Thursday, February 23, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 5 – The Steps

Over the previous posts, I have been relating how the 4L’s relate to (my) Vision, Mission, and Strategy. Now, we move down one more layer – to ground level. The 4L’s represent each Step that must be taken to affect the Strategy, Mission, and Vision.

Although I preceded this series with relating the steps to a couple of verses. Thus, the 4L Model of Discipleship is not just a few key words to guide me (and others who adopt the model). Rather, they are principles from Scripture that represent what God wants from me (each of us), and therefore helps me (us) to become more like Him (ultimately my vision). This week, I will quickly review the sequence, and then next week, I will break out each of the four steps and how they guide me towards fulfilling my vision.

Learn – more about God and how He wants me to serve Him. (Ephesians 5.1-2)

Live – with a mindset on His Kingdom, not mine. (Matthew 6.33)

Love – my wife, my children, then others that each might find their own place in serving God. (2 Timothy 2.2)

Lead – my family, then others to serve God and make disciples by equipping them with biblically-based principles. (1 Corinthians 11.1)

And, as I have mentioned before, the 4L’s are the principle part, but we all eventually leave. Leaving may be related to a choice, or moving to a different location, or, at some point, death. Thus, the fifth “L” – is leave.

(Leave) – Satisfied that my work is done when I am called, knowing others are equipped to carry on the ministry after I am gone. (2 Timothy 4.7)

You might notice a couple of similarities to prior posts. First, the first Step is Learn. In the initial Step, you might also recognize that my first step (Learn) is the same as the acrostic of my Strategy. This link is intentional in that it provides a direct link between the Steps and Strategy. Also, you might have noticed that my verses corresponding to Learn (Ephesians 5.1-2) are the same verses related to my Vision. Certainly, this has to do with education being important to me, but those verses are a command to “imitate” which can only be done by first learning. Thus, to me, using the same verses is only natural.

Overall, this is a simple post to serve as a reminder of the 4L’s (+1 this week). Like my Vision, Mission, and Strategy, each Step is based upon Scripture so the principles guiding me have a foundation in God’s purpose for me, not my own. Don’t get me wrong – I fail at each of these often! But, if my goals were all about my purposes, I could lower the threshold because it would be all about me. And if I did lower the threshold, I wouldn’t fail as much (I could hope) which means I could accomplish my goals under my own power. Therefore I would not need a Savior – because I would be able to save myself.

However, by basing my Steps, Strategy, Mission, and Vision on biblical principles, I can compare the thoughts and purposes that enter my mind (life) against a greater standard. Again, I have and will fail in choosing to pursue the right purposes and paths, and I will fail in executing the ones for which I do choose correctly. But, in failing, I am reminded that I cannot do this on my own – I need a Savior. Thus, as I Learn and Live and Love and Lead, (and eventually Leave), I do so with His guidance, under His grace, as I do seek to become the man He wants me to be.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 4 – The Strategy

Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing about the 4L Discipleship Model and how it has helped me to clarify (strengthen) my vision and mission statements. This week, I “drop down” a little closer to the actual 4Ls and discuss my strategy.

While the vision and mission are critical to remember our long-term goals and objectives, it is the strategy that is a part of the day to day to move us closer to reaching those goals. That is, the strategy provides the focus to keep us moving. It is still not the ground level however. In various types of organizations, the ground level ideas are the policies and procedures that lead to the execution of a strategy. For me, the ground level is represented by the 4Ls, which I will again discuss at a practical level (for me) next week. But first, my strategy, which is represented by the acrostic LEARN.

Why LEARN? Well, education is important to me. It has not always been, but once I began my master’s degree, the idea of education became more important. Having since completed a masters (Christian Ed) and a doctorate (Educational Ministry) with education being the emphasis, it is safe to say that education is, indeed, important to me. Furthermore, once learning became the key (rather than a focus on grades) during the early stages of completing my master’s, my overall attitude towards life-long learning shifted greatly. Thus, the acrostic LEARN fits well. So, what do the letters represent?

