NextGen participants at the Latitude GLC Transformational Mentor Training at Lake Highlands Church in Dallas, TX in May 2017. Pictured third from left is Matthew, a leader that I have been mentoring for 2 years. Matthew assisted me in the training event, sharing his own mentoring journey.
In May of 2017, nineteen participants from the Men's Ministry at Lake Highlands Church in Dallas, TX attended the Latitude Transformational Mentor Training event hosted at their site. Seven men were 35 years of age or younger. Each of the participants were afforded the opportunity in their learning groups to share stories of how mentoring relationships, or the lack thereof, had shaped their own spiritual journeys.
What encouraged me the most is that these young men are already engaging in informal mentoring relationships, and they are interested in being more intentional and transformational in their efforts. Whether their influence is with their own generation or the generation rising up behind them, they understand the biblical mandate to come alongside others in a shared spiritual journey. Each participant studied the biblical foundations of spiritual mentoring, explored examples of nine types of spiritual mentors found in Scripture, discussed the dynamics of transformational mentoring relationships, diagrammed their current mentoring relationships and reflected on future mentoring needs. At the end of our time together, each of these young adults committed to praying for, initiating, and engaging in mentoring relationships with people behind, beside, and in front of them in the spiritual journey.
I reminded the NextGen participants of what the Apostle Paul told his young "son in the faith," Timothy: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV). Often NextGen believers feel insecure in their ability to provide spiritual leadership and insight to others, believing that they don't have their act together enough to be spiritual mentors to anyone. The truth is that none of us has our complete act together. We are all still pursuing spiritual maturity, holiness, and Christlikeness. We are all imperfect and in need of grace and second chances. I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for 44 years, and I still struggle at times with the more basic elements of the Christian life, just as the Apostle Paul struggled (Romans 7:14-8:4). The key is to be available, authentic, faithful, a solid example, and prayerful as you enter into mentoring relationships under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Start simple! We all need a Barnabas to encourage and believe in us, a Paul to exhort and challenge us, and a Timothy to stretch us and hold us accountable to walk the walk. If you are a young adult who follows Jesus Christ and longs to be more like him, you will benefit the most in your spiritual journey by surrounding yourself with a constellation of mentors, including other young adults who need an example to follow. Millennials make great mentors! Maybe all you need is some training and confidence to help you become a transformational mentor. If you are interested in participating in or hosting a future Latitude Transformational Mentoring event in the Dallas area, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life, and be satisfied…
(Isaiah 53:10-11, NIV84)
The prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prophesied about the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of the Messiah. For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, this is one of the most powerful passages of Old Testament Scripture. For in it we see more clearly the sorrowful life, complete obedience, intense suffering, substitutionary death and ultimate triumph of God the Son. We begin to comprehend the righteousness, justice and resurrection power of the One to whom Isaiah refers as The Lord. It is true that this passage does not call Jesus by name, nor does it specifically mention any person of the Trinity. Yet when compared with the narrative of the New Testament, we understand that the man of sorrows is Jesus Christ, and The Lord is the Triune God.
The Gospel of John reveals that God the Father motivated by love, sent his Son into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it. God the Son came willingly in the person of Jesus Christ as described in Philippians 2. Jesus himself said that no one took his life, but rather he willingly laid it down. Not only did he have the power and authority to lay his life down as a ransom for many, but he also had the authority to take it up again (John 10:18). By his own power and strength God the Father kept Jesus’ body from seeing decay in the three days after his death. By his own power and strength God the life-giving Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. Luke broke it down for us in the book of Acts. “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keeps its hold on him (Acts 2:24, NIV). That’s right – IMPOSSIBLE! Death and the grave did not stand a molecule of a chance at prevailing against the Son of God. The disciples learned that when Jesus called himself “the Resurrection and the Life” he meant it. He was not only the “first-fruits” of our resurrection, He IS the Resurrection.
Because Jesus lives, those who have embraced Him as Lord and Savior shall also live eternally with Him. Isaiah described us as “his offspring.” This, followers of Jesus, is our HOPE, our JOY and our VICTORY! Because the man of sorrows humbly and silently offered himself as our perfect substitute, God the Father forgave us our sins, cleansed and made new creations out of us by the Holy Spirit, and offered us eternal life as joint heirs with the Son, Jesus Christ.
