Saturday, December 12, 2009
We are very sad about this. But please continue to pray for VK who is back in prison. Thank you.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
What did I get from the training?
Besides a library of information and concepts to consider...
God really planned to have me here. There were about four major things that should have kept me from even attending in the first place. I can't go into all of them on here, but one of them was the fact that I had missed the deadline and all the slots were full. Still, one man in my agency kept praying and just a week before the training a spot opened up. I didn't really want to go at such a late date and so many responsibilities where I am at, but after talking with my wife we concluded that God must want me there. And now I can see way.
I have felt more like quitting the mission field in 2009 than I ever have since I came to work here nearly a decade ago. We have been hit with problem after problem after problem, and indeed were hit with yet another major problem just this past week. Yet, in the midst of all of this, God also did a miracle--our paperwork for an important enterprise here was approved last week after waiting for over three years. When I told some of our faithful supporters who had been praying for this for three years--they cried.
I feel that my heart has gotten off track in a lot of ways and this training helped me to get it back on track. I certainly have a much clearer focus on the mission that lies ahead. Along with that, I have regained a passion that I must have lost along the way. I have been pretty depressed at times feeling like I am not making any difference, that I'm wasting time, money and resources, and that I do not have what it takes to be an effective missionary. I have become stressed over too many things to do and little help to get it all done.
Mostly, I am convicted to pray, stay focused, believe that God WILL act and work through me, and obey him in everything. It is God who sustains us and empowers us.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Business As Missions—The business actually allows you to do ministry you couldn’t otherwise do. The business is successful and is a platform for successful ministry.
Business For Missions—The business helps to fund missions or gives you an entrance to do ministry, but the ministry doesn’t really flow out of the business.
Business as a Front For Missions—The business is not seriously undertaken to be active or profitable, but just provides a front in hostile locations to hide the work of ministry that you are actually focused on doing. The ministry has nothing to do with the business.
Business in Spite of Missions—The business is done well and may have some positive effects, but ministry is mostly left behind in order to focus on making the business work. (Missions as a Front For Business.)
I can live with one of the first two, but not with the last two.
This is the Baptist's video about CPMs (Church Planting Movements). It is a little cheesy, but communicates some of the ideas. The guy at the end is David Garrison who wrote the book Church Planting Movements. He is Baptist, so they tend to talk more about Baptist stuff in the book, but he is by no means a denominationalist. You certainly don't have to be Baptist to get a lot out of the book.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Do you know what this means? Here it is:
If You Keep Doing What You Have Been Doing You Will Keep Getting What You Have Been Getting.
Most of the time when we think about how we can reach people for Christ we say things like pray more, share our faith more, do more events. Rarely, however, do we actually increase our efforts. If we do, we do it for a while and then fall back to a status quo level of prayerful and evangelistic output.
One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and expecting different results.
If we are not reaching our targeted people group by the ways we have been doing it up until now, then we need to do things in new ways.
Most people get rather defensive when you start to question methods and approaches to ministry. Why is that? Because we are invested in what we've been doing. If someone suggests that our method is not effective we feel a need to justify it in order to save face, legitmize our position, and justify the time and money we have put into our approach. We don't want to feel like we've wasted time. We really don't want to feel like we've wasted money people have given to us to do ministry the way we've told them we will do it.
But... What if, in all honesty, there ARE better ways to reach our people? What if God would have us change? Do we have the courage to change?
If we have an approach that we're not willing to sacrifice in order to see a Church Planting Movement, then we have the wrong approach. We must be committed to the the growth of God's kingdom, not to our "pet" approaches for growing it.
How many people from your targeted unreached people group will hear the gospel today?
All of us had already done extensive research on our groups. We all know their population, what percentage of them are Christians and how many Christian resources are available to them. So, we all went up to a board in front of the room. We each wrote down the name of our group, their population and how many people among them we estimate will hear the gospel in the next 24 hours. Then we added up all the populations from every group, and the total number of people who will hear the gospel. The result?
At the current rate, it would take close to 200 years for all of them to hear the gospel, assuming that each time someone hears the gospel, it is the first time. (No repeats.) If some hear it more than once, then it will just take longer before they all hear.
"Folks, that ain't cuttin' it!"
These were the words of the facilitator leading the session. In business time = money, but in missions time = lost people who either hear the gospel, or die without it. There is a huge gap between those who need to hear and those who are hearing it. And we need to mind that gap.
Something must be done so that the message of Christ is communicated in a way people can understand and respond in a much broader fashion. What needs to be done so that they will hear? Part of the answer lies in radio broadcast. In some places it will involve literature distribution or the Jesus film. But in no place will there be a better way for people to hear the story of Jesus than "mouth-to-ear." Christians need to be mobilized to share the gospel in person.
You might ask, "Where could we possibly find enough evangelists to tell them all?"
The answer: The resources are in the harvest. Those who hear must be trained to tell others, and then those in turn trained to tell more, and so on. Those who hear and accept become the evangelists to share the story to the next person in line. The idea is seen in 2 Timothy 2:2:
"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others."
