We Are All Fulltime

Summary: We are all fulltime but we are NOT all effective.

I was talking with one of our leaders about the idea of “fulltime ministry”. Very much like the virtuous sheen that covers NGO work, becoming a “fulltime minister” (at least in the Philippines) comes with the romantic idea of dedicating one’s self to “God’s work”. I’ve heard many times about how someone “feels called” to the ministry, as if their current job is not just as much a calling. It is.

Whatever you’re already doing now, you are called to glorify God and love others. In other words, you’re called to minister, which means you’re called to serve (ministry means service). If you need a career change to minister than you’re probably not going to be that effective as a minister there, because you don’t understand 3 simple points:

1. Its all God’s work
2. We are all called to fulltime ministry
3. Proof of effective ministry is fruit

It’s All God’s Work
How I serve my wife and son, how I wipe his butt, how I lead our organizations, how I serve my partners and superiors, how I satisfy my customers, how I take care of my body, how I pray, how I rest, and even more, my attitude and heart state while doing all of this, are all either glorifying God or not. I don’t need a title change or career shift to start serving. I can and have been serving right where I am. In fact, I’ve found that I’ve been free to serve in some very creative capacities because I’m daily interacting with the crazy world as it is – with all the poverty, sleaziness, greed, and corruption that exists. How I build my life, and how I address the great needs of our time, and the heart I keep as I do, determines whether I am a true  minister or not.  This leads me to the next point.

We are all called to fulltime ministry, as we are called to fulltime service.
Sometimes I wish I could have a break from being a leader. Like I wish I could just sleep all day, ignore whatever responsibilities I have, and just do whatever I want. But while I may feel this way, it is contrary to the call of growing to be more like Christ, and to experience life with this in mind, that I may respond to all things more and more like He would. This isn’t an 8 to 5 job that I can take a break from. It is a fulltime call, as full time as it gets. The idea that there are full-time and part-time ministers comes with the same unintended consequences of having full-time social workers. While there is a need for teams of people to orchestrate good works, we should never fall into the trap that doing community work is for a few noble professional do-gooders while the rest of us focus mostly on self-security and self-enrichment. Just think about the logic of a small percent of the population trying to undo the unintended social, economic, and environmental consequences of the majority of the population being preoccupied with selfish pursuits. Is it really reasonable to a few “earth warriors” to beat our collective pollution and garbage generation? Is it really reasonable to expect that our token donations and once-a-year volunteerism will bridge the inequality gap that our collective greed, envy, and materialism contributes to? Just as pouring an annual cup of water won’t put off a raging fire, thinking that I can do token work while someone else, some “full-time” person, does the heavy lifting is illogical and counter productive.

Instead, Paul reminds us that the hope of the world is not in a few good men but in all the saints. He says in Colossians 1:24-29

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them (the saints) God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. I love verse 27. After talking about everything he’s doing, Paul shifts and says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The hope of glory, the hope of a better community, the hope of a better life, the hope for answers, the hope for rest, lies in Christ in us. He goes on in verse 28, switching from “I” to “we”. We proclaim. We warn everyone. We teach everyone all wisdom. We present everyone mature in Christ. After talking about all his personal labors, Paul reminds us that this responsibility of proclaiming, warning, teaching, being wise, and showing our results to Christ is not just for so-called full-time workers but for everyone.

This leads me to my last point, and it jumps off from the same verses: “that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” To present something means to show. All of this work should lead to tangible proof of result. The result we are told in the verse is maturity. Another word we can use for mature is ripe. Are we ripe with fruit? Is our lives bearing good fruit? Being “nice” or “behaved” or “sociable” or “agreeable”or “committed” does not necessarily mean one is being “fruitful”. Despite an almost universal dislike for metrics and proof-of-concepts in religious and NGO organizations, there is  proof of effective ministry. If, by our service, others become mature, meaning they are able to live out lives that bursting with good spiritual fruit, then we are effective. If not, than we are ineffective. This means that it is possible for people who are not employed by a religious or non-profit institution to minister more effectively than someone who is, simply from a  fruit perspective. It is possible that someone who is not salaried by an NGO or church is actually more a “Hope of Glory” than someone who is supposed to be doing that full-time.