  • Love – God and others, beginning with my family. (Mark 12.29-31)
  • Exercise – discipline in my life spiritually, physically (diet/exercise), and financially. (1 Timothy 4.7-8)
  • Action – is the evidence of faith. (James 1.22)
  • Read – God’s Word and quality resources for continued spiritual growth. (Proverbs 1.5-6)
  • Nurture – others around me to find God’s purpose for their lives. (Ephesians 4.12-13)

Of course, at times I succeed and fail at each of these. However, these ideas fit who I am currently as well as providing a strategy for me to fulfill my mission and achieve my vision over time. Specifically, the greatest commandment is to love. I must start there, allowing God’s love to fill me that I might learn to love more fully. As I exercise discipline in my life, I will be better able to respond when, where, and how God asks me to. My actions should supplement my teachings and allow others to follow me as I am following Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1). Reading is the source of (usually) well-constructed thought. People may espouse many things off the cuff (such as traditional or social media), a good book can provide clear insight into any number of categories. Finally, as every person who follows Christ is called to make Christians, my nurturing of others (not just in caring for them, but in equipping and challenging them) will help others to realize all that God has for them.

Again, I admit I fail at each of these areas often. But what makes this strategy so effective for me, is not the acrostic itself, but the idea of learning. As I learn, I will better exercise. As I read, I will learn, which will allow me to better nurture. Truly, this strategy has a synergistic effect – each letter contributing to the eventual success of the others as well. So as I truly LEARN, I should do so with incremental advantages over time – each letter becoming stronger individually and the collective process being strengthened as well.

With the strategy ready, it is time to put our feet on the ground and see how the 4L Discipleship Model fits in the scope of the strategy. That will be the post for next week. In the meantime, now that you see how these pieces begin to fit together, I encourage you to consider a vision, mission, and strategy which can guide you to become all that you are intended to be.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 3 – The Mission

Last week, I began by considering how the 4Ls and my vision relate to one another. Again, the key is to consider an inter-connected spiral which flows from top to bottom and then back to the top. Thus, the vision both impacts each of the Ls, while it is also impacted by each L. Having taken a view of the Ls from the vantage point of 20000 feet (vision post), in this post, I am dropping down to about 12,500 feet to consider how my mission statement relates within the scope of the spiral.

First, it is important to note that I treat the mission statement and vision statement differently. Many combine the two statements, and that is fine, but I am a little nerdy on a few matters, and this is one of them. I crafted my vision statement as something which will guide me, but which I can never perfectly attain on this side of eternity. My mission statement serves to remind me of my primary objectives which, if I meet, will help me know I am satisfying all I can, in this life, to come closer to achieving my vision.

My mission statement is: I will love my Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ, submit to His authority in my life, and rely on His power to use my God-given abilities to serve others – beginning with my family (Phil. 2:3-4).  I will seek to grow in my knowledge and understanding of God’s truths, and His will for my life.  I will trust in His provision (Ps. 73.25-26).  I will externalize my faith by reaching out to others, teaching them God’s truths, and encouraging others to grow in their own relationship with Christ, so they may disciple others as well (Col. 1.28-29).

This statement has several components, all of which should help me fulfill my vision. (On the way back up the spiral I will break these down further in light of the 4Ls). To become the man God wants me to be (my vision), I must LEARN (grow in my knowledge and understanding). I must actively LIVE (serve others, Phil. 2.3-4), while relying on His provision (Ps. 73.25-26) and power (Colossians 1.28-29). I must LOVE (beginning with Jesus and extending to others). If I do not do that, nothing else matters and I can not come close to being the man God wants me to be. That is why the idea of loving is the first part of my mission statement. Finally, I must LEAD others (encourage others to grow) so they can then disciple others.

