3 Tools for Self-Knowledge

I recently returned from a conference in Nashville where several hundred church employees gathered to become better at their craft, and a common theme I heard throughout the week was know yourself

We live in an age where every other link on our feed is some personality quiz or #relatable meme. But is knowing yourself really as simple as taking a Buzzfeed quiz about which Disney princess you are and joining Pottermore to learn all about you Hogwarts house? 

(If you’re not Gen-Z or Millennial, I may have lost you with that last paragraph… just bear with me.)

A while back I was talking to a friend about identity. There are so many stories lately of people making public statements proclaiming they find their identity in “_________.” Maybe it’s their sexuality, their race, their occupation, their neighborhood, their politics, or any other number of things that the world deems important. Through the conversation we realized that while all of those markers may be a part of who we are (and many of them are a small part), where we should really find our identity is in Jesus. 

So before I dive deeper into self-knowledge and self-discovery, I want to lead with this: Let your identity be found first and foremost in who Jesus says you are. The rest is just flavoring. 

If you’re on board at this point, you know your identity is found in Jesus, but maybe there are other aspects to who you are that seem to be a mystery. Ian Morgan Cron said, “We are fundamentally mysteries to ourselves.” We know who we want to be, and often what’s standing in the way of becoming that person is, well, ourselves. While Buzfeed quizzes and Facebook groups can tell you something about yourself (well, maybe), I think there are better tools. So here they are. 

1. APEST

APEST is an inventory that categorizes your gifting as one of these five: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher (APEST). Brad Brisco has a great article about APEST and Church Planting, explaining that each of these gifts is vital to the health of the church, so it is important to recognize your own gifting as well as empower others in their gifting. 

Brisco writes this:

Ephesians 4 is not the only passage APEST is mentioned. Apostle (“sent one”) is used over 80 times in the New Testament. Prophet is used nearly 800 times in Scripture, over 150 times in the New Testament. Evangelist is also used in Acts and 2 Timothy.
Shepherd is used 23 times in the New Testament. Teacher is used 129 times in the New Testament. Compare that with the use of the word Pastor (which we have no problem using as the catch-all word for leadership) is used once.

As pastors and church leaders, our tendency is to settle for categorizing our leadership as just that–leadership. APEST breaks it down, helping you navigate your own gifting, and freeing you up to do what you do best, allowing others to do the same. 

How are you working within your gifting? What things are you doing that you could release to someone else so you can focus on what you do best? What steps can you take to grow in areas in which you are not naturally gifted? 

If you’ve never taken the APEST, you can do so here

2. Love Languages

I remember sitting in counseling as a teenager, having required reading assigned to me. I thought, Why are you giving me homework? This isn’t school! But there’s a reason my counselor and so many others recommend 5 Love Languages. Learning how we (and others) give and receive love allows us to better understand our relationships and grow together. But this starts with understanding ourselves. 

If you’re unfamiliar, the 5 Love Languages are these: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, and Acts of Service. Do you feel loved when someone hugs you, or does it sort of make your skin crawl? Do compliments make you feel all warm and fuzzy, or super uncomfortable? Do you find it easy or difficult to pick out a gift for someone?

To learn your Love Languages, take one of these quizzes

3. Enneagram

While the Enneagram is not a new concept, it recently gained popularity, especially in Christian circles. 

Enneagram is made up of 9 distinct personality types. Unlike DISC or Myers Briggs which explore behavior, Enneagram explores core motivations and fears. So rather than looking at what you do, Enneagram looks at why you do it. 

Reading about your Enneagram number can be challenging, and even scary. The system points out all of your flaws with terrifying specificity. But, as Relevant Magazine puts it, “the Enneagram makes sanctification specific by giving us a roadmap to where we most need God’s healing.”

What are your fears? What are your motivations? Do you feel the need to be perfect? To be needed? To be successful? To be special? To understand everything? To be safe? To avoid pain? To hide your weaknesses? To be at peace? These needs drive us, motivate us to act the way we do. If we gives these needs over to God, we will grow closer to him and to who he desires for us to be. 