Friends, this is the reason we celebrate Easter! We serve a risen Savior! Don’t be afraid to say, “Happy Easter!” in a politically correct world. It was by far the happiest moment in history when Jesus rose from the dead, folded the grave clothes that bound him, and walked out of his tomb, leaving it empty and conquered! Celebrate and rejoice in your King! HE LIVES!
Keith’s Spiritual Retreat Schedule
This week I have felt a weariness of soul and body that is a warning indicator that I have overextended myself. I am in a season of running on fumes spiritually and physically. I realized that I have not used good self care recently, and it is affecting my spiritual leadership. It's time for me to be intentional about getting some time alone with the Lord to recharge and recalibrate. I dug out my spiritual retreat schedule this week and called a friend to see if I could use his cabin for a few days. I told a few peer mentors of my intention and am asking them to hold me accountable to make this retreat happen in a timely manner.
I have shared this schedule over the years with young leaders I mentor and have encouraged them to customize the details to better fit their current needs. It's time for me to practice what I preach. "Physician, heal thyself!" I hear my soul whispering.
Just in case you are in the same place in your leadership, I am giving you this tool to help you take some much needed time of spiritual renewal. Let's follow through together.
Note: This template works best for those whose “spiritual pathways” are solitude, nature, bible study, worship, and/or prayer. It normally takes at least two days of solitude to clear the mind of distractions. It is recommended that the retreat be at least 4 days if possible to ensure the best clarity.
6 – 8 AM: Morning Recreation (Keith – Fly fishing)
8 - 9 AM: Breakfast and clean up cabin
9 – 11 AM: Personal worship and reading (Focus Time)
11 AM – 1 PM: Lunch and walk or hike
1 PM – 3 PM: Free time: nap, read, journal, etc. (Sabbath time)
3 PM – 5 PM: Evening Recreation (Keith – Fly fishing)
5 PM: Get ready and have dinner in town (be around people)
7 PM – Bedtime: Prayer, journaling, bible reading, worship, reflection (Focus Time)
Recommendation: Don’t enter into a spiritual retreat with an agenda for God. He alone knows what He intends to do and how He plans to reveal Himself to you. Your only objective should be to create a sacred time and space of hospitality so you and God can connect relationally at a more intimate level. Anything more than that is an added blessing. That being said, be prepared for God to speak. Have Samuel’s attitude of “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Summary: This schedule is not meant to be rigid or legalistic. It is merely there to create a sense of rhythm and continuity. Feel free to switch things around based upon daylight hours, weather conditions, and best focus times. If you are doing this retreat with others, the recreation and meal times can be a great opportunity for mutual encouragement and interaction, but there needs to be significant periods of solitude in order to connect more intimately with God. There is also the possibility of having a silent retreat with others where the participants experience shared activities with no verbal communication, such as preparing meals and completing chores.
I have been studying the book of 2 Corinthians lately, and God has allowed me to look at this letter through new lenses focusing on what the Apostle Paul says about our new identity in Christ. I am not finished with this study yet, but so far I have been reminded that we are saints (1:1) and the aroma of Christ (2:14) among both those who are being saved, and those who are perishing.
What is interesting is that depending on those we are around at any given time, we are either the fragrance of life or the stench of death. At first glance, it appears that we are the fragrance of life to those who are being saved, and the stench of death to those who are perishing. However, if we look more closely at the sentence structure, we can conclude that Paul was saying that we are the stench of death to those who are being saved, and the fragrance of life to those who are perishing. Paul mentioned several times that we are to die to self, be crucified with Christ, and lay our lives on the altar as a living sacrifice. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, NIV). He also said that our lives and testimonies should be attractive to a lost world around us.
Therefore, he challenged the Corinthian church to live among Christians (those who are being saved) in such a way that we model death to ourselves and our old ways of life, choosing instead to live what some would call the “cruciform life,” or cross-shaped life, which is a life defined by the cross of Christ. Paul further challenged them to live among those who are perishing in such a way that the fragrance of their lives would lead unbelievers from the path of spiritual death into the promise of a new life in Christ.
