Mike Oman --- Transition
We Are in the Midst of Transition
They have usually been bloody, this one isn't but it has the most profound impact on our society. If we are going to continue to be relevant we must change. The message is the same but the method of communication has to change otherwise we end up like the man in the picture.
10 years ago talking to a young 15 year old in Northern Ireland I mentioned the Bible in passing and he said, "What is that, a book or something?" The old ways of communicating are no longer valid. Need new ways for a new age. On the day of Pentecost everyone heard the gospel in their own language, the disciples could tell the gospel to everyone in their own language. Are we doing that? Can we communicate to everyone in their own language. Do we speak the language of the homosexual and immigrant communities and all the subgroups in our society. One language doesn't fit all.
We are in a time of transition and we have got to change and move on to the new things God has got for us. We have crossed the Jordan. Wow, isn't that exciting? What does it mean? How does it translate to my life, base and nation. I think crossing the Jordan is a process of transition. When the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan they went from one nation to another, faced new challenges and giants, went a new way and had to build new structures and develop new strategies. If we have crossed then we need to take a fresh look at the challenges and take on new structures.
I will play a lot with one English word -- trial of transition. The English word trial has many meanings.
- First of all there is the kind of trial where a jury of our peers determines what is truth, our motives and actions are put on trial, weighed in the balances. I believe we need to put ourselves and what we do on trial. How we communicate, structure our bases and ministries, the way we function in leadership, our strategies and ask how much of this is valid for today. How much do we need to discard because it doesn't work today -- some of it has never worked; we only did it because we thought that's what we did in YWAM.
- Another trial is the trial of ability and endurance, a willingness to take risks, to be stretched, to go further and do more, to be put on the edge. I like this kind of trial, it sits well with me. It is how I got into missions. We had a word to go but I hesitated, I had to go to my partners and tell them I was quitting. In delaying I went out on my dirt bike to burn off some frustration and I came across an old quarry in Zimbabwe. There was a pile of dirt about the height of this roof with a trail up it. Obviously others had been over this. I went to the other side to see what was there -- a huge granite boulder about the size of this stage area here. It was half way down the other slope and had a giant thorn tree on the other side. Could see where some guys had landed 3 metres in front of the tree, kicked their bikes around the rocks and missed the tree. I thought that if they could do it.... roared up the side of the thing and as I came off the ground -- about 5 feet, holding the bike up to my chest, and looked down! "I'm not going to make it." So I let go of the bike. God is gracious, the bike wasn't damaged, neither was I, except for my pride. Later that day God challenged me. "You thought you could do it and so you went for it and right at the point where it really mattered, you chickened out, you'll never know if you can do it. Either you step out now and obey or you will never know what I can accomplish in and through you." The trial of transition is the trial of faith, to take risks, to see if what He put in your heart is doable. We must step out.
- Another aspect of trial is the trial of our daily tribulation. "If my base leader was really hearing from God then we wouldn't have these struggles!" That isn't true, we will have them. If we are going to embrace the transition God has for us, then it won't go smoothly. There will be struggles and disappointments. We can rise above them and use them as stepping stones to what God has for us, not blocks.
- And another trial -- the trial of time. Very valid part of the trial. We have to walk out the new things that God puts in our hearts, need to test and prove the new things He has given us. And we won't get it right first time every time. Need to be prepared to take new steps and run the risk of failure and give it time to see if it works. If it works can pick up speed and run with it. My 2 ½ year old grandson has a great little car -- pull it backwards and then let it go and it goes across the floor like zzzzzzzzzzzz and suddenly it goes ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. It picks up speed and really takes off. He took great delight in scaring me. We need to move into the new things. We are taking steps in the dark, we've never been here before. The steps may be tentative but we need to give them time to work out. Needs patience. I know we live in the microwave generation but God uses the slow cooker. Need to give the new things time and if doesn't work have the humility to say that we got it wrong and give it time to get a clearer view of what God wants us to do.
We have great technological things today but they came into being by taking risks -- they tried until they got it right and we shouldn't be afraid of doing it too.
Trial -- Must Personalise it
We don't work for YWAM, we are YWAM. It is what I do and how I live out the life of God in me, how I relate to my co-workers around me and that determines what YWAM is. If we want to see YWAM become the new thing then I have to look at me and ask what is my part in it.
T R I a L -- Integral Parts of Transition
Photo from Mike's family picture of his daughter being thrown to him. She loved it. "I'm scared to death but I love it." Trust was what made it. In those in front, behind.... If we are going to move through transition we have to trust and it is something we chose to give. We need to trust those who lead us and trust God in them and in their ability to hear from God but we must also trust those whom we lead. We can't release those whom we lead unless we are willing to trust them. It isn't there before you step out. Jesus didn't trust any of them because He knew their hearts and then He entrusted His commission to us. It is possible for those of us in leadership to be aware of the blind spots and weaknesses in those we lead and come out with the eternal ministry stopper. Great vision, you're not ready yet. When will I be ready? God will tell us. When Jesus entrusted the Great Commission to us we weren't ready and He still entrusted it to us. Those of us leading others -- must be willing to trust them. But must also trust those who lead us. One of the hallmarks of a young passionate generation is that they think that the people who went before us knew nothing. Employ a teenager while they know everything! I'm really impressed with my parents' ability to learn so fast. When I was 18 they didn't know anything but by the time I was 22 they knew a whole lot.