Friday, October 2, 2009
This is one of the concepts we are learning at CPM training. Typically, when someone comes to Christ two things happen:
1) We seek to incorporate them into a church of a bunch of people they mostly do not know and help them form relationships with other Christians in the Christian community. They are encouraged by fellowship, accountability and example.
2) Before long, they lose the opportunity to witness to their families, friends and network of non-Christian acquaintances as they immerse themselves into the new Christian community. The "fire" they have for Christ is spent in the existing church. Then, years down the road when they have learned more about the Bible and what it means to be the Christian and are "mature" enough to be trusted to teach others, the fire is mostly gone. They might teach Sunday school or something.
A friend of mine told the tale of two girls he and his wife led to the Lord. The first one was incorporated into the existing church structures in a big city here in The Location. She learned a lot, grew and served well in the church. But she never really led anyone to Christ.
The second girl was encouraged to start worshiping in her home with anyone in her family who would join. She was not confident to do this by herself, but she was coached by the missionary on what to do. Then she did it. Her whole family joined her. They all came to the faith. She baptized all of them. Every day during the initial stages she was e-mailing the missionary asking questions about God, the Bible and what to do with new believers and how to have worship. For months her whole family worshiped together with joy in their new faith. A church had been planted.
Later, an official church leader in the registered church in The Location found out about her meetings and came to their house. He chastised the girl and her family for doing this outside the authority of the church. She had no right to lead it, he said, because she was not a trained and ordained pastor. She had no right to baptize them so he declared all of her family's baptisms invalid. He reminded them that this meeting was illegal and said they all need to go to the official registered church.
The official church leader killed the budding new church. He crushed a beautiful flower that was just beginning to bloom. Only the girl and her younger sister joined the offcial registered church. The rest of the family fell away.
Later, the missionary visited and had a chance to interview the parents and the family members. They said that they had put their faith in Christ when they had seen how their daughter's life had changed--how it was so evident as she taught and led the studies. Now that she can't do it any more and she has joined the church in town, we don't see how her life has changed much. Also, worshiping in their home felt like they were really believing in God in a natural way; going to the big church downtown felt like they were joining a foreign religion--so they stopped.
Every person we lead to Christ is a potential new church. It is important that we get them sharing their new life with their families and friends before we quench the fire of their faith in the lake of the church.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Just two days ago the governor signed this paperwork and yesterday we received two very important documents/certificates that we need.
- After 2 months (of beginning the process in 2000): 20 small groups started.
- After 6 months: 327 house churches with 4,000 baptized.
- After one year: 908 house churches with 12,000 baptized.
- The following year: 3,535 new churches with more than 53,430 baptisms.
- First six months of 2002: 9,320 new churches and 104,542 baptisms.
- End of 3rd year: 15,000 new churches with more than 160,000 baptized believers.
"What is better than planting a church?" Answer: Training others to plant churches.
"And what is better than training others to plant churches?" Answer: Training trainers to train church planters to plant even more churches!
His simple method for training trainers of church planters was to make every discipleship lesson reproducible and repeatable. Below is the process of T4T when the small groups met.
T4T Training Process
There are three parts to the meeting and each one should take about the same amount of time. Usually the first initial meeting (when they explained the whole process for the first time) would take a half-day. This would include everyone writing down a list of every non-Christian family member, relative and friend they could think of. Most people's lists were around 100 people long. Then they would mark off the first 5 they would share the gospel with. They did this by each preparing simple testimonies consisting of three parts: 1) What you were like before Jesus, 2) how you met Jesus, and 3) what your life has been like since Jesus. Then he had them remove all religious vocabulary from their story. They were then required to share with their first 5 people on their list during the first week. The next week, the second five. After they built a small group of inquirers or new believers, they would begin meeting regularly as a small house church.
After the initial meeting explainging the process, meetings would last for about 2-3 hours each time, and they would normally do them about once every two weeks. This would give people time to put the lesson into practice before filling their heads with new knowledge. What the people learned and did in this meeting, they repeated in the meetings with their new disciples. Most of the groups had 5-6 disciples. The meeting had three parts:
- Sharing Time (Fellowship and Accountability)
- New Lesson Time
- Practice Time
- Prayer (for the disciples and people in the group)
- Accountability and problem solving
- Review of the last meeting's lesson.
- Vision Casting time by Leader (Putting the vision of the Great Commission before the people--always putting the burden of the lost out there).
- New Lesson (They had their own plan, but you could use any lesson plan or oral story plan you wanted.)
- Disciples Learn the Story—by retelling it as the trainer asks, “What happened in the story?”
- Memory Verse (From the lesson)
- Trainer Testimony—The trainer gives a testimony from his own life what happened when he obeyed the lesson of this story.
- Application. What will you do with the new lesson?
- Trainees lead Part 1 of the T4T session (do it another time with the trainer observing rather than leading)
- Trainees pair up and re-teach new lesson.
