I’m reading Erwin McManus’ latest book Wide Awake. The book itself is about finding the passionate life that we’ve been made for—a message with a great deal of appeal to me. But during my most recent reading I came across this passage in the book:

If you don’t know what your non-negotiables are, you won’t negotiate anything. You’re afraid to let go of anything because later you might discover that was a non-negotiable. When you don’t know what’s really important, you treat everything the same. Adaptability is not the result of a hollow core, but of clarity and conviction about what is at your core. Don’t confuse being rigid and unchanging with having convictions.

McManus makes this point in tandem with a believer’s tendency to abdicate. That is, often we choose between the extremes of absolute control—fed by fear—and utter abdication—fed by despair.

A friend of mine says, above all things, we must remain engaged. I would add that we should be willing to remain in the tension, what another author refers to as the agony of will—the willingness to confront discomfort, fear, and stress. A reality of our post-Fall world is that we live, breathe, and work in an environment that is less than ideal–or at least not what God intended. Given this reality we must still make choices between two less-than-ideal options.

You can see the margin for error here and this margin only increases when we live unaware of our non-negotiables, our core. As small-group leaders and pastors have you asked your groups to be intentional in knowing who they are? Clarity and conviction, according to Wide Awake, allows us to be adaptable. Consider for a moment Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:9-16). They were willing to embrace the changes that came in their new climate in Babylon, but they would not allow themselves to change their core.

If we’re truly looking to influence our communities and beyond; to represent justice and join Jesus’ redemptive mission, we’ve got to know who we are. Knowing the non-negotiables and having clarity contributes not only to spiritual formation but also opens the door for adaptability … and being able to adapt puts the “mobile” in small groups. Being able to adapt allows us to work through the culture we’ve been given without compromising our core.

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