The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Filtering by Category: Christian Living

Ministry and Presence

I’ve been thinking about the story of Jimmy Carter, who was so free from having to worry about where else he should be and what else he should be doing that he was able to focus fully on the person in front of him.

He spoke as though we had all the time in the world. At one point, an aide came to take him off to the next person he needed to meet. Free from having to decide when the meeting would end, or any other mundane care, really, President Carter could let go of those inner nagging voices and be there. (The Organized Mind)

Is it possible to be this present in our lives and ministries? Not only is it possible; it’s essential.

Here are some thoughts on being present in ministry.

It’s hard. In his excellent book Sensing Jesus, Zack Eswine traces the desire to be present everywhere to the Garden of Eden. We try to act as if we have no limits in space and time. The desire to avoid being present in one place is an age-old temptation that goes as far back as the original sin.

There’s no alternative. There really is no other ministry than ministry right here, with these people, and in this place. Again, Eswine writes:

Our lives, in contrast to God’s, are necessarily physical and local…While spiritual wars rage about and while angels fly, I remain grounded. Battles all at once and everywhere outpace me. Here (and not everywhere) is where I must fight.

The people here are always messy, and this place is by definition limiting. But the only one who is not limited to ministry in a particular location is God, although even He is also working with messy people.

They can tell.  A few years ago, I visited a pastor that I know through his blog. I told him that I appreciated his online sermons. His response surprised me. “I’m glad you enjoyed them, but they’re not for you. I pastor these people in this place, and those sermons are meant for them. Whether or not you appreciate them is irrelevant.”

I like that. I believe that people can tell if we are trying to serve and impress a general audience out there, or if we are rooted in a particular place, committed to a particular people. I can tell when people are half-listening to me. People can tell if we’re half-present while dreaming of a better place that doesn’t actually exist.

It’s at the heart of effective ministry. There is certainly a place for large, regional ministries. But as books like The New Parish teach us, there is a need to locate ourselves in a single community, to be attentive to what God is doing there, and to commit over the long haul to be present and faithful. Like a farmer committed to a plot of land, staying long enough to put down roots, clear the rocks, and pull out the tree roots, we must be committed to one place. I think I remember David Fitch saying that we should generally look at a ten-year commitment to a single place. While not canonical, it’s an idea that makes a lot of sense for most of us.

We are in what could be termed a hard-soil plant. We have moved in the neighborhood, and we are learning the joy and power of being as present as possible in one place, knowing and being known (both equally scary). There is something powerful about being present in one place, as if we have all the time in the world, letting go of the inner nagging voices that we would be better off somewhere else. Again, as Eswine writes, “Here (and not everywhere) is where I must fight.”

Be There

I’ve experienced it. I’ve been talking to someone important, and felt that they are completely present with me. They are not thinking of what they are going to say while I’m talking; they are not in a rush to get to the next appointment. They are completely present. It’s such a rare thing to experience that it’s almost unsettling.

In his new book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel J. Levitin reflects on a time that he met Jimmy Carter when he was campaigning for president.

He spoke as though we had all the time in the world. At one point, an aide came to take him off to the next person he needed to meet. Free from having to decide when the meeting would end, or any other mundane care, really, President Carter could let go of those inner nagging voices and be there.

The secret? In Carter’s case, and also in the case of famous musicians Levitin mentions, it’s assistants who handle distractions so that you can “narrow your attentional filter to that which is right before you, happening right now.”

For those of us without executive assistants, he writes, we need to rely on our own wits in making decisions so that whatever is in front of us is the most important thing we can be doing right now, so that we can let go of the rest. Easier said than done!

I want to reflect on this a little, though, because it’s so important. I want to unpack a few ideas over the next week or so:

  • the importance of being present for ministry;
  • the power of being present compared to the tragedy of being continually distracted;
  • some practical ways to make this happen, and
  • the implications of a God who is always present with us.

I am blogging about this because I need to think about it as much as anyone. Stay tuned, and let me know what you think as I try to unpack some of my thoughts on this important topic.

Sabbath as a Gift

I grew up thinking of Sabbath as an obligation. I felt obligated, and Sabbath became (to some extent) a duty rather than a delight. One of God's greatest gifts became ruined because something within me twisted it from what it's meant to be.

I know there's a lot of debate about Sabbath and the new covenant, but for the purposes of this post it doesn't matter. What matters is two things. First: Sabbath is still a good idea. Second: God's commands are not burdens but gifts. As Jen Pollock Michel said at Theology Pub the other night, "What's good for God will never be bad for me."

Tomorrow is my Sabbath. I don't do this well every week, but here's some of how seeing Sabbath as a gift has changed my practice.

I anticipate it. Someone said that we should spend three days anticipating our next Sabbath and three days living off of the previous Sabbath. The anticipation and appreciation of Sabbath can shape our weeks.

I let go of obligation. My task list never ends. There's always another meeting, another email, another task. On Sabbath, I let go of all of that. It's time to enjoy all of God's gifts that get squeezed out by the tyranny of having to do more.

I indulge. On Sabbath, I try to find what feeds my soul, and pursue that. Often it's the things that  wouldn't fit in my schedule any other day of the week. I take long walks. I see a movie. I visit the bookstore. I read that book that's been gathering dust. I savor God's good gifts.

I rest in God. Sabbath reminds me of my limits. It also reminds me that God is not limited, and that I can rest in Him and enjoy Him. Sabbath reminds me that I have a good Father who delights in giving good gifts to his children.

I'm surprised how many people don't practice something like this. I encourage you to build Sabbath into your life as a gift from God to his people.

800 Million People

Admiral William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, gave a commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin on May 17. It's definitely worth reading or watching.

McRaven said:

Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.

That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com, says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime.

That's a lot of folks. But if every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in five generations, 125 years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.

Eight-hundred million people—think of it: over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—eight billion people.

If you think it's hard to change the lives of 10 people, change their lives forever, you're wrong.

I thought about this as I spoke on 2 Timothy 2:2 last weekend:

 ...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Paul describes four generations of changed lives: him to Timothy to faithful men to others. It's not complicated.

I got thinking: the Admiral's math sounds overwhelming. But is it? I belong to the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists in Canada. We have 500 churches. If just 16 people in every Fellowship church took Paul's words seriously in 2 Timothy 2 and entrusted the gospel to just 10 people, who then entrusted the gospel to just 10 people, and so on, then in only five generations you have entrusted the gospel to 800 million people. Add another generation, and you've reached the whole world.

I think that's what you call multiplication.

You can watch the Admiral's message here:

You Can't Quit This

I told someone the other day that I'm discouraged as a church planter less than 10% of the time, which, it turns out, isn't a bad ratio. But sometimes in that 10% or less I'm tempted to quit and try something easier. Who needs to work at something hard?

I try hard not to read 2 Timothy 2 or many similar passages when I'm this discouraged!

Usually, reality begins to hit me.

Church planting is not a job.

I can quit this, but there is no quitting living a life of sacrifice and service for Jesus.

Missional living is not a job.

Disciple making is not a job.

Honestly, I can quit and do something else, but there is no quitting what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It's the calling of every disciple. I do plan on quitting one day when I hear the "Well done, good and faithful servant," but until that day there's no quitting, even if I do one day stop being a church planter.