- Trainees set goals for next two weeks.
- Pray and Send off.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The speaker compared it to climbing a mountain. We can imagine what it is like to stand on the very peak before we ever get there. Then, when we do get there, we are so excited by the accomplishment, the beauty, the view, and the air that we forget the long struggle it was to climb to the top. But before we took the last step to stand on the summit, we were there--one step away.
If we imagine the end of our mission--everything that we have set out to achieve and pray to see happen has been fulfilled. Our people group has been reached. There are churches in every village. A high percentage of the total population have heard the gospel, accepted or is in the process of being discipled by other people in their own group who have been trained. The Bible has been translated and given to them in forms they can use. Etc., etc., etc.
Now imagine what the last step was before we got to that final end vision. What was that like? What was the last thing that needed to happen before the vision was finally achieved? Not something you do necessarily, but something that needs to be done. What is that?
Now, how about the last thing that needs to happen before what we just described happens? What is that?
And the thing before that?
Do you see where this is heading? If we envision the end, or "endvision," then we can start stepping backward considering what needs to happen in a reverse order. If we are disciplined about it, we can describe all the steps that bring it back to the situation as it actually exists in the present. This little exercise helps us to make better plans for doing what it takes to accomplish our missions that lead to an ultimate vision of what we want to see happen.
Just thinking about our mission in this fashion has both excited me and helped me think clearly about the path we need to be taking now. An important concept is that we don't ask ourselves, "What can I do?" but, "What needs to be done?" Then we consider what role we can play in what needs to be done, and who needs to help with the things we can't do.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
THINGS THAT STIFLE OR KILL INDIGENOUS CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENTS
1. Extra Biblical Requirements for being a church
b. Having to have a minimum number of members.
c. Having to have a dedicated location for religious things to happen.
f. Have to have a Bible college.
2. Extra Biblical Leadership requirements
a. Seminary graduates.
b. Ordained clergy.
c. Paid leaders.
d. Full-time leaders.
e. That only clergy can administer sacraments.
f. Extra requirements not found in 1 Tim3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9.
3. Loss of cultural identity
a. To be Christian you must take on Western culture.
b. Political Stigma. Christianity is the religion of the Imperialists.
c. Teaching, worship, Bible in something other than the “heart language.”
d. Foreign elements in the service (furniture, vestments, communion materials…).
e. Extraction evangelism, creating a Christian sub-culture.—idea of winning people as individuals.
4. Non-Reproducible Church Models
a. Externally funded buildings.
b. Foreign funds that tie movement to outside sources.
c. Relying on very talented people to do ministry (talented in preaching, music, etc.).
d. Teaching Methods
i. Literate exegesis with oral learners.
ii. Using expensive non-local materials in teaching. Posters or Power-Point.
iii. Using complicated discipleship materials.
e. What should we do?
i. Train local leaders to think critically about reproducibility and copying other methods.
ii. Discipleship: “I never do things a 1-week old believer couldn’t do.”—Charles Brock
iii. Use local materials reflecting economic level.
iv. Use storying with oral learners.
5. Overcoming bad examples of Church
a. Non-believing “Christians.”
b. Moral failure of leaders.
c. Religion is only for outcasts.
d. White man’s religion.
e. Christians are the paid lackies of the imperialists.
6. Financial Dependency
a. Foreign funding of local pastors weakens the relationship between pastor and local believers.
b. Outside salary subsidies create jealous, division.
c. Outside funding sitles local initiative and giving.
d. Local churches are robbed of the gift of giving.
e. Unhealthy partnerships which do for believers what they should be doing for themselves.
f. Dependence stops a movement from developing.
7. Linear, sequential thought and practice.
a. Thinking you can't do something until something else is finished.
i. Language .
ii. Build relationships.
iii. Disciple new converts.
iv. Form churches.
v. Raise up leaders to take over.
b. Want to be thinking in a parallel fashion, and do things together.
c. Thinking the real work is later stifles urgency for the task (God is delighted to use you and your
d. Fixating on the steps may cause you to miss today’s opportunities.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The resources are in the harvest.
We compared movements to avalanches--large movements of snow that flow down a mountain. People sometimes set off avalanches intentionally (such as by throwing dynamite or shooting the snow with a gun), and sometimes they set them off unintentionally (such as by skiing down the mountain). In moments, the snow gathers such momentum that it sweeps everything away with it and the skiiers cannot control it. It can be very dangerous for them. But the people who start avalanches do not make them flow and gain velocity. The potential energy is already built up in the snow and only needs to be triggered in order to make it happen.
Though the analogy is incomplete, it demonstrates that CPMs, when they occur, do not occur because an individual missionary or Christian is organizing and structuring the entire effort, and raising tons of money and people to come in from the outside to make it happen. Instead, one flake of snow pushes the next flake of snow and it multiplies on a grand scale. CPMs happen when the people themselves share the gospel with the people around them, plant a church among them, and then they in turn repeat this process until churches are multiplied throughout the entire people group.
