Why Intentionality Matters
I make a big deal out of knowing the date you became a follower of Jesus . . . your ‘spiritual birthday.’ It was a big day for me, because I was so lost. When I surrendered to Jesus, I felt so found. So loved with a Father’s love for the first time.
My conversation with God that September night seemed so singular, so “one to One.” I said, “It’s you and me, God,” and that was it. Dead quiet, stars in the sky, my breaking heart, and His love. It was just us.
At least that’s what I thought.
Reality was that my friend’s wife, Delaine, had been praying for me for 8 years. She had been strategic in what she’d said to me, but she’d been asking God to save me all that time. In fact, she’d asked a group of her friends to pray for me too. Eight years. I didn't have a clue.
She’d also seen the stress fractures in our marriage. A few days before our meltdown, she’d bought a book for us . . . on Christian marriage. The book said, “Marriage is for life. Don’t give up. God put you together. He intends for you to stay together.” It was a pivotal read. Through that book (and through Delaine), God gave my wife a guardrail that kept our struggling marriage together.
Delaine didn't just empathize for a lost friend. She didn't just feel sorry for his wife. She didn't stop with just being “concerned” for our messed-up marriage. She did something. She was intentional. Her heart was breaking for what God’s heart was breaking for. And she did something about it.
You see, we’re all intentional. It’s in our nature. Intentionality drives our survival, our careers, our families and our fun. It’s not a question of if we will be intentional. It’s: what we’ll be intentional about?
Most people reading this are intentional about their spiritual progress. We go to church, go to small group or Sunday school, read our Bible and have ‘quiet times’ with God.
We’re looking out for ourselves spiritually. And for our families. But the question is this:
Will we be intentional for the spiritual progress of others?
A few years back, I put together a little system that’s helped me be more focused on others. It’s called an Intentionality map. You’ll need a piece of paper and a pencil, or you can download a pretty, pre-printed one by clicking here.
Start by thinking about the people in your life. Make a list of those people. It might be one or two. Could be ten or twelve. Just write down their names. No one’s going to see your list. This is just between you and God. Now ask God to help you guess where they are spiritually. Based on what you know and the ‘unction’ of the Holy Spirit, write each name under one of these five headings . . .
Column A – “Apathetic” – They don’t seem to know or care about spiritual things. They rarely talk about God, but if they do, it’s skeptical . . . or negative.
Column B – “Beginning to search” – There’s a little spark. They’re interested in spiritual things, but they’re not sure about the whole “Jesus” thing. They’ll talk about God, read books about spirituality and watch “Touched by an Angel” on TV. They’re open, searching to some degree, but not there.
Column C- “Confessing Christian” – These people say they believe. They’re comfortable talking about “church” and God. A little squeamish when it comes to Jesus, but they say they’re Christians. They’re doing nothing to grow in their faith, other than attending an occasional mass or church service. When they mention their faith, they refer to “it,” not “Him.”
Column D- “Developing Disciples” – These are people who believe in Jesus, but want more. They’re in small groups, Sunday school, Bible studies, and the like. They’re growing in their faith. They read Christian books and study their Bibles. They pray. But their focus is on their own spiritual growth, not so much anyone else.
Column E- “Excelling Christians” – These people are “D’s,” but care about the spiritual well-being of others. They’re “others focused.” It’s not just about them and their families . . . “me and mine.” It’s about helping others grasp the Gospel and move toward being ‘all in’ for Jesus. These are disciple makers. They’re public about their faith. They’re “all in.”
With names scattered in these five columns, you’re ready to be more intentional. Now, it’s up to you to pray for the people on your Intentionality map.
“Lord, who on this list would you have me pray for today? God, please give me words to say to __(insert name)__ that might inspire them to move from “B” to “C,” from searcher to believer.”
Your prayers are focused. You’re asking God to move the people in your life one step closer to Him. And you’re intentionally making yourself available to be involved however He wants you to be.
I’d give a lot for you to have been on the phone that night, when I called Delaine to tell her I’d surrendered to Christ. The joy in her voice was so real. So authentic. I had no idea how long she’d been praying this day would come. I just knew she was ecstatic for me. There’s nothing quite like being intentional about helping a friend find and grow in Christ, and to be there when they take a big step toward the Father.
It takes intentionality.
Question: Will you be intentional about the spiritual condition of others?