Cultivating Humility in the Ministry

Wednesday Thoughts

“There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.” 

—John Calvin

Colorado StateIn another life, many years ago, for a period of 11 years, I helped to manage a $1,000,000 Bible Institute over a six week period in Fort Collins, Colorado. For those of you who know me, you know that that part of my history is a miracle. It is hard for you to believe that someone as inept as I am administratively could have ever been successful in such an adventure. But it is true.

It is true because I was surrounded by teams, some very competent people, a very creative boss (actually, multiple bosses) who were focused on the mission and committed to working together as a team to give over 1,000 students a great biblical and theological learning opportunity at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. 

It was a remarkable experience that I will never forget, continue to cherish, and remember with fondness.

Back to the team.

The team that helped run the Institute of Biblical Studies (IBS) was composed almost exclusively of staff members of Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU). They were usually campus staff whose summer assignment was to work at IBS and help serve the rest of the staff, new and old. The team of 70-100 staff members on summer assignment was to insure a smooth-running, fun and productive Bible Institute prior to the annual two week staff training for over 3,000 staff that would arrive immediately upon its conclusion.

Had my first date with future my wife outside Moby Gym.
Had my first date with future my wife outside Moby Gym.

I have so many great memories of Colorado State and the Institute of Biblical Studies. I once calculated that I had spent over a year of my life in six and seven week blocks, living and working in Fort Collins.

I met my wife there. I started some life-long friendships there. Some of my best stories come from there. It was a great season of life. It was also an education in what it takes to run a successful organization, and what it takes to make it all fall apart.

Teamwork and unity  = success.
Individual agenda’s and disunity = a mess.

Cliff Mills, one of my “bosses” and teammates (love you brother), once said something like this:

“The ideal staff member to work as support staff for the conference at IBS is someone who has no experience at IBS and doesn’t bring an agenda about how things must be done or how they were done last year or three years ago. They don’t have that experience to color their participation with this year’s conference. They are a little bit nervous, eager to please, and teachable.”

This is part of the idea behind an NBA, MLB, or NFL football coach being able to hire his own staff. It’s why the President of the United States gets to pick his own cabinet. Leading, whether it is a professional sports team or a new Executive Branch administration every four years, is always easier when the team knows who the leader is, what the processes are, what the atmosphere is going to be, and what the plan for success is going to be. New assistant coaches need to get on board with the new coach’s agenda and not be constantly fighting the plan or process of the new coach with old patterns and perspectives.

It doesn’t matter if the old patterns and plans were good (or better). It doesn’t matter if the new plan requires uncomfortable adjustments for a time. And it doesn’t matter if the new patterns and perspectives require new priorities. Success comes when the team works together not when individuals have great plans. What matters is a that a play gets called and the team runs the play called.

I will pick up this theme again in a future post but for now let me come back to the Calvin quote at the top.

“There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit
than confidence in our own intelligence.” 

What is the essential ingredient that all people in ministry need if they are to function well on a team and to help a church to become successful*?
(*Success = God receiving maximum glory in a spirit of joy from his people)


Anything less blocks the Spirit.

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