So here is the tension: If all people are called to minister then why are some people paid for it and some not? The answer is simple but is many times avoided due to the dislike for performance metrics when it comes to spiritual things. My simple opinion is those who are doing it “full-time” or are paid should be providing a level of ministry, a level of service, that goes beyond that which someone who is not. I like playing tennis but no one will ever pay to watch me play tennis. People would pay to watch Roger Federer. Why? Because he plays a much much much higher level than me. I like to do many things no one will pay me for simply because I do not do them at a level that provides large enough value. In the same way, since everything is a calling anyway, what determines the compensation should not simply be motivations to do good or do “God’s work” but because someone is seeking and hopefully able to serve the community in such a high level. From an organizational perspective, resources should go to the people and projects that perform or bear fruit. Despite the success of books like Execution by Ram Charam, Necessary Endings by Dr. Cloud, and the leadership series of John Maxwell among non-profit leaders, it does not take careful inspection to see that just like many businesses, non-profits are not designed to reward and promote the best people. They will reward and promote those closest to the center, and those who make them feel most comfortable, many times because they are the most like them. By like them, I don’t mean similar personalities, but similar conclusions despite not having objective, 3rd-party, non-biased metrics. This is sad because it ensures that the organization, just like with any business, will either fail to live up to the loftiness of its stated mission (like end poverty, end hunger, or reach the world for God), and most don’t even come close when looked in comparison to the populations they operate in, but worse, it ensures that the next generation will have a harder task of undoing well-meaning bad just to start doing good. 

By going back to the simplicity of the Bible, and remembering, it’s all God’s work, we’re all full-time, and we’re all called to bear fruit, then we, individuals, won’t fall into the trap of thinking “we’ve done our part” when every single day holds a new part. This way we stop outsourcing our good works to a few good men and then complaining when the world does not improve. In the same way, we can build (or rebuild) our organizations to avoid a trap quite unique to well-intentioned organizations: “we have a good heart so we must be good”. Like I said, it’s very possible for well-meaning people from well-meaning organizations to be ineffective. In fact, I would argue, it’s probably more the case than other wise. What’s my proof for this? Just look at the proliferation of NGOs, foundations, churches, private charities, and personal causes and see if it has lowered poverty, crime, sex trafficking, and other measures of ills in society. This is not to say that it is the fault of these organizations that these ills exist, that is all our fault. This is to say we need to relook at our performances and see whether they match our stated purpose and stated principles. #db

I Highly Recommend It

I’m going to make this quick. I need to be home in a few minutes. I just picked up some ciabatta to add to tonight’s dinner that Yasmin is preparing. She is probably exhausted by now, having had to watch Elijah all day. We don’t have any fulltime maids or nannies. It’s a lot of work but we like it that way.  I’m exhausted too, not to mention sick with a bad throat and a slight fever. It’s from the terrible naps that add up to only 3-4 hours a day that now makes up my “sleep”. But I’m taking this time to write this before I forget. I literally sat down from my walk back home to share one simple message:

Marriage and parenthood are highly tiring, expensive, and testing experiences, and I highly recommend them.

I highly recommend committing yourself to loving another more than yourself.

I highly recommend learning how to be selfless. 

I highly recommend spending the bulk of what you earn on others. 

I highly recommend undergoing the fire of early marriage, the paranoia of new parenthood, and the soul-altering process that one undergoes through with both.

I highly recommend the tightening of belts.

I highly recommend the loss of personal freedom for the gain of family unity.

I highly recommend pursuing internal scores more than externally impressive achievements.

I highly recommend the early mornings and late nights, the sleepless days, and the no-choice moments of calling out to God.

I highly recommend going to work exhausted, willing yourself to be excellent, and finding you have more capacity than you knew. 

