by Kurt Bekins
Kurt and his family recently moved to Croatia to continue making disciples and to serve the church. Pray their consistent life, where action matches faith and proclamation, would bring many to glorify God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:11-12)
What does it look like to grow into a mature disciple of Christ? As a college soccer player, my coach imparted to our team some key ingredients that took us from immaturity and formed in us qualities to become godly young men. The lessons I learned came from a man dedicated to following Christ on and off the field. Countless hours were given to strategizing the next game and more importantly how he could pass on to us wise counsel that would develop our spiritual muscles as we practiced throughout the season.
In a word, the most important virtue I learned from coach as he followed Jesus was CONSISTENCY! Under coach’s guidance, I developed tools to daily live and play for the glory of God. I still remember these life lessons from his coaching:
Lately, I’ve been reading through 1 Peter and what struck me in chapter 2:9-10 is Christ followers are chosen, chosen to be a royal priesthood, a people of God. Because Christians are a holy and royal priesthood, we ought to act like it! Priests of God don’t live one way on Sunday and another way throughout the week. We are to be consistent to have our walks match our talk and to honor the One we proclaim we follow.
Glorify God in EVERYTHING you do, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31. Everything, laundry, running, Bible study, work, or time at the beach should have one focus: glorify the Lord!
Coach made an impact in my life that lead to deeper growth in my walk with Christ. No, I didn’t arrive while I was in college and am still growing through the hurdles along the way. However, consistency in my relationship with Jesus and in my play became a game changer in my life as it drew me closer to Christ, empowered me to turn away from sinful patterns, increased my joy, developed my abilities to play better and it wasn’t bad that my grades also improved. I truly believe that God received more glory in these areas of life because I understood his Glory was due to Him in every area of life.
As you go throughout your day, your week, this month, what are the areas you need God to address in your life so you may live in such a way that consistently brings glory to God?
“In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”- Ephesians 2:22
by Amy Kellogg
Amy is one of LLI's first alumni. She and her husband live in California where she is completing her mental health internship. She writes, "There are so many lessons that I still use from LLI. Two of the biggest are how to continue to use my gifts as an encourager on a team. Even when encouragement seems forced, it can still change the dynamic of a team or group of people! Thank you LLI for encouraging me in that gift. I also view multicultural teams as so beneficial now as well. I would not have learned how to work with people from other cultures if it wasn't for LLI. Such a gift!"
As believers in Jesus Christ, it can feel as if we are constantly being squeezed dry by the pressures of the world. Take a second to think about the people you felt pressure from today, people that may have made you feel less than or ashamed. Did you disappoint someone? How did you feel about yourself afterwards?
The lie we often tell ourselves is, “I disappointed someone, therefore I am a disappointing person”.
This cycle becomes a search to make others happy through our behaviors so that we become a “good” person. It’s easy to fall into a dangerous cycle of people pleasing in order to make others happy. We can often justify this harmful behavior by calling it humility, or self-sacrifice, when in reality we are searching for our identity apart from Christ. This pattern will always lead to exhaustion and a desire to quit.
We can also put negative pressure on ourselves, and easily get wrapped up in a continuous cycle of trying to work hard, and please God through our actions. God calls us to a life of holiness (1st Peter 1:16), but we cannot live that life without Him. He has promised His Spirit to guide us. He tells us that He will use our trials in order to build perseverance in us.
We will make mistakes, and we will face trials from the world. However, we can trust that God is using these things to build us together. If our identity and self-worth is based on our circumstances, we will always be disappointed. Pressure will come, and we persevere when we believe that our identity is built into Jesus Christ and not our circumstances.
Pressures from this life will come, Jesus promises that in this world we will face trouble, but then He tells us how to persevere when he says, “Take heart for I have overcome the world” (1st John 16:33).
How do you take heart? We have to know what God says about us. Take some time to go through your Bible, look at verses that talk about who you are in Jesus. Romans 5:10 says we were enemies with God, but through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been reconciled to Him.
We also have to take time away from our busyness to spend time with God. We must allow God to care for our souls in order to stand up against the pressures we face. We saw Jesus do this throughout the Gospels.
Find the ways you connect with the one whose burden is light, whether through prayer, music, worship, nature, art, studying theology, journaling, or another form. Try different activities that are relaxing for you and connect you to your heavenly Father. Daily, make time to study the Word and learn more about your identity as a child of God.
by Marissa Martzolff
About a week ago, I was reflecting over the amazing opportunities I’ve had over the years, and I realized that everything I’ve done have fallen into one of three categories: activities I continuously pursue, activities I have completed and have not returned to, and activities I never completed.
