“My confidence soon grew into snobbiness and it didn’t take long for the eye-rolling to start. “This is so boring,” I thought to myself…” – Jess Versteeg
I’ve always been told I’m a leader.
My parents told me this, my teachers told me this, my Sunday school teachers told me this. This title has never really resonated with me but I can understand why people might think I am. I’m not afraid to be the first to speak or act in a group. I get irritated when a group project doesn’t get going, so I start things off.
Growing up in church and being a pastor’s kid and missionary kid probably helped affirm this label of leader; I was familiar with the limelight, having been put on stage in front of other people almost as soon as I could put whole sentences together.
My confidence soon grew into snobbiness and it didn’t take long for the eye-rolling to start. “This is so boring,” I thought to myself in almost every Sunday school class and often in high school as well. By the time I got to university, it was hit or miss. I was learning, but not always. Looking back, I would attribute my lack of learning to my lack of humility and not to the quality of the teaching.
He kept going back to the basics
One of the lessons I was learning during university was the importance of mastering the basics.
I remember sitting in a special training for the student leadership team at Queen’s University with P2C-Students’ staff member, Gregg Hinzelman. He was (and still is) legendary. He could inspire people to do all kinds of things and I was no exception. As I eagerly waited for him to download his wealth of information and vision to us, my heart sank as I realized he was going to teach on one of the staples of Christian living, the Spirit-filled life, again.
I wanted to learn about growing in my spiritual gifts, and about growing in leadership, influence and wisdom. But he kept going back to the basics. Later I realized, there were only a handful of things he ever talked about (and one of them was hedgehogs!).
Another time, I heard Mike Woodard (a student ministry National Director at the time) say that he would go over the Spirit-filled life with his mentor at least once a year. They would return to the little booklet outlining the concepts and read it over.
As time went on and I continued my leadership and involvement on campus I realized that everyone really, really believed in the content of those two little booklets. The Knowing God Personally booklet, that outlined the core concepts of the gospel, and the Satisfied? booklet, that taught life in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. These two booklets weren’t just Step One and Two of knowledge in the Christian life. They are the Christian life.
Preaching the gospel to…?
This clarity intensified through two more experiences I had as a student and after becoming a full-time ministry staff.
The first was simply spending time with my friend Mandy who had just returned from the Calgary National mission trip with P2C. She was enthusiastically sharing about how, through studying Galatians on her missions trip, she learned the importance of preaching the gospel to yourself and how to do so.
I’m not sure how I spent my whole life in church and totally missed the message of preaching the gospel not just to others but to yourself. This was life-changing for me! From then on, I realized that I needed to be reminded of the gospel on a regular basis.
The second experience was in a meeting with another student. I was the Women’s Ministry coordinator for our group in my fourth year and so it wasn’t uncommon for me to meet up with girls who needed to talk about things. This specific meeting, I was sitting across from this young woman in Mac-Corry cafeteria (where I basically lived and ate way too much pizza that year). She started confessing to me some pretty dark things with regards to self-hatred and self-harm. I was able to keep composure, but inside I was freaking out. I could tell this wasn’t something she ever spoke about and so I knew that I had to respond right away. I could refer her to a counsellor (which I did), but I couldn’t guarantee that this moment wouldn’t be the only time she opened up.
I remember thinking, “What do I say to her? I’m not equipped for this! I’m still a baby! I could do so much damage if I tell her the wrong thing.”
I’m half listening and half trying to figure out how to respond. “What is something I know for sure is true and will not change depending on denominational differences?” I asked myself.
“The gospel,” was the answer that came to my mind (Thanks KGP booklet!) So I asked her how the gospel related to her circumstances. We talked about the cross and what that means for her standing before God and why it was she felt the need to punish herself, when Jesus already paid her price on the cross. She wept openly in the cafeteria as we talked; she recognized the truth in what I was saying. I knew her recovery would involve a lot more than our simple conversation, but I was so thankful that I could confidently share with her. The gospel might seem too simple for her problem but it wasn’t; it is the foundational truth she needed.
The third experience I had was in my first year as a staff member with P2C. I was in Montréal working on the two English university campuses and my goal was to share the gospel with ten people each week. Every time I pulled out that little booklet and talked through it with someone, I felt so sure that God intended the message to minister to me perhaps more than the person I was in that spiritual conversation with!
“Evaluating your attitude requires humility. If you are like how I was, always searching for deeper knowledge or a deeper experience, you probably need to reconsider the value of the basics. There is certainly a place for specific and in-depth knowledge. The problem is when we are looking to deeper knowledge or experience to solve our problems of sin, fear, boredom or stagnant faith.” – Jess Versteeg
I need to hear that message every day
I still need to hear the message every day. We need to be reminded that Jesus paid for our sin and we are totally accepted. We need to be reminded we have the Holy Spirit in us empowering us for good works. Every day. I forget these truths so easily.
It’s just like The Karate Kid movie (spoiler alert!). The kid is instructed to do various seemingly menial tasks and he feels frustrated because he wants to do something “real.” What he didn’t realize was that his instructor was helping him develop muscle memory. Eventually he could repeat the movements with ease and excellence when he was ready to do the “real” karate moves.
The basics can at times feel like boring repetition but they are for us to commit to memory and use regularly because they are the core of everything we need. As we integrate the basics in our life, they will ideally become instinctual. But because we are fallen creatures, we will inevitably need to be reminded of them.
Whether you’re a new believer, new to ministry, in leadership or in full-time Christian ministry the same is true: the basics are basic because they’re basically all you need.
You may be wondering, ok so what do I do with this information? How do I evaluate my attitude towards the basics?
Evaluating your attitude requires humility. If you are like how I was, always searching for deeper knowledge or a deeper experience, you probably need to reconsider the value of the basics. There is certainly a place for specific and in-depth knowledge. The problem is when we are looking to deeper knowledge or experience to solve our problems of sin, fear, boredom or stagnant faith.
How do I keep learning when I think I know it all? Since I’m a very direct person I will say it this way: you don’t know it all and you never will.Once we are able to accept this, we will be closer to growing in wisdom. Even this title is a bit misleading because we can never fully master the basics. We will always need to become more like Christ.
What tips do you have for maintaining humble attitude toward the basics?
How do you keep learning and growing in the basics of walking with Jesus?
Comment below. I would love to hear from you.