How Tough Times are a Gift in Ministry : Danielle Strickland
In a world filled with skepticism, cynicism, defeat and despair, how can we as pastors and ministry leaders uncover authentic hope? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Danielle Strickland. Danielle is a best-selling author and a powerful speaker. She’s the founder of many ministries and gospel movements, and she’s also launched and created several justice initiatives for the Salvation Army. Together, Danielle and Jason explore how cynicism can sometimes seep into our ministries. They also look at practices in which we can engage in our lives as we face challenging times to help us find the shalom center, so that we can lead out of the hope of Christ.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
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- Audio links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
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Additional Resource Links
The Other Side of Hope – Danielle’s most recent book which provides insights from a kingdom perspective on overcoming cynicism and despair, embracing true humility and love, and leading with genuine hope
www.DanielleStrickland.com – Danielle’s website where you will find her podcast, books, and other resources
Infinitum Life – A resource for hopeful discipleship designed to assist us in living our lives with depth out of shalom. Includes a number of resources including daily prayers, weekly rhythms, assessment tools, and more to help people cultivate a genuine faith.
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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- In our culture, we often operate in a mindset where the upward mobility track is expected. But it doesn’t take long when things are not going as expected, or ascending, or continuously improving for us to become disillusioned, confused, and even disorientated, which can lead to cynicism.
- Our culture is somewhat addicted to the Hercules myth: that there are certain people who are exceptions to common humanity, they have moved above and beyond what it means to be human
- Jesus is the opposite of Hercules: rather than human trying to be a god, God became human
- Whereas most of us view people through a lens of cynicism, Jesus sees through a lens of hope, through a lens of future
- True conversion does not happen as people become aware of God’s judgment, but because they become aware of God’s love
- Many ministry leaders harbor a suspicion that God is perpetually disappointed with them and that they never measure up to who it is they are supposed to be. This can be crippling, leading to cynicism and despair. The reality is God views us through His love.
- Optimism is not hope. Optimism is positivity. We often confuse the two.
- Hope is not a principle. Hope is an eternal quality.
- Hope is experienced when one is being honest with what is true and what is not true and then finds God there. That’s where hope is most alive.
- “The very place that you’re like, ‘No, I couldn’t possibly go there’ is the very place that actual genuine, eternal, divine, sacred hope can be found” – Danielle Strickland
- Jesus models what it is to live a perfectly filled-with-the-Spirit life, a human life that’s filled with God. It does not always look happy. It looks honest, which often means to journey in and through sorrow, but not as people without hope.
- Hope is the living presence of God at work in the world
- If one is lacking in hope, one needs to spend time with hope. Look for where God is at work in the world. Spend time there and watch God show up.
- The shalom center in our lives is a place of honesty and wholeness, where we find ourselves in right relationship with God, ourselves, and our world. It is made up of two continuums, one horizontal and one vertical. The horizontal represents agreeing with God about who we are and is identified as True Humility. On one extreme is insecurity and on the other is arrogance. The vertical represents represents agreeing with God about who God is and is identified as True Dependency. On one extreme is self-sufficiency and on the other is codependency. The closer we are to the center, the more we are relating to God, ourselves, and the world in right relationship.
- The season the Church is in, as a culture, can be understood as a gift. What we are identifying as sorrow right now is, in reality, that we are no longer self-sufficient. We are course correcting to once again find our dependence upon God.
Questions for Reflection
- Am I cynical about life? About God? About ministry? If so, how would I describe my cynicism?
- Have I become disillusioned with ministry? If so, can I honestly reflect on why I feel this way?
- As I contrast Hercules and Jesus, who am I living more like today? Is there anything I need to address?
- What lens am I viewing my life through, cynicism or hope? What lens am I viewing ministry through, cynicism or hope? What lens am I viewing people through, cynicism or hope?
- Am I focused more on God’s judgment or on God’s love? How is this impacting my ministry?
- Do I feel as if God is disappointed with me or that I do not measure up to what I am supposed to? If so, why do I feel this way?
- How would I describe the difference between optimism and hope?
- Am I being really honest with God about who I am and where I find myself?
- As I reflect on my life, am I wrestling with some sorrow? With defeat? What does this look like for me?