With the majority of the things I’ve partaken in, I have either continued to pursue them or was involved until their completion. Yet, looking back, I couldn’t help but focus on the activities I stopped pursuing.
For some, I left for health reasons (illness or injuries), others were for the busyness of my schedule. But there have been a few instances where I didn’t see the activity through to the end because I simply didn’t want to. Interestingly, I’ve found this to be true with my writing.
I’ve written stories my whole life. When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I wrote my first books (averaging about fifteen lined-paper pages each). Following those books, I began the crafting of at least a dozen other stories leading up to my senior year in high school. I found myself abandoning ship with all of these stories, never seeing them through to the end.
That senior year of high school, I decided to change this. I researched topics for my genre (I exclusively write historical fiction stories), read how to improve my fiction writing abilities, and laid out plans for my book. This time, I was determined to complete it.
But then I faced roadblocks. I found plot holes. The motives of my protagonists didn’t make sense or seem realistic. The research of the era in which I was writing became a daunting task that I dreaded. As you can guess, I abandoned this book as well.
Recently I’ve revisited the concept of the book, reinvented my characters and plot, and researched more thoroughly the era in which the story takes place. It’s been a challenging process staying committed to this book, as I plan for it to be the length of a novel (opposed to the 15-page stories I’ve written previously). But I’ve always desired to achieve this goal of completing a book, and no matter how long it takes me to complete it, I will stay committed until the last sentence of the book is typed.
Some of you are probably thinking, that’s great, Marissa. I’m, um, glad to hear about all this… kinda. But, why am I reading this? Can we skip to the part where we start talking about how this applies to faith?
To which I say:
If you’re familiar with the New Testament, then you’re no stranger to Paul (What an incredible story of transformation and grace!). You’re also most-likely familiar with Paul’s topics of endurance and perseverance. Often, he used analogies regarding runners in a race to help readers relate to his message.
But there’s a different path I want to take with this concept. Instead of focusing on the race, I want to focus on the training.
Although running has been one of the activities I’ve personally been unable to complete due to health issues and injuries, I’ve still had the opportunity to experience training for 5k’s and for other runs I’ve completed in the past.
Almost anyone can tell you this: you can’t wake up on the day of a half marathon and expect to run the full distance if you’ve never trained to run. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Rather, you have to train yourself psychically to prevent injuries and to breathe properly. Not just physically, but also mentally: half of the battle is pushing through the doubt in your mind, the voice telling you to quit.
If we’re running this spiritual race for the rest of our lives, that’s going to take a lot of endurance and perseverance. And the only way you can receive that is through training and strengthening those “spiritual muscles.”
When we encounter the bumps in the road such as persecution, doubt, laziness, or life circumstances, we’ll be equipped to handle them. Our knowledge of God’s Word, having it hidden within our hearts, will help us overcome those “mental blocks” we receive while running. Not only this, but the more we exercise those spiritual muscles and principles while training, the more prepared we’ll be when we encounter larger ones during the race.
So what does the application look like for us as Christians as we embark on this life-long race?
When we begin to strengthen our spiritual muscles and train for the long-run, we’ll be surprised at the results we’re able to achieve through God’s help. Ultimately, the prize that we seek will be more rewarding than anything we can receive on this earth. All it takes is perseverance and endurance.
Marissa is graduating this April with a Bachelors degree in Marketing and a minor in Communication. She has always been passionate about writing, and this past November she launched her faith-based blog, His New Creation. She desires to use this blog to encourage others, and to also share The Good News!
by Steve Meeker
Steve has the privilege of serving as the director of Leadership Lab International. His passion is to step alongside young leaders in order to help them grow in their love for God, their skills to lead and serve together on teams, and in their commitment to fulfill Jesus' Great Commission.
Stepping off the plane in Estonia was a dream come true. We had envisioned this day when relational discipleship and team building training could be offered outside of Croatia through LLI. As we emerged through customs, our team was greeted by an Estonian delegation including Mari Vahermagi, the SU Estonian National Director, who had an even bigger dream to bring together young leaders from other Baltic nations for training in their beautiful nation.
God dovetailed these two visions and transformed them into reality.
Members of teams of volunteers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia learned together about each other and what they each contribute to the body of Christ. They began to understand more about Jesus’ model for discipleship and how they are to be involved with the Great Commission. It was a time of discovery, fellowship and empowerment as each reflected on abiding in Christ.
Vision needed empowerment and that is where so many of you played an important role. This training event could not have taken place without your partnership. Our team took a step of faith and opened up the 2017 LLI Virtual Run event and in May participants started the race.