The method initually introduced must be simple and reproducable. If a missionary starts out with an evangelization or church planting method that the people themselves could not reproduce, then it will not trigger a church planting movement. He might start one awesome church, but it will stop there.
This approach is like trying to move snow by making a snow ball. You roll it and it grows in size until it is quite large. But then it becomes too large to push and it stops. To make it move you must call other people in to help push it. The snow itself can't push itself as it does in an avalanche.
Though it is counter-intuitive, sometimes the "better" we do church makes it more unlikely that there will ever be a movement among the people we're attempting to reach.
- A Climante of Uncertainty in Society
- Insulation from Outsiders
- A High Cost for Following Christ
- Bold Fearless Faith
- Family-Based Conversion Patterns
- Rapid Incorporation of New Believers
- Worship in the Heart Language
- Divine Signs and Wonders
- On-the-Job Leadership Training
- Missionaries Suffered
...The Alpha Program is an introduction to the core truths of the Christian faith built around a setting of openness to inquiry. Lasting 15 weeks, the course focuses on non-Christians, often meeting in homes rather than in the church building, typically including a shared meal, welcoming skeptical questions, and resulting in an astonishing number of conversions....
First, it gets non-believers into small groups meeting in the homes of believers. Second, it actually encourages difficult questions that non-Christians have, without feeling a need to answer every question. This is very important. Christians think they have to have an answer for every question. Non-Christians want to know that they are free to ask--asking is more important to them than receiving a half-baked answer. Third, by the time the 15 weeks is over, it is often the small group itself that converts the non-Christian.
Today there are thousands of people in Alpha Groups and thousands of churches that have begun to use them effectively to reach people in Europe who have considered themselves "post Christian." It will be interesting to see if these Alpha Groups could spark a house church planting movement across the continent of Europe which is filled with ancient and empty cathedrals.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
- Do abundant evangelsim by showing the Jesus film and using other materials so that as many people as possible are exposed. The idea was that in nature trees produce thousands more seeds than ever sprout--but by sewing more you reap more.
- Identify those who are interested in knowing more about Christ from the initial exposures to the story of Christ.
- Then, direct the gospel message to the heads of households--those who have the most authority in the family.
- Trace family lines of these inquirers and heads of households to invite family members to a series of meetings that more fully explain the gospel and how to become a Christian.
- At the conclusion of these Bible studies invite the listeners to make a commitment to Christ.
- Incorporate new believers into basic discipleship Bible studies and baptize them at their conclusion.
- In each group of new believers identify suitable leaders and turn leadership of regular public worship meetings over to them.
- After such a church is established, reproduce (divide into) another church when the size of the group exceeds the number of people that can comfortably fill a household.
The Strategy Coordinator began this effort in 1991. At that time Yanyin province had 8-10 million people with only 18 churches all belonging to the controlled registered "Three-Self Patriotic Movement" church. These churches were not growing, nor were they interested in evangelism. The first year of their effort produced six new house churches. The next year saw 17 more churches sprout. The following year there were an additional 50. Six years after beginning the total number of churches had climbed to 195 and the gospel had reached every county in the province with churche among each of the five ethnic groups that inhabited Yanyin. By the end of 1998 when the Strategy Coordinator left, there were 550 house churches in Yanyin province with more than 55,000 believers. Finally, a survey done in the summer of 2001 revealed more than 900 churches with close to 100,000 believers worshiping in them.
There is more to tell about the Yanyin CPM and the methods they used for training. You will have to get the book Church Planting Movements and read it for yourself. It is very interesting stuff!
On thing that is notable--though he was probably involved in some of the initial plants, the foreign Strategy Coordinator (missionary) isn't described as being the one planting any of the churches. The movement went far beyond his influence or ability. Why? Because it started that way. If he had begun by being "the man" then the model wouldn't have been reproducible and people would have felt that only a foreigner can do those things. He started with a few local believers, along with some Chinese workers from other provinces, prepared them with a simple reproducible approach that was in its DNA, and helped to get it going.
It is easy for missionaries to arrive on the field and do ministry. It is easy to do things that impress supporters back home or puts an emphasis on what the foreigners (or his short-term guests) are doing in ministry on the field. However, often the spread of the gospel is hindered because of those actions.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
A Church Planting Movement is a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.
There are other kinds of movements. Some of them see masses of people coming to faith or joining one big mega-church organization. Some are cell church groups that are organized under one such mega-church. But if they are not churches--and if they are not churches that plant the new churches (as opposed to cell groups which are not autonomous but part of one over-arching structure) then they are not CPMs. The idea is that independent church groups (usually relatively small because it helps it to be more reproducible) are planting new churches, and those new churches go on to plant new churches, and so on for many generations until it reaches saturation in the population segment.