- How does understanding that Jesus experienced sorrow but not defeat, that he lived with hope, impact how I approach life and ministry?
- Where do I see God at work near me?
- How can I join God in that work and see hope? What will I do to see this happen in my life?
- Reflect on the two continuums of the shalom center: true humility and true dependency. Where am I on each of these continuums right now? What can I do to help myself move closer to the shalom center?
- How can tough times in ministry be seen as a gift? As I look at past periods that were difficult, can I see them as a gift?
- How is what I am facing today in life and ministry a gift?
In a world filled with skepticism, cynicism, defeat, and despair, how can we as pastors and ministry leaders uncover authentic hope?
In this episode, I’m joined by Danielle Strickland. Danielle is a best-selling author and a powerful speaker. She’s the founder of many ministries and gospel movements, and she’s also launched and created several justice initiatives for the Salvation Army. Together, Danielle and I explore how cynicism can sometimes seep into our ministries. And we look at practices that we can engage in in our lives to help us find the shalom center, so that we can lead out of the hope of Christ. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye, and it is my privilege every single week to have the opportunity to sit down with a trusted ministry leader, and dive into a conversation and tackle a topic, all in an effort to help you, and ministry leaders just like you, embrace a healthy, sustainable rhythm for both life and ministry. And we are proud to be a part of the PastorServe network. And every single week, our team does not only produce one of these episodes, but we take the content from the episode and we create an entire toolkit that you can find at PastorServe.org/network. And this is a toolkit with different resources, including questions for reflection, and a number of other resources that you and your ministry team at your local church can go through and use to develop as ministry leaders. So we encourage you to check that out at PastorServe.org/network. And then our coaches at PastorServe love to help pastors and ministry leaders, and we’d love to offer you a complimentary coaching session with one of our seasoned coaches. And you can find out more information about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, so good to have you, please give us a thumbs up, and be sure to drop your name, the name of your church, in the comments below. We love to get to know our audience better, and our team will be praying for you and your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take time to subscribe or to follow because we do not want you to miss out on any of these awesome conversations. And as I said, we have a great conversation today. I’m super excited to be welcoming Danielle Strickland to FrontStage BackStage. So Danielle, welcome to the show.
Yeah, thanks. Great to be with you.
Yeah, so good to be with you. Danielle, we were talking before we jumped on. It’s a bit of a miracle that we’re here together. Not to be too dramatic. But just so everyone watching along and listening in, Danielle has been very gracious with me because we have scheduled this interview, this is our third time actually. The first two times we scheduled the interview… the first time we are all set up and I’m in Florida, and Hurricane Ian made landfall and we got flooded out and lost power and all that fun stuff. So at the last minute, I had to get word to Danielle that, hey, we’re not going to be able to meet up so we rescheduled, everybody check this out, we rescheduled and the day that we rescheduled was when Hurricane Nicole made landfall and we also got affected again, got flooded out again. So again, I had to send a message to Danielle, say sorry, but I’m not going to be able to join. So I was teasing, I was telling my wife and some of our friends that I can accurately predict when a hurricane will make landfall in Florida just by simply, you know, scheduling a time to have a conversation with Danielle.
Third time is always the best anyway, come on… a resurrection power-level podcast.
Exactly, yeah, exactly. So no, it’s so good to be able to have you here with us. And again, thank you for your patience with with me and all of us getting this all scheduled and pulled together, super excited. Danielle, we live in a world that is full of cynicism, skepticism, and you, sister, you’re inviting people to really go deep when it comes to true hope. And you know, really that we would not just let the voices the images, the media, -the stuff, right, of our world that comes so quickly- to bombard us and sort of convince us that all is gloom and despair, but really to center ourselves on the truth and the hope of Jesus, Jesus, the King, to center ourselves on the kingdom itself, that’s both here and yet to come. And Danielle, this is a message that, you know, it’s not just a message that our world needs to hear, but really it’s a message that pastors and that ministry leaders as well need, because the cynicism that we see, the despair that we see has really seeped into the Church. In many ways it has seeped into the lives of many, many ministry leaders. And Danielle, I love this much-needed message. I love how you’ve put pen to paper, how you’ve spoken so much on this. But before we rush into the hope side, Danielle, I was wondering if you could share with us a bit, help us maybe better understand, from your perspective, why is it that so many pastors, so many ministry leaders have really fallen into a cynical mindset?