Whether you were in a group or pressing on alone, pushing a baby stroller, tackling another hill on a dirt bike or cycling through the streets of your city, every ounce of exertion mattered. One team of three even raced back from a river beginning to spill over its banks to complete the event. Why? So young leaders could be trained to serve like Jesus and fulfill His command to go and make disciples.
Your efforts made life changing impact possible! Thank you for being a part of the team. As Zane from Latvia said, “Thanks to LLI I really understood what discipleship means and I was encouraged to change my life completely. Now I know I want to follow God’s will in my life.”
Zane was one of three who attended this training in Estonia that decided to apply for our summer Transformation Training. She is also seen as one of the future leaders in outdoor camp ministry in Latvia.
Today, as I look back at what God did in the hearts of those who came to this ABIDE training, I am grateful for everyone who walked, ran and biked in order to step alongside this dream and to make it possible.
May this encourage your day as you remember the race you joined last year to help others follow Jesus’ command to abide in Him and to “Go and make disciples.”
Gratitude: What is one thing you are thankful for today?
What do you do when life doesn’t turn out the way you knew it would? When you’re staring at an uncertain future and can’t even imagine what you will be doing this time next year? When I graduated from high school I pictured going to Bible school, graduating, getting married, moving overseas to the mission field, and serving there long term. Life hasn’t turned out that way for me. Now, graduation is around the corner and I’m left wondering, what in the world is next?
A new season of life approaches with pressures and questions. “How will I find the right job and ministry? Where can I be most useful to the Lord? How will I know I got it right? Will I be able to make it financially?” It’s comforting to know that God ALREADY has a plan. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) God's not looking at my experience, gifts, and training and thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder where I might be able to use her? Where might she be able to fit?” No, He has planned to use me in specific locations, jobs, ministries, and relationships.
I do find peace for my troubled, uncertain, questioning heart in saying, “God wherever I can be the most use to you, whatever I can do to bring the most glory to you, that’s what I want to do.” When I am surrendered and available for his plans, I don’t feel the pressure to find that perfect job or ministry or future for myself. I am His and open to however he wants to use me and lead me. But it can still be a struggle, each day, to trust and follow God’s plans. There is still a temptation to worry about the future. I can still be distracted by the daily challenges of life. Surrendering to God’s plans is not a one time thing. I need to surrender my life, my will, my hopes, and my plans to Him daily. My heart needs to be recalibrated toward Christ and His ways regularly.
God already has a good plan for my life. I don’t know what it looks like. So far it doesn’t look like the plan I had imagined. But I know it will involve doing good things that he has prepared especially for me to do. They will fit my skills, gifts and training. Like a good gift prepared for a loved one, how it must delight Him to watch me discover His plan for me. Maybe he can’t wait until I unwrap this next chapter to see what a perfect thing he has prepared for me!
by Brianna Yingling
Brianna grew up as an MK in Mexico where she lived for seventeen years. After graduating from High School she finished her degree in Evangelism and Discipleship at Moody Bible Institute. Currently, she is finishing a masters degree in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship at Moody Theological Seminary. Brianna writes, "As a missionary kid, God has given me a passion for missions, making Christ known in places where people have not heard His name. I am also passionate about discipleship ministry and helping believers grow in their walk with the Lord."
“My life mirrored the confusion, the chaos and the loneliness that so many of my generation lives with as they finish up college and have no idea what to do with their lives. This was the in-between spot I was in after graduation and I didn’t know what was next.
What I needed was a place where others would step alongside me and not tell me what to do, but to encourage me to meet with God and discover His plans for my life.
Then God took me to this place called Leadership Lab International (LLI) in Croatia and there I found I was not alone as so many of us came to LLI in this same chaos. But there was something so special about this place as God met us there in His word, through our mentors, and throughout the summer.
Honestly, this was the best summer of my whole life. Because LLI is so intentional in providing an atmosphere where you meet with God. It helps you discover who you are in Christ and what kind of a leader God has made you to be.
I believe to my core that this time at LLI has changed everyone’s perspective. Most of us came in for what we could get out of LLI, but we left with so much more. LLI is a place designed to help you work through confusion and figure out what’s next. It’s a place I met Christ-followers who desire to care, support, love me and help in ways you never thought possible.” — Emma LLI Participant 2017
Discipling must begin with an incarnational relationship with a person. It is essential that it be in an alongside style (not distant coaching thru phone, or in a large group setting). Only then in an authentic, loving relationship, does a person recognize the power of life-on-life modeling as it moves into transforming the heart.
This kind of discipleship, in the context of relationship, is more easily transferred in a cross-culture situation; it fosters and opens greater understanding of the person since we can observe the person up close, and listen to their emotional language in real life situations, and provides credibility to effectively speak at crucial times into their life.