In light of this new perspective, I have been asking myself lately, “Do I really die daily like Paul? Does my life challenge believers to make their lives a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God?” I am also reflecting on whether or not my life exudes the aroma of Christ to those in this world who are perishing without the knowledge of Him who is calling them from death to life.
Years ago I was attempting to explain to a friend what I believed God was doing in my life. I sensed I was entering into a period of significant transition because it seemed that God was slowly ripping me from my circumstances and comfort zone, and it was happening in such a gradual fashion that the best way I could describe it was “the Velcro Effect.” My friend nodded his head and replied that he knew exactly what I was talking about. Velcro holds things securely together, though seldom permanently. The adhered objects can be separated quickly and violently, or slowly and methodically. There is always some level of resistance, discomfort, and noise in the separation process. This is the way God’s plan sometimes unfurls in our lives. Through various means God reveals that he is leading us through a time of transition. Often spiritual leaders have more questions than answers in this season of change, and it surely requires patience and trust in God’s plan with very little information to go off of. Somehow during this gradual ripping from our current lives and relationships, God creates in us a sense of growing expectation mixed with a little (or a great deal) of fear.
This pattern has repeated often enough in my life that now I more readily recognize the process. My personal experience has shown that God’s grace accompanies the slow tearing. There is a unique fellowship I experience with the Holy Spirit as I learn to wait patiently in the discomfort. I have often told others that during these transitional seasons “It seems that I wait, and wait and wait some more on the Lord. However, before I know it, He is on the move in my life, and it seems like I have to run to catch up.”
This “Velcro Effect” is illustrated in the three-year spiritual journey the twelve disciples shared with Jesus. They were swiftly ripped from their normal lives and comfort zones by three earth-shattering words: “Come, follow me.” Suddenly their lives disengaged from the old reality and adhered to a new reality of life with Jesus. No doubt they relished this season of ministry and probably hoped it would last forever. Yet toward the end of his ministry, Jesus began to slowly and methodically rip them from their circumstances and comfort zones again to prepare them for a new, more effective ministry. The velcro ripped a little as he sent them out as short-term missionaries armed with his authority and blessing. It ripped some more when he began to speak descriptively of his future arrest, suffering, and ultimate sacrifice. Eventually the last rip of the velcro took place when Jesus commissioned them, then abruptly ascended out of their sight, instructing them to wait for a while. Truthfully, there is pain in this process of spiritual growth: ripping, releasing, and waiting before the reattachment finally begins.
For the disciples, was it worth the discomfort, uncertainty, and incessant waiting? On the day of Pentecost, they received the promised Holy Spirit, and the velcro was immediately reattached to a new reality – the Church of Jesus Christ. They were ushered into a season of ministry marked by greater power, broader influence, and exponential fruitfulness. After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, the disciples were suddenly running to catch up with the Holy Spirit just as they had once run to catch up with Jesus.
This would not be the last time an uncomfortable change of circumstances took place in the lives of the disciples. They were eventually torn loose from their effective ministries and released again to the uttermost parts of the world for the sake of the gospel and the church. Again, was it worth the discomfort, uncertainty, and incessant waiting? Look in the mirror at the face of a Christ-follower two thousand years removed and perhaps half-way around the world and you have your answer. Their discomfort translated into our comfort and salvation.
I’ve experienced this process for the past five years as I transitioned from a long-term ministry position in a great church to my current role as the founder of Latitude GLC. Although it has been challenging at times, enduring fear of the unknown, loss of job security, and wondering if people think I am reckless or unwise for stepping out in faith at my age (54), I am also filled with hope and expectancy to see the vision God planted in me back then starting to take shape. Just this week I have been able to encourage several leaders in their spiritual journeys. I feel joy in obedience and living out my calling in the midst of continued transition.
If you are experiencing “the Velcro effect” in your spiritual journey, take heart. God is on the move in your life. Soon you may be running to catch up to Him as he leads you into a period of greater power, influence, and fruitfulness.
Leaders often fear seasons of obscurity and isolation. Since most leaders would agree that leadership is fueled and leveraged by influence, it seems counterintuitive that falling off the grid for awhile could actually make someone a better leader in the long run. Sometimes these periods of perceived irrelevance are actually seedbeds for nurturing a great heart and a humble spirit in a leader. The Scriptures are full of examples of spiritual leaders who emerged from the wilderness of isolation with a transformed identity and an emboldened heart that was somehow packaged in a meek and humble spirit.
