We are taking some time over the next several months to share some of the stories, situations, and meaning behind each of our Core Values and how these values have come to shape the ministry of Discovery Ministries. Commanded by Christ is our first Core Value.
By Leah Fuller
As a child, I received directives from my parents: “Leah, it’s time to get ready for bed; go brush your teeth.” “Leah, it’s your night to do the dishes.” Since I was such an obedient child, of course, I happily and immediately responded to my mother’s command every time--those of you who know me can stop laughing any time. Okay, in reality we all know that as young children grow, they begin to assert their own will from time to time, even most of the time. I wouldn’t immediately start getting ready for bed because what I wanted to do was keep playing with my toys. Playing was way easier than doing the dishes, too. At least that was what I thought until I felt the sting of the wooden spoon on my rear end. It has taken me a long time to realize that when my mother issued a command, she wasn’t being mean or bossy. No, she was inviting me into a life that exists beyond the confines of immediate gratification. In responding out of obedience, I was invited into the gift of surrender, relinquishing my right to remain in control. Typically, responding to my mother’s command ran counter to what felt normal and natural to me. Sometimes, it required more of me than I wanted to give. And yet, those commands were invitations into a deeper, fuller life.
Throughout the New Testament, we are challenged by the commands Jesus issues to us, His children. “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19). “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19). “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1). “Do not be afraid!” (Matthew 14:27). “Get up, take our mat and go home” (Matthew 9:6). “Sell your possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21). “Take up your cross” (Luke 9:23). These are not easy commands to obey because every command of Christ comes at a cost to us. It requires a sacrificial surrendering of our will, our possessions, our comfort, our lives of ease. And yet, His commands are rich with an invitation into something greater and more meaningful than we can fully comprehend in the moment.
Christ’s command invites us to surrender our human sufficiency. Consider the life that Jesus was inviting His disciples into when He sent them out in Matthew 10. Jesus sent these men to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (v. 8). For these ordinary men to perform any one of these tasks would require them to surrender their own human abilities and understanding to walk purely in the power Christ gave them. His command required them to leave behind any extra money, clothes, or provisions they might supply for themselves, guaranteeing they would depend on God’s providing all that they needed (v. 9-10). We expend great effort in life to keep things manageable and within the realm of what we can handle. Obeying the commands of Christ will require us to do things that are far bigger than anything we can handle on our own.
Christ’s command is counter-cultural. Jesus says in John 15:19 “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” A huge part of Jesus’ purpose in coming to this earth was to confront the darkness that exists in the world. His very presence caused the demons to shudder in fear and to flee. And His Spirit in His followers today confronts the darkness around us. It is no wonder that John started his gospel by claiming “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4-5). Christ’s light in us confronts a world that is full of darkness. See for yourself. Go into a dark closet in your house and then turn on a flashlight. You will see the darkness flee. The rich young ruler encountered this counter-cultural message when Jesus told him to go and sell everything he had (Luke 18:18-29). Even though this man had obeyed the law since birth, he went away sad because Christ’s call to live counter-culturally threatened his entire lifestyle.
Christ’s command calls us into adversity. Jesus instructed the disciples: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19). Notice that Jesus doesn’t use the word if. He is promising that they will be arrested. Not only that, but He will equip them to communicate His truth. He promised a few verses later “When you are persecuted…” (v. 23). He guaranteed that their lives would not be easy. Paul echoed these words when he encouraged the churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Adversity is not optional in Christ’s kingdom, and yet we would rather claim the promises of God from the comfort of our couch than actually face persecution, suffering, or adversity.
Being commanded by Christ is not an easy life. It requires obedience, surrender, sacrifice, and most of all love. Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Christ’s love compels us to receive His invitation into surrender, counter-cultural living, and adversity. We are compelled to look different from the world and yet also to go into the world “making disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This is the tension of being commanded by Christ. As we wrestle with what it means to receive His command and invitation, may we remember the promise of His presence. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Questions for Reflection:
How might Christ be calling you surrender your human self-sufficiency?
