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.
Antony Edge was studying for his Master’s degree in business at a university in Atlanta, Georgia. On a beautiful Spring day, he decided to change his study routine from the library to the scenic environment of a nearby state park, where thousands of acres of forest surround a huge, exposed mass of granite aptly named Stone Mountain.
Antony told his wife where he would be, and invited her to join him later in the day. He was not to be seen alive again. Tragically, his body was discovered the next day, having plunged six hundred feet (183 m) to his death. Yes, ultimately it was an accident, but only after repeated warnings had been ignored. Antony had to deliberately ignore a four-foot-high warning fence around the top of the mountain with signs that say: “Danger: Do not go beyond this point.” But, wanting to see more, and experience more, he had knowingly climbed over the fence to his own demise.
Now, the question that makes this relevant for us is this: Was this fence on Stone Mountain erected out of legalism or love? Was it placed there as a barrier to Antony’s enjoyment of life? Or, was it a life-preserving boundary to keep him safe from harm?
There is probably no fence more needed, or ignored, in our busy, multi-tasking lives than the fourth commandment: “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8). Those of us in the media-saturated, technological, Western world almost universally view it as a barrier to our freedom; a fence to prevent us from enjoying all the experiences we can grab. Seldom do we embrace it as a boundary to enhance healthy living, deeper worship, and more intimate community.
The Sabbath is modeled on God’s own behavior. Labor six days; then rest and reflect on your work. Here are three principles, stated negatively, that highlight the positive gift of rest, health, and worship that God intended for His Sabbath:
SABBATH IS NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA:
But that’s the problem. We too often put it in the category of just another good idea, kind of like organizing our closet, writing those thank-you notes, or visiting that ailing aunt in the nursing home. But this is God’s timeless moral rhythm built into the universe. We ignore it to our peril. Our calendars, stress-related illnesses, and lack of deep relationships bear evidence that we frequently climb over this fence seeking more excitement, but find only emptiness.
Don’t overly focused on the Sabbath day. Take the principle seriously. The core of this counsel is that we recognize who is God and who is not. The Sabbath principle is about ceasing and resting, not just for health, but because it is a “to the Lord your God.” We stop. We put down our tools, our competencies, or accomplishments, our busyness. We remember our Creator and our Master. It’s the best idea ever for practicing humility.
SABBATH IS NOT “GOING TO CHURCH:”
It may include corporate gathering, worship, and instruction. But this is not about checking a box. Cease working, whatever that means for you. For some, it will require going off-line, or shutting off the cell phone. For some, it will mean taking a nap or sitting under a tree with your favorite book. For others, it will include enjoyable physical movement, exploration, or creative projects. True rest is relaxing and recreating in ways that do not require extensive organization, deadlines, and production. Cease competing. Confess your worry. Put away anger and striving. Stop trying to accomplish. Play. Receive. Give thanks. Where are the spaces of time and place that create this rhythm for you?
SABBATH IS NOT NORMAL!
It is against our fallen and fleshly nature to let God be God. Rest is alien to self-sufficient humanity. Joy, rest, and play is what God gives, not what I manufacture. I have to trust Him and simply, humbly receive. But this is a cultural heresy. Sitting still, reading for leisure, lingering over a meal, or napping in a hammock appears to our frantic friends as wasting time. We will seem to be good for nothing if we aren’t producing, multi-tasking, and squeezing every drop of excitement from each milli-second. But we will be allowing God to take us away from our self-sufficiency and unbounded ambition back into His quiet, immense goodness where we glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
The Sabbath is for shutting off the kingdom of noise, comparison, measurement, requirement, and hurry, and rediscovering what really brings us joy. Your Father knows what that is. It is found in being home with Him in the warmth of worship. It is savoring the ceasing and resting which declares Him to be the Master and I the recipient. It is slipping back into the healthful rhythm of creation, stepping back from the precipice of demands. The Sabbath is a time to actually enjoy, and be thankful for the fruits of our labor. It is looking at all we have not accomplished and recognizing that our frenzied efforts will never satisfy all our desires. So instead of pressing the accelerator, we park. We rest. Trust God that He has given us enough time within the boundaries of health and wholeness to accomplish all that is necessary. And, ultimately, we will enjoy more of the life, and savor more of the beauty, in the time God has given.
By Roger Thompson
Roger has a passion for seeing men discipled in the church and has invested his life into young leaders for several decades as a pastor. In the early '90's, he and his wife Joanne took my wife and me under their wings and mentored us into ministry for which we are forever grateful. Currently, he serves as the Area Director for Man in the Mirror in the Twin Cities.
Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_tomwang'>tomwang / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Behind the scenes is where relational discipleship essentially takes place. As a mentor, the ministry of investing your life into others is out of the public eye and needs no recognition. Your desire is to push others forward into deeper significant relationship with God and those in their spheres of influence. Mentors are not shining the spotlight on themselves, rather we delight in seeing others develop beyond us and becoming what God intended them to be. In this relationship, the focus is not receiving but joy in giving, believing and enabling others to accomplish their vision and dreams.
Do you know what characterizes the relational discipler?
You need to have a heart that nurtures and steps alongside others to resource them as they pursue their dreams. Mentoring is about making others successful and not prioritizing our ministry and reputation.
Barnabas was this kind of a person. As you know, God used him to play a significant part in Paul’s life. Although, he led a ministry team with Paul in Antioch and was sent out on the first missionary journey to the Gentiles, Barnabas ends up taking the backseat.
After Paul moves into missionary leadership as the apostle to the Gentiles, Barnabas moves into the background as a discipler in the church in Antioch. Outside of Acts, only one reference is made to Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:6 regarding their travels. Barnabas still traveled to the Gentile world, but he remained in the background, out of the focus of the Christian culture. Perhaps there is no greater joy for the mentor than to see those you have invested in, walking with God, and in the limelight functioning effectively for Jesus Christ.
Another mentor I want to remind you about is Nathan. As a priest, Nathan had a major impact and role in David’s life. Relational disciplers are given divine moments to encounter the lives of others at critical times in their life just as we see in Scripture. David would have never moved on in his leadership, if God had not sent Nathan to speak into his life. But again, he is whisked off by God from those visible encounters with David, and hidden behind the chapters and scenes of history and Scripture.
Barnabas and Nathan never questioned or felt insignificant to God by walking into obscurity. They knew that success in ministry was not based on their accomplishing great things; it was in developing great people. They were never mentioned in the hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, but they were significant leaders in the lives of others.
By Jim Feiker and edited by Steve Meeker
Jim was my dear mentor and he lived out the truths in this article. 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 "The Invisible Ministry of Personal Spiritual Coaching"
Recently I found myself sitting in my car, feeling very sorry for myself as it was being towed down the highway. Lately, a lot of things had been breaking down, and this particular day seemed to be going from bad to worse. As I thought back over the previous two days, however, I had the sudden realization that there could have been another outcome. There were, in fact, a few warning signs, or at least opportunities for other choices that would have helped me avoid the expensive towing, if not an overpriced Sunday mechanic.
The red battery light had been on for a day before we needed to start our 250 km journey. Shortly after we began, the car died on the side of the highway, only to restart again after 20 minutes. This miraculously allowed us to coast into the next gas station before dying again. There, friendly police officers made some calls to the next town over to find a mechanic, but as the car seemed to be driving again, we felt confident that we could slowly make our way back and so sped right by that exit. However, it died again shortly thereafter, but somehow we made it to the next gas station. It was at this gas station that an empty tow truck just happened to be fueling up, and I finally gave up the plan of making it to our destination.
As I sat perched high up on the tow truck, I realized there were really two different ways of telling this story. In fact, I had been putting the events in the wrong narrative structure. This wasn’t actually a “woe is me” story where everything difficult was happening in one day. Instead, it was a story about me being flippant about warnings, a story of me discarding the offers of help and provision. This was a story about me forging ahead in my own way, ignoring the subtle invitations to make wiser decisions, instead playing on chance to save a few bucks.
In Proverbs, Wisdom personified calls to those who will listen to her, and predicts calamity for those who ignore her counsel and reproof. Solomon urges his son to seek wisdom with intention: “…making your ear attentive to wisdom, and inclining your heart to understanding, if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures...” (2: 2-4)
These are complicated times in our world. It can often be difficult to make wise decisions that will help us to live, as described by the prophet Micah, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. What does this look like in the day-to-day decisions and uncertainty that we often face? Being attentive to the stories we are telling ourselves is vitally important as we seek to understand God’s ways and will in our world. When I reframed my story from one of me as the hapless victim to one depicting me as ignoring God’s continued invitation into his provision, I gained the wisdom to understand the interaction between God and myself that had been transpiring all day.
Ultimately, Solomon notes, God is the giver of wisdom, and this will ensure that “we will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.”
As it turned out, acquiescing to that tow truck mysteriously waiting for us at the gas station was not about a broken down car at all—but a lesson in listening and paying attention, in repentance and acknowledgement of foolishness, and most importantly, accepting God’s extravagant provision and grace.
By Melody J. Wachsmuth
Melody is a writer and researcher, based in Croatia, who is curious about people’s lives, spirituality, and how the two intersect in their present context. Consequently, she loves to collect and write people’s stories.