Distant coaching should only be done when the people know each other and when you are focusing on ministry skills and competence. It is very hard to move into the heart of a person without the trust and love of relationship and the physical power and presence of relating and sharing life mutually together.
Although proclaiming God’s truth in a large group context is vital whether it be evangelistic or teaching messages, nothing can replace our Lord’s command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
So what are some of the marks of relational discipleship?
Discipleship is designed to facilitate learning rather than telling others what to do. In this framework, relationship is fostered and those being discipled actively and personally get involved in the learning process. As a mentor, it’s not my role to be heard, but to develop skills to listen and draw others out with thought provoking questions as I walk alongside them.
In this context, those who you disciple take ownership and integrate biblical truth that changes their character and not just fills their head with knowledge. It equips them to adapt and apply principles and skills as they step forward in life and provides them with a safe environment to process what they are learning.
To be clear, relational discipleship is not just listening, but it involves reflection and loving confrontation when needed as permission is asked to share insights God provides. Because relationship is fostered, the mentor gains discernment on how to tailor learning opportunities to the learning styles of those they are discipling.
Here in relationship, that spans longer seasons of life, we taste the joy of watching God develop His people with the vision and direction of the call He has on their lives. As we join with them in the process of becoming followers of Christ, ours is not the role of being seen, but in moving to the background in order to support, encourage and resource disciples as they step forward in faith to become and participate in all God has prepared them to be involved with before the foundation of the world.
by Jim Feiker and Steve Meeker
Jim stepped alongside many young leaders including myself and lived out these truths. As he wrote, often this model was difficult for others to understand and measure, but those who experienced it not only value it, but their lives were changed forever.
INTERCESSION — The Indispensable Priority of Relational Disciplers
“There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.” – Chuck Swindoll
Relational discipleship begins with intercession for those we have the privilege to step alongside. To understand prayer’s importance in discipleship, let’s look at examples from the prayer lives of Moses and Jesus.
Moses believed in intercession and modeled it for Joshua – Exodus 17:8-15
In the face of battle with the Amalekites, Moses appointed Joshua as the military commander to lead Israel in a counterattack. This was Joshua’s first act in battle as a leader and was foundational in preparing him for his future leadership role. Israel also lacked experience and now was the time for Joshua and the newly delivered nation to learn first-hand to trust God in the face of opposition.
After choosing a select band of warriors and discerning the best plan of attack, Joshua was assured by Moses all the resources he needed would be provided and Joshua would be victorious in battle. How would Moses support this young leader? He knew the most effective way to back his successor was to engage in intercession.
Moses experience with God gave him confidence that victory in battle was not achieved by numbers, past accomplishments, knowledge about God or even giftedness and skills in battle. He knew Joshua needed to learn victory in battle is God’s responsibility and it is won through intercession. Moses, Hur and Aaron journeyed to the top of a hill overlooking the battleground and focused their energies on intercession. It was a joint partnership in conflict, with each member playing an important role. However, the ultimate battle was not won on the field; it was won on the hill in prayer. God enabled them to triumph over their enemies!
Jesus believed in intercession and modeled it to Peter (Luke 22:31), and to the Twelve
Jesus told Peter that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail,” (Luke 22:32).
Another battle had ensued, this time in Peter’s life. Jesus knowing His follower completely was keenly aware Satan wanted Peter’s faith to fail. Young potential leaders are always high on Satan’s radar to knock them out of the race and in this conflict Jesus knew the coming assault would lead to Peter’s failure; yet, His intercession protected the faith of His follower. Peter denied knowing His Lord marking his life with brokenness and failure, but the experience was tailored by God in His love to reshape Peter’s heart and prepare Him to be a humble leader.
Prayer was not only a part of Jesus’ life and what He modeled, it was His life! Victory for Peter was won because Jesus knows how heaven works and He engaged in what was most important – intercession for the faith of His beloved disciple.
When entering into a discipleship relationship it is paramount for us to remember to pray. Teach us to pray Jesus so we may step alongside those you bring into our spheres of influence as we obey your commands to love others as you have loved us.
By Jim Feiker and Steve Meeker
Jim, one of my mentors, lived out interceding for those he mentored. The original article was written by Jim and I am blessed with the privilege of adapting these articles for the LLI Blog ministry. Original Article Title "Intercession the Indispensable Priority in Coaching"
By Amy Kellogg, LLI Participant
When I returned from my summer in Croatia, trying to process all that had happened felt like swimming through the thick honey I grew accustomed to spreading on fresh bread in the mornings.
