Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Yet Ill-Prepared

hands, lights, party

"They are the best-educated...yet ill-prepared."  His words sunk into my soul with a distinct heaviness.  This was important data.  The implications are startling.

I was sitting recently at lunch with a colleague in church ministry who has seen young spiritual leaders cross his path for over 15 years.  When I asked him what changes he has seen over the years, what major themes have emerged as he has observed young spiritual leaders over time, these were the words that thoughtfully emerged.

He described how young leaders quote all the latest pastors and authors.  They have their philosophy of ministry down.  They dress right.  The tools and techniques are in place. Their language connects with their audience....  
  • But they come and go on a regular basis... 
  • Few stick for the long-haul...  
  • Many implode due to unresolved internal issues... 
  • Few know how to listen to or operate with the power of the Holy Spirit...   
I have been positively affected by the insights of Pastor Pete Scazzero, "The overall health of any church or ministry depends primarily on the emotional and spiritual health of its leadership, In fact, the key to successful spiritual leadership has much more to do with the leader's internal life than with the leader's expertise, gifts, or experience" (Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church).

Jesus modeled time away from ministry to be with the Father (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).  Jesus' life was filled with spiritual habits that kept Him in tune with the Father and His own soul--solitude, prayer, worship, service, celebration--to name a few.

Dallas Willard explains it well:  "If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father." (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines)

When our spiritual leaders, young and old, engage the way of Jesus, that is, follow Jesus in the overall style of life he chose for himself, then they will have what it takes to go the distance in ministry and finish well.

May all of us as Christ-followers discover the unforced rhythms of grace that is the lifestyle of Jesus.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Why Spiritual Formation?

landscape, nature, sky

Ministry and leadership flow out of being.  What we do and the manner in which we do it, flow out of who we are.  More than just what we know, our leadership and influence flows out of the character that has been formed by our lives.  Spiritual formation is the active process that attends to the nature and quality of our souls.

All human beings have been formed. The question is, in what manner and to what end?  All of one's experiences and choices give shape to one's spirit, that is to the fundamental aspect of all human beings.  Therefore, "spiritual formation" is the specific process of shaping our spirit such that it conforms to the Spirit of Christ.

My former professor, the late Dallas Willard shares some helpful definitions in his works.  "Spiritual formation in Christ is the process whereby the inmost being of the individual (the heart, will, or spirit) takes on the quality or character of Jesus himself." (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission).  

"Spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself...in the degree to which spiritual formation in Christ is successful, the inner life of the individual becomes a natural expression or outflow of the character and teachings of Jesus." (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart)

As I pursue the classic spiritual disciplines (silence, solitude, worship, prayer, bible study, scripture memorization, service--to name a few), I willingly enter a space for God to do His shaping work in my life.  I move into a place where God both scrubs and builds.  I learn and unlearn.  I am slowly and intentionally remade.   I am being transformed.  As the Spirit of God works in my life through these bodily habits, I become more loving, more full of joy, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (Gal 5:22-23).  

And when I lead and influence others, there is more of Jesus and less of me in the mix.  That is a good thing.  

  • What would it be like if followers of Jesus really started to resemble Jesus in their daily lives?
  • What would happen if our churches and ministries were led by people who were actively seeking God's reforming work in their lives?
  • What would the Church look like if its constituents were on a journey to truly become more like Jesus?
  • What would our communities be like if followers of Jesus lived in the world with souls that were shaped like Jesus?

Paul said to his protege Timothy: "Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (I Tim 4:7)

May your journey with Jesus produce much fruit!


Friday, March 11, 2016

Mission and the Life

light, sea, dawn

 "Come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" -- Jesus in Matthew 4:19

Dallas Willard was one of my professors and has been one of the most important mentors in my life. His thinking about the Kingdom of God, apprenticeship to Jesus, and the nature of eternal life has made an indelible imprint on my life and ministry.

Paragraphs like the following have caused me to pause and re-think my assumptions about the Christian life:

"As disciples of Jesus, we today are a part of God' world project.  But realization of that project, it must never be forgotten, is the effect, not the life itself. The mission naturally flows from the life.  It is not an afterthought, or something we might overlook or omit as we live the life. The eternal life, from which many profound and glorious effects flow, is interactive relationship with God and with his Son, Jesus, within the abiding ambiance of the Holy Spirit.  Eternal life is the Kingdom Walk, where, in seamless unit, we 'Do justice, love kindness, and walk carefully with our God' (Mic 6:8). We learn to walk this way through apprenticeship to Jesus. His school is always in session."  (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission)

Believing is following.  Following is apprenticeship.  Apprenticeship produces new behaviors and thinking.  This new life in Jesus really is a new kind of life--it's eternal life starting now!  And from that new life flows the mission in the world--to bring others into this new kind of life.

