THE “S.E.N.D. MODEL” AS A DISCIPLE-MAKING TOOL FOR THE ALABAMA-WEST FLORIDA CONFERENCE
A few years ago, under the leadership of Bishop Paul Leeland, the Appointed and Extended Cabinet entered into a project with Spiritual Leadership Inc., to develop a model for ministry that would be built around a Ministry Action Plan (MAP). This MAP would give direction to the whole Conference in terms of how to do ministry in order to fulfill the vision of “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” After a year of meeting monthly, the SEND Model was formed. The 4 letters represent words that provide a framework for doing our work together in a fruitful manner, and when each church and ministry works within this framework, a profound unity and alignment is created. This “system” becomes a means to aid in the transformation of lives and cultures.
The 4 words are: SEEK, ENGAGE, NURTURE, and DEPLOY. In the pages that follow, I have written some explanation about each of them (the Deploy is in progress), and have used them at our “Becoming a More Effective Leader” Sessions as devotionals shared prior to our speakers coming forward to present. Many have expressed appreciation to me and asked me to share them, so I am placing them here. Feel free to use them in your own teaching, or ask me to come and do it for you in your settings if you find this helpful.
Our purpose here is to take a look at the first component of that model…SEND.
Have you ever had the breath knocked out of you? I have. It’s a terrible feeling not to be able to breathe. Under these circumstances you seek only one thing…AIR. People could offer you money, fame, prestige, or power, but there is only one thing you seek. That is the ability to breathe. It is not optional. Breathing is the solitary priority. You “seek” that life-giving breath.
The word “seek” is the first word in the Ministry Action Plan of our Annual Conference called “the SEND Model”. It is a critical word for the Christian, because we understand that God in Christ came to “seek and to save that which was lost”, (Luke 19:10). Our salvation is not a casual thing. God “so loved” that He was willing to become one of us in the mystery of the Incarnation in order to save us from our sin and restore us to the relationship He wanted us to know with Him. Nothing else would do.
First, we remember that God is a “seeking” God. Remember the account in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned? What did they do? They made an attempt to cover themselves and hid from God. Who was the seeker in the story? That’s right…GOD. It was God that took the initiative in the relationship with Adam and Eve. Likewise, it is God that takes the initiative in our redemption. God came to us in Christ. In essence, God “sought” us out in spite of our rebellion. If we are the church and are to be like God, then we will be a “seeking” people. (John 5:19)
The ministry of the Church begins with this word. SEEK. What is it that we seek? Well, we first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33). This is intentional discovery , not accidental. Seeking implies intentionality. (Illustrations about seeking)
When the Shepherd discovered the missing sheep, He left the 99 in search of that straggling sheep (Luke 15:1-7). We are not told if the sheep left the flock in rebellion, or due to careless distraction. The reason didn’t matter. The Shepherd went out looking for that lost sheep. His journey was intentional because He valued the helpless sheep. Do we value those outside the kingdom of God? Do we value the struggling and hurting? If we do, we will “seek” them. We will go wherever wandering tendencies might take people because it is the right thing to do, it is what God is doing, we love them, we care about them, and they need us. We will be “seekers”. God is a SEEKER. So are God’s people.
In order to be true to the task as “seekers”, we must be familiar with demographics .
Get to know your vineyard. The needs and the resources are both gifts to us.
We will not just seek people who are away from the fold or those hurting within it. We will seek resources that can be used to help them. We will be intentional about the use of the things God has put into our hands.
We will be good stewards of our time resources, our financial resources, our system structures, and our personal and corporate strengths. It is vital that we become aware of the needs around us and the resources among us so that we can create opportunities for these to come together.
At the point where these (resources and needs) meet is where ministry happens and transformation can occur. Only God’s Spirit can provide the transformation, but we can “seek” ways to create opportunities and environments where this transformation is most likely to occur.
*In the Conference Ministry Action Plan (MAP), “Seek” is the first step. Every ministry launched by a Church should have the element of “seek” in it.
*The Church will “seek” to understand its context.
*The Church will intentionally learn as much about the community as possible, identifying the needs present and the resources available.
*We will intentionally “seek” to address the needs around us in the Name of Jesus Christ.
*We will “seek” the places where God is already at work. Having discovered them, we will join God in that work by using the gifts He has placed among us.
*We will “seek” others to join us in doing this holy work to which God has invited us.
*We will seek out others in ministry and join with those who are doing things that serve others and put value in those who are served. We need not try to do everything alone. We are more effective and fruitful in aiding transformation when we seek ways to work together.
*How is the word “seek” impacting your ministries? It calls for intentionality. It calls for us to value every person. It compels us to go with God into the world to seek and to save. It challenges us to love with God’s love, give as God gives, and bless others as God is blessing us.
Jesus said it. “As the Father has sent me, so SEND I you,” (John 20:21). The “S” in “SEND” is for “seek”. Don’t skip the first step.
The second word in the S.E.N.D. model is, “Engage”. It is not enough just to discover needs and resources through “seeking” them. One must go beyond the discovery of needs and possibilities. We must look beyond the demographics and move to the next step. That is the point where we “engage” the people we have discovered that have the needs as well as those who have the resources to make a difference for good in their lives.