It can be tempting to use Enneagram as an excuse for why we are the way we are; instead, use it as a tool to be transformed, as Paul calls us in Romans 12:2. 

You can take the Enneagram test here, but the best way to find your type is to learn about all 9 and test each description against yourself (I recommend The Road Back to You). You’ll be amazed at what you discover. 

Now What?

Take time this week to look back at how you acted and reacted in various situations. Were you operating in your gifting? Did you show love the way others needed it? Were you motivated by fear? 

Make a plan for how to improve next week. Then go back and do the same. Use tools like APEST, Love Languages, and Enneagram to articulate, understand, and transform what used to be mysterious.  

Experience, Humility and Growth: A Church Planting Residency Story

When the thought of doing a residency was first proposed to me I was certain my family and I were not going to do it. I had already taken a year off from vocational ministry to rest and rejuvenate for the church planting season of my life. In our minds, my wife, Kayleigh, and I were eager to move and plant with no more delays. However, we humbled ourselves before the Lord, prayed about the residency being proposed to us, and I called the pastor of the church offering the residency. What was supposed to be a 15 minute phone conversation turned out to be almost two hours long and when we finally hung up, I realized God was redirecting us. Within two days, Pastor Corey Johnston of Heights Church already had a plan for our 9 months there and a couple inexpensive options for our living situation (turned out a family let us stay in their guest house for free). We had specifically been praying that wherever God wanted us to live next, He would provide affordable housing. We thought it would be in Manistee, Michigan where we originally thought we would plant a church. Turns out our next nine months would be in Troy, Illinois. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

The reason we chose a residency with Heights Church all the way in Troy, Illinois is because my regional Converge Director, Norm Byers, had searched out Converge churches whose model of ministry fit closest to what Kayleigh and I are called to do with our church plant. We are very passionate about the Missional Community model that Soma Family of Churches does, and Heights Church was planted to follow this. Interestingly, when Norm first mentioned Heights Church to me, I knew of it because Pastor Corey’s philosophy of ministry paper was previously one of the examples Danny Parmelee emailed to me the year before to refer to as I wrote my own philosophy of ministry for my Converge Church Planting Assessment Center. Heights was the perfect fit for my family and I to do our residency.

Once Kayleigh and I knew God was calling us to do a residency with Heights, we knew we had to raise money fast and do a lot with our current house to get ready to leave for 9 months. We reached out to friends, family, and our local church where I had been a youth pastor for five years, and they stepped up in a huge way. Every month God provided exactly what we needed. The family that hosted us was incredibly generous, and I was thankful that I could use some of my landscaping experience to do a great deal of work on his yard to make it suitable for them to do foster care in the future. God knows exactly what He is doing and he put us in a situation where my “tent maker” skills and experiences played a huge role in being an alternative way for us to pay back some for our living space that was generously provided. We became great friends with the family as well. It’s too long and too wonderful to explain it all here, but every little detail God provided for our residency to happen proved over and over that God knows exactly what He is doing when He calls us to follow Him. His grace abounds abundantly where He directs our steps.

The residency didn’t just give us exposure to the Missional Community church planting model; we lived it! We really came to understand Missional Community as synonymous with Church. The Church by definition is a community on mission with the gospel of Jesus Christ, so really living week in and week out with people who genuinely believe that and are very gospel-fluent was refreshing and extremely exciting. We were part of one Missional Community at Heights for the first 5 months of our stay then the final four months we visited all the rest of them twice each, going to one or two a week while still visiting our own as time allowed. It was amazing how unique they all were and yet unified under the vision and the gospel. It takes about 3 months to really shift in mindset from Church as programs and events to identity through intentional gospel rhythms of life and mission but once that shift happened for us, everything we had researched and studying about missional community before came alive and made a lot more sense.

...the model of church we are passionate about wasn’t just theory anymore. It wasn’t just a great idea on paper for us anymore. It was real and we were living it.