The previous paragraph may seem obvious in light of the mission statement. The mission statement, likewise, should seem somewhat obvious in helping me to accomplish my vision. The key to that sentence is my vision. Of course, yours will be different. But however you approach this, I encourage you to craft a statement (vision and/or mission) which work together to fulfill God’s plan for your life. As you do attempt this, take your time. While I have had this basic mission statement for over 15 years, it has been modified a bit over time. Furthermore, the development of my strategy  (next week’s post) and the 4Ls (in two weeks) were developed later. All of this was a process over several years, so don’t think it has to be done (or especially be perfect) tomorrow. Just begin the process and ask God to guide you through it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 2 – The Vision

In last week’s post, I shared the idea of how a spiral effect could be used to formulate a plan to use the 4L Model of Discipleship. The ultimate goal is to understand our individual purpose within the context of others. In other words, how does what I do fit God’s purpose for my life – not only for myself, but as I live around, and serve, others. (Christianity is never meant to be lived in isolation.)

But the 4L Model, as I have developed it, is not the goal for us. Rather, it is a way to lead us towards the goal. This must be true because discipleship should not be the goal for us – becoming like Jesus should be, and discipleship is the approach to do that. Given that understanding, the 4L Model should help us reach our goal, while the goal should drive how we adapt the model for our purposes. Again, that is the very essence of the spiral effect.

So, this week, I want to begin with a look down on the 4L Model from 20,000 feet. To do that, I am going to start with the idea of vision and how the vision I have for my life is shaped by, and shapes the way I use the 4L Model.

First, I need to define my understanding of vision. For me, vision is a goal I have for my life that is something I see in the distance. It is something I desire to be true of myself, but is something I will never perfectly attain. What I see before me should affect what I do, where I go, how I live, etc. In other words, my vision should affect my mission (I separate Vision and Mission), it should impact how I work to fulfill my vision (Strategy) which should direct the individual steps (the 4L Model) of my strategy. So, again, the vision ultimately impacts how the 4L Model is used by me, and the 4L Model determines how successful I am in achieving my vision.

My personal vision is this: To become the man God wants me to be.

My vision statement is based upon Ephesians 5.1 which says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (I recommend all Christians choose a verse for their vision to serve as a reminder that it is not about us and our goal, but about God and His purpose for each of us – individually and collectively.) As a follower of Christ, I am a child of God. While our earthly fathers are imperfect and, for many people, are a source of frustration and consternation, God is the perfect Father – even when we cannot understand what is happening in our lives. If I am to follow Jesus, and Jesus and the Father are one (John 10.30), then I should seek to imitate God, just as small children often imitate the actions of their parents. (All Christians should do this whether or not this verse speaks of their ultimate goal).

My vision statement begins with “to become.” This is important because I am not yet that person. Nor will I be in this life. For some people setting a goal that is unattainable is problematic and I understand that. For me, in this instance, it is a reminder that no matter how much my pride might want to convince me that I have achieved something, I am nowhere near where God would have me be. Thus, I need to continue “to become” for the rest of this life. Only in eternity will I truly be all that God has for me to be, but in the meantime, I must partner with the Holy Spirit to do my part in growing into the person He has called me to be.

And that leads to the 4L’s. For the moment, I am stepping through my mission (next week) and my strategy (two weeks), and leaving out details of the steps (the 4Ls in three weeks), but let me briefly provide a small statement about the 4Ls as they relate from this level, looking down 20,000 feet. If I am to become the man God wants me to be, then I must do what He has revealed in His Word. To do so, I must LEARN what He has said. I must LIVE according to what He has said. I must LOVE (God and others) because He taught us that is the greatest of commands. And I must LEAD others to do the same because that is what the Great Commission is all about – making disciples (Lead) by teaching others (Learn) to observe (Live) all that I have commanded (including the Great and the New Commandments (Love, Mark 12.30-31, John 13.34-35).

As I take each of these steps – often two steps forward and 1 1/2 steps back, I am making slight progress towards becoming more like God – imitating Him. The progress may be slow, but it can be steady. Over time, as I am more and more successful (I pray), then I will truly see that I am closer to becoming the man He desires me to be which means I am closer to fulfilling the vision He has given me for my life. And the 4L’s – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead have served their role in guiding me along my journey.

Next week, I will “drop down” to about 15,000 feet and show how my mission is impacted by my vision and how the 4L’s help me to fulfill my mission.