How might Christ be calling you to live counter-culturally?
How might Christ be calling you into adversity?
Prayerfully take some time to listen for specific ways God may be asking you to respond to His command as an invitation.
By Joel Bates
Take a minute to close your eyes and think about what you value most. For me, it’s not just the obvious answers—my wife and children and the events and places that surround my relationship to them. It’s the hard things—building a house, leading challenge expeditions in which I suffer along with a community, or crossing a finish line in a race well run as my teammates, coaches, and parents look on. All that I value is so much more, but I’ll spare you further details. Until recently when I agreed to teach on the subject, I never had seriously considered the values that rule my life. I began studying this topic to present it to some young missionaries in training, and I came to understand what influence values have on an individual or a group, why we have values, where they come from, and how they affect us. During this research, I found myself asking, “What are the core values of Discovery Ministries?”
For years, we’ve known what we do here, but usually find it difficult to interpret our approach to ministry for interns and youth leaders. As we try to give guidance and set up a retreat on the phone, we often finally tell the confused youth minister, “You’ll just have to experience what we do!" Experiences shape our understanding and propel our belief forward, and at the same time, it’s important to convey clearly what we value. Our values help answer the tough questions: “Who am I?” “Why do I do what I do?”
In the last blog, I shared a little bit of the leading we have felt to stop and consider this ministry called DM. Now I want to share what we’ve come up with in an attempt to communicate the deeper core values of this ministry. So, here goes. Discovery Ministries is…
It probably comes as no surprise to many of you that these are DM’s core values. Allow me to explain more in depth why we chose this particular set of values to pilot our course as a ministry.
First and foremost, DM is Commanded by Christ. This phrase means DM is a ministry of Christ’s church and an outpost in the Kingdom of God. DM belongs to Jesus. He provides for it. He sustains it. He leads in how we use it.
We are Called to Adversity. At DM, we intentionally create challenge because we believe that spiritual awakening best happens when our life patterns are disrupted by risk, discomfort, and ambiguity. Through adversity, our weaknesses and sin can be identified, addressed, and replaced with deeper trust and surrender. While many scriptures emphasize this aim, 1 Peter 1:7 says it so well, “That your faith, when tested, may be proved genuine and result in praise.”
DM is Committed to the Process of Wilderness. “What exactly is the process of wilderness?” you ask. It’s an age-old spiritual formation process that God has been using since Genesis. We invite believers into a wilderness setting, where the Lord can confront them and bring spiritual insight to individuals and groups. These circumstances offer an opportunity for a deeply residual effect on spiritual growth as participants wait, wander, wonder, and win. As a ministry, we take a risk ourselves because the true learning and growth lies mainly in the heart of the participant, not in our expertise. The words of James 1:2-4 express this process so well, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Our teaching is Crafted by Facilitation. As our primary teaching tool, facilitation enables us to pull learning from the experience. Structuring diverse opportunities for interaction, we invite participants into spiritual growth by crafting real-life pressures and stake as a means of transformation. We believe this style of teaching promotes greater personal transference from learning to practical Christian living. “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” 2 Tim 1:13-14
DM promotes being Connected through Small Groups. We work with groups of 5-20 campers because we believe that the greater relational impact achieved in small groups promotes vibrant Christian living as a body of believers. “Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, ‘”Explain to us the parable….”’ Matthew 13:36
DM’s ministry is Constructed with our Staff. Each staff member is a Christ-follower first, who embodies the spirit of DM and its mission. We are professional as instructors and passionate as ministers. Our staff members exhibit these constructs:
1 Peter 2:5
Over the next few months we will share some of the stories, situations, and examples of how these values have come to the surface.
