October 17, 2020

BSSM, round two. It’s different this time.


Yes, COVID makes school different. For the first week and a half after getting to Redding I was quarantining and awaiting test results. That meant I had to sit in on classes online, despite being a 10-minute drive from where they were being streamed from. I missed auditioning for the student worship team. I had to wait much longer than I would’ve liked to see some of my friends from first year (and still haven’t properly connected to others).


Our main sessions which would ordinarily pack the entire school year into one room for wild, passionate times of corporate worship are split into two half-full sessions, and then reduced again as students come down with symptoms, test positive, or come into contact with those who have and are forced to quarantine.


Masks. Limited social gatherings. Quarantine.


Yep. COVID still sucks in California.


But COVID isn’t the only thing that makes second year different. The feel is different. The themes are different. The expectations and responsibilities are different. The messages are different, and the leaders interact with students differently.


And I am loving it.


I’d say the biggest theme of second year, at least thus far, is leadership.


And it’s a bit strange for me, because the whole concept of leadership has always felt vague and ethereal. I’ve had a lot of moments over the years where people would tell me I was or was going to be a leader, and in general my reaction was to smile and nod and assume that this whole leadership thing would somehow someday just attach itself to me and I’d be a leader.


Turns out, that doesn’t seem to be the way this thing works. Shocker.


Instead, I’m learning that leadership is intensely practical and immediate. It starts right now.


The concept of “ownership” has been drilled into us, over and over again. I’ve thought and re-thought through the people I’ve placed around me, and which relationships I’m investing in. I’ve felt challenged to think through exactly why I am here, now. I’ve been encouraged and filled with hope in what is possible with God. We’ve had sessions on goal-setting, time management, and task prioritization. There’ve been messages about capacity, and how to grow it. Leaders have talked about what this school provides and how to prepare for the time ahead when we aren’t in it anymore, and are therefore required to sustain ourselves internally instead of just feasting on the incredible environment that’s been carefully crafted for us.


And we’ve talked about responsibility. For me, one of the biggest growing points so far has been to think through the responsibility I have for the people around me.


Classmates. Roommates. Co-workers. Friends. Family. Strangers on the street.


Let me provide some context by saying that I have confidence in my ability to shut myself in a room and get stuff done. I did good in college. I received recognition for my commitment to and engagement with homework last year, though BSSM doesn’t do any sort of normal grading. When it comes to employment, I know I can slip on my earphones, shut the world out, and throw myself into the work at hand.


I am aware that I’m good at accomplishing tasks assigned to me.


But what I’m learning is that that isn’t really leadership.


Leadership involves checking in with the people around me, and making sure they’re doing well. Leadership means going together. It doesn’t mean taking control of other’s lives or letting my sense of self-worth be dictated by another person’s choices, but it does mean caring about what’s going on in the lives of others around me, and loving them enough to challenge and encourage them.


“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

- African Proverb


I’m in this for the long-haul. This life, this purpose, this way of walking the earth… I’m in it to stay. I love going fast as much as the next guy, but I wanna to go far. I want to go long. I want to sustain the pace for decades, not just a few flashy years.


It makes me think of Jesus (which, as an aside, is always a good end to any thought trail). He was literally God walking the earth. All-powerful. All-knowing. Outside of time save for a few brief years when He chose to subject Himself to its limits.


And what does the fully self-sufficient God-man think as He’s starting His ministry?


“I could really use a bunch of fishermen and a cheating tax accountant or two hanging out with me for the next few years.”


Um. What?


If there was anyone ever who could justify not bothering to slow Himself down by bringing people along in His journey, it was Jesus. He didn’t need any of them. And as one reads the gospels, it’s hard not to sense that that these disciples slowed Jesus down.


He had to re-explain parables, and often they still didn’t quite get it. He had to break up, ahem, “discussions” over which one of them was the best. He had to remind them that having enough food wouldn’t ever be a problem after He had miraculously fed thousands of people by using the disciples to distribute bread and fish. He told them He would die over and over again and seems to have been met by mostly blank stares except when they tried to convince Him out of it.


Jesus didn’t learn anything from the disciples. Yes, they absolutely partnered with Jesus in His ministry on a few occasions, but for the most part, I think it’s fair to say that Jesus slowed down to bring them along. But to Him, it was worth it. It was worth it to invest in this collection of people made up partially of fishermen and entirely of people who would either abandon or straight-up betray Jesus in His time of greatest need.


Why? Why in the world would Jesus, who was intricately involved in the process of creating humans at the very start, make decisions over and over again to invest in people who often just didn’t get it?


I think it’s because He had a long-term goal. For Jesus, it wasn’t just about getting His earthly mission of dying for the sins of the world done and healing a few people along the way. No, He had a bigger vision. He was preparing a group of people to launch into what would become a successive, generational, worldwide ministry involving greater works than anything He had done while walking the earth (John 14:12). Jesus was interested in more than just His own ministry; He was interested in the advancement of the Kingdom as a whole, beyond what He would do in His life.


Jesus, Creator and Saviour of the world, intentionally brought people along in His journey. Who am I to presume I could or should go it alone?


I need people, probably still much more than I realize. I need to invest in them, to grow with them, to encourage and strengthen them and have them do the same things for me. I need to go together.


Because I want what I do on this earth to far outlast me. I want it to echo on into eternity.


And that, my dear friends, are some of my learnings from month one of BSSM 2.


Thanks for reading. Love ya’ll.