What’s your ‘word’ for 2017?
Every year for the past decade or so I’ve tried to ask the Lord for a ‘word’ for the next year. When I begin this process there is usually a list of prophetic words that emerge, but in the midst of the prophetic there are intermittent words for my personal life, and often they are boiled down to just one word. My word in 2016 was ‘intentionality.’ Much of what God spoke to me revolved around this word. I didn’t do well in every arena, but God blessed intentionality where it was to be found in my life.
My personal Word for 2017 is Alignment.
Before I get into what that means for me, I want to encourage you to seek the Lord for the same. God has a word for you this year, and it just takes leaning in for, honestly, a few moments to hear what He is saying over you, big picture, for 2017.
The issue with ‘goal setting’ or ‘my word this year’ is that we set many goals and then give them all the same weight. Listen, some goals or aspirations or desires are more important than others. Pick what’s important and run with it! When you try to hit every ‘goal’ or ‘word’ at the same time you steal focus from what is most important. When you focus on one word it helps create laser like focus in your pursuit.
I want to share personally what the word ‘alignment’ is meaning to me and some of the shifts I’m making to try and walk in its fullness. I don’t share these tweaks in my life for any ‘kudos’ (I’m sure a few people won’t agree with them), but so that you are empowered to find what shifts you need to make as well!
When God started speaking to me about ‘alignment’ he gave me this picture of a pipe with water flowing through it and said ‘being misaligned won’t cause you to miss out on some of the flow, but it will keep your from walking in the fulness of what I want to pour out.’
To illustrate it I’ve created this super professional graphic. How much have we missed out on because we have been content with what we are reviewing when God is trying to position us for overflow and outpouring. God said ‘I’m pouring out. I’m consistent. The missing ingredient is your alignment.’
I want it to break my heart that I’m only under the flow of a bit of what God wants to pour out. I want my contentment with my pursuit of God to spur radical change in my own life. I want every iota of the apathy that I used to preach passionately against to die in my walk with God. I want the times where I have felt spiritually superior to others because of encounters to make me sick. I want to live directly under the flow of what God is doing in my life. I don’t want to be satisfied with less than outpouring, and alignment is the Key to outpouring.
Have you ever seen the scene in the Lion King where the Hyenas are getting chill bumps a the sound of Mufasa’s name? Sometimes I feel like sharing ‘words’ like this turn into moments of spiritual chill bumps where people hear it and go ‘oooo, say it again!’
A lot of times we receive a spiritual challenge or mandate but because it’s wrapped in pretty packaging we get excited about the delivery and don’t steward it unto fruit. I’ve been guilty of it. You probably have too!
Remember this is MY word for 2017. I’m just hoping it will help you find your own. The thing is, if we don’t do something with it, there won’t be any fruit to show for it come this time next year. Sharing your ‘word’ on Facebook and looking ‘spur-tual’ isn’t fruit. Let’s make the adjustments we need to!
So, Alignment. Alignment with what though? For me it is the alignment with God’s character, God’s heart towards me, and God’s mission on a personal level. I want to share a few of the adjustments I am hoping to make for this year to be one of alignment. Remember, these are my personal tweaks. I’m not sharing all of them, but I do want to share a few that will help you personally.
Fair warning, some of this will read like a journal entry. I want to be upfront on some things because I think it will help others with the same things. I don’t share any vulnerable stuff looking for empathy. I’m not that dude. My hope is that transparency will cause you to grow and be open about what you’re facing with someone.
I’m Will Not be Reading Christian or Leadership Books
My mantra has been ‘Leaders are Readers’ or ‘If you’re not reading you’re not leading.’ And for the most part I believe that. I read more books in 2016 than probably any other year. They helped me grow. What I didn’t spend enough time in was ‘scripture.’ I found myself recommending books and authors more than the counsel of the Bible. I caught myself being more excited about reading the next leadership book than my Bible. So once I’ve finished a few books I’m in the middle of I feel the Lord would have me just read the Bible alone for an extended period of time, and when I feel a release to read other books…well, I have an extensive list sitting on my desk! 🙂
I shared this with a friend that considered it a bit much. ‘Andrew, couldn’t you just read like one book at a time, or one book a month or so?’ Well ya, but often when things are not aligned in our life we need a hard departure from the normal to be aligned. Many of my deepest moments of encounter with the Lord have come from simply sitting with an open Bible and being attentive to his voice. Not looking for a sermon, just being with Him, which leads me to my next adjustment.
I Will Choose Identity Over Calling
If you know me, you know I can be busy, driven, suspicious of motives, often worried..all things God is not and all things that come from being entangled by the calling of a pastor instead of first resting in my identity as a son.
A good friend and ‘older brother’ told me early last year ‘Andrew, even if the Summit crashes and burns, you’ll still be a son. And that is enough.’ In the moment I said ‘amen’ but my mentality was ‘screw that. God didn’t send us here to fail.’ The reality is God cares much more about me being His son than whether or not I pastor anyone or anything. I didn’t struggle with this as a staff pastor or an evangelist, but my first time in the Lead Pastor chair I have found myself finding my worth in my calling more than my identity as a son. I chose to be defined by what I do and not who I am.