Moses is a primary example of this type of metamorphosis. People often concentrate on how God found Moses at the burning bush- a man who was slow of speech and who had a self-image lower than a serpent’s belly. What we don’t often think about is what Moses was like just before he was driven into the wilderness for 40 years. As an adopted member of the royal Egyptian household, Moses no doubt had access to all the resources that would prepare someone to be an effective and capable leader. Moses’ self-image may have actually been at the opposite end of the spectrum from what we see in his encounter with God. In the book of Acts, Luke records Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin in which he recounts the history of Israel. This Scripture sheds some light on Moses’ pre-wilderness persona. “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action…Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not” (Acts 7:22, 25 NIV). Press pause here. When Moses was forty years old he knew that God had called him to be the Deliverer of the nation of Israel. He actually thought that this was self-evident to God’s chosen people. Apparently he was brimming with self-confidence and passion, and he had a powerful message that he was ready to communicate.
The problem was that Moses was prepared to do God’s work from his own power base, using the positional influence of the royal family and the leadership tools of a pagan civilization. What God desired was a humble leader who would faithfully communicate the words of God and who would lead from a spiritual place of power. So if we hit the play button again, we see that God interacted with Moses after he had been as isolated as a leader can be for an unthinkable period of time. Forty years! God had done exactly what he had purposed to do in Moses’ life, taking what seems like an eternity to accomplish the task.
There are other biblical examples of what I believe is God’s preferred method of spiritual leadership development. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Daniel, Elijah, John the Baptist, and JESUS all had seasons of obscurity and isolation. Yet these are all leaders who shaped our spiritual heritage and changed the course of history.
If we are to learn anything from these leaders, it is that God the Father orchestrates seasons of obscurity in the journeys of spiritual leaders to ensure that we all lead from a transformed heart, a humble spirit, and a spirit-filled, God-dependent life. God’s eternal purposes and his called out community deserve no less.
If you find yourself in a season of obscurity, entrust yourself to your loving Father. Resist the urge to rush the process. Savor God’s sufficiency. Cultivate contentment. Stay connected to the life-giving Word and to the called-out community. Cling to David’s declaration of faith in the Psalms: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me... Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 54:4; 55:22). God will orchestrate your re-engagement in the fullness of time and you will eventually be grateful for his shaping activity in your life.
Several months ago, I was seeking to increase the joy and power of my personal prayer life. I decided to do something I had never done before and created a daily prayer discipline that includes the following prayers and Scripture recitations. I pray them in this order every day and try to focus on the words and their meaning, pausing at times to reflect on what I am about to say. This daily habit primes the pump of my prayer life and leads to other prayers of praise, confession, intercession, and intimacy. I have memorized these prayers and Scripture passages, so I can now pray them anywhere and anytime.
If you are struggling for deeper intimacy, greater effectiveness, and increased continuity in your prayer life, I would recommend trying these morning prayers for 30 days. See if it helps you connect with the Triune God in deeper ways. Then begin to craft your own daily prayers that fit your spiritual journey and help you move into closer communion with Christ.
The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
Prayer of Daily Dedication
"Father in Heaven, these are the riches I choose to pursue today:
I want to be grateful, humble, joyful, content,
Free from anxiety and fear, compassionate, and generous.
I pray these things in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
And of the Holy Spirit. Amen" (adapted from a prayer I read several years ago; source unknown).
Prayer of Thanksgiving
"Father in Heaven,
Thank you for your continual, abiding presence in my life
And in my household.
'For God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?' (Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV84)
Thank you, Father, for your continual, abiding presence in my life. Amen."
Recite Psalm 121 (NIV 84)
"I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over you- will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you- the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life;
The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."
Recite Psalm 23 (KJV)
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in paths of righteousness
For his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Prayer of Reliance
"Father, I will dwell 'in the shelter of the Most High.
I will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust.' (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV)
Father, 'You are my hiding place;
You will protect me from trouble
And surround me with songs of deliverance.' (Psalm 32:7)
Lord and Master, Protector and Provider,
I fully rely on you to sustain and uphold me throughout this day. Amen."