Looking at such movements, the author identified the 10 listed elements found in every single authentic CPM. This is a description, not a prescription. And it is very interesting:
- Extarordinary Prayer
- Abundant Evangelism
- Intentional Planting of Reproducing Churches
- The Authority of God's Word
- Local Leadership
- Lay Leadership
- House Churches
- Churches Planting Churches
- Rapid Reproduction
- Healthy Churches
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I like this book because it emphasizes the planting of churches as discipling agents rather than simple mass evangelism and large numbers of people coming to faith. It takes time to survey different Church Planting Movements around the world and identify universal elements. It also discusses the dynamics that kill Church Planting Movements. Among these include over-injection of foreign funds, church buildings, dependency upon foreign funds, clergy-leadership, having short-termers doing too much for them such as building buildings, paying preachers, etc. And it doesn't limit the discussion to third world non-Western countries--it discusses every continent on the globe.
You can download the booklet for free here. However, I am reading the full version, which you can purchase on Amazon or the Church Planting Movements website at the link above if you are interested in reading. I recommend it for anyone doing ministry involving church planting, discipleship and evangelism wherever you are--even in the West.
I will post a few items from the book over the next couple of days. Then, as I go through the training, I plan to make a post each day of the most important things we've learned. So, stay tuned...
We have one contact who is able to give us news about VK's situation. And the news is that nothing has changed. The funny/encouraging thing, however, is that our contact (let's call him SK) isn't too worried about it.
You see, here in The Location persecution is a part of the landscape for a Christian. Getting arrested? That's just part of the package you sign up for. SK doesn't think anything bad will happen, apparently, but it will just take time. VK seemed to have the same attitude when we last saw him regarding talking to the police. It's not his first time. When we had a dinner together with all of our disciples I asked the question, "What do you guys think--Is persecution a good thing or a bad thing?" Before they had time to think VK spoke up and said, "Good! It makes us strong. It keeps us from getting fat and weak." It was a good moment for our disciples to be a part of.
Please continue to pray for VK. But take heart--he is spiritually and mentally prepared for the trial is is going through. I will let you know whenever we hear anything more.
Monday, September 21, 2009
They are accusing VK of human trafficking because he was going to send these two young men to "study" but he couldn't give them the name of the school or company. All he gave them was the name of one of our workers. The charges are a farse. For one, the two young men never made it here. They were apprehended at a bus stop and escorted back home. Plenty of people travel for no reason (and many even for bad reasons) and are never harrassed. But VK is someone they've been harrassing for years because of his faith. He is one of a very few number of Christians (and one of the first) in a very unreached people group. They can't say they've arrested him for practicing his faith, so they say he was involved in human trafficking.
We don't know what is going to happen. Please pray for VK. Please pray for our worker who was named. Please pray for us. This could eventually all come back on us and potentially be the end of what we're doing here. Or, it all blow over and be forgotten.
We trust in God.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I live in a semi-tropical country. That means that by all comparisons, things grow fast. In March I planted some trees from tiny little seeds around our parking area at our offices. Now these trees are over 3 meters tall already. Pretty fast, actually.
But these trees are still not big enough to provide shade for my vehicle parked there. When I look at them I think, "Hurry up! Grow taller. Grow bigger. And do it now!" I try to think of what fertilizer I can put on them to make them grow faster. I am being impatient.
The truth is, good things take time to grow. While I may wish for success overnight, I can't expect to plant a seed one day and get a tree the following day. It just takes time. Especially for things that grow.
You see, I could have constructed a shade roof for our parking area. It would have been finished in less than a week and our vehciles would have been basking in shade for the past six months. But that shade roof would never grow. In fact, without a lot of maintenance it would probably be unusable in a couple years, depending on the materials I used.
If I wait one more year my trees will provide better and cooler (as in temperature) shade than any roof I could build. And they will continue to grow providing shade for decades to come.
That which is built can be big fast; that which is grown takes time.
So it is with disciples and church planting. I could build a church. It is growth by addition. But I'd rather plant a seed by making a disciple and watch, over time, a church growth movement multiply far beyond my own influence.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
My theory of how we should use/possess money is related to how I view gluttony. You will usually hear one of two approaches regarding Christians and money:
1) It's not wrong to have money as long as you tithe (10%) to God/church.
2) It's not right for Christians to be rich or make lots of money. We should live simple and not be wealthy.
The former preaches against the love of money rather than the possession of it, arguing that it's okay to have it as long as you don't love it. The latter preaches against the possession of money, usually arguing something to the effect of, "If you still have it, how can you convince me you don't love it?"
The Bible teaches us "You cannot serve both God and Money." Also, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."
The Bible also reprimands the greedy by saying, "You have hoarded wealth...". Jesus told us the following story in Luke 12:15-21:
Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."It is clear that we should not love money and wealth. It is not our goal. It is not our purpose to become wealthy. Our purpose is to serve God and his Kingdom. If we pursue worldly wealth, then we are not walking according to God's plan.
