and in all we think.

What’s your choice?

How do you define the American Dream?  How do you reconcile the American Dream and the Great Commission?

Do you think it’s important to have a mission mindset?  Why or why not?

 

If you‘re going through hell, keep going.

Winston Churchill

This is a quote I have hanging in my office.  It’s a reminder of a dark place in my life, and it stands as encouragement to keep going even when life gets tough.

Let me explain…

Four years ago, an event transpired in the life of my family.  This was a time when the foundations of my life, my faith, my family, and my marriage were shaken.  My wife experienced an illness that left her in the hospital for a couple of weeks with a long and challenging recovery.  The event – the illness – was kind of like a bad dream – even a nightmare.  For a long time, it felt like I was stuck in this dream.  I faced a range of emotions.  I was scared.  I was shocked.  I was down and depressed.  I was numb.  And I was stuck.

As my wife began to heal and I began to emerge from the nightmare, I entered a fog of simple existence.  I certainly wasn’t thriving.  There were days when I was just surviving.  My dreams and goals for my life moved to the far back burner on my stove of life.  On the front burner, my hopes and dreams were replaced by a dull and foggy outlook on life.  My new goal was to keep things even – to just be comfortable.

My wife’s health returned, but my fog of simple existence lifted only to leave an empty heart.  I chased after things that I thought would continue to keep things comfortable in our house.  I certainly didn’t want to repeat the past experience, and I became focused on making sure my wife’s illness didn’t return.  In the midst of this pursuit of stability, I lost something.  I lost my love for life and my love for others I once had.  I continued to work hard at my job in an effort to provide financial stability, and I began to chase after things the world told me to chase.  I was after the American Dream with all the comfort and ease it promised.

I’m an engineer/operations manager for a large building automation company in the Philadelphia area.  I make a decent living.  My kids have all they want and more.  We live in a nice house.  We drive two cars.  I’d say we live a pretty comfortable life.

Even with all this, there were major areas of my life that felt hollow.

I don’t think I’m alone in this experience of emptiness.  After talking to many people and watching how people go about their lives, I am convinced there are multitudes of people who are swimming through an ocean of quiet desperation.  They, like me, seek after comfort and ease only to discover a life without meaning.

At some point in my journey, I realized that there was a yearning for more.  The money, the career advancements, and the toys and “fun activities” just didn’t satisfy.  There was more to life than comfort.

In my pursuit of comfort, I became uncomfortable.

This sounds terrible, but I think it’s the best place to be.  When we become uncomfortable with our pursuit of comfort, we are on the brink of something truly worth while – something far better than achieving the American Dream.  When I reached this point in my journey great things began to happen.  I began to see hope.  I began to dream again.  And I began to develop a mission mindset.

Developing a mission mindset is critical to moving forward.  As we continue down this path, I’ll share some important information to help you move from complacent and comfortable to a much healthier place.  You’ll be stretched, but it will be worth it!

How have challenging times in your life stretched you?

Have you ever grown uncomfortable with the comfortable?

What steps have you taken to go from complacent and comfortable to a better place?

This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure. Winston Churchill

What is the American Dream?

According to Wikipedia,

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.

In suburban America where I live, the American Dream is all about having a bigger house, fancier cars, a larger retirement nest egg, a vacation home at the shore, a well-paying corporate job, and a top-notch school district.

I’m not saying these are bad things to have, but what if our focus is misguided?

While it doesn’t say it in the definition given by Wikipedia, it seems to imply that the American Dream is about ease and comfort.

I like ease.  I like it when things go together easily.  I like it when our family is healthy.  I like it when there is peace and harmony.  And I like comfort.  I like my comfortable king-sized bed and my leather recliner.  I like my warm house in the winter and my cool house in the summer.  I like knowing I can go to my refrigerator at any time and get a cold glass of milk whenever I want.  These are some of the things that give me comfort.

What if ease and comfort is the wrong target?

I was playing Frisbee golf with a few of my co-workers at lunch the other day.  This is a great way for me to connect with some of the younger guys in my office.  It also gives me the opportunity to step away from my desk for a few minutes in the middle of the day.  These guys set up a twelve-hole course behind our office.  Light poles, trees, fire hydrants, and signs are used as the goals.  At the start of each hole, you aim towards the desired target as you release the Frisbee.  On one of the first days I was playing with my co-workers, I didn’t get the directions right.  When I released the Frisbee it flew straight and far, and it even hit the light pole.  The problem is that it was the wrong light pole.  If I had been listening a little better, I would have known to go for the correct light pole.  I would have aimed at the right target.

In the game of Frisbee golf, it’s not that big of a deal if we aren’t aiming at the right target.  Frisbee golf is just a game, and there is always time to recover before the next hole.  Aiming for the wrong target is a big deal when it comes to life.

In life, we have many things that distract us or wrongly direct us when it comes to keeping our eyes on the right target.  We chase after fame and fortune instead of the things that really matter.

Jesus tells his followers in Matthew 22:36-40, to love your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.  This should be our target.  When we put God first and look after our neighbors, we are putting our sights on the correct target.

If you live in America like me, you are most likely in the top one or two percent of the world as far as wealth and possessions.  I know we like to pick on the billionaires in the world for their life of luxury and their failure to contribute their “fair share” to help those less fortunate.  To 98% of the world, you and I are just like those billionaires.  We live a life of luxury, and we fail to contribute our “fair share” to help those less fortunate.  As Americans, we rarely see the lack of comfort or the life of pain that most people in the world experience – we are spoiled.

We don’t get it.  We are complacent to chase after the misguided targets we’ve set.

He who wins with the most toys doesn’t win; he dies.

Noted Eastern University sociologist, Tony Campolo, conducted a survey of fifty people over the age of 95.  Each of the survey participants was asked this question:  “If you had to do life over again, what would you do differently?”  Overwhelmingly, the results showed that people would risk more, reflect more, and do more to leave a legacy after they were gone.  They didn’t mention comfort or ease in their responses.

If we don’t make changes now, we will be answering this question in the exact same way when we reach the end of our lives.  I don’t know about you, but I want to answer the question differently.  As Winston Churchill said, it’s time to dare and endure.  Stop chasing after ease and comfort.

Now is the time to make a change.

Now is the time to redirect your focus to the right target.

Now is the time to establish a mission mindset – to put God first and to love others with everything we’ve got.

What are you chasing?  How does your pursuit of the American Dream cloud your vision for a life best lived?  Are you aiming at the right target?

Strike The Pose

September 13, 2014 — 4 Comments

College football Saturday! Think I would make it as a Heisman candidate?

Who are you cheering for today? (I’m cheering for Penn State)?

Published via Pressgram

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Last night was Back to School Night at the high school where my kids go to school.  We had a great time following their class schedule and meeting their teachers.  Today’s Ice Breaker question is inspired by our evening.

Question:  If you could go back to school, what class or degree would you pursue or retake and why?

My Answer:  If I was going back to high school, I would try to fit a wood shop class into my schedule.  I never took this class when I was in high school, but I think it would be so useful now.

If I was going back to college to pursue another degree, I would consider something in one of the three areas:

  • Communications – To help me become a better communicator.
  • Web Design/Programming – To improve my skill in designing things on the web.
  • Missions – To expand my thinking and effectiveness in ministering to others at home and overseas.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!