The pastor was working through his pro-active call list. Every week, he created a list of 25 people in and outside the congregation that he wanted to check in with.
“I suppose I could just shoot an e-mail or post something on their Facebook wall, but I’ve learned that with the flood of e-mail that people receive there is no telling whether someone knew I reached out to them. On Facebook, the algorithm that the website uses to promote or hide a posting is really too uncertain. I don’t ignore those media, but I certainly don’t count on them for staying up to date.”
“So who are you calling today? How do you decide who to call?”
“Well, there are three categories of calls I’m making in this pro-active practice. The first category is calls to people who I’ve heard are really demonstrating the kind of Christian practices that we are encouraging. So I ask around among my leaders on Sunday morning about people who are really doing hospitality superbly, or who had a cool missional encounter, were deepening their prayer life or helping others to do so. These are just the basic five practices in action. “Anyway, what I’m looking for are people I want to encourage and whose stories I want to hear first-hand so I can repeat them, with their permission of course. We’re trying to create a conspiracy of high expectations where people are telling the stories of superb discipleship happening right here in our midst. I model that by making this kind of call and try to get all my closest leaders to do the same thing.”
“I get it, so you are strategically focusing on great discipleship behavior in the congregation and reinforcing that by listening, talking and supporting it with your attention.”
“Exactly, most of my calls are in that first category and the second category of call I make is related to that strategy as well. I get in touch with two or three of my clergy peers every week to ask them what they are seeing in their environment. I’m especially interested in finding incredible stories of faithfulness in areas where we might be a little weak. I read this book written for the military that just drilled into my head that the richer the story base that leaders operated under – stories of excellence – the more likely those leaders were to emulate the behavior in the stories.”
“OK, so you are looking for great stories from outside the congregation when your own stories aren’t so great. But why not just own up to the struggles your own congregation is having rather than looking to stories from other places?”
“Well, I know the temptation is to try to correct mistakes by pointing them out. But we’ve learned that people are much more responsive to inspiration than they are to correction. Inspiration raises the hopes and aspirations of people so they want to be like the people in these stories. The cool thing is that everything we talk about is not only true, but it is happening in places and to people who are just like us. The stories are almost sufficient in themselves to generate the kinds of discipleship that we are aiming for.”
“What do you mean, almost sufficient?”
“Well, that brings me to the third category of calls that I make each week. I have a small number of prayer partners that I’ve collected through the years. I make sure I talk to them and pray with them each week in celebration of the mighty acts of God that we are seeing here and in their places of ministry. We spend much time giving thanks to God and that just bleeds all over the congregations we serve. You know when they say the blood of Jesus is sufficient, I think of these prayers that pour the love and grace of Christ all over the people that God is redeeming. I’m one of those people, so these prayers of thanksgiving and celebration redeem me as well.”
“I’d like to be in on this. How did you get started?”
“I started in prayer alone and asked God to help me listen to the voices of God’s people who were seeing God’s amazing grace actualized in their lives. Out of that prayer, I started making a list of the people who came to mind. Some of those became prayer partners, some of them became peers from outside my congregation and some of those names are becoming the saints of God right before our eyes. As I started talking to these people each week in a rotation, God began to implement a conspiracy of high expectations in the lives of people in this community. It has been a beautiful thing.”
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.