Last week I was in Europe for a few days, meeting with missionaries who are working with Muslim refugees. I gave a presentation to them about The Flourishing Project, specifically wondering how this applies to people whose lives are in massive disruption and transition. They need to figure out how to survive, not thrive!
Several people asked me how I picked up this theme and why it became so important to me. I wanted to share with you what I told them.
ONE: I have always been interested in this theme. I just used different words.
I was and still am interested in helping people grow, develop, deepen, mature, learn, and connect intimately with God. I am interested in transformation and renewal. Those are all good words and ideas. All of those ideas are included when I use the word flourish.
TWO: Several years ago I spent about a year doing study and reflection on the Gospel of John.
I use a spiritual discipline called lectio divina, which is a slow, prayerful, meditative way of reading Scripture (which is why it took a year to work my way through the Gospel of John). Several things were very meaningful for me during that year of study and reflection: (1) I was really moved by how much the gospel talks about life. (2) The most powerful passage for me was John 15, the passage on the vine and the branches. The theme of fruitfulness jumped off the pages. Much fruit, more fruit, lasting fruit! (3) And finally, the famous John 10:10 passage.
I love how The Message translates the word abundance: Real and eternal, more and better life than you ever dreamed of. I wanted to teach these beautiful truths. And more, I wanted to lead people to experience these realities.
THREE: A few years ago, I read a book called Flourishing.
It was written by a theologian-missiologist (a person who studies world missions) named Miroslav Volf. This book went in very different directions than I do, and the author had a much different approach, but the word itself was strongly attractive. I thought, “Hmmm, I really like that word flourish and what it suggests.”
FOUR: I was looking for a real alternative to the word prosperity.
For many reasons, I believe the Prosperity Gospel as it is popularly preached in our country is a seriously flawed and unbiblical model. I can’t explain why I hold this view in this post. However, even though I think the way it is preached is wrong, there are strong statements throughout the Bible about how God wants his people to be blessed and prosper. I just could not use the word prosperity. It was too associated with a wrong view of what it means to have a Good Life. So, when I found the word flourish, I realized I had a different word that I could use to present a truly biblical way of understanding the Good Life that a Good, Good Father has for us.
FIVE: I redid my personal mission statement in the fall of 2015.
I did not know I was going to have a major change in my calling. I did not know that what God had in store was becoming the lead pastor at Living Word. But I sensed that my previous mission statement was too narrow and I needed something more sweeping for the next 10 years or so. After 2 weeks of thinking, writing, and editing, I came up with a very simple but compelling statement: Helping the people I love thrive. I use the words thrive and flourish interchangeably. I wanted a short mission statement and the one syllable word, thrive, worked well.
SIX: I wanted to build on the strong foundation of grace that was already in place at Living Word.
Grace is the strong foundation. Grace, love, and mercy are the starting point for everything else in Christianity. They are more than just a foundation and starting point. They are the structure and they are the way for daily Christian living as followers of Jesus. I have always been convinced that grace freely accepts us, then grace dynamically changes us. That is justification and sanctification. Grace does both. But in my decades of ministry, I was constantly struck by how little some Christians seemed to understand this. I wanted to be able to cast a vision of the New Life in Christ that grace irresistibly leads to. I wanted to cast a vision of how God’s grace leads you to places of flourishing.
I am sure there were other reasons why this word and the reality of this word grabbed me. But the more important question was: How do I begin to help the people I love (Living Word) thrive? That led to long months of study, reflection, planning, and prayer, and the result was The Flourishing Project. It is a years-long project. It will be how I build on the strong foundation of amazing grace that is just who we are at Living Word. It will be my joyful privilege to do this.
Having the ability to empower and resource leaders to bear much fruit that lasts. Being a part of a team of friends and missional servants committed to changing the world.