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Recalibrate: AAA Ministry

June 20, 2011

I have the tremendous blessing of being surrounded by a highly-motivated and highly-competitive staff, numbering some 400+. What I have observed is that if we are not intentional about selfless relationships that bless and encourage, we can find ourselves ‘writing checks’ we can’t cover and overdraft with the very people we care about most.

What I’ve been gripped by, what our staff is getting after this summer (and what you should get after) is the challenge of “AAA Ministry”—a radical, in every instance commitment to esteeming others as better than ourselves. Full-out fidelity to seeing and acting upon needs of those around us as our highest expression of devotion to Christ.

Why now, why a challenge, why summer? Why not! It’s one of the most practical applications of the “more excellent way” modeled by Paul and Jesus Himself. And I’m convinced that zeroing in on this one thing during the season of relative recharge ahead will bear unanticipated and abundant fruit in the lives of every servant committed to the task.

Philippians 2:3 lays it out: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” That is, restrain your hand AND your mouth when prompted by pride or personal ambition. Ask the Lord to quicken your spirit and sensitize your heart to selfish motivation, and then when you sense it, do NOTHING from there…because nothing good will result.

But that’s only one side of the coin. Merely restraining the sin, while a victory for sure, is just the first step. We’re called to live out the diametric opposite—to go utterly, shamelessly, deferential in our dealings with every believer. And here’s what that can look like.

AFFIRMATION: Who they are. Develop eyes to recognize the character, integrity, Christ-likeness of those around you—who they really are. Express it verbally and appropriately when opportunities arise. Affirming others gets you off ‘go’ and gives expression to this biblical command. “You’re a hard worker and I appreciate it.” “Thank you for your faithfulness.” “You are a loyal servant of Christ, and I am blessed by your efforts.” Such expressions take counting others better than your self out of theory and into reality.

APPRECIATION: What they do. As your vision sharpens, tune into areas that are commendable, excellent, praiseworthy—actions and attitudes. Stand ready to offer a sincere word of thanks, trusting the Lord to use it for His purposes. “Thank you for answering the phone for me and helping me get all my work accomplished.” “Your steady, cheerful approach to serving Christ has blessed me many times in recent weeks. Thank you.” Thankfulness from the heart is never a waste of time and often a much needed encouragement we might not have seen. By taking time to express appreciation we are obeying the biblical injunction to ‘count others more significant than ourselves.’

ACCEPTANCE: What they say. When someone speaks, let your first inclination be “they’re right,” even if what they are saying is hard to hear or comes at a bad time. Criticism that comes to the source is most often intended to be constructive—welcome it and listen carefully. Determine to find the truth in what you hear and cultivate the mindset that ‘others are more significant than I am.’ In doing so you will benefit much more from the things your fellow servants of Christ are led to say to you.

How about it? I’m serious…are you? As visual reminder I’ve even asked that Philippians 2:3 be posted at every desk and in every workspace in our offices. It’s going to be a AAA summer—affirmation, appreciation, acceptance—to build up those whom we labor alongside, to off-load some of the selfishness in our own hearts, and prepare us, Lord willing, for another great season of ministry.


Read comments:

  • oliver bujdeiJun.20.2011

    Pastor James, your post came an the exact right time. Just right now I am dealing with some tension in my youth leadership team. Reading your post, looks like there is more work to be done in my heart rather than correcting others. Man, this is humbling…thank God.

  • christineJun.20.2011

    And Ezra wept because of the peoples disobedience, everyone does what is right in their own eyes loving their money and themselves more that GoD, Ezra was a man of GOd who belived God and his word and was gripped by the disobedience of the people of his day, Are we grieved like Ezra over sin do we weep and cry over our sins and others , are we praying and fasting for our nation to return to the GOD who made them and Loves them, THe Joy of the Lord is our strength . Nehemiah 8 ;10 only GOD can bring us joy living for Him and his rules.

  • Kay DayJun.20.2011

    Pastor James: We attended Harvest U and also visited Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport recently since our core group here in Iowa is working toward planting a Harvest Bible Chapel in our community. One of the things that convinced us that Harvest is right for us was the loving interaction of the people with whom we met at Harvest. I pray that we, too, can have that kind of loving, selfless unity in Christ among us.

    Matt Townsend Reply:


    What area is your core group gathering? I’m from Waterloo, but planting in Philly. Just curious. Will pray big God raises up another Harvest in Iowa, needs it!


    Kay Day Reply:

    Matt: We’re in Clear Lake, Iowa just a hop, skip and a jump away from Waterloo. Thank you for your prayers!

  • David WestergaardJun.20.2011

    Excellent – right to the heart…. awesome!! Affirm, Appreciate, and Accept – this is a step toward true servant leadership. I just keep envisioning Jesus, the Son of God, washing the filthy, dirty, gross feet of the disciples… thanks for the post.

  • Ellen BellJun.20.2011

    Excellent! We live in a prideful culture that encourages the criticism of others and the avoidance of self-criticism. Jesus commanded us to love each other (and yes, that sometimes means to lovingly reprove another Christian) but mostly, it means to show grace to others–forgiving them and always assuming that other believers are more righteous than we are. At the same time, it also teaches us to examine our own motives for doing what we do. It is pride that seeks to bring others down and build ourselves up at their expense. Rather than building them up in Christ’s love, we cast haughty eyes on them and bring shame to ourselves and the Body. Pride is what stands in the way of extending grace toward others.

    But we are supposed to be a people of grace. And grace tells us that it is God working in us both to will and to do that which gives Him pleasure.(Philippians 2:13) Who then could be proud of anything?

  • Do you see others as more significant that yourself? | lift high the nameJun.21.2011

    […] MacDonald recently posted on what he called AAA ministry. Affirmation, Appreciation and Acceptance as understood in light of Philippians 2:3. “Do […]

  • The Quirky ChristianJun.24.2011

    I think these are really great points. As a Christian serving as a team lead in the secular workforce, I find that treating my team with affirmation, appreciation, and acceptance is my ministry each day. It’s amazing what kind of discretionary effort and overall sense of team unity results because of it. While I am public about my Christianity, I do not get into deep theological discussions every day with my team members. My hope is that they would find my behavior strange enough to connect the dots.


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