Another staple quality of entrepreneurs is their ability to take risks. Entrepreneurial people have a certain tolerance for risk and ambiguity. They like the idea of launching out into the unknown and get a unique satisfaction out of making it to the other side, despite the odds. The destination sometimes is just as exciting as the journey itself.
As "sent ones", apostles have a God given drive to launch out and start new things. They thrive on the idea of taking risks and pioneering new ventures into unknown territories. This is a gift, one that should be celebrated and embraced.
However, like all giftings form God, they have to be exercised under the Lordship of Christ and go through a process of maturing and filling out. One of the common mistakes that immature apostles often make is responding to opportunity without a clear word from the Lord to do so. Just because you recognize an opportunity does not mean you should respond to the opportunity. On any given day, I will be driving through my city and think of several businesses I could start. I could list off to you the restaurants that are not in my city, the services not being offered in my city by various vendors and companies in other cities. I will see a trailer park and think, I could probably start a church there...who could I get to do that with me. I will drive by a huge city park with about 15 soccer fields while a soccer tournament is going on and think, I need to start investing my time in that people group, I know I could meet a person of peace there. On, and on, and on it goes. Sometimes it is just fun to play with the idea in my head about how it could all look, and then sometimes it is quite frustrating to me because I become disoriented with all the opportunity that surrounds me.
I want to share something about a word the Lord gave me about two months ago. The previous plant I was involved folded about 9 months ago partly because of team issues. As a result, me and my wife are in transition right now and waiting on the Lord to reveal to us what he wants us to do next. I was in my bed one night about two months ago lamenting to God about how long he was taking to reveal "whats next" for us. As I wined and complained, the Lord directed my attention to the story of Peter walking on the water. I began to meditate on this story and I felt like the Lord said something to me. It was a word of rebuke. He said that I needed to learn from Peter and start asking permission before I step out of the boat. As I began to abide on this word for the next month, the Lord began convicting me about how quickly I moved into this previous plant and did not spend enough time observing, reflecting and listening to the Father's voice on whether or not I need to move forward into this particular opportunity. We did have team issues that ultimately led the team to disband, but I the Lord spoke a clear word to me that I did not ask his permission to move forward into this opportunity. I just moved forward and asked God to bless it.
So how do you know if you should respond to an opportunity? This is really important question for apostles to engage in. As I reflected on the story of Peter walking on the water, there were three particular elements to Peter stepping out of the boat. Recognize Opportunity, Request Permission, Respond Accordingly.
Here are some of my reflections on these three components.
1. Recognized the Opportunity: He saw Jesus walking on the water and thought to himself, I want to do that too! Jesus is on the water, why don't I join him there!
2. Request Permission: Peter said to Jesus, "If its you, tell me to come out to you on the water." Peter did not just assume Jesus wanted him out on the water with him. Just because we see the Lord working some where, doesn't necessarily mean he wants us to join him there. When we recognize an opportunity, we should first ask permission form the Lord to "step out of the boat."
3. Respond Accordingly: Peter heard one word form Jesus...Come. That's all he needed. The important thing to see here though is that he is responding to the voice of the Lord, not to the opportunity itself. Just because you recognize an opportunity doesn't mean you should respond to the opportunity. What if Jesus would have said "It is me, but don't come out. I will meet you on the shore. Keep your seat in the boat with the rest of the team." My guess is that Peter would have stayed in the boat. But then again, this is Peter we are talking about here :-)
So the proper flow is to move from recognizing an opportunity to requesting permission, and then to launching out. It would look something like this.
If apostles are "sent ones" then it implies someone else is doing the sending. There is an actor external to the apostle that is directing the apostle towards a specific opportunity. The apostle is not the one who sends themselves, it is God who sends the apostle. So in essence, apostles respond to the voice of the Lord, not to the opportunity itself. If we bypass "requesting permission" and go straight to "responding" then our apostolic ventures will take on a certain "opportunistic" feel to them. Instead of being led by the Spirit, we will find ourselves being led by our own cravings for adventure and novelty. Mission then becomes a tool for self-actualization and not a mans by which we worship-fully offer our world back to God.
Paul demonstrates this process of learning how to respond to the Spirit in Acts 16 when he is trying to figure out which direction he should be going for his next venture. The direction the Spirit gave in this instance was more indirect than direct. The Spirit directed them by forbidding them to go certain places, but He did not actually give them a direct word saying "Go to Macedonia." Instead, Paul had a vision of a man pleading with him saying "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Its interesting how Luke records the decision making process that they used. A vision comes to the principal leader of the apostolic band, but then Luke says we sought to go to Macedonia "concluding" that the Lord has called us to preach the gospel to them. The impression I get here is that they deliberated on it and had to make a judgement call on what the Spirit was up to. The Spirit was closing all the doors around them, and then a vision of an opportunity in Macedonia came to Paul. The point of the story, among other tings, is that Paul was being sensitive the leading of the Spirit here. He was a man on the move, but he had a desire to move in step with the Spirit, not in step with his own agenda.
So what about you? Have you ever moved to quickly on an opportunity without seeking to hear form the Lord and get His permission? Next pot we will look at the implications of Peter's walking on the water, sinking, and coming back to the boat for apostolic ministry.