So how do I align with this? Honestly I just try to capture the thought when it emerges in whatever way it sneaks in, I repent as soon as I identify the thought, I confess I am a son first, and I ask God to renew my mind. I don’t know what else to do, but it seems to be working. I’m also making a habit of letting go of calling related things that steal too much of my time. I’ve been a bi-vocational church planter trying to do the work of a full time pastor, not seeing fruit because I stretched myself too thin, and my identity and worth suffered. The Lord basically said ‘you know, if you had spent that time with me it would have been the better choice.’ Alignment means choosing to heed that direction.
I’m learning afresh that I cannot walk in a manner worthy of my calling unless I’m living from my identity. I want to be able to say if the Summit crashes and burns I would be momentarily devastated and would grieve (I mean people moved to a part, people’s lives have been changed, thousands of dollars have gone into it, two years I’ve lived here prepping for launch), but if it did I will still be a son and I would be okay. I can’t say that right now, but I can say it ‘much more’ now than I could three months ago.
If you let your worth be attached to your calling it will grow or wane with your performance, you will only focus on the ‘crap’ that is going on around you, and your eyes will be on the waves because they sure aren’t on Jesus. If you let your worth be attached to sonship you will become more emotionally consistent, more confident of who you are in God, and a by product is you will become more fruitful in your calling.
I Will Lead with Less Assumptions
I won’t assume people ‘know.’ One of my biggest downfalls is thinking that other people will think like me and automatically take initiative. I can’t tell you how many dozens of times I have had to say ‘sorry, I didn’t communicate that well enough’ or ‘my bad, I thought you knew’ this year. I am the king of dropping the ball when it comes to communication, and I want to be better. I assume people saw it on Facebook, or that I texted it last week, or that someone else told them. Alignment doesn’t just mean I’m aligned with God, but that I’m aligned with those around me; my team, people I disciple, my wife, people important to me.
I won’t assume people are ‘good to go.’ I’ve spent a lot of time this year pouring into a few that don’t value it, people that have walked away from me and our church, while largely ignoring the ones (and being too hard on the ones) that were doing well because ‘they got this.’ I began making moves towards changing this when a couple in our church said ‘Andrew, we need to hear from you more.’ In my effort to ‘force’ my leaders to be evangelistic and disciple others and create their own community by not spending as much time with them I hurt us as friends and as a team. I’m learning that my time doesn’t need to go to the people who just ‘need’ it, but to those who ‘value’ it and will bear fruit from time spent together. I assumed the ‘they got this’ people were good and had err’thing on lock, only to discover they were needing time with me and I wasn’t being intentional about developing them further. I still am not doing a great job of this, but I want to and I hope 2017 will be better as I don’t give my time to everyone.
I won’t assume people are or aren’t bought in to our church or ‘for me.’ Because I’ve found my worth in calling instead of identity I’ve assumed little things mean that people aren’t still ‘bought in’ to what we are building. I assume people aren’t ‘for me’ anymore for the dumbest reasons guys. Fact is, they usually are, and if they aren’t…oh freaking well. God still is. Im’ma do me, and you do you. I’ve had friends walk out on my church this year. I’ve had people that ‘sang our praises’ bail in a moment. I’ve had people be much less committed and fickle than I’d hoped.
And it hurt, a lot. It made me suspicious of the ones that were still super committed. It made me hold them at an arm’s distance because ‘what if they leave next.’ It still hurts, but my assumptions have created pain when trusting God and being at peace was the right choice. I’m just going to lean into God, learn who I can trust, not become bitter when trust is broken, love my team as best I can, and serve my city.
I Will Focus on Following Jesus Over Pastoring
Francis Chan jacks me up man. I was listening to him today share about how God broke his heart because he had become adept at preaching the Gospel, but wasn’t sharing it personally with non-believers.
I cannot be aligned with God’s heart without being aligned with His mission on a personal level. As someone that is working through the calling/identity balance I’ve found that there are many times I turn God into a consultant for my ministry instead of the Lord of my entire life, compartmentalizing my relationship with Him. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent praying for different church stuff this year when the Lord was just calling me to be with Him, enjoy His presence, and be His son. He was just wanting to spend time with me and I was reading Him my list of stuff I need Him to do or need direction on.
In my drive to become a successful Church Planter there are many times I’ve sucked at just being a Christ follower and friend of Jesus. The funny thing is, the key to fruit that remains must be rooted in following Jesus over being a pastor. If I don’t continually lean into following Jesus I will be a crappy pastor.
This means being aligned in a few places.
For me, it’s less time praying for ‘stuff’ and more time of just encountering the Lord and being with Him. It looks like more time displaying the Kingdom instead of just preaching it. It looks like leaning into His presence more than I lean into seeking answers to the crap I’m worried about. God’s not worried, neither should I be.
Alignment for me means God will use me in the marketplace more and more instead of me being satisfied with being used in a pulpit or an altar. It hit me really hard that my favorite stories of being used by God for neat things are mostly from ‘yesteryear.’ I want to create meaningful history with God in 2017 through being aligned with His heart, His mission, His power and His Kingdom.
My Word is Alignment. Share Your Word in the Comments!
There’s so much more I wish I could say about this word. I hope this spurs you on to be honest with the Lord and with those around you. I want my earnest desire this year to simply be this.
Jesus, I just want to be more like you.
That’s the purpose of this ‘word.’ To be more like the Lord. When being with Him and being more like him are at the center of my pursuit, everything else seems to fall into place.