I mean, I think that somehow, and I don’t, I don’t know who to blame for this. It could be Disney. It could be Hallmark, maybe it’s a tie, I don’t know. But or it could just be sort of this like enlightenment age that we live through where everybody was kind of on an upward mobility track. So it’s easy to kind of fall prey to this idea that hope is happy, that there’s this, like, you know, sort of this ascension track and that we are all sort of upwardly mobile in Jesus, you know, in grace. And, you know, it doesn’t take long when things aren’t going that way for us to become disillusioned, confused, disorientated with the fact that this is what we had thought hope would look like, and this is what we had thought happiness looked like. And we had sort of conflated, I think, maybe even a cultural worldview with a biblical worldview. So we sort of stuck those things together. What’s really interesting about the season, I guess, for me, even in the writing of this book is just, it is a gift to us when those things happen, when we, when we do go through tragedy or suffering, or when when things, no matter how hard we keep trying, things are not on an upwardly mobile trajectory. It’s a great gift to us, because it helps us to rehear the story, the way the story was told. And, you know, this is really interesting, and to whom the story was told. So whether that’s like, you know, right now, we’re in the throes of the Christmas, you know, we’re a week away from Christmas, or whether it’s, you know, through the Minor Prophets, or the biblical witness has always been told in the middle of great suffering, in the middle, and to of people who have tried their hardest to be upwardly mobile and keep getting knocked down and knocked down and knocked down. So in some ways, I think the cynicism is attached to a construct we had, that was a construct based on sort of a cultural norm instead of an actual witness of the Spirit, or even a biblical norm. So that’s a little bit deeper. But I actually think when you get knocked down, when you get tired of trying, when you keep doing the same thing, expecting different results, and then get the opposite of what used to work in the past, you know, all of those things, lead us to believe that what we thought is not true, and that God is not good, and that God is not present and is not working. And I think, you know, that cynicism, which is of course, by definition, cynicism is a loss of faith in people. And then I would say despair is where cynicism goes, because as soon as you start losing faith in people, including yourself, then you eventually lose faith in everything. And despair is the absence of hope. Right, the loss of faith and everything else.
Yeah, that’s good. So Danielle, specifically as ministry leaders, you know, we are, you know, you would think we’re the ones who are proclaiming the great hope. Right. I mean, that’s what our faith is centered upon. Why do you think it’s been a challenge for a lot of ministry leaders, I mean, given what you’ve shared, I mean, obviously we’re all people as well as ministry leaders, right? So there’s that just kind of humanity piece of it. But whenever we are, you know, called to be those who are kind of beating the drum of hope, why do you think we’ve… there have been many who slipped into this cynicism and, rather than I guess, maybe not to beat people up, but rising above it, and say, no, no, no, here is the hope. You know, what I mean?