A couple months in the realization hit both Kayleigh and I that the model of church we are passionate about wasn’t just theory anymore. It wasn’t just a great idea on paper for us anymore. It was real and we were living it. The gospel centrality, gospel unity, and gospel fluency we read about, wrote about, and craved so deeply was happening around us, in us, and through us. Words cannot express how much of a game changer our residency was for us. I had studied Soma Family of Churches and Jeff Vanderstelt’s ministry work for 3 years prior and even helped start a hybrid version of missional communities for a large church in transition, but the pieces I didn’t realize I was missing because I hadn’t lived it yet were significant. I thought I got it. I didn’t really get it until I lived it. And now Kayleigh and I feel so much more in tune with our vision and how the Lord has shaped us for the church we are called to plant.

Of course there were definitely humbling sacrifices we made. Firstly, having waited a year already to plant only to be led by God to take another year of preparation was particularly humbling for me, almost humiliating at times since the expectation around us was that we were launching soon. But it’s not about what others expect of you, it’s about where God is leading you and He knew we needed more preparation when we thought otherwise. Moving five hundred miles south to another state was also extremely humbling and overwhelming, especially since we went from living in a full size home that we own to a one room studio apartment above a garage with a kitchenette and small bathroom downstairs. My wife, my two year old daughter, and I along with our dog and cat all lived in one room for nine months, most of which were snow/rain winter months where we were stuck inside a lot. It was very hard but a blessing all the same. We realized how much stuff we had back home that we really don’t need, so the donation pile is growing each day now that we are back. Life was tight during our residency but it recalibrated our minds toward simplicity, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the breath of fresh air that is in a day burdened by possessions.

We weren’t the only ones impacted by the residency; Pastor Corey and many others told me how much of a blessing it was to have us there. Since Heights is a young church with Corey as the only seasoned preacher, having me preach gave Corey some breaks he really needed. I also met with Corey every single Tuesday morning for a couple hours just to talk, learn from, and sharpen one another in Christ. He has great elders and staff, but he told me my outside perspective helped him see many needs and changes to make Missional Communities better. We were able to serve our Missional Community, children’s ministry, and so much more during our time at Heights.

There are many forms of important training any church planter should invest in before being sent out to plant. Jesus’ disciples, although they had no formal training, basically did a residency with Jesus before He commissioned them. Whether you have formal training through seminary or, like me, have a wide variety of experiences under the leadership of others who trained you in ministry and in the Word, doing a residency specific to the model of church Christ is calling you to start is priceless and I highly recommend it.

A residency isn’t just a time to learn more about a certain church model you are passionate about. It is a time to grow spiritually and in the kind of character you’ll needed to plant a church. It’s a time to realize once again that apart from Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, your vision is blind, your strategies are total garbage, and your mission will fail – or worse, it will succeed through carnal means and self-driven ambitions and lack of genuine spiritual vitality.

Looking back, it was mostly my pride that was initially against a residency. I was done waiting and thought I was as ready as I needed to be, that I really understood my vision, and that I didn’t really need to live it out before I planted a church. But I was wrong, and God knew there were things I needed to learn in my residency. Make no mistake, you are more prideful in yourself and dependent on your church planting ideas than you think. A residency isn’t just a time to learn more about a certain church model you are passionate about. It is a time to grow spiritually and in the kind of character you’ll needed to plant a church. It’s a time to realize once again that apart from Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, your vision is blind, your strategies are total garbage, and your mission will fail – or worse, it will succeed through carnal means and self-driven ambitions and lack of genuine spiritual vitality. From a spiritual perspective, if you are absolutely opposed to doing a residency before you plant like I was, you need to spend some time with the Lord and ask Him to search your heart for why you are so opposed. If the answer is your pride then chances are you probably really need to do a residency or some kind of season of repentance and renewal from your idolatrous view of yourself and your ideas. Peter reminds us that “…God detests a prideful heart but gives grace to the humble…” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

One of my other prideful fears was that our residency may cause us to lose the wind in our sails and fall behind all of our assessment center friends who have since gone out and started planting already. Truth is, church planting is not a competition and we didn’t lose any wind in our sails. We are far more passionate and far more confident in God’s calling on our lives. It wasn’t a 9 month set back, but a leap forward. God will use our residency investment to multiply our ministry efforts in the future. That’s who God is. He is the Multiplier.

