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.
By Joel Bates
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I took Abigail on a date. Abigail, my youngest daughter, is known for her enthusiastic joy, her explosive emotion, and her unabashed affection for her daddy. She is also one of the millions of little girls across the country who have been counting down the hours until the release of one of the most infamous horror movies of them all, “Frozen II.”
I decided to surprise her by simply saying, “We’re going on a date.” After a quick pizza supper, I said I thought a movie sounded good. She nodded while stuffing another piece of pizza into her mouth. “It’s opening night for “Frozen II”…if you are interested in seeing it, that is.” Her eyes got wide, and she almost choked on a pepperoni. Her squeal of delight told me I had just achieved fatherhood legend status.
We stood in line with all the other dads and their little girls, many of whom were dressed in various “Frozen” attire—the lacy Elsa dresses and Olaf the snowman costumes. Abigail just grinned as she sidled up to me. I did have a fleeting moment of hesitation as we passed another screen room showing the war movie “Midway.” I felt lured by the sounds of guns and planes and people dying, but Abigail had a tight hold of my hand as we marched onward to “Frozen II.”
We found some good seats near the center of the theater and sat down. Abigail, still grinning said, “I just love ‘Frozen’!” After a few moments she asked, “Do you love ‘Frozen,’ daddy?” I’m a Christian. I’m not supposed to lie. So I dodged the question, “I just love being here with you, sweetie.” I could tell by the look on her face that she wasn’t entirely satisfied with my answer, but just then the movie trailers started, so I was spared.
I’ll not give too much away for the few of you who don’t want me to spoil the movie. (I submit that Disney beat me to it). But, I was wooed right along with all the little Elsa-dress-wearing-lasses when the 3-D snowflakes filled the room kicking off the cinematic magic. Part way through the shameless montages, complete with everything little girls love—princesses, cute Bulgarian hunks, and a sea-galloping aqua horse (Yes, Disney you’ve outdone yourself!), I suddenly felt my daughter’s hand on mine. Then kneeling in her seat, she leaned over, laid her head on my shoulder, and just stayed nestled up next to me.
On the drive home, Abigail chattered away about how much she loved Olaf’s and Elsa’s songs and Kristoff’s hair. She put me on the spot when she asked if I liked “Frozen II” better than “Frozen I,” but again I was able to conceal my disdain by simply saying, “I liked them both about the same,” which is to say I like them both not much. I changed the subject saying, “My favorite part was just being with you.” She pondered that a moment and said, “Yeah…me, too.” Eat your heart out H2O princess stallion!
I was reading from the gospel of Matthew the other day with my kids. It was the passage in which Jesus tells people about the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. One of my children spoke up, “What exactly is the Good News?” The first thing that came to my mind was the cross of Christ, that single sacrifice done once for all people. The next thing that came to my mind was the resurrection of Christ, that moment when He walked out of the grave completely conquering death. As we read the parable of the merchant looking for a pearl of great value, I realized that God is the merchant in the story, and we are the pearls. He was willing to purchase us at a great price, giving that of greatest value to Him.
The Good News is about a heavenly Father reunited with His children. As hard as it is to imagine, God the Father actually wanted to be with us. He wanted an intimate relationship with us. He wanted us so badly that He was willing to send His Son Jesus to die for us. It was through Jesus’ coming to earth as both God and man, dying, and then rising again--bridging the gap of separation—that declared just how far God was willing to go for us. The Good News is all of this interaction and sacrifice, which can be truly captured in a common word heard at Christmas: “Emmanuel.” It means, “God….With….Us.”
I experienced a little bit of “Emmanuel” truth while taking my daughter to a movie I had no personal interest in seeing. I did it because I love her and desire a wonderful relationship with her. That moment of closeness between this father and his child, having her rest against my shoulder, was priceless and made all the effort worthwhile.
I hope you will experience some “Emmanuel” truth this season. The truth that God wants to be with you. He proved it by sending His most cherished gift in the form of a baby. So, clear out the distractions and turn off the noise of the season to spend some time just nestled up with the Father of all creation. Celebrate Christmas—God with us…the Good News.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.