Yeah, I mean, I think a couple of things. So just even from my own personal experience, as a Christian leader, I would say that I was addicted, and I think our culture is addicted to a thing that I call the Hercules myth. And the Hercules myth, just as like, there are human exceptions. You know, that there are these people, we call them leaders or pastors, that are special, and they’re different from every other person and they have, you know, they’re always on this ascending trajectory, like they are the answer. They have the hope that nobody else has, they have the things nobody else has. And then I think, of course, what’s been happening in this season is that there’s been this great exposing of the fact that all of these leaders who we had thought were Hercules, turns out, they’re just human. And then we don’t know what to do with that, both the leaders who are “what I’m human, you know, I’m not Hercules, I’m not special. I’m not super gifted, like I don’t have this, you know, special anointing or whatever?” They’re disillusioned and afraid. And then I think the people who believe that construct, as well, are also disillusioned and afraid. So we’re kind of all stuck in the system that we created, which is, of course, if you think about it for a second, theologically, is the opposite of Jesus. So if a Hercules is ascending, literally trying to prove he’s not like all the other humans, because in that myth, he’s trying to find a place among the gods. So he’s literally trying to shed his human condition, and sees it as this like horrible weakness that he wants to prove otherwise. You have Jesus who is always descending, without any shame or fear, by the way, which is also, you know, when you just start thinking about this, and as I start talking about it, you start, it starts becoming clear to me that we have a very low view of humanity. And I think the low view of humanity that we have is rooted in this really distorted theology of despair, where we kind of took human depravity to this like uttermost, you know, everybody is horrible, and kind of innately evil and off, which is not even, you know, even a basic theology that I don’t agree with, maybe even it doesn’t even go that far, but we went that far. And you can see the way we are trying not to be, not to identify as human. Jesus comes to the scene with no shame or fear, and chooses to descend from the gods, you know, from God from heaven and actually become human. And one of the things you see in the person of Jesus or at least I began to discover again, afresh, in the person of Jesus is not how exceptional he was, but how common he was, like how human he was, how unapologetically emotional he was, how he wasn’t driven by failing or pleasing or proving who he was, how he was… his favorite term for himself, by the way, every time Jesus introduces himself or uses a title for himself, he calls himself the Son of Man, which is defined as the human one, human one. So Jesus is literally going around going, like, Hi, I’m Jesus, I’m human. Hi, I’m Jesus, I’m human. And of course, it is the human one that people predicted, you know. So it’s also like Daniel-esque, right, or like, there’s a prophet who said, there is one coming. But I just really think there is this restoration of humanity, that Jesus is not just an exception to humanity. He’s a prototype for humanity. And the way that Jesus sees other people, which is also interesting, because I would see the people Jesus sees, and so the disciples see the people that Jesus sees in the Scripture through a lens of despair, through a lens of cynicism, Jesus sees through a lens of hope, through a lens of future. So he sees everyone else differently. And I think how he sees everybody else is through this, you know, people at their heart value, he sees the imago dei of God, the image of God, that is implanted in human beings. He sees this, he sees this before he sees anything else. And it changes the way that he interacts with people.
Yeah, I love that. And Danielle, you share in The Other Side of Hope, that there was this sense of renewal and refreshment for you as a ministry leader, as you’re kind of uncovering some of these truths that were always there. But as you said, are kind of, you know, kind of taken a perspective, and you even shared about this in the book, like even looking historically at the Western Church, and our preoccupation with sin, and how that you know, has sort of given us a differing perspective, can you talk a little bit about kind of similar historical things, you know, especially that preoccupation with sin and how that became elevated? You talked a little bit about that with the depraved nature of humankind, and how we kind of got really fixated on that, and that has pulled us back from the hope but in some ways, so talk to us a bit about that.
