Though there are some good things going on around us, our nation and world are in a terrible mess. I was feeling particularly troubled by that when we got our stay-at-home order back in 2020. Thankfully God’s word spoke to me powerfully during those days and led me to some important realizations.
I realized I wanted to stop complaining about how bad things are, stop worrying about it, and also stop burying my head in the sand. Instead, I wanted to do something to help. During those days, as I concentrated more on Jesus and how he changed the world, a perspective emerged that has been guiding me ever since. I determined anew that I wanted to help change the world, and wanted to do it in the way Jesus did. Like him, I also wanted to equip others to do the same.
So I created a new ministry called Empowering Subjects. Its purpose is to empower subjects of the King to change the world like he did. It does not teach a method we can use on people; it teaches a way of life with God so that he can use us with people. Nor is it about empowering people to claim their rights, as the word is often used today. Instead, I want to empower people with the tools, confidence, and courage that God can use them to change the world. As Jesus showed us, this is more likely to entail forfeiting our rights than claiming them.
The two main parts of Empowering Subjects are a weekend seminar and follow-up equipping.
The weekend seminar is focused on the kingdom of God, which was the primary theme of Jesus’ teaching and was also, speaking generally, the way he changed the world. The seminar includes an interactive learning game, discussion, biblical teaching, visual presentation, and worship, all focused on helping people understand and respond to the kingship of Christ. We also explore a key passage (Matthew 9:35-38) where Jesus reveals his basic strategy for changing the world, namely, to increase the number of workers in his kingdom. Since the seminar is focused on helping us understand the kingdom and increase our loyalty to the King, it is appropriate for all Christians, even if they don’t feel any strong need to change the world. At the same time, however, it also provides a basis and motivation for doing so.
Immediately after Jesus described the need for workers (Matthew 9:37-38), he equipped the twelve and sent them out (Matthew 10:1ff). The sending was also a part of their training. Based on Jesus’ example, the second part of Empowering Subjects is a thirteen-week follow-up equipping. It grows out of the seminar, but it is voluntary, for those who want to be trained as the workers Jesus said are needed. It provides a structure and materials that participants use to actively train and support each other in becoming the workers Jesus said are needed. It consists of a weekly practice (for thirteen weeks) of watching a short video, working through written materials, and participating in a small group discussion.
The videos introduce the theme of each week’s training. They are short (about 10 minutes) and can be downloaded from the Empowering Subjects website.
The written material is meat of the equipping. It consists of reading, Scripture, prayer, reflection, questions, applications. The work each participant does on these materials is the primary source of learning and growth. Spending quality time with these materials is a way people can offer their hearts to God and invite him to transform them. The materials, too, can be downloaded from the website.
The practical applications are a vital component of the written material. Our lives and behaviors do not change merely by reading something and agreeing with it. We have to actually do something. The applications are quite easy at first (like, go buy a notebook) and become somewhat more challenging along the way (like, pray and then watch for opportunities God may give you today). They never, however, require anything awkward and inappropriate, such as accosting a stranger. They are of paramount importance to seeing actual change in our lives.
The small groups consist entirely of other people who are also doing the training. The groups are not classes for teaching but communities for sharing. A trained group facilitator, who is also working through the materials, will lead discussions that allow all group members to share, ask questions, problem solve, and encourage. Though the primary learning takes place during the week, the small groups allow us to learn from each other, support each other and encourage each other. Prayer is also vital to these groups, as it is to our mission. Many groups choose to watch the following week’s introductory video at the end of their group meetings, while they are still together (instead of having individuals watch it at home).
The ministry of Empowering Subjects is still new, but it has received a warm reception by those who have hosted it. Although I’m resisting the urge to scientifically measure its effect, I can say I have heard from some people who say their lives are indeed changing in regard to God’s mission.
The next several posts will simultaneously explore some vital components of God’s mission and corresponding features of Empowering Subjects. I’m hoping this will serve the dual purpose of encouraging us to participate in God’s mission faithfully and also creating more awareness of how Empowering Subjects can equip people for that mission. If you know someone who might be interested in training like this at their church, please share it with them.
For more information on Empowering Subjects, see here.