Yes, a lot behind us is dated but they are still trustworthy. The important thing about trust is that we can only honour that trust through transparency and accountability. Can never be just go and do it. That isn't trust, it is foolishness. If I trust you then I expect you to be accountable to me with what I've entrusted you (see Delegation). My leaders entrusted me with YWAM Zimbabwe but we still met up every 3 months and asked me key questions about my walk with God, my family and the decisions about the ministry. I've asked young leaders and their response is, "Why, don't you trust me." I want accountability because I trust you.
We need to respect one another. It is different to trust. Respect is something that is earned. If I get pulled off the road for speeding, not that that would every happen to me, and a policeman comes up to me to give me a ticket, then I respect the authority of the policeman, but the particular officer may be a git and I have no respect for him at all. There is a certain amount of respect that is attached to a role but that is not the respect the Kingdom of God is built on.
I remember my director many years ago in Africa, Iain Muir. Sitting on the steps at a conference in Kenya and he said that YWAM is probably the only organisation in the world in which the higher up you go, the less authority you have. We lead from down there. And yet Iain is one of our most respected leaders in YWAM. I watch him because I have such respect for him. He has been the most influential man in my life. He never told me to respect him, he served me and his life and values earned my respect. If we rely on a position or role to gain respect to lead then we have failed. If we can't earn the respect of those around us by the values we live out then we have no right to lead.
One of the biggest challenges in this transition is 'who am I?' Whether we confess it or believe it we easily fall into the trap that our identity is defined by what we do. The longer we do what we do, the more what we do becomes a part of our identity and it becomes very difficult for us to let go and move on. We need to go back to Jesus. If I never got to speak on another DTS and lost the power of speech then it wouldn't devalue me one iota because I am who I am in Christ. For those of us in leadership 5 or 25 years or more, where is your identity? I love David. In I Chronicles 28 he hands over the kingship of Israel to the his son Solomon. It wasn't such a hard thing for him to hand over. But do you know what was hard to hand over? The privilege to build the temple. If there was one task he would have liked to define his life it was to build a temple for worship of God and everything was done to prepare for that and God told him to give it to his son -- pass it on to the next generation. He was confident in who he was and had enough trust of his son that he could give away his greatest passion and vision. Because they did not define who he was. For the new generation of leaders, the same thing applies. Do not want to be a leader because it will give you status and identity in YWAM because that is an unholy ambition. But if it is to love God and serve those who follow you.... You may never get recognition but have a heart to serve and it doesn't define who you are -- then you should be a leader in YWAM.
Are we authentic in our convictions. In 1993 we had a big Christian event in the Republic of Ireland called 'Together for Ireland' and had Catholics and Protestants praying and worshipping and hearing together for the future of Ireland. One of the leaders said, "Never has there been a generation that worshipped God more and loved Him less." We were into the heights of enthusiasm about worship but outside our lives were not reflecting our love for God. Our worship was not authentic. It was a momentary event that did not impact our witness and lives. I look at football supporters. You get these guys in a football stadium and these guys are worshipping football. They take their convictions into the pubs and onto the streets and the police and ambulance have to clean up. Is it possible that they live out their convictions with more authenticity than we do. They live their convictions. Do we live out our convictions with the same authenticity? Are we authentic? Are we authentic YWAMers? Not everybody in YWAM is a YWAMer, not everyone outside is not one. What makes me a YWAMer? I have embraced a certain expression of life that corresponds to an authentic expression of how I should live my life. We call it our YWAM values. Ascribing to a list of YWAM values does not make me a YWAMer but acknowledging that those things partly define what I understand a Christian to be and that I'm trying to live them out -- that's what makes me a YWAMer. And those should be common to all Christians. It's like going down to the shop to get a fruit smoothy -- look at the ingredients and they are 90% apple and banana, it is the 10% that makes it special. Our values are the 90% what is our 10%? we are called to be apostolic and prophetic [and evangelistic?] we are called to go where no man has gone before and to challenge the church to be more. And we take what we profess to be our values and attach them to our prophetic and apostolic then we become who we are.
How committed are you to what God has put in your heart to do? I was watching an episode of a Band of Brothers and in this episode they had just been in battle -- blood and stuff. One of the young men came to the officer and said how impressed he was with his courage and how scared he was. The officer said, "Your problem is that you still think you are going home." If we still think we are going home after our mission thing then we will never experience the anointing and authority to take nations for God. It takes commitment to take nations for God. Some of you think we old guys are past it. I ask you, "Are you as willing for the task as we have been?" If you are I'll get behind you all the way and support you. Can't come into YWAM for 6 months or 2 years and then get another commitment. Then you didn't have a commitment. There is a place for short termers but we are long termers aspiring to lead the generation. Need to be committed.
I want to say to my generation, "What are we wanting to leave for the next generation?" Debt, bases, vision.... Or the belief that they can do it themselves? What values are we imparting. And new generation, what are you hoping to leave? More staff, more bases? Leave a legacy of what it is like to trust God. If we trust Him He will prove Himself to us.
The Practical Bit
Need to take 10 minutes, right where you are sitting and ask yourself these 3 questions.
- who am I and how much of what I do has become my identity?
- am I one with the DNA of YWAM and how committed to the task?
- what am I leaving for those who follow?