Living in the Outflow Mindset

Stop Trying, Start Living
“You know Steve, it’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks…” This is the line I got from a pastor (who was a number of years younger than me!) in the middle of a coaching conversation concerning turning his congregation outward.

Outflow is not about learning a new approach to sharing Jesus. Outflow is returning to what has been in our hearts from the beginning – giving language and feet to the Spirit’s presence. Doing and saying the very things that Jesus did. In short, the stuff anyone can easily do.

I told him, “This isn’t about finding a new blueprint. This is going back to where you started. Isn’t it true that as we talk about “living in the Outflow” that most of what we are touching on is completely natural – it is harkening back to where you started with Jesus?”

He admitted indeed it was. As we spoke he admitted the challenge for him was “unlearning” things. It was like removing “Saul’s armor” – similar to what David did before meeting up with Goliath. King Saul in his desire to “help” which would have no doubt ended in David’s demise if he had taken the complicated course.

“Living” – the key idea 

Absorbing a new language. 
In this case the language we were first inclined to speak was the one placed in our hearts when we initially encountered Jesus. After speaking with many hundreds in in-depth conversations I have found a consistent pattern that upon initially encountering Jesus we found it natural to love our friends into relationship with the Master.

Somewhere along the way, a well-intentioned, apparently “More mature” believer (AKA ‘Mumic’) happened along and attempted to “disciple” us forward to make us more effective. What we didn’t know was that this person(s) had virtually no experience in ushering not-yet believers to Jesus. Without getting into statistical depth here, suffice it to say, stats consistently show that of those that consider themselves the most committed “evangelistic” believers, only 5% will dare to share their faith even once in their lifetimes. That not only makes me cry, but it certainly makes Jesus cry.

Total Fluency – the ability to think in a new language without hesitation. 
I am a big fan of the “immersion” approach to picking up a new language. Schooling is great. Audio labs – you can have ‘em. I say, toss a newcomer into the deep end with a new language. Force them to speak the new lingo and they will out of necessity become fluent as fast as possible. That was my experience with Swedish and Norwegian. I spent 5 days at a “culture camp” with people from all over the world in an exchange program in college. We memorized a number of phrases (which we took by faith meant a certain thing) then jumped in with both feet with families who didn’t speak English. Scary? You bet! But after a few weeks of realizing that people are people are people, it was a blast! Five times a day I heard someone give me their best imitation of Clint Eastwood saying, “Make my day!”

Within 3 months I was fluent enough that I was no longer thinking in English – then translating to Norwegian – then opening my mouth. Most who say they have studied another language have never gotten to that point. I know numbers of people with Master’s Degrees – that’s high school, plus four years of undergradate schooling, plus at least 2 years of grad school – and they still aren’t even nearly fluent as described above.

Once fluency is attained one thinks, speaks and moves all in syncronicity. When it comes to outwardness, the challenge comes here: Very few in our generation ever become comfortable enough in living in the presence of Jesus – living like Jesus – as though his life is the norm that we attain “traction” with not-yet believers in our culture. The difficulty is that we are satisfied with a shellac coating of the appearance of change – the appearance of Jesus’ life in us. Nothing could be further from the truth in many cases. We are salt and light – first to the Church – then to the culture.

Fluent, Walking, Talking, Noticing Jesus Inviters
Let’s drop the idea of trying to “do something for Jesus” from this point forward. The very idea of looking for the next big thing that will open closed hearts is out of sync with the way Jesus conducted life all of his days. Be yourself. Live your life by being yourself as you are walking in God’s Spirit. Clearly what we do will resemble what Jesus did / how he lived. Peter said it very well and to the point: “Jesus went about doing good to all kinds of people…” Acts 10:38. Look for the next invitation. It is on God’s calendar for you today I suspect. Maybe in the next few minutes.

Relax, listen to God’s voice as you listen to those in your path and see the great things God places in front of you! This is more fun than a herd of hamsters!

Outflow Essentials: You Don’t Have To Start On The First Floor

In one sense, spiritual matters are matters of growth with discipline and practice like all else in life. Just as a seed is planted in the ground, then grows slowly, matures, and eventually bears fruit, so it is with new skills in our lives – whether they are spiritual or intellectual.

On the other hand, some spiritual matters are a combination of both skill sets and “anointing.” Anointing is that vertical dynamic that can come only from God into our lives. It is the difficult to account for part of the equations in our lives that explains how we gained momentum or success. Some call it the “God factor.”

When it comes to building a culture with the dynamic of serving, there are lots of lessons that are necessary to learn if we are to be successful. How do we avoid the wasting of time that is inevitable if we take the journey on our own as a single local church?

WE CONNECT WITH OTHERS!

However there is great, good news here too!

Just read on…

There Is A Spiritual Dynamic To This

With the serving dynamic there is something happening here that is going on, that cannot be described with words, it must be experienced. In this sense, the servant evangelism / Outflow culture is unique in the church world. It is an “Experience first… explain later” dynamic.

There Is A Process Of Growth Involved

One factor that has been troublesome that we as leaders in the Outflow movement have dealt with for years is the tendency for newcomers to oversimplify the message present here. To some newcomers this appears to be as simple as, “We just give away some water and smile – that’s it…” This message is in fact simple – but not single dimensioned in the least. In a day when so many messages being sent are indeed that cooked down, this message is not in that quadrant in the least. Those who catch on to the Outflow culture are teachable ones who are flexible, open-hearted and willing to change in order to be effective.