Jesus gave His final instructions to His disciples: multiply disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).  Teach them.  Show them.  Help them experience this new kind of life so they can make other disciples.  The mission flows out of being.  As Willard puts it, "The mission flows from the life."

  • Perhaps we don't make disciples because we really aren't experiencing the new life?  
  • Making disciples sounds oppressive because we haven't really taken up the journey with Jesus and had Him remake our life?  
  • We may have good doctrine...but do we have new life?

Churches will start multiplying disciples when their people are more than just busy with church activities and truly in Jesus' school of life.  As Willard points out, "His school is always in session."


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Something Deeper...

city, man, person

In our post-modern, image-based, experience-oriented culture, a statement like the this one from Richard Foster is both salient and descriptive...

"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.  The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."   (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline)

When the storms of life inevitably hit, can we hang onto God and His promises?  When persecution strikes a church, do the members increase their commitment to reflect Jesus in the world or do they quietly, or even quickly, scatter?  When the temptations of the world seduce Christ-followers, do we have the wisdom and the resolve and the "soul tools" to push back?

As we think about the leaders of our churches, can they take us deeper?  Are our Christian leaders deep people?

Dallas Willard asked a pointed question:

"Who among Christians today, is a disciple of Jesus, in any substantive sense of the word 'disciple'?  A disciple is a student, an apprentice--a practitioner, even if only a beginner. the New Testament literature, which must be allowed to define our terms if we are ever to get our bearing in the Way with Christ, makes this clear.  In that context, disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of life on earth."  (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission)

I want to be a deep person in Christ.  I want to be a disciple of Jesus--in the truest sense of the word. And I know that mere church attendance and church activities will not produce a soul formed like the soul of Jesus.  As a leader, I have learned that creating and putting on the system that we call the institutional church will not necessarily make me a practitioner of the Way.  Often, it can sap my resources and make me hollow.

To be a disciple of Jesus, to be a learner of Jesus' way in the world, first requires a commitment to the journey of spiritual formation.  It requires an intention to learn Jesus' style of life and unlearn some of the habits and patterns acquired along the way.  To be  a disciple of Jesus is to change and grow.

The Apostle Paul would reflect on this process in his letter to the Galatians, "My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." (Gal 4:19).

  • Are you ready to learn Jesus' ways and rhythms of life?  
  • Are you open to letting go of deeply held commitments to managing life your way?  
  • Are you ready for Jesus' style of life--"for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt 11:30)? 

Jesus said, "The time has come...The Kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)

The first step into discipleship with Jesus is repentance--turning away from one life and into another.

Repentance is a first step and a life-long commitment.  Welcome to the Kingdom!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Welcome & Contact Info

Dear Friends (and New Friends),

Welcome to my website!

This will be a place to reflect together on the church, spiritual leadership, and the habits and practices that will help one go the distance and finish well.  I have a heart for leaders in the church.  

As a pastor for over 20 years, I know the joys and bumps along the pastoral journey.  

I know the thrill of effective servant-leadership.  And I know the despair and toxic emotional soup that comes with near burn-out.

All along, I have seen God demonstrate His unshakable faithfulness.

Some of the questions we will explore:

  • What will it take for us to love God, walk with Jesus, and minister more in the Spirit?
  • How do we grow into generous, loving, and servant-oriented leadership over time? 
  • What is Jesus' mission in the world?
  • How do we minister effectively in this rapidly changing world?
  • How do we grow in our leadership for effective ministry?
  • How do we think about and use money and resources for ministry? 
These are important questions. And I'm sure others will surface along the way.  

So let's explore together!  Welcome to a leadership journey.

Please remember to bookmark this page and submit your email to the mailing list on the upper right of this page - it's a great way to connect and stay in touch.   

- Kirk  

Contact me anytime:  Kirk@KirkMackie.com

About me:

I love the Church.  In pastoral roles that span 22 years, my experience leading, coaching, empowering, and consulting results in people coming to faith and changing their culture.  I'm passionate about developing godly leaders around the world.  Leaders emerge clear about their character and unique calling.  

My Doctor of Ministry project for Fuller Seminary integrates leadership development, spiritual formation, and how the Church lives on mission.  Currently, I am a part of the reFocusing Team at CRM.  My wife Robin and I call Fullerton, California home.