I highly recommend saying yes to difficult commitments that force you to become mature and wise. 

I highly recommend them because through these experiences we undergo a wondeful metamorphosis. In the process of seeming breaking down, we find that we are actually being reshaped into something far more glorious than what we were originally.  In a world that seeks comfort and security most, choose ripening. It is not comfortable nor secure, but it is beautiful. Beauty is worth it. I highly recommend it. #db

Unintentional Fools

I was listening to a man talk about how legalizing gay marriage would lead to the degradation of marriage. I asked him what he considered a “degraded marriage”, and he asked me back, “What do you mean?” I was confused by his question because he had just stated that “gay marriage would lead to the degradation of marriage”. Surely, he had some objective rationale for his belief or at least a definition for what he considered a “degraded marriage”. Yet when asked to explain what exactly this “degradation of marriage” is, he couldn’t answer. This is sad, not only because he will lose the opportunity to explain his position intelligently, but also because he will lose credibility (at least in my opinion) for having such strongly held yet baseless beliefs. I am not saying his position is wrong. It may or may not be right. What I am saying is, when we are not able to reason, either through ignorance, pride, laziness, or fear, we fail to become reason-able, and someone who is not reasonable will rely on default knowledge and default feelings to address life instead of understanding deeply what is and then doing what one ought. There is another term for a person who doesn’t understand what is and does not do what one ought, it is FOOL. It is possible to hold, almost out of luck, a morally correct position but still be foolish how we apply that position.

We like to think a FOOL is some court-jester like character making a “fool” of himself. This is a caricature. A more common example is every time we, ourselves, do not, again, out of ignorance, pride, laziness, or fear, understand what is and fail to do what one ought. The FOOLS of today do not look like silly guys with funny hats. The FOOLS of today look like husbands and wives who won’t understand the principles of marriage, and think relationships are simply about sustaining feelings. They look like fathers and mothers who won’t raise independent adults, who are more concerned about their kids not crying or not suffering instead of preparing them to thrive despite life’s pain and adversity. The FOOLS of today look like bosses who won’t develop their people, employees who won’t strive for excellent performance, leaders who won’t be accountable to results, and followers who are impressed by the so-called wisdom of such leaders despite the lack of measurable results.

The FOOLS of today look like me and you.

And it is so natural to be a FOOL. It’s more natural to be a FOOL than it is to be wise. It is more natural and much easier to do whatever we feel like doing, to believe whatever resonates with us, and to surround ourselves with like-minded people, and because they are like-minded, they are probably deciding similarly, choosing the natural, the comfortable, and the easy without beginning with a very simple, more important question: WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING? If we have so many people holding positions and making decisions FOOLISHLY, then don’t be surprised when there’s so much brokenness in the world. We like to think the ills of this world are due to powerful evil men, and yes they have a role, but we all, as a whole, contribute way more. Most of our problems are caused by our own regular foolishness. In fact, it is very possible to be well-meaning AND foolish at the same time. Being well-meaning does not negate the consequences of foolishness. Let me give you an example:

I was talking to someone about the problems in places like Smokey Mountain and Payatas, which are large trash mountains that people live on. The person said, “Why doesn’t the government do anything about this?” I asked the person, “Why is all of that trash there to begin with?” He looked at me puzzled, “What do you mean?” I clarified, “There a whole mountain of trash that you want the government to fix. Did the government put that trash there?” “Yes”, he said, “They collected the trash and put it there. “There’s truth to that.” I responded. “Now why do they have to collect so much trash?” Unsure of where I was going, he said, “Of course they have to collect the trash. That’s their job.” Again, I partially agreed with him, but explained, “They are collecting a lot of trash because we as a people produce a lot of trash. Even if they got their trash collections in order, is it really logical to expect the government’s trash collection ability to outpace our highly materialistic lives?” I continued, “I use maybe 6-8 diapers a day for my baby. The Philippines adds 2-3 million new babies a year. Let’s say only 1% of them use diapers. That is 240,000 diapers a day. That is 87,600,000 diapers a year. Now let’s say there’s 2% who use diapers, so double the results. Let’s say 3% user diapers, so triple the results. Now let’s add all the grocery bags, the wrappers,  Being Being Being a 11 paper documents, the cooking oils, the sanitary napkins, the old toys, the plastic bottles, and the rest, and you’ll see that the problem of trash heaps is more than a collection issue. It is the unintended consequence of consumerism and materialism.” I hope he got the launch launch launch , which is simply this: If you really care about that issue, understand the underlying principles of the issue, so that you act wisely. In the case I gave above about trash, the underlying principle is that good collection will never catchup to boundless consumerism and materialism. Anyone who is serious about solving the problem should begin with a lifestyle check and find ways to simplify their consumption and material use. Before completing the conversation, I asked him, “Do you recycle? Because I currently don’t but need to.” He was quiet. “Imagine” I told him again, “How long it takes for something to decompose, and different things decompose differently. Now imagine adding the very major step of segregating all the different kinds of trash so that decomposing can be optimized. These trash heaps are not simply symbols of government inefficiencies, they are symbols of society’s consumerism, materialism, and lazy environmentalism. We are the problem.” Unlike what many people today think, tweeting (or not tweeting) in protest, discussing problems, status messages, are not acts of empathy but expressions, which will be no better than a fart if not followed with truly meaningful action that moves the needle.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a problem that didn’t end up with me being responsible after careful and honest reflection. Some problems, like the one above, I can address by learning how to recycle and, more importantly, consuming less. Other problems I can address by cutting people out of my life, limiting the effect of their foolishness, and instead building with wiser people, but again, it is my responsibility to do the pruning of unwise relationships.

Let’s move from the trash example back to the “degradation of marriage”. Why would some other couple’s situation degrade the quality of yours? Let’s break this down. What is the underlying root of the degradation of marriage? Is it because divorce is legal? Is it because there are homosexual relationships? Is it because there are all these evil adulterers lurking in the sidelines? What causes relationships to unravel anyway? Is it not the lack of shared purpose, the absence of defined principles, and the failure to perform wisely? There will be more divorces, annulments, separations, and whatever else you want to call them, and it’s not because there are evil people out there wanting to hurt our relationships, or because a certain law is available, but because there are people in our relationships (us) who no longer (or never) really shared life purposes, never really agreed on principles to live by, and never improved how they performed life-laying love. This is why the verse “Do not be yoked with unbelievers” in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is more than just about not marrying someone from a different church. Look at how the verse continues, “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?” It goes beyond affiliation into simply this: If you want to live right don’t yoke yourself with someone who is living wrong. If you want to live wise don’t yoke yourself with someone who is living foolishly. A couple can take all the communications, strengths finders, love language, and compatibility tests, but two people who want different things, live by different principles, and perform at different levels will not last. Falling in love with someone who holds fundamentally different beliefs about life from you will have the unintended consequence of future strife.

Note on Performance:
I talk a lot about the importance of performance because without it we are what the Bible calls a “resounding gong” and “clanging cymbals”, which is what someone is who spiritual but does not translate that spirituality, knowledge, insight, or gifting, into loving action. To Perform means to “carry into effect, fulfill, discharge”. To perform means to keep your commitments even if they’re difficult. To perform means to prove those who rely on you right for doing so. To perform means to finish what you start. A lot of people have dichotomized “performance orientation” and “people orientation” and this is tragic because it has the unintended consequence of making performance orientation heartless and people orientation ineffective. Everyone needs to be both. If someone was truly people oriented (and not feelings oriented) that person would inevitably be performance oriented because he is concerned about making tangible contributions to people. I would argue the so-called “People Person” who is not able to provide tangible contributions is actually a “One Person Person” or selfish, more concerned about his own feelings than his actual impact. Finally, Performance, how someone performs, is the fruit, the evidence, the proof, of someone’s true purpose and principles. People who think they have a purpose and have principles but don’t perform are deluded. It’s like thinking a mango tree is healthy and strong even if it does not bear any fruit.