God did not stop at “so loving the world”. God engaged the world. There is no better time of year than this to remember that. The whole point of Advent/Christmas is that God, in Christ, engaged the world through what we know as the Incarnation. John says it this way, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,”
(John 1:14). This act of “engagement” was the beginning of the world’s transformation.
The Webster’s Dictionary cites the following about the word “engage”. “To draw into (as a conversation); To attract and hold the attention; To involve oneself; be active; to bind by a promise; To occupy, keep busy; To employ.’ As we can see from this, a relationship is the implied and expected outcome of “engage”.
Notice the way God engages the world in Christ. He did not come to be served, but to serve. He did not come to gain, but to give. He did not come to make the world captive but to set it free. His power was revealed in compassion for the lowly, healing for the broken, forgiveness for the condemned, and light for those who sat in darkness. The resources Jesus had were not spent on Himself, but poured out to benefit those whom He came to engage…even through death on a Cross.
We have a calling to engage the world, too. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let that person deny him/her self, take up his/her cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his or her life will lose it, but whoever loses his or her life for My sake will find it,’”
(Matthew 16:24-25). In taking up God’s will for our lives, we are taking up our particular crosses and following Christ.
So, in engaging the world in the Spirit of Christ, several things must be present. It begins with loving and valuing those people around us. We must put value in those we serve. Our help should not detract from their worth, but enhance it.
Likewise, it involves relationships. We must be willing to engage in relationships if we are to be legitimate in our endeavors to serve Christ through serving others. Everyone Jesus called to Himself was also called to be in relationship with others who were following, too.
Moreover, to engage another is to be vulnerable. No credible love can flow through invulnerable lives. Who could have been more vulnerable than Jesus from Conception to the Cross?
Finally, our engagement of the world must be flavored by the fruit of the Spirit. We can be kind in our methods and truthful in our message. We can be winsome in our ways and firm in our convictions. We can be strong without being oppressive, gentle without being weak, and prosper without being selfish.
In Mark 16:15, the Bible records Jesus as saying, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” This is another way of saying, “Engage the world.” We are to go into “our” world every day and engage it with the good news of Jesus Christ…in word and deed. No one touches the world in the same way, at the same time, and with the same gifts. We are all unique. But we can be uniquely engaging.
In our SEND model, the letter N represents”Nurture”. What do you think about when you hear that word? I think about the tension between tough and tender. I think about the balance between encouraging affirmation and constructive, correcting discipline. The word “nutrition” comes to mind, along with other words like “example”, “life-to-life sharing”, and “maturation”. In my mind’s eye, I see a parent holding a child who is hurting, a friend holding the hand of another, and a wise person investing in the life of a younger apprentice.
Think about people who have “nurtured” you in your life, faith, and ministry.
Think about those you are intentionally “nurturing” in any way.
Nurture is something that everyone has experienced at some level. Without it, babies wouldn’t have a chance to grow up because they cannot look after themselves when they arrive on life’s scene. Without nurture, learning would not be passed along to the next generation, healing would be rare, faith would be weak, and selfishness would prevail because people would be consumed with their own survival and the needs of others would be ignored at best.
Remember when Jesus was speaking to Simon Peter after the Resurrection? Jesus asked him 3 questions that could be boiled down into one: “Do you love Me?” In sermons and studies, we pay a lot of attention to those questions. But, Jesus also gave Peter 3 commands: “Feed my lambs”; “Tend my sheep”; “Feed my sheep”. Each of these commands in John 21:15-17, has to do with a mandate from the Messiah to “nurture”. It is interesting to me that even though Simon Peter did not answer all the questions even to his own satisfaction, Jesus still commanded him to be involved in a life that nurtured others. Inherent in the blessing of knowing Jesus is the responsibility to share Jesus with others. The blessing of knowing compels us to be involved in the ministry of teaching. Those who have any amount of blessing are expected to share it, not just spend it on themselves. Let those who have arms use them to reach, those with hands, serve, and those with feet, go to those who need love.
Nurture is a way of growing up, not just growing old. Listen to the words of St. Paul as he writes to the Ephesians. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man (or woman), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may GROW UP in all things into Him who is the Head—Christ,” Ephesians 4:11-15. The gifts of the Spirit (power to engage people with God-given ability) and the fruit of the Spirit (God-given character that reveals what God is like) are given with NURTURE in mind.
One of the images Jesus gives us about Himself and God is that of a good Shepherd. The task of the Shepherd is focused. Watch after the sheep. Don’t let them wander into danger. Keep them together, for they are helpless when they are independently alone. Tend to their needs. Protect them. Know them. Let them get to know you. In a word, NURTURE THEM.
Here is a question for each of us. What am I (personally) doing to nurture others? What am I doing to make sure I am being nurtured? When the opportunity arises to nurture another, will I be equipped? Will I notice? Will I have the courage? None of us would have survived as a human being or as a Christian without the nurture of another. To quote a fairly recent movie, I suggest that our response be: “Pay It Forward”.