Concentric Circles & Mutual-Submission

This season of life has had me wrestling through many of the tools, values, vehicles, and language that I have dedicated myself to practicing the last decade. I’ve been asking myself, which of these tools have I understood correctly? Is there another way of understanding them? How does this line up with scripture? How has the practice affected relationships and mission? Naturally, I fear that it’s easier for me to go with the flow with someone else’s convictions rather than my own. So I’m thankful for this journey I’m on of wrestling through my convictions so that I might be a more confident leader in the kingdom of God. And thankful for those who have helped me dive deeper into these concepts.

The first tool that I feel is worth sharing my reflections on is the tool called Concentric Circles. It’s a wonderful tool that helps someone remain faithful to friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and other persons the Lord brings into one’s life; persons of peace. The goal is also to help move your relationships from FRIENDS to FOLLOWERS to FAMILY. For someone like me, an evangelist at heart, who has to be disciplined at remaining with people and not always searching for new friends, this tool keeps people from falling through the cracks. Super valuable.

Here is a picture of it below. The X’s are people and the arrows ID whether or not someone is moving closer to FAMILY or further away. Where there is movement, either in or out, signifies that you should probably reach out to them and care for them or advocate for them because something is happening in their life; good or bad.

Concentric Circles Tool

Concentric Circles Tool

When we read scripture, we cleary see that Jesus was about building a spiritual family on mission where God’s children might be discipled, loved, cared for, championed, challenged, supported, and represent the Good News of Jesus to the world, not alone, but together. So the goal is that through sharing the love of Jesus that people might become such good friends that it feels like family. What an amazing gift of belonging! #framily (thanks T-Mobile).

The tool teaches that the way to identify FRIENDS is that they serve you, FOLLOWERS sacrifice for you, and FAMILY submits to you. Remember the goal of the tool? The goal is FAMILY. This leads to where I had to wrestle. If the goal is FAMILY, then the result that comes with it is submission. Submission is good, yet often misunderstood. Denise Larson Cooper from a Crosswalk.com article shares:What does submission mean? Google’s dictionary defines submission as “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.” Submitting means putting others before yourself; it means not always doing what you want to do. It means putting God’s desires above your desires.” Submission is the way of Jesus where His unconditional love can be made manifest between people (Phil. 2:4). However, one-way submission is not. It must be two-way. The Apostle Paul tells us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). This is a mutual submission rooted in deep love, sacrifice, and service. We are to love each other deeply as family and outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10). The Concentric Circles tool, if used one-way, is a roadmap on how to move people from FRIENDS -> FOLLOWERS -> FAMILY while creating a familial culture of power and control guised in the mask of biblical submission. The result? A culture of unbiblical lordship/feudalism. “Don’t lord [your leadership] over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.” (1 Pet. 5:3).

Submission is the way of Jesus where His unconditional love can be made manifest between people (Phil. 2:4). However, one-way submission is not. It must be two-way.

What does this mean? FRIENDS SERVE EACH OTHER (1 Pet. 4:10), FOLLOWERS OF JESUS SACRIFICE FOR EACH OTHER (Eph. 5:1-2), and FAMILY SUBMITS TO EACH OTHER (Eph. 5:21). And for the leader? The leader is called to SUBMIT from the very beginning. SUBMIT to their FRIENDS, SUBMIT to their FOLLOWERS, and SUBMIT to their FAMILY setting the example and tone for the culture and the relationships. The result is a thriving and healthy spiritual family on mission saturated with grace, rooted in love, expressed in freedom, and strengthened by joy through mutual-submission in Christ.

I apologize to all of you whom I have led in this way and I ask for your forgiveness.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Cor. 12:9 NLT)

For more practical information on why mutual-submission is biblical, please visit: https://www.thetableindy.org/mutual-submission/

Reflection:

  • Are you leading others by way of one-way submission? or mutual?
  • How has this impacted your relationships and leadership?
  • How have you seen this effect your influence?
  • What are some tangible ways you can begin leading via mutual-submission?
  • What are your hang-ups with mutual submission?
  • What does healthy mutual-submission look like while being under authority?

Following Directions Even When You Didn’t Hear ‘Em

This morning at our daily devotions at Target Central Starbucks, we were discussing hearing the voice of the Lord even during times when He seems silent. We know that the Lord delights to speak to us, spend time with us, and hear from us. However, we also have seasons where either the Lord is withholding His voice, or perhaps the silence is created by all the distractions and cloudiness within our own mind. Either way, God’s character never changes and even in the silence we know that God is near.

As a spiritual family, we read through the Moravian Daily Texts together and this morning’s Psalm was Psalm 77:10-15; a Psalm of Asaph:

10 And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.
    Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
    You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

In verses 1-10, Asaph is lamenting because God has seemed to have “turned his hand” against him. A time of silence. A time of painful stillness. A time of trouble. However, in verse 11, Asaph’s faith kicks in.

When we can’t hear the voice of the Lord, we then can rely on what we know the Father’s character to be. God is a good father. When we can’t hear him speaking, we still know who he is. When he seems far, we know He is close. When we don’t know what to do, we still have the example of Jesus.