And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
And while we may certainly use money in God's service, the Bible also tells us not to hoard wealth. What does that mean? It means we should not keep extra wealth around that isn't necessary when it could be used for more important things or for helping others.
This is how our use of money relates to gluttony. It is not wrong to have it or use it but we should not consume (or store it up like fat around our waistlines) more than we need.
I have no problem with Christians making millions of dollars doing honest work and business. But how much of that do they spend on themselves? Do they feel they have the right to use 90% of that just because they tithed 10% to their church? Are they not still accountable for how they spend every penny? Would they not also be guilty of "building bigger barns" and hoarding wealth when they build themselves mansions and buy lots of very expensive "toys"?
I know of one Christian business man who does in fact make millions of dollars. But his standard of living is on par with someone making $30,000 - $40,000 a year. No one would ever know how much money he actually brings in, and indeed most people around him do not. What he spends on himself is a small percentage of what he could spend. So, what does he do with his money? Not only does he tithe to his church (and beyond) but he also supports many different kinds of ministries and specifically, he helps missionaries in his denomination establish businesses in "closed" (creative access) countries. He has helped establish dozens of these enterprises in order to get the gospel into places that are difficult to reach. No one can accuse him of hoarding his wealth.
I also know of a young man who does not make enough money to live on. It's not because he's lazy, addicted or mentally impaired. It's just that he has never had anyone to help him get a good start. I expect that he will eventually establish himself and make enough to live on and help others. But it will take time. Right now, he sponsors a child in Haiti and gives a few dollars to his church on Sunday. If you were to do the math, the money he gives to his church and child would probably be around 5% of his income. Yet, it is still difficult and a sacrifice for him. Most people with his level of income don't give a penny because they need it to eat on. I believe this man is like the woman who gave a few pennies to the temple--Jesus said she gave more because he was giving all she had to live on. It was a sacrifice. Many of those giving large amounts weren't sacrificing, but giving from what was left over from an abundance.
We should not be gluttons for money. We should use and give money; not love it and hoard it.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
If we compare the consumption of physical food to the consumption of "spiritual food" it is interesting to draw some parallels between our physical and spiritual health.
I didn't get into the whole topic of the kinds of foods we should eat versus the kinds of foods we shouldn't eat in my ramblings on gluttony. It is important, but I didn't go there. One of the points I wanted to make was that, for weight loss, added exercise doesn't usually help us if we don't have a change in our diet.
So it is spiritually. Doing good things, serving and performing other kinds of ministry are good. But they don't really help our spiritual health a whole lot if we are still consuming a steady diet of spiritual junk food: TV smut, pornography, celebrity gossip, soap operas, romance novels, pop psycology books, gossip with other people, music TV, advice from men's/women's magazines, or any other media that convey messages about our worth, value, meaning, or worldview that is different from God's word.
I'm not saying we can't "taste" SOME of these things so we at least know what the world is saying and how people who do eat these things up are affected, but they shouldn't be our "main course." Instead, it would do us well to have a steady diet of God's word and to help us understand God's heart and how to hear/listen to his voice.
Bearing good fruit without being deeply rooted in the Vine is very difficult to do.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Yeah, me neither.
I confess to the sin of gluttony. And I haven't just committed an isolated act of gluttony... I do it regularly! Buffets and bars (of the salad/food type) are temptations I can't resist. What's worse, I often eat to stay awake while I watch a late-night movie, drive, or work at my computer. Nothing keeps me awake as well as eating. Over time, these actions have accumulated quite the display around my mid-section.
I know... I'm not alone. Perhaps you're right there with me. So many people share this problem that we rarely, if ever, hear taken seriously in church. And this is while America is one of the most (or is it THE most?) obese nations on the planet!
It is ironic that in a society that equates "fat" with "ugly" (here in The Location being a little overweight can be attractive, and at the very least is not detractive) and where you can search for hours in magazines and soap operas to find one image of an obese person without any success, that obesity is on the rise and is smashing records.
But this post isn't about obesity--it's about gluttony. Obesity is one of the the consequences of long term gluttony.
Gluttony, plain and simple, is eating more than your body needs. Our bodies only need so much. And for millenia humans on earth have mostly dealt with the issue of not having enough to eat. In poor and developing countries you hear people talk about average caloric intake of the population. Usually it is BELOW what people's bodies need. And so organizations like the UN's World Food Program try to get balanced meals to kids that include high levels of protein in order to up the calories they consume.
In America, people spend hundreds of dollars each year for gym memberships to go running on machines that are designed to burn up all of the extra calories we consume. Kind of funny. (It's too bad we can't capture all that energy and load it into the power grid. Actually, I just saw in a neighboring country to The Location some public exercise bikes in the park that are hooked up to what looks like water pumps. Not sure what they're pumping for.)
I have always bristled when people would suggest to me that I eat too much in explanation of why I'm overweight (like I needed it, thanks). I would point to my roommate in college who has always been something of a "rail." He would eat every bit as much as me--perhaps more--and would never get fat. Nope, always thin. I would completely envy his "metabolism." Yet, I am the one guilty of gluttony, not him?