Yeah, I think the most American sort of rootedness that I can find in this is in the classic sermon that Jonathan Edwards did called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. And, you know, if you just were to Google the text and read it again, um, a lot of pastors will be familiar with this, maybe from their own seminary, but just to read it again and have a look for, have a look for despair there. Have a look for where the roots of despair, even in terms of you know, when God looks at me, and this is an interesting thing, how I grew up in the Church, and so I always believed that God was perpetually disappointed, angry, and dissatisfied, at the very least with me. And my surprise, my conversion happened actually, in a place where I did not deserve it, Jesus displayed utter grace and love towards me. It was, it was, it was shocking… this is actually, this is what happened with Paul, too… this is what happened with, every conversion happens not because I become aware of God’s judgment, but because I become aware of God’s love. And so this is a fascinating thing to me that we would perpetuate this idea that judgment has the capacity to change people or transform anyone. And even in experience, you know, all through Christian, you know, years and years and years of ministering, particularly to people who were already judged by the world. You know, so I have a lot of experience in in margins, you know, places of margin, where people have already been told they’re no good, people have already been told they are horrible humans, people have already been told God hates them. And so they’re surprised. Their hope of transformation, their spark of new life, comes when they realize that God doesn’t see them that way. God sees them like I would a newborn baby. Pure, and a gift and a light and a goodness to the world. Wanted, loved, known. And so I think it’s really an interesting thing that that we we’ve, we’ve been preaching like, I’m so alert to this, now I can hear it, even as I listen to other people preach, and they kind of lace their messages with this, like, disappointing, disapproving angry God. I just think it’s fascinating. I really think it’s a theology of despair, that somehow we perpetuate it. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I have a hunch that fear is well, I know that fear is the easiest way to motivate people, it’s just the least effective way. It certainly doesn’t lead to transformation. Fear only leads to oppression. But it is an easy motivators. I don’t know if that’s how we got into this, I’m not really sure. All I know is that it’s pretty predominantly part of how we communicate the Good News, how we communicate about God, and then even how we view got ourselves. And for me, this was one of the most incredibly hopeful things in my own relationship with Jesus. It was in this transformation, that God really, in Christ, God does not view me, even through a lens of depravity. There is no disappointment in the eyes of God, when he looks at me, there is love. And that is the most transforming thing I know. And actually, even as I say it now I’m like, Well, gee, that’s good news. Yeah. Which is the Good News, you know, but we don’t know, I think we’re prone to not believe in ourselves, we’re prone to have this, and I think for leaders, this is a double edged sword. Because we have this, even if we don’t talk about it much, we have this theology kind of that’s been planted in us, that has a sneaky suspicion that God is perpetually disappointed with us. And that we never measure up to who it is we’re supposed to be. But we push it down. So we have it sort of on the inside of us. And so whenever circumstances don’t line up to the things we want, or whenever our circumstances sort of show that maybe we’re not as good as we think we are, or maybe… we have this inner thing that’s also happening on the inside, and it kind of triggers a deep place within us. I think that’s why there’s so much despair, and sort of a cynical, skeptical edge to pastors lives in these, in these times.
Yeah, that’s, that’s fascinating, because, you know, one of the great things we can do, any of us, for our own soul care is to be reflective. But oftentimes, we are more reactive than reflective. So we’re not stepping back and processing through what you’ve just talked through, like, We’re not sitting back and saying, “Hey, wait a second, as pastors and ministry leaders, you know, it seems like oftentimes we struggle with focusing on the love of God, when we all agree that God is love, right? We have that hang up, andyou write about this, about, you know, a fear of being soft on sin. But Danielle, as we look at the world around us, we know there is a lot of brokenness, you know, we don’t have to look far, there’s a lot of heartbreak. And in ministry, it can almost feel like we are fighting an uphill battle, right? And in The Other Side of Hope, your book, you write about this relationship, you’ve touched on it a bit here in this conversation, the relationship between sorrow, despair and defeat, and how that’s often misunderstood. We often you know, kind of get some of those things wrong. And so Danielle, can you help us understand better that relationship, and why is it so important that we better understand that?
Yeah, so this is kind of, and they’re interconnected, a couple of principles about hope that might be helpful for people. One is that hope is not happy. It’s not the same. Optimism is not hope. Optimism is positivity, and we’ve confused the two. So we often think we’re not being hopeful if we’re not being positive. I have a hunch maybe you haven’t read any of the prophets if you think that’s true. Right? Jesus, even, himself. So I think, hope is honest. Hope is honest, where you kind of see like, where truth is, there’s freedom, right? There’s this, the presence of God, you know, God Himself the language that God speaks his truth, the Scripture tells us. So hope is not downplaying what is true or what isn’t true. And this is one of the problems we get to this is why I think we have like, you know, we put hopeful statements up around our house, and we think, you know, if we only say those, and we just speak like we’re happy, you know, it’ll be hopeful to people. And then what happens is, is not only is it not hopeful to people, it’s like a prison of