Adult Team Blog

Open Up: The Risk of Rejection Is Worth the Reward

My uncle is a local radio disc jockey. He’s one of the sweetest guys I know and truly cares about the people in his life. However, one of my family’s favorite pastimes is to watch him in a public setting. He has go-to nicknames for each gender so it seems like he knows who people are even if they’ve never met. The thing about my uncle is that he’s really great and everyone likes him but not everyone actually knows him.

When it comes to building the kind of relationship needed to invest in others, people have to know you. That’s a scary thought, often with this main concern: “What if they don’t like me?” But the risk is worth the reward.

In this case, the risk is being liked and the reward is a gospel-centered, kingdom-changing relationship. See? The risk is worth it. Now, if this sounds like a devotional for a middle-school girl, I apologize. But honestly, most of us (myself included) are still afraid of the rejection that comes with opening ourselves up to the point where we earn the right to share the gospel.

Proving My Faith Genuine

Fear consumed me.

I spoke to my dad on the phone, sharing with him that I’d be enduring surgery early the next morning—exploratory surgery to discover the cause of my infertility. His humor sliced through my fear. “Put on your bravery button,” he said.

Bravery? I felt everything but brave.

After hanging up the phone, I buckled over, crying, my hands covering my face. Only in my mid-20s, I’d never faced surgery. Would I survive this? Would I wake up? I trembled.

I’d grown up in church and accepted Christ at an early age, but suddenly a question loomed over me—“Do you really believe?” I’d never had my faith put to the test. Life had been so easy. But I had to answer that question, for myself.

The lyrics of every song I had learned in that precious hymnal flooded my mind and soul:

  • “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”
  • “Leaning, leaning, Leaning on the everlasting arms.”

Yes, Lord, I believe.

Connecting Stories

Stories are powerful. They connect us in deep ways. In our relationships, we may agree or disagree on many things but our shared experiences often are the glue that keeps us together. And in the middle of our very real stories, God is working. He is working in amazing ways. What God is doing in and through us is more than we can imagine, more than we realize even now. Many stories are still unfolding. What about you? What’s your story? How might God be working in and through you, beyond what you can see?

I recently talked with a new friend who is Vietnamese. God has worked in her life to bring her to a new place of service. She has been asked to be a leader in a fellowship of Vietnamese churches. She is leading women to be on mission for God. She never dreamed she would be doing what she is doing now. God guided her one step at a time. At each point, He gave her just what she needed, just at the right time.

Making Bible Stories Come Alive

The girls and I walked into the small, empty chapel. “Let’s sit up front,” I said. I led the way, and we took our seats. I smiled, taking in my surroundings—my teenage daughters were with me at a women’s retreat. I’d just signed them up, without their permission, and they hadn’t given me any flack over it.

Through the stories of David and Goliath and the prodigal son, the speaker shared about leaving an abusive relationship and going home. Her parents had moved to Texas, and she didn’t even know their city or address. After driving through several states and passing the Texas border, she stopped and made a phone call.

The Original Storyteller

As an English major, my life is inundated with stories. From the beginning to the end of each semester, I can read anything from historical nonfiction, such as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, to English Victorian gothic fiction, such as Wuthering Heights. In many ways, I’ve always understood that our lives are rooted in the stories we know and tell. Stories shape who we are and how we relate to others.

Plan a Recognition Service That Celebrates Everyone

I remember recognition services where proud parents beamed as their children’s achievements were celebrated. Little boys squirmed and little girls smiled at the attention from the adults. Where did those days go?

Recognition services are out of sync with our sophistication today. But what have we lost? The entire church was enlivened by the simplicity, beauty, and joy on the faces of its children. Adults saw the fruit of their hard work and were encouraged. Those who worked with children and youth were celebrated and honored for their faithfulness. Children and teens felt as if they were part of the whole church and that their service to God mattered.

But what about the children with developmental challenges? How do they and their parents feel?

Our church was celebrating the end of the semester, before the holidays, with a special Sunday night service and fellowship time. The children had memorized their verses and made posters of their missions projects. They were excited and a little scared about Sunday night’s service. Their leaders were, too.

Listening Is like Exercise

I’ve lived in Birmingham, Alabama, for 12 years. Moving here was scary. It was the largest city I’d ever called home. I went to college with my roommates but had never lived with any of them before. Nonetheless, I took the leap. And it was terrible. I’ll spare the details but, as a result, I began to suffer from mild depression. I needed to talk to someone and work through what I was experiencing. I needed that individual to have no personal stake in my situation.

So, I found a Christian counselor. We talked about what was happening in my life, what had happened in my past, and what I wanted for my future. She gave me the confidence to face some issues, overcome some fears, and remember what true surrender to the Lord looks like. I moved out of that apartment. It was lonely and scary, but it was the right thing to do.

Since that phase of my life, I have tried to be the kind of friend and ministry partner who knows when others need to talk and is available to listen. And the trick to listening is that it’s like exercise. You have to do it to get better at it.

The Mission of Listening

Many times I find myself completing my 84 year old Mother’s sentences. Now she is more than capable of being able to speak the words and finish her sentences. But in my rush to move on in the conversation I complete her sentences or interrupt with the answer. It’s become a habit birthed out of my busyness. Justified? No! Rude? Yes! Additionally Scripture warns not to give an answer before one hears (Proverbs 18:13).

Mission opportunities occur everywhere. Around the globe and in my Mother’s home. What is God saying to my missions heart lately? Simply this: It’s time to develop the Ministry of Listening. The ministry of listening reflects patience, love, understanding, my relationship with Christ and the ability to truly hear. In this season of care giving I have the opportunity to share the love of Christ through listening.

No matter the age there is always a new mission which God is calling me to or making me aware of. You are never too old or too young to develop the Ministry of Listening. What about you?

Just Listen: 3 Ways to Connect Your Family to People Groups

We fell in love with South Asians. Maybe it was the warm milk tea, the curried food, the bells and loud music, or the welcoming smiles (OK, sometimes stares), but South Asians stole our hearts. Since moving to a rural area of Alabama, we wanted to look for ways our family could meet South Asians in our area. At first, we were told there weren’t many South Asians in this area. As we began to seek internationals in our area, we found that many families from South Asia reside in our town, and we wanted to get to know them.

A dinner, an English class, a Thanksgiving celebration—whatever could be used as a way to build relationships—we wanted to connect. We had a successful first get-together. Then for a couple months afterward, we tried to establish something else. And for months, this “something else” never quite worked out. The relationships were there just not the events.

What were we doing wrong? We weren’t listening—to God, to the people we were trying to reach, or to our family’s missional gifts.

The following are a few ways we’ve learned to connect to a people group through listening:

Thank you for Listening!

I am a Vietnam War veteran, U. S. Women’s Army Corps, stationed in Augsburg, Germany during my tenure. Over the years I have met veterans who were dealing with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, PTSD is not confined to those coming home from military service. It affects people from all walks of life who are dealing with traumatic situations. The good news is we’ve come a long way in being able to recognize this disorder and offer support. You and I may not be trained counselors, but we do have the same credentials—ears to listen.

Listen with your body language. Sometimes it is not about the talk, simply be willing to be there. Listen with your facial expressions. This means good eye contact, a smile, not sighing or rolling your eyes when the individual is sharing the same scenario or event repeatedly. Listen with your heart. Be patient, don’t push them to talk, be respectful and non-judgmental. Listen without expectations and remember you are not there to tell them what do or how to move on.

“Thank you for listening to my story,” may be the compliment which opens the door for you to share His story.

 

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