The two months and the memories that they carried had blurred themselves together in my mind. They left me feeling disoriented and in need of some time to think, pray, and sit in silence. After processing with many patient friends and mentors, I came to the conclusion that the Leadership Lab International (LLI) program was one of the hardest yet the most rewarding things that I have ever done.
Being part of LLI in Croatia pushed me to put some immaturity to death, and realize that I still have so much left. One of the ways LLI helped me grow was through the mentoring that happened through the program. LLI revolves around equipping the next generation of leaders to be passionate about following Christ and learning to lead others in the same direction.
LLI stands out from other leadership programs in that it is not program focused, but rather leader focused. The LLI mentors don’t only want to equip participants so that they can have a successful summer camp, but they want to develop life-long leaders who can serve in any cross-cultural context.
The truths I learned in LLI would be practical in any ministry. I was not being trained for just one task that would only happen that summer. Instead I was enabled to learn about myself and my team, express what I was learning and understanding from the biblical and team-building material, and at times make mistakes while I was figuring out what I believed. This was all in order that I would take the truths to heart that we were learning in the program.
The LLI mentors created a safe yet challenging atmosphere. We were allowed to make mistakes in the learning process because of the support that was offered. The LLI mentoring was also outstanding because our leaders clearly defined themselves as such, leaders.
Often in Western culture, the church is more comfortable viewing pastors, elders, and church leaders as friends instead of people God has put in authority over them. The mentors, very much took the leadership position over the program. They were of course hospitable, kind, and humble, but they also used every conversation and situation as a time of teaching and corporate learning.
It was refreshing to not only be instructed on how to lead in a practical way, but to also have a clearly defined example before me. We watched our mentors depend fully on God for everything that they needed, while holding unashamedly to convictions and integrity pressed into their hearts by their relationship with Christ. Overall, it is the mentoring that made LLI Croatia stand out from any other leadership or ministry program I have ever been a part of.
I believe that God’s work in this ministry is just beginning, and I envy anyone who has the chance to experience this program in the future. I came home from Croatia challenged, well-equipped, more dependent on my Lord, and excited for a new chapter of life in which I am more equipped to serve Jesus. If students are intentional about going into the program with a mind and heart that is ready to learn, the outcome will be beyond beneficial not only for the summer but for life.
Cultural Perspectives on Leadership Practices
Have you ever wondered why some leaders are very strong and authoritarian while others are very mild and not very authoritarian? Are you shocked when leaders tell you what to do and expect you to do it without questioning? Or are you shocked when leaders expect you to decide what you should do rather than giving you clear direction?
Leadership and followership misunderstandings are a major challenge for multicultural teams. Different cultural ideals shape different leadership styles. In working with leaders from another culture, it is necessary to first understand how your own style was shaped in your family and culture. Then you can learn how other styles were also shaped in their family and culture.
Mary Douglas describes four different cultural types that are shaped by everyday practices. The first one is Individuating cultural practices where the individual is in focus. What the individual prefers tends to take priority over the preferences of others. The second one is Institutionalizing cultural practices that focus on the proper way to do things or following a set of rules or procedures. The third type is Hierarching cultural practices where a defined hierarchy exists and everyone supports the hierarchy. The fourth type is Interrelating cultural practices where everyone is considered equal.
Each cultural type shapes a different style of leadership. In the Individuating cultural type, there is no one set way to do things but each person decides what is best for him or her. In the Institutionalizing cultural type, there are clear definitions of what the leader can and cannot do. However, if the leader has grown up in an Individuating environment, they tend to follow the rules of the system as they choose or prefer. In the Hierarching cultural type, the leader is the authority and everyone supports his or her decisions even though they don’t agree. In the Interrelating cultural type, everyone has a voice and decisions are made once a consensus has been reached. There is no specified leader as everyone is considered the same.
The scriptures have numerous verses on leaders. Two of them are:
Matthew 20:26 Not so with you, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
However, people from Individuating and Institutionalizing cultures tend to interpret these verses from their individual perspective while people from Hierarching and Interrlating culture tend to interpret these verses from their hierarchic or corporate perspective. Everyone needs God’s wisdom to be able to discern cultural differences so that the Gospel can be clearly presented through your leadership (and followership) practices.
by Sheryl Takagi Silzer
Sheryl is a multicultural consultant with SIL International. Her Cultural Self Discovery workshops enable multicultural teams to discover and address their multicultural team misunderstandings. Her workshop is based on Biblical Multicultural Teams: Applying Biblical Truth to Cultural Differences. She also team teaches a seminary class helping Asian Americans to identify and address their cultural challenges.