From a practical standpoint, if you are setting out to plant a church with a model you have never lived before under the leadership of another then I strongly recommend you find a church body that is doing what you want to do really well and go spend time with that church and immerse yourself. Your church planting dreams cannot just be a good idea on paper even if you’ve heard of other’s successes with it. It can’t just be something someone else you trust and admire has lived and done. It is invaluable for your vision to be something you’ve lived and done with others in some context. If you love Jesus and are a church planter, there are few things more encouraging than seeing what you’ve been praying about in action before you’ve even broken ground on your future church plant. It’s priceless and it’s precious. You also get to have a few good laughs as you see how some of your ideas were just plain stupid and, dare I say, unbiblical.

There are many ways God shapes a man and his family to be fruitful church planters; doing a residency is not the only way to go, much like going to seminary is not the only way to go. God trained me through other means, and one of those was a robust residency with a church five hundred miles from home and six hundred miles from where my family and I eventually want to plant a church.

Finding Rest in Busyness

EXHAUSTION

I am a married pastor with six kids. Life is busy with vehicles breaking down, house projects never-ending, deadlines needing to be met, and to-do lists filling my time while dreams of leisure fill my mind. I am exhausted. Where is margin and balance in life? Where is there rest in busyness?

INVITATION

In Mark 6:31, Jesus invited his followers to rest. “‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Doesn’t Jesus’s invitation sound delightful?

The context tells us that the disciples returned from ministering in pairs. They went out telling people to repent, cast out demons, and anoint the sick with oil. Some people received them, and some people rejected them. What a tiring day of ministry. In verse 30, they came to Jesus, and he instructed them to come away and rest.

What did they do? They got on a boat and set out for a secluded place. I picture a favorite spot in the house, a quiet place, with a book and a cup of coffee. Maybe your resting place is a beach, mountain top, or stream. Come away and rest awhile. Do you long for a vacation from the frenetic pace of life? Do you long for rest?

INTERRUPTION

Jesus’ invitation results in the opposite. Outsiders saw Jesus and his friends. They raced to meet them. Jesus was intoxicating and electrifying. He was a miracle worker. The masses were hoping that he could offer what they wanted. They want a rest in a way too.

I envision the disciples seeing the growing crowd thinking, “Let’s turn around!” or “Let’s get out of here!” It may have been like waking up in the middle of the night, after a back-breaking day of work, hoping your spouse gets up with the sick kid. You pretend to sleep. Your body aches. Someone else can do it. The immediate thing before us sometimes is the least appealing. Where is the desolate and restful place Jesus promised? Must they dock with all those people right there?

COMPASSION

Jesus didn’t see it that way. “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). Jesus was human and divine. He embraced the limits of his calling. He tired, hungered, and needed rest. However, he chose compassion.

Why then would Jesus make this invitation to rest before they got in the boat if they were landing to work? Jesus was taking his followers on a journey that was not predictable or easy. Why does he keep teaching instead of start resting? Maybe Jesus had another lesson that didn’t involve words.

Day ended, and night fell. The disciples saw an opportunity to bring Jesus’ conference to a close. They were done. What did they do?

… his disciples came to him [Jesus] and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36)

Have you ever gotten to the end of your rope, tired, and hungry looking for an escape? I wager many of you have. I bet the disciples had. It was time for rest. Bodies need it. Rest is biblical. Send them away.

How did Jesus respond? Did he go along with their suggestion? “… he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat’” (Mark 6:37).

What! Jesus commanded the impossible. These spent disciples, with only five loaves and two fish, couldn’t possibly feed everyone. There were 5,000 hungry mouths to feed. What was Jesus thinking? You give them something to eat. He knew they couldn’t. Impossible!