Last weekend we held our first prayer gathering in Rockwall, Texas. What a blessing it was to be able to pray together as a community of prayer warriors. As we divided into groups to pray for the needs of the ministry and the strategic opportunities that are ahead of us, my heart was full as I heard people praying simultaneously in different rooms of the house pouring out their requests to God. Bold and concerted prayer is crucial to the accomplishment of God’s purposes in the world.
As we move into the heart of the Christmas holiday season, I am reminded of the story of a man called Simeon who lived in Jerusalem at the time of our Savior’s birth. For years this righteous and devout man had been waiting for the Messiah who would be “the consolation of Israel.” One day the Holy Spirit of God came upon him and directed him to the temple courts where he met a young couple with a newborn son who was to be presented to the Lord and consecrated to Him. When Simeon saw the baby called Jesus, Scripture says that he took the child in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:28-32, NIV). Simeon never gave up hope that his own eyes would behold the Savior of Israel, and his faith was rewarded in God’s perfect time. The significance of this encounter must not be missed this Christmas season. Jesus, the Savior we celebrate, was destined to be a light of revelation to all nations. His light has shone upon us and transformed our sinful hearts. Just as Simeon was able to behold the Savior with his physical eyes, we have looked upon Him with spiritual eyes and have been changed forever. And yet, there are still billions of people in the world who are living without an eternal hope. They need the light of revelation to penetrate their spiritual darkness and bring consolation. The good news is that Jesus Christ has commissioned and empowered His church to be the light of the world and a city on a hill so that people from every nation could be brought into a personal relationship with Him.
One way that you can share the light of Christ in the coming year is to partner with Latitude GLC which exists to prepare, encourage, and sustain the next generation of spiritual leaders for the advancement of the Gospel and the strengthening of the global church. I believe we live in the greatest time of world mission, and it is within the reach of these young leaders to take the light of revelation to all the nations. The Gospel can truly be preached in the whole world in their lifetimes. God has called me to be a “Barnabas” to emerging spiritual leaders who will lead their own generation to accomplish this task. Would you join me in this journey? Take a moment to visit our new website at www.latitudeglc.org and prayerfully consider partnering with us in prayer, encouragement, and financial support. You can make a special online donation today and may also set up recurring monthly contributions to help sustain this ministry. We request that your financial contributions to Latitude GLC be made after you have fulfilled your financial commitments to your local church.
May the peace and love of Christ fill your hearts and homes as you celebrate His miraculous birth.
Keith and Kimberly West
Latitude GLC exists to prepare, encourage and sustain the next generation of spiritual leaders for the advancement of the Gospel and the strengthening of the global church.
Happy Thanksgiving, praying friends. As the West family makes preparations to observe this wonderful Holiday with some of our loved ones, our prayer is that each of you will experience the blessing of a grateful heart, and that your gratefulness will result in an offering of praise to the Lord our Provider. He is such a benevolent Father who bestows blessing upon blessing on His children, and even on those who do not acknowledge Him. His mercy is abundant and the rich storehouses of His grace are inexhaustible. How truly blessed we are to be recipients of His unmerited favor and enduring love.
In his letters to the Church in Corinth, Paul repeated the phrase, “Thanks be to God!” He offered at least three specific reasons to offer thanks. The first reason was because God gives us the victory over death and the grave through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:53-57). The second reason to thank God was because Jesus always leads his followers in a triumphal procession and “through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). According to Paul, we are actually the aroma of Christ in a lost world. The third reason was because of God’s “indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). In this passage, Paul was speaking of the obedience and generosity of believers who were motivated by their confession of the Gospel and the surpassing grace God had given them. When we reflect upon these three reasons Paul gave to the Corinthian church for thanking God, it should compel us to join him in giving thanks for these amazing blessings!
We would be remiss not to thank God publicly for answered prayer, especially when each of you have been praying so diligently. First, our request for technology funds for Latitude has been met. We are now able to purchase necessary hardware and software for the ministry. Second, I have had several opportunities to share the vision of Latitude in the past few weeks, resulting in additional prayer warriors and monthly pledges of financial partnership. Another answered prayer is the frequent encouragement and affirmation from many of you and others whom the Lord prompts to reach out to us. It is amazing how timely your words have been. It is a tangible reminder of the Holy Spirit’s activity during this time of great transition. Lastly, we had another tech person join our volunteer web team, which will help me focus more on the things that I am best equipped to do.