By Joel Bates
Every three years, I re-certify my medical training as a Wilderness-First-Responder (WFR), but my first “woofer,” as we call it, was quite comical. Our instructor carried around a small video recorder to capture the magic on film. As he filmed one session, I was trying to learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver on a simulated choking victim. Our instructor said, “Get behind the victim, wrap your arms around him, and start pumping.” This effort would force the blockage out. So I was doing just that, furiously pumping, when the victim decided my time was up and proceeded to “pass out” onto the ground. With my victim slumping down, I thought it best to continue the pumping gyrations, now from under his 200-pound frame. Soon, I was the one needing the resuscitation! (Luckily for me, the instructor was laughing so hard that the video turned out too shaky to identify clearly that I was the one buried under the massive choking man.) Then, to my humiliation, the instructor said, “Let me show you an easier way,” and he proceeded simply to apply the simulated chest compressions from above the prone victim. In the moment, I felt pretty sheepish, but I did learn how not to do the Heimlich maneuver if the victim faints. I was able to impart this new knowledge to whole class later, too, as we watched the video together. There was no shortage of critique. I learned my lesson well. Now when I see a choking victim, I just go find the nearest WFR instructor!
During these WFR courses, we students have to pass a closely scrutinized, major trauma simulation, involving numerous simulated victims with a myriad of possible life-threatening problems. What makes an already intense evaluation worse is that the victims are other classmates—usually ornery Discovery Ministries staff who delight in making things difficult. We, the rescuers, wait anxiously in the classroom while the instructor sets up the simulation. Then he or she will direct us to the accident scene to make sense of the simulated chaos awaiting. (I make it a point to avoid the choking victims!)
Years ago during my first WFR course, a fellow student saw my hands shaking from nervousness just before the “sim” began and spoke words of wisdom I’ve not forgotten—wisdom that has made a huge difference. “Remember, man,” the long-haired, outdoorsy hippie said, “Don’t just do something….Stand there for a second.” I blinked in confusion, as his surprising counsel sank in. I had presumed that the most effective way to help people would be to rush into the mayhem and stop the bleeding or fix the broken leg or attend to the pain of a screaming patient. Usually when I stormed in like this, I’d end up making costly mistakes and, sometimes, even create more confusion. It was only when I disciplined myself to stop, survey the scene, and look beyond the glaring crisis to assess the deeper problems that I could prescribe the best course of action.
This past year has been like that for the DM staff and me. We were in a meeting last winter trying to figure out how to address some obvious, potential problems looming in the future when all of a sudden, I remembered the sage advice, “Don’t just do something….Stand there a second.” In that meeting, I proposed a course of action that quite honestly shocked everyone. Uncharacteristic of my driven nature, I suggested, “What if we just try to do less? What if we don’t focus on doing something, but just take a while to stand here?”
I clearly see now how I’ve been digging spiritual wells for others and myself for years, but rarely taking time just to sit beside those dug wells and drink deeply. I think most of us like to do things that feel productive. We like to make stuff and see progress. Doing can mean achieving, and achieving is often the trophy by which we define our success and worth.
But, even Jesus needed to rest. Constantly surrounded by multitudes of needy people, Jesus found it hard even to get a lunch break. Perhaps one reason He often told people to keep secret the miracle He’d just performed in their lives was that His fame was spreading so fast He couldn’t apply a value that He’d had since creation—the value of rest. On the seventh day of creation He rested. During His ministry, Jesus often withdrew to solitary places. He invited His disciples to cross to the other side of the lake, thus escaping the demanding crowds. He even rested in the grave three days between his death and resurrection. Jesus calls us, weary and heavy-laden, to come take His yoke upon ourselves because it is light, and we will find rest for our souls. What a great Leader we have! What a compassionate Master He is.
So at DM, we have been practicing the discipline of doing less. We believe that in doing less, we will be able to do a few things better, like becoming better people who listen, so we can hear the Shepherd’s voice; better people of purpose, so we can minister with greater intentionality; better people who rest, so our work is fueled with more energy. From this decision to do less—to stand and look, listen and learn—we have seen a tremendous yield already. In the next few blogs, we’ll give some reports of what we’ve discovered and how we are applying it.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.