You get up and deal with your sick kid in the middle of the night. You help the person broken down on the side of the road. You stay late at work to fix the broken machine. You do it.

Jesus knew what he was saying. He knew they couldn’t feed them. Why would he say that? Maybe it was this lesson without words.

Jesus was teaching. Times like these show desperation. When we are young and rested and full, we believe we have something and are something. We have the truth. We have power. We have vitality. We have answers. Then, we get to the end of the day, energy, and life, pondering if we have anything at all. In truth, all we have is Jesus. I think that was a central point of Jesus’ ministry.

What happened next is familiar. Jesus didn’t send the crowd away as the disciples suggested or split the paltry food and offer crumbs to the hungry. He took the meager rations and miraculously multiplied them. Everyone had their fill and leftovers to boot in the end. Jesus did what his followers couldn’t.

CONCLUSION

The night is upon them. Time is up. We get to verse 45, and Jesus finally sends the crowd and disciples away. They are done with this desolate place. The disciples go to the boat to cross the sea, while Jesus stays to pray.

How restful was that next boat ride? It wasn’t. Their progress was painful. The wind buffeted them. Where is the rest that Jesus invited? Mark recounted,

And about the fourth watch of the night [3-6 am] he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. (Mark 6:48-51)

What a man. When Jesus instructs rest, his disciples sought it. Instead, they found work. Night came. They hungered. He issued more work by calling for the feeding of the people. He provided what he demanded. He instructed the disciples again to cross the lake in their boat. The winds rose, disrupting rest. Near morning, quite casually, Jesus walked on water, told the disciples not to worry, and the wind stopped—what a man.

DESTINATION

When they get to their next destination, people recognize them and ran from all over for more healing. The cycle recycles.

This brings us back to the beginning invitation. Where is there rest in following Jesus? Where is balance and margin in the Christian life? Certainly, we need to rest. Sabbath is good. At the same time, Jesus invites us to something better than a 40-hour work-week, an eight hour day with breaks, or a vacation. Fatigue, hunger, and brokenness can present opportunities for Jesus to demonstrate his all-sufficiency. Don’t miss the blessings of interruptions, accidents, and late-night disruptions they can drive you to meet the savior. Jesus invites, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When we have nothing left, we can rest in him.

Are you spent with busyness? How do you think Jesus felt serving the masses? Are you willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads? Where can God enter and offer to supply your want? What does it look like for you to follow Jesus’s leading today? Rest in him.

How to Get the Most out of Connect

You may be wondering what to expect at Connect, how to take full advantage of the conference, or why you should even attend. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of Connect.

1. Pastors and Planters Dinner & Orientation

If you are a new pastor or planter with Converge, you don’t want to miss our New Pastors and Planters Dinner Wednesday night and Orientation Thursday morning. These will be a great time to get to know Converge, as well as meet other new pastors and planters.

2. Networking Luncheon

Connect won’t just be providing lunch on Thursday; we’ll be providing a Networking Luncheon. Meet with pastors, planters, or youth ministers just like you. Build new connections and strengthen existing friendships with others in ministry. After all, we are better together.

3. Breaks with Your Team

If you are coming with others from your church, take time during the break to talk about what you’re learning and what action steps you will take home with you. Consider these questions with your team:

  • What stood out to me about the last session?
  • What have I been doing well that was affirmed today?
  • What do I need to improve upon? What measurable action(s) will I take to improve?

 

4. Breaks with Vendors

We have tons of amazing sponsors at Connect. Be sure to stop by and say hi at each booth. Click here for a full list of sponsors.

5. Connect Book

Your Connect book will be your guide to the whole conference. Find speaker bios, session descriptions, venue information and more in the book. Use your Connect book to take notes on each session, and then refer back to it throughout the year.

6. Social Media

Follow Converge MidAmerica on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with us during Connect and throughout the year. Take pictures at the conference and tag us so we can follow you back, and tag #CMAConnect2019 to connect with other conference-goers. Staying connected through social media lets our community stay in touch even after Connect ends, because we are better together.

Haven’t registered? What are you waiting for?