The major point of this post is to guard against unintentional foolishness that comes from, as I said twice above, ignorance, pride, laziness, and fear. And the single best way to do this is to track your Performance and see if it is consistent with what you say (or think) is your life purpose and life principles. We are not merely judged by our intentions but also by our outcomes. Those outcomes require more than good or pure intentions. They require clarity of objectives (purpose), defined values (principles) , competent action (performance), and the investment of time, money, and energy. By making our performance, not our stated objectives, the indicator, we can more honestly check ourselves. Who is wiser, the man who thinks he is going to be healthy because he intends it or the man who thinks he is going to be healthy because he checked his Body Fat%, blood pressure, caloric intake? Who is wiser, the couple who made a vow to stay faithful or the couple who deliberately addressed their different issues? Every year millions of people set goals and make commitments they won’t keep. This should be proof enough that intention is not enough, in fact, it means very little in the long term. Principled performance is what matters. Results and fruit from principled living is the proof. If your life has little or no real results this is a sign you need to humble yourself and get help. 

This is a heavy truth I have decided to embrace. I can’t look at people and say, “Hey, sorry I’m such a drain on your potential, but I really mean well.” I can’t look at my son and say, “Sorry I’ve been a bad dad. But I really could not take you feeling bad.” I can’t look at my wife and say, “Sorry our marriage is purposeless. But I really just wanted you to be happy.” I can’t look at my shareholders and say, “Sorry our business sucks. I really wanted to make you all money.” I can’t look at my leaders and say, “Sorry you had to sacrifice your loved ones for our success. I never meant for that. I really just wanted us to win.” I want to be able to look at them and say, “I meant well, I did well, so now you ARE well”.

Objectively connecting the burden of results to our actions, keeps us honest and humble, two traits that are necessary for continuous learning and growth. Constantly checking whether our actions, not just our intentions, are beneficial keeps us from thinking we are doing good just because we intend good, when intentions without actions mean nothing. In fact, and this point scares me, when we refuse to be objective, when we refuse to face the truth about our performance, what we will be left with are the unintended consequences of unintentional foolish living.  On that moment, our marriages will break. On that moment, our kids will crash. On that day, our society will fail. On that day, our businesses will suffer. On the day we won’t be able to deny our failure. We will be left with the empty excuse of “Sorry, it turned out this way. I meant for something better.” Like I wrote earlier, it is very possible to be well-meaning and foolish at the same time, which will lead painful consequences no matter our intentions. #db

A note on intelligence:
Just like Performance, a lot of “people oriented” types have failed to grasp the importance and value of Intelligence. I think it is every single person’s responsibility to become as intelligent as possible. By intelligent, I don’t simply mean math or science, as there are multiple intelligences. I love this definition of intelligence: “the highest faculty of the mind, capacity for comprehending general truths”. What an amazing way to explain it. Who wouldn’t want to be so good at comprehending truths??? But many times, at least in the culture I find myself in, there is a bias against people who are rational, objective, and who posses the critical thinking skills necessary to discern truth. We say things like, “You’re too intellectual.” or “You’re too smart.” I actually had one former pastor condescendingly tell me, “You’re too brilliant but you can’t throw shade on relationships.” I have no idea what he meant, which doesn’t matter because I don’t think highly of him anyway. Instead of comparing intelligence to other traits as if it were a negative, we should be engaging intelligence. I think the accusation of “you’re too smart” is a cop-out thrown by people who don’t place importance on having “the highest faculty of the mind, capacity for comprehending general truths”. If a culture doesn’t value that, don’t be surprised if fake news, mob rule, and superstition abounds. Don’t be surprised if people are not living by principles. Why? How can a person who is not developing their ability to understand truths know truths? If a person does not know truths, how can someone live by what he does not know? This is why we are called to love God with our minds as well. God isn’t as dumb as many of the feel-good populist preachers and writers who downplay the need for being very very very wise because “what matters is the heart”.