For one hot weekend, “The World’s Longest Yard Sale” stretches 690 miles through 6 states every summer. Currently, I live near the border of 3 of those states—Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. The route continues up into Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. What does that have to do with discipleship and the Christian life? I’m so glad you asked.
I recently heard an illustration that I can’t stop thinking about. This tangible imagery helped me visualize the principle of surrender—a central theme in last week’s blog post comparing the 16-day worship “revival” at Asbury University to the 40-day season of prayer and fasting for Lent.
As Christ Followers
We all know what it’s like to gather items from around our homes to sell, donate, or trash. You start with an awareness that stuff has to go. Next, you identify things that are unused, unwanted, or broken. Then, you haul it out to get rid of it. You can probably see the spiritual metaphor here—there are times when we know that some things need to go. Some things are trash. Other things may be fine or even good, but you know that you need to get rid of them for some reason. Maybe it’s as simple as making room for something new, blessing someone else out of your abundance, or removing things that are distracting, dangerous, or worthless. Sin or some other stronghold needs dealt with.
But, like cleaning out our closets, we often take those first steps of recognizing, identifying, and even addressing whatever we need to get rid of, only to justify holding on to it. Have you ever pulled something back out of the donation bin, or brought something back inside from the yard sale? Of course you have. We all have. Sometimes, it’s even something completely worthless, but we just can’t bring ourselves to part with it.
This is what happens spiritually, too. We have an awareness of the Spirit moving in our lives. We identify things that need to be removed—sin that needs repented of, strongholds that need broken, or steps of faith that need taken. We might even mention it to someone or make an initial plan to deal with it. But then we just can’t seem to let go. We turn around and keep it, imagining that someday we’ll be able to deal with it.
This is exactly what Paul described in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Even with good intentions, we tend to hang on to things we need to let go of. We don’t follow through. We don’t surrender.
As Ministry Leaders
The human tendency to hang on to things that we know we need to let go of, brings up a few points for leaders:
- Leaders are people too. This means that leaders have their own strongholds, sins, distractions, and brokenness. What is the Spirit revealing to you? What needs surrendered? What are you justifying that needs to be dealt with? Too many leaders and ministries have suffered from not dealing with their issues. Don’t ignore, hide, or justify anything needing brought into the light and dealt with (John 3:16–21). Establish a healthy rhythm of repentance and accountability for yourself.
- Churches and ministries gather old things too. I don’t just mean old furniture, books, and other junk. Churches keep old programs, old events, and old ideas that are ministry clutter. What is broken, outdated, unused, or simply taking up space in your area of responsibility? What have you been meaning to address but never gotten around to doing? How would ministry be better if you made room for something new, more intentional, or just less cluttered from options?
- Finally, how can you help organize regular experiences for people to deal with their stuff too? Does your church or ministry area have a plan for practicing repentance, breaking strongholds, and growing in freedom? How often are you making space for the confession of specific sin or surrendering specific areas of people’s lives? Do people know how to participate in ongoing discipleship experiences?
Like The World’s Longest Yard Sale, your church can establish regular seasons of “letting go.” Over time, people may even begin to look forward to the experiences, knowing the value and freedom they provide. People may be more mindful and prepared throughout the year knowing that there is a culture of bringing stuff out into the light without judgment. Certainly, people are capable of spring cleaning, yard sales, and repentance any time, but knowing that a plan is in place to get rid of stuff on a regular basis helps more and more people participate.
Let go. Don’t justify keeping it. Establish a rhythm for your people to experience repentance, surrender, and freedom.
Sign up for our free webinar, Build and Grow a Discipleship Culture, Wednesday, March 15, and be sure you’re on our email list for access to the free leadership resource that will first be available to event registrants.
Rooted Network resources introduce and reinforce spiritual rhythms (like repentance and freedom from strongholds) through various learning experiences. See how it works and check out samples of Rooted and other small group discipleship resources.