It reminds me of a conversation, well, several conversations actually, with my oldest daughter Bella. We often talk about how she can best represent Ashley and I when she is at school. I remind her often of who she is, she is a Phelps. And we are constantly teaching our children what it means to be a Phelps. Our identity, who and whose we are, forms how we live. Obedience is always flows from our identity. So I remind Bella to remember who her dad is… what kind of decisions do I make? how do I show love? How do I serve? How do I talk to others? What are my priorities? These are things that I hope she remembers, so that when she’s faced with situations she can remember what her dad would do. That she would hear my voice in her head even when I’m not there. But more importantly, I want her to know that she is God’s daughter and I want her to imitate Jesus. I love this quote of Craig Groeschel: “When you know who you are, you know what to do.” (That phrase is said a lot around my house!)

It’s similar with God. We know His character, so even when we can’t hear His voice specifically, we still have a pretty good idea of what Jesus would do. We know who we are, too. We are His kids. And because we are His kids, we represent Him wherever we go. So let’s do what we know He would do.

So today, as I drove home from devotions I didn’t necessarily have a plan for how I would exactly spend my time. So I prayed: “Lord, what is your plan for me today? How should I spend my time? Who should I talk to to? Where should I go?” I had sort of planned to go to our church campus and get some planning done, work on the website, write a song, and other office-type work, but I decided to go home first last minute. As I pulled onto my street, there were my neighbors shoveling two cubic yards of limestone and sand for the pavers they were going to install for their new backyard patio. Alright, here we go. So I got to spend an hour or so shoveling rock with my neighbors. And it was good.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity I did. I didn’t hear the Lord tell me to help my neighbor. But I knew that Jesus would have if He were me earlier today. So take the time in all your comings and goings to consider what Jesus would do if he were you. And I even had  time to finish all the other work I wanted to do (including this blog post), and I feel more energized.

Missional worship leaders are good neighbors. Good neighbors bear good fruit. Good fruit produces more good fruit. How can you be a good neighbor this week?

Spiritual Parenting as Worship Leaders

Well, I missed writing this post last week and have finally found a bit of time to write after our missional community gathering tonight. As I continue to ponder what it looks like to be a homesteading worship leader, I wanted to focus this week on spiritual parenting. Tonight actually seems to be a very fitting time to write due to the emotions that tend to hit after our spiritual family has left our home for the evening.

So worship leaders as spiritual parents. Not necessarily what we think of when we sign up and accept the call to serve in this capacity. Most of us probably have a musical gift, ended up playing in a praise band when we were young, and then we got good enough to where someone asked us to lead worship at one point in time. Before you know it you lead worship regularly, maybe go to school for it, and then boom… you find yourself as a worship leader. Because churches need us… and let’s face it, there’s not a lot of people who can do what we do.

I find myself loving worship leading, yes, because I love the Lord, but also because it comes easy to me. I can sing and play. And to the point to where I can learn a new song in a matter of minutes. So then Sunday can hit, the band practices, and then I can tap into the Holy Spirit and have a powerful worship service. If only this is where the job ended. But if we take seriously the call to make disciples, it cannot end there.

Making disciples is the one thing that Jesus commanded us to do. To invest every bit of resource into our followers to help them imitate the words, works, and ways of Jesus. To give them access to our lives; to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. When we read the Gospels, we see the words disciple and rabbi often, but when we start following the journey of the Apostle Paul, these two words fade. Since he is leading Gentiles, he doesn’t speak of rabbis and disciples, he speaks of parents and children.

For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. – 1 Corinthians 4:15

Our call of making disciples can be seen through the lens of spiritual parenting; being a spiritual father, or mother. Not sure about you, but as a father of three children ages 1, 2, and 9, parenting is much harder than leading worship. Except for those moments when you are parenting and leading worship simultaneously like I was doing tonight at our missional community gathering. If you can imagine me, my wife, and my friend Wynn, sitting on the entertainment center in my living room with my two littlest children crawling on our laps singing with the rest of our spiritual family… yikes. The shrieks, the cries, the pushing and shoving. But this isn’t just my kids, it’s the handful of other kids, too. All of us, together, in a holy mosh pit multitasking like crazy. This is hard. But it is oh so good.

Tweet: Our call as worship leaders is a call to make disciples. Our call to make disciples is a call to spiritual parenting. @jasonmphelps

Parenting is hard, but worth it. Much harder than just singing and playing. So when I look at my role as a spiritual father leading worship, tonight’s MC gathering is a fairly accurate portrayal of my overall ministry. We are called to lead with joy, determination, and with expectation that the Holy Spirit is moving. We are called to invite our spiritual children (and actual children) into worship, despite the kicking and screaming; despite the distractions. The call to Jesus is always an invitation into something better. There is also challenge. The challenge to keep our focus on Jesus and the challenge to choose joy in the chaos.

We love our children. We provide freedom for our children. We also provide discipline. We are leaders of our spiritual oikos, our spiritual household. By stepping into the responsibility of spiritual parenting as worship leaders, we are bringing worship into the lives of our spiritual and biological children. This life isn’t meant to be kept to Sunday morning on a stage, but to be deeply embedded within our homes and rhythm of life.

So as we bring worship into our homes, as we parent our spiritual children, as we teach them how to worship, as we develop red hot centers of passionate followers of Jesus, may we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others as we live this crazy life together continuing to invite people into the presence of Christ where His peace is real and oh so near.