pretense. You know, we’re pretending now to be hopeful, which is even the most despairing. I mean, even like, less than just being sorrowful, pretending to be hopeful, when you’re pretending to be happy when you’re actually not, is like a recipe for despair. So I think we’re actually making things worse by not being honest. And what happens is, when you do get honest, you know, and this is no more true than ever, you have a chance to go to a 12 step meeting, which I think every pastor should go to at least once for our own addictions, to upward mobility, and to Hercules, and all other things, right? Go at least once, and listen. And what they’ll do is people will say in the meeting, I want you to come share your experience and your hope. And then when the person comes to share, what they’re sharing is some of their most darkest, you know, most horrible circumstances that they’ve ever lived for the most like, it’s sorrowful what they’re sharing, except that as they begin to give words to their honest assessment of who they really are, and their circumstances, something begins to happen in everyone that’s in the room. And it’s this thing called hope, hope begins to happen. Because hope, as an element of God Himself, right? Hope is an eternal thing. It’s not a, it’s not a principle. It’s, it’s alive, Hope is alive. Everything else is gonna pass away, the apostle says, except these three things, faith, hope, and love. So hope is an eternal quality, which means it’s part of God’s nature, hope, which is why it’s also so powerful. But you find God, when you get honest. You find God when you get honest. So Jesus put it like this, you want to enter into the kingdom of God? Blessed are those who are poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are those who get honest, like blessed are those who actually grieve. Blessed are those who like, can’t help themselves and get to the place where they’re honest enough to say that. That’s where God is found. That’s where hope is most alive. So the very place that you’re like, No, I couldn’t possibly go there is the very place that actual genuine, eternal, divine sacred hope can be found. And that’s why when you get to that place where the psalmist, and Paul the Apostle also says this, like, where could I go from the Spirit of God, I can’t go anywhere without hope. I could go, I could make my bed in the pit of hell, and still find that God is with me there. Because as soon as we start actually getting honest, so this is again, also what a generation that highly values honesty can’t take about a church who refuses to get honest. And I’m telling you right now, if you will not be honest about what’s happening, or honest about what’s happened, or honest about who you are and what you’re struggling with, there will not be hope to be found, because hope is honest.
Man, that’s, that’s great. And, and so and that takes us to this the idea of defeat as well, right? Because the defeat is the you know, the absence of all those. When we get to the point, that despair becomes our reality. Yeah, that we get caught up in this idea of defeat. So I know they’re ministry leaders who are feeling defeated right now. So speak to speak to us a little bit about about that as well.
Yeah, I would say that what we get confused is that sorrow is defeat. We get confused there because of course, sorrow the Scripture tells us is going to last but not forever, right? And again, this, like so sorrow… to be genuinely not defeated, but like at least temporarily defeated, like to be genuinely like, sad. That’s a lament. That’s called lamenting and the Bible is over half filled with lament about the circumstances not being okay, about the temple being taken and that’s where they should be, about like the light of God being snuffed out, about like the oppressor is having the last word about, you know, I mean, on and on, it goes. So, to be sorrowful is not to be defeated, it is to be honest. It is to be honest. So if hope is honest, and you can get honest in your sorrow, and feel it, I mean, what does Jesus do on the way to the cross, he stops and looks over Jerusalem, and he says, Don’t worry, guys. Everything’s going to be okay. No, he does not. Right. He weeps. Tears. He laments, you know, he wishes things could have been different. He laments over Jerusalem says, I longed for you, like a mother hen longed to take the chicks and you would not receive me. What’s he doing? He’s telling the truth. What’s he doing? He’s literally weeping, he sorrowful. And what’s happening in that moment is that Jesus is modeling what it is to live, a perfectly filled-with-the-Spirit life, a human life who’s filled with God, it does not look happy. It looks honest, which often means to journey in and through sorrow, but not as people without hope. And this is where we see Jesus, where he surrenders to the will of God, knowing that God is the best way to experience resurrection power. So I would say that we are never people without hope, but despair and sorrow are not. Sorrow is not the enemy. And I think, some of us that, you know, that core teachings of Jesus, where he says, this is how you will actually encounter me, some of us are just finding the way in there in this day. And this is a great blessing, in many, many ways, like count it a blessing to have found a doorway. And that doorway is when you get to the end of yourself, that doorway is when that myth of ascension finally breaks open. And you realize not only is it not true, it’s not helpful. It’s not honest, it’s not good. And that’s a beautiful beginning of this, this