May the Lord bless each of you richly as you offer thanks for God’s numerous blessings and His abundant grace. Our family will be thanking Him for each of you this Thanksgiving.
Keith and Kimberly West
“…they (Paul and Barnabas) sailed back to Antioch…On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples” (Acts 14:26-28, NIV).
Have you ever wondered what it was like for Paul and Barnabas when they came back home after a mission trip? Did they wish they were still on the field? Did they struggle with feelings of guilt for being back safely in Antioch at their home church with their families and close friends? Did they question God’s timing or wonder why they couldn’t have stayed on the field a little longer so they could make an even bigger impact? I’m sure Paul and Barnabas, like the rest of us who go on mission trips, struggled with re-entry into their “normal” lives again. After all, they had shared the Gospel with tens of thousands of people who had never heard the name of Jesus. They had seen possibly thousands of lost people give their hearts to Jesus. Paul and Barnabas had planted churches in nearly every community they visited and trained leaders for each of them. They even saw God use them in miraculous ways to make His power known, whether it was striking an evil sorcerer with blindness to silence his attack on their message, or healing a paralyzed man in front of a large crowd of unbelievers. Ultimately, Paul had known the pain and triumph of being persecuted and nearly martyred for Jesus. It would be difficult to come back to a normal life after experiencing God’s power and protection like that. It would be painful to leave new friends who desperately needed leaders like Paul and Barnabas to continue pouring into their spiritual development. You are probably feeling some of these same emotions right now as you are attempting to re-enter “normal.” You need to know that you are not alone, and that this is part of the sacrifice of leaving your comfort zone even for a short time to obey God’s command to “go.”
Is it possible that this Scripture holds a few insights to help you know how to re-engage in your daily life in a way that is emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy? Let’s take a closer look. First, Paul and Barnabas quickly re-engaged. They wasted no time in gathering the church together to share all the great things that God had accomplished on their journey. They didn’t sit around feeling depressed that they were back home, and they definitely didn’t isolate themselves from others. The Bible says that “on arriving there, they gathered the church.”
The second insight is that they took the initiative to tell the story of their mission trip. Often we expect others to ask us to share about our mission trips, and we miss strategic opportunities to give God glory by being proactive witnesses of what we have seen God accomplish through our team. It’s not up to our pastors and leaders to tell our story of God’s might and faithfulness. It’s our story to tell how God used us and how He transformed us in the process. We need to own the story!
The third insight is that they gave God the credit for what was accomplished through their ministry. The Scripture says, “…they reported all that God had done…and how he had opened the door of faith…” God made it all happen. They were active participants, but God was the one who accomplished His mission and opened hearts to receive salvation. If we try to make this trip about us, then we are attempting to shift the spotlight from God to ourselves. To do so would be to commit idolatry, so we need to avoid the temptation to claim credit for something that only God can do.
Last, Paul and Barnabas accepted their current assignment. The Scripture clearly tells how they re-entered “normal” in spite of their longing and concern for the new believers they had left behind. “And they stayed there a long time with the disciples” (v.28). In other words, Paul and Barnabas went back to the normal ministry of preaching, leading, and discipling others just as they had done before their mission trip (see Acts 11:26). Were Paul and Barnabas different afterward? Absolutely! Mission trips often transform those who participate, especially when God works through us in amazing ways. Did they long for a new adventure or to see their new friends again? Definitely! There are several passages where Paul shares his longings to re-visit the churches he planted and to go to new places that had never heard the Gospel. Those longings probably never went away, but Paul and Barnabas obediently accepted God’s will and timing, and purposed to serve Him faithfully in their current assignment.
Re-entering “normal,” though often difficult, is actually an act of great faith and obedience on your part. I believe God wants you to be present, to re-engage in your relationships and ministries quickly. It is vitally important to be proactive in helping your family and friends understand what you experienced and how God changed you on your mission trip. Be patient with those who need time to understand. Most of all, know that your team leader and mission staff are praying for you as you re-enter “normal.”
Keith West is the founding President of Latitude GLC, a non-profit ministry in Rockwall, Texas. Keith believes his calling is to be a "Barnabas" to the next generation of spiritual leaders.