Many people have said, "God just made some people fat and some people skinny. We should just accept who we are and how he made us." And for a long time, though I had wished God made me thin, I just accepted that this is how I'm supposed to be.
But now I am starting to see things a little differently...
My father has diabetes, my older sister is getting it, and I have high blood pressure. I know what's coming. If I don't change my weight, I will surely get diabetes in the future. The risk of diabetes is extremely effected by being overweight. If you can control your weight, you can actually prevent diabetes. (I know this isn't true for 100% of diabetes cases, but it is remarkably high.) There are a host of health related problems that are caused by obesity.
So, is this just how God designed me? It seems he didn't design our bodies to be overweight if by being overweight it causes all of these problems for our bodies.
If by eating more than I need I put on weight, the solution seems pretty obvious to me. I don't need to eat as much as I do. In different scenarios in the human experience on earth, this would be a huge blessing. I actually don't need to eat as much as my college roommate. If we lived together 3,000 years ago during a world famine, I might survive while he perished. It's not that God has cursed me with low metabolism--it's just that he has blessed me with not needing to eat as much as I do. (Not that I don't want to--desire/hunger is another issue.)
The solution to obesity, for me, isn't in trying to burn off all the extra calories I consume. That just seems silly. I mean, exercise is good for the body and good for the heart. But when you sit back and think about it, it is crazy--our bodies need a certain amount of calories, but we eat more, so then we do artificial activity just to burn off those extra calories. And what is even more funny--it doesn't even work that well. You see, our bodies crave equilibrium. So, if we are accustomed to eating so much and then all of the sudden we do new activity to burn off those calories, our body reacts by making us hungrier so we will consume more calories to make up for the ones we're losing. Exercise without diet change is a recipe for bodily disaster (in terms of obesity--it is still good for the heart). That is why any fast changes is our weight is not good. Our body will work against us. Slow change gives our body enough time to adjust to a "new equilibrium."
Not eating more than I need is the solution. Not committing gluttony, actually. (Funny how obedience to God's way is the best for us.) And this is where I must wage the battle.
When I was growing up my parents expected me to "clean up my plate." I had to eat everything set before me. Often, when we were clearing the table and putting things away, there would be a little leftover pasta or stuffing. My dad would ask me, "Do you want to eat this so it doesn't go to waste?" The idea is that if we threw it away, it would be wasted. But if I ate it--even though I was already finished eating--it would be "saved." That is crazy thinking, really. "Contribute to future obesity via gluttony by eating this extra amount of food so that we don't have to feel wasteful by throwing it away."
Just because there is more food on the table than my body needs doesn't mean I have to eat it.
Eating only what I need is not self-denial (though it might feel that way at first), it is simply what's right. Self-denial would be eating less (which is what fasting is--and that is something we're expected to do on occasion). I need to learn what that amount is, and prepare my meals accordingly. If others prepare a feast, I must learn how to (respectfully) say no to more.
I don't know how it's going to go. I'm so accustomed to eating more than I need; consuming beyond what my body requires. I'm thankful for the abundance of food. But I must not hoard it all into my body.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
But I did notice that the jets would often do the same maneuvers over and over. I once asked an ex-military friend of mine what they were doing all the time.
My friend told me that they often play out war-time scenarios. They repeatedly practice what they need to do in real situations so that when the time comes, they'll be ready. The soldiers, airmen and seamen don't just understand the theory of what needs to be done--they train themselves by doing it over and over and over until they get it right--before they ever have to do it for real.
Could you imagine sending soldiers out to defend our country who have never trained, but who have only studied military philosophy in the classroom? Would you be very confident that they could protect us? Would you have much faith in their ability to defeat the enemy?
This is exactly what most of our seminaries and theological training institutions do--we send out Christian ministers to jump into the spiritual battle that is life who have primarily been trained academically. We make the assumption that Christian ministry is a primarily academic endeavor.
But the military training my friend told me about goes beyond just practicing war games over and over. Instead, they create the most critical situations possible for the young men and women to handle. In fact, they make the scenarios ten times more difficult than they would ever encounter in real warfare. What effect does this have? Well, when the real warfare comes around--it seems almost EASY!
I'm not sure how we would could apply this principle for Christian training and create "scenarios" that are more difficult than what we would face in real life without it being rather hokey. But I like the concept. I like the concept of being trained and prepared by repeated practice rather than simple theoretical instruction.
What do you think? What are some "out of the box" ways we could prepare Christian workers for ministry by applying this type of training technique? What are some ways we can prepare young people for ministry that aren't primarily academic?
Monday, July 13, 2009
When it comes to our attitudes and actions, the Bible certainly teaches us (look at 1 Corinthians 13) that love is the biggest trump card.
I have seen this to be true in ministry. People who aren't "cool," people who aren't up on all the latest technology, and people who don't know a lot about pop culture or what's on TV are still VERY effective in ministry when they simply, truly and generously love people from the heart.