dignified, but also really gritty hope that can never be taken from you and not loss. And the other thing about hope is, the other principle that might be helpful here is that hope is not a principle. Hope is not sort of like I live by hope, like it’s a principle that we add to our list of principles that gets, like integrity. No, hope is the living presence of God at work in the world. Hope is God at work. So you never think about hope. You participate with hope. You don’t like add hope, you are hopeful. It’s like I Am that I Am. It’s this perpetual presence, eternal presence of God at work in the world. So this is what I want to say is that you can’t just will yourself into being hopeful. You bring yourself into the hope of God. So, for example, this is the I use the example of praying. When I think about prayer, I’m mostly always skeptical. When I think about prayer, I’m mostly always self-condemning, because I don’t pray enough, or I don’t pray as I should, or I probably should pray. You know, when I’m not skeptical about prayer, is when I’m praying. So it’s the weirdest thing. If I think about it, I’m skeptical, or I’m judgmental, or I’m like all kinds of things. But when I’m praying, when I actually make the space, carve out the time to spend with God, I’m the most hopeful about prayer. Because something begins to happen in me, I begin to sense, touch, feel God’s presence, God’s voice, God’s love. And hope is like that. Hope is that. Actually, that’s where I’m most hopeful, when I spend time with God. So if you’re lacking in hope, it’s not like you can put up a thing on your board or add a principle to your life and just decide to be hopeful. If you’re lacking in hope, what you need is to spend time with hope and hope is living presence. It’s God at work. So you can start training yourself to look for where God is at work. You can start opening your eyes or even your, your time, you know, your diary, to schedule a time, even if it’s just to sit in silence with God and the truth, to get honest before God, and watch God show up. That’s hope, and that’s a hope that can never be extinguished. And is not based on anything outside of you that you cannot control, but is based solely on the grace and the goodness and the love of God.
Yeah, I love that. And I love that, Danielle, kind of just the practical approach to that, because I think that’s one of the things that oftentimes a ministry we wrestle with, because we might personally be feeling cynical about something. And, and yet, we are doing ministry stuff, right? We’re doing God’s stuff, we’re doing Jesus stuff, but there’s that kind of division between me as God’s beloved and my kind of soul care, my relationship and what God is doing in me and through me, kind of apart from my, you know, ministry hat, my ministry role. And so I think that sometimes we can get caught up in into, you know, the idea of ministry, in the idea of our role, as opposed to kind of the authentic, the honest, what we are sharing the honest like, getting real with Jesus, you know, personally. So you share some of these ways that we can kind of uncover authentic hope. One of the things that stood out to me when I read your newest book, The Other Side of Hope, you write about this Shalom center. You share a story about seeing this in a leader’s life, and the idea of us leading from a Shalom center. I would love for you to just unpack a little bit for us, you know, what is that? What does that look like? And how? Because it obviously made an impact on you, right when you experienced this and seeing it. So I love that part of the book. So could you could you share about that for us?
Yeah, I guess Shalom just for people listening is the the wholeness, the fullness, the right relationship, so leading out of this wholeness rather than this deficit, and to get honest in that space. But basically, like quickly, the shalom center, the best way to get there, in my experience, is along to continuums. So the first continuum is what I call true humility. So true humility is best described, in my estimation, as agreeing with God about who you are, agreeing with God about who you are. And there’s kind of two polar opposites of that, that kind of pull us in different directions. One is insecurity, where we don’t agree with God about who we are, because we don’t think we’re good enough. And I think that theology of despair I talked about earlier on kind of leads us there a lot. So a lot of times we’re leading out of insecurity. Or the other side is arrogance. And that might be more around the Hercules myth, you know, where we think we are the ones that are special and different from everybody else. So you kind of have these two polar opposites that are driving you in different directions, you’re either driven towards arrogance, or you’re driven towards insecurity. But Shalom, internally even, is when you come into this, I agree with who God says that I am. And this is not just one thing that happens in your mind, it’s a practice that you do every day. So every day, and oftentimes what I’ve experienced is that circumstances usually drive me in either direction. So if I’m not doing well, or something happened, it didn’t go well. I might, you know, find myself moving towards insecurity. Or, on the other end, if I knock it out of the park, and there’s no one like me, and people keep saying that, you know, then I’m going to probably wind over towards arrogance. So every day I make a decision to just come into agreement with God about who I am. And I make that time and space in my life to do that. And the other