As You Jump Onboard With This Living, Learning Dynamic You Can Skip Over Some Rudimentary Steps

Ponder this: 

  1. When we join in with others who are going the same direction as us, we are able to benefit tremendously from the spiritual momentum that is going on as a whole…
  2. We are able to gain from the momentum that has been and is being accomplished by those we are connecting with spiritually. This is not a reference to being a part of a “denomination” – merely connecting with those we are connected with, heart to heart, in something as simple as serving our way into the heart of our city for example.
  3. It makes brilliant sense to join in on the momentum that is available by joining forces with those we can link arms with.

In short, this is a good deal! All who are thirsty, come and drink. Let’s serve our way into the hearts of our cities and see Jesus transform all that is going on around us.

Why Serve? “It Flows From Me…”

Setting:  Ordering line at Starbucks.

“I’m paying for the person’s coffee behind me as well.”

Response of that person: Totally predictable.  “I could have sworn I just heard you say you were paying for my drink…”

“I did.  Please tell this barista what you want – and make sure it is a venti size (the large one) – nothing conservative please.”

“Oh, you don’t need to do that.  I can pay for my own coffee drink.”

“Well of course you can.  You wouldn’t be standing in line if you couldn’t unless you were expecting a miracle of some sort – were you expecting a miracle?” (I like to rib people – usually they start laughing at that point!)

“I can’t let you do that!”

“Oh yes you can.  I aspire to serve a number of people each day – every day – seven days a week.  It seems to be more fun to serve others than to be served.  If you don’t let me serve you I will have to do something really odd like help a little old lady cross the street – and the nearest crosswalk is like a mile away… just tell them what you want – the people in line here are getting testy.”

Predictable question after getting their drink: “Okay – so what’s the deal here?  What are you selling?  What’s this all about?”

When this particular exchange took place I lived in an area this is mostly inhabited by former New Jersey-New York and Philly people.  I love these folks!  They are my kind of people.  There is nothing passive about them.  They just say it like it is – no filters!

“Actually there is no deal at all.  No strings attached.  A few years ago, I was not searching, but something grabbed hold of my life.  Since then I have become kind of hooked on showing people:

  • generosity
  • kindness
  • respect… whenever I get the chance.

Now I’m kind of ‘eaten up’ as surfers say with all of this.  I don’t really keep a close track on it very closely – but I know I end up connecting with quite a few every day.”

“I honestly don’t try to be kind.  It is kind of natural now – it’s like a new normal that just flows from within me now.  Not that my life is together by any means, but there is something within myself that has changed.”

I can’t be kind.  Neither can you.  Kindness is an aspect of the presence of God’s Spirit within a believer.

The fastest way to get God’s kindness flowing through any of us is to try to be kind.

(Some reading this are wondering, “Don’t you give people a ‘Connect Card’?  Yes, but in a sensitive way.  This is all about serving others.  This is not a “I buy you a coffee, now you have to take my not-so-clever card about my goofy church…”  To do that is downright silly – verging on doing more harm than good sometimes.  We can easily come across as those who live in a culture of conditional love – “You are welcome as long as you buy into what we are about… as long as you come to our church…”  If you are still thinking in those terms you don’t yet get it.  If you are there, keep reading boys and girls…)

Notice God, Notice Others

“I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this about my life – I just met you a few minutes ago…”

I hear those words regularly from nearly complete strangers.  They don’t walk up to me out of a crowd and start talking to me out of the blue.

However, when I simply notice a little glimmer of a little need in their life… and then invest in that little need – amazing door open before me.

That noticing usually takes the form of one of two ways:

A.  I take the time to show someone a bit of time – AKA, respect, by paying a bit of attention to them.

B.  I buy them a little gift (rarely more than $1.00) that will show them in a practical way they are loved, they count, they matter.

For many around us, one of the primary love languages people hear either us or God say to them that they are loved or celebrated is through a physical gift.  Such ‘gifts’ don’t need to be expensive in the least.  As your mom told you in the first grade, “It’s the thought that counts…”  When we step out to lighten the load, the burden upon those around us, most people are touched in such a deep way, they are nearly speechless.  Some will now express the depth at which they are touched on the spot.

After doing this for a couple of decades I have seen that when we simply toss out a seed into a the soil of a person’s heart – and fling that seed with the love of God flowing through us – that seed is bound to bear fruit in time.

Amazingly, it is common after a mere initial touch such as one of the above, if time allows, people will sense I / we are safe.  They will open their hearts to us.  Sometimes we are able to pray together – IF that is appropriate (never do that if it is going to make the other person feel on the spot).  When this sort of dynamic happens know we are seeing something only God’s Spirit can bring about.  This is not the result of clever talking.

This week I went through the check out line at a Best Buy store.  I did as I always do there – I bought a water for the cashier – I told her this was to show her God’s love in a practical way and gave her an outeach connect card.  ‘Call us when we can meet a need…’  She was obviously touched.  Her only response, ‘You have made my day bearable… you have no idea how timely this is…’

Keep flinging!