continuum is like up and down one, a vertical one, that I call true dependency. And true dependency is agreeing with God about who he is. And here’s a little hint, he’s not you, you’re not him. That’s so helpful to get that straight. And I’ll tell you the, the most confusing place to get that straight is in ministry. Anyway, so we have true humility, as a horizontal line and true dependency as a vertical line. And right in the middle of those two things is shalom. On the dependency line, on one end is self-sufficiency. This is, in my experience, this has been very helpful for me to get honest about a western context of serving really often is self-sufficient. Oftentimes, what we celebrate when we think we’re serving well, is self-sufficiency. And if I was to be really honest, with my spirit, you know, my life as a Christian leader, most of the time, I could do all the things that I do without God. I know we are not supposed to say that, but it’s true. We are experts in self-sufficiency, and we call that success. So but that is an imbalance that’s not leading from Shalom that’s leading from self-sufficiency. On the other side of that polarity is codependency, which is I can’t do anything, you know, without permission or somebody else or, you know, in both directions, you’re being driven by either proving something, or by pleasing people. And that’s often a hint, you know, if I’m being driven by proving something to people, or if I’m being driven by pleasing people, I know I’m not operating out of shalom. So somehow, we get to this middle place on the dependency, by the way, continuum, my best practice of getting anywhere close to agreeing with God about who he is usually happens by circumstances in my life being too difficult for me to do on my own. And it forces me and again, this is why I think the season we’re in as a Church, as a culture is such a gift to us. Because what we’re what we kind of identify as sorrow is actually, just we’re no longer self sufficient. We can’t do this, but with God, and that is a great gift to us, because what it’s doing is it’s knocking us down that vertical continuum into a center place where we actually come back into agreement. Oh, yeah, God does these things. God changes the human heart. God is our hope for a future that we can’t see yet. God is the one that can actually give me what I need for today. God is the possibility of the future of the Church, for example. God is doing some things that I can’t do. So if we can get to that place, and those two worlds come together, that we agree with God about who we are, we come out of that worm, you know, unhealthy, insecure place, out of arrogance, trying to prove everything. And we come into agreement about who God is, that Shalom center then liberates us to be people who exude hope, just by the way that we posture our lives.
Yeah, I love I love that. And that just stuck out to me so much when I when I read the book, and thank you, thank you for giving us a you know, a quick, you did that very well, obviously. I mean, you know this, so yeah, you do that very well. But for those of you who are watching along listening in definitely, I would love for you to dive more deeply into the pick up the book, The Other Side of Hope. It’s fantastic stuff and it’s written, really Daniel, I just feel, you know, for such time as this, I mean, without a doubt this is something speaking into the lives of, of all those who are seeking to honor God with their lives. But but as a ministry leader, man, there’s so much in this that for ourselves, and how we navigate, you know, the time we’re in right now. How do we proclaim the hope and truth of Christ in an honest way that’s going to impact people who are very skeptical right now of the Church? So so thank you for this gift to the church, The Other Side of Hope, Danielle, if people want to connect with you, with your ministry, those types of things, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Yeah, probably the easiest way is DanielleStrickland.com. Also, one of the things I share in the book, which is just a shout out here for pastors are, is a thing that I’ve been part of creating called infinitumlife.com. Infinitum is Latin for boundless. Infinitum life, we made it Latin, so it’d be hard to find. So only those who are truly seeking can find it, but in there it, during, in there is basically this hopeful discipleship, like what does it mean to actually live our lives with depth out of shalom, you know, and there’s daily prayers and weekly rhythms and monthly, you know, assessment tools and stuff that have helped me to just really try to cultivate a genuine faith. So I had you in mind when I created it, both for your own life, but also for the people that are in your communities, if they’re looking for genuine tools to help them keep Jesus at the center to keep hopeful and resilient. That should, that should help. That’s .
That’s awesome. I love that that tool, that resource. And for those of you are watching or listening along, I will have all those links to Danielle’s site, to that incredible resource to the book to all of those things at PastorServe.org/network. You can find all that information in the toolkit for this episode. So again, Danielle, thank you so much for your graciousness, as we’ve finally gotten together to have this conversation.
I’m glad it happened without a natural disaster.
Exactly, exactly. Awesome. Thank you, sister. Thank you so much for being with us. God bless you. Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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