Love is the big trump card.
That's right, you've heard it before: Location, location, location.
The axiom is that you want to be located where people already are going by and can easily stop in. You don’t want to be somewhere where you have to try to draw them in with your product—no matter how wonderful that product is.
That is the point about location—A good location beats a good product. A good location beats sub-par service. Bad businesses (with inferior products or substandard service) can do well in good locations. Good businesses (with superior products and services) do poorly in bad locations.
Location is a trump card. A good location beats all the other things you can do (or fail to do) to make your business prosper. It almost seems unfair. Why should a mismanaged and inferior enterprise do better than your own? Because it has a better position. You may be able to sink 65% of your three-pointers, but all they do is make 98% of their lay-ups.
That is why it is much more important to spend more time and energy (and resources) on securing a good location for your business than spending it on logos, advertising, or even employee training. If location is a trump card for all these other things, businesses are wise to go after the best locations, first, before investing in so many other things.
So… what does this mean for ministry? Are there “locations” in our society we can try to “secure” in order to make it almost impossible to fail?
I’m mulling this one over… I could see “locations” for ministry in three ways:
- Physical location of our services. And I don’t just mean “services” in terms of meetings (although, that is a part of it, too), but of any kind of service/ministry we would offer to the public who needs it. If we are in places where people are at already, it will make it much easier to serve them. We will have more people who accept the service we have to offer. Even though I’ve listed this first, it just might be the most important.
- Cultural location. This just means doing things according to the “culture” of where people are at. Call it being culturally relevant, if you like.
- Mental location. This means we are dealing with the exact issues that are in people’s minds as to why they are where they are with God. Now, this doesn’t mean the “real” issues. Sometimes real issues are subconscious. These are the conscious issues in people’s minds—what they think about God, about others who believe in God, about organized religion and about where they fit in the eternal scheme of things. These are the kinds of things Paul was talking about when he made the “take every thought captive” comment. (No, he actually wasn’t talking about lust.)
Securing a good location is “getting a corner on the market.” It is positioning ourselves right under the basket so that we can make the highest percentage shots possible. The question is—how do we get to that location in the communities we are trying to reach?
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I am all for planning and preparation.
I am all for trying to make a difference.
I am all for social research and the understanding of human dynamics.
I am all for using technology in ministry.
I am all for using money and resources in ministry.
I am all for purposing for results rather than relying on wishful thinking.
I am all for organization, programs and systems.
I think all of the above are a matter of good stewardship with the opportunities, time and resources we are given.
But there is one thing that makes me uncomfortable when I've been a part of such ministries or ministry planning--It's almost like we're saying to God when we purpose to serve him: We will build your kingdom with or without your help.
And something about that just isn't right.
I think it's the difference between praying and saying a prayer. You know what I mean? We spend an hour in planning relying on all of our human powers, resources and wisdom, and then we say a 30 second prayer to "bless" it all. Then we claim that this was God's will.
What if God would not have us use our own wisdom but would have us simply do one thing: Every day spend an hour in prayer and his Word. Listen to his voice. Then obey what he wants us to do. What would happen? How can this be done as a group/team rather than just as an individual?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I am overseeing three different business projects and have plans to start more, and drastically increase the size of one.
I am administering a discipleship program that is designed to prepare local people to become national tentmakers here in The Location, and I am trying to develop all the curriculum in the language here.
I am attempting to reach at least one unreached people group here in The Location, and in addition to creating a unique script for their language (which the Bible was printed in last year) I am trying to make inroads into their community in our current location. Where I lived in previous places in The Location there were already growing communities of Christians in my designated people group, but in our current location there are almost none.
And I am trying to do and handle all of these things by myself. So, as you can see, I get stressed sometimes. I do not have much time for blogging or spending time online at all. I could really use some help... some teammates.
Recently a representative from my mission agency wrote to ask me to attend a special new training in a couple months and then head up future trainings, and the program that comes from the training, for our mission agency. I would love to do it, but I'd have to drop everything I've been working on for years. They didn't seem to understand that.
Like I said... I could use some teammates. But, then again, if the wrong people joined our team it could end up being much more stressful than it is now. If the right people joined, it could make a world of difference!
Who are the right people? Good question. Please pray that God sends them... soon. Thank you.
Monday, July 6, 2009
An overachiever is someone who does more than required. Someone who does more than is expected.
Some have meant it as a compliment. "You did so well and have gone above and beyond!" Others have offered it as a complaint. "You really don't need to waste time doing it like that."
But, to me, overachieving is more about expectations than it is about accomplishments. Kind of like movies, really. Have you ever seen the trailer for a movie and then really wanted to see it? And then when you did see it, you were a little disappointed. Why? Because your expectations were high going in. Just like when someone takes you to a movie you don't really want to see, but you go with them because they want to see it. Then, it turns out to be a lot better than expected. Why? Expectations were pretty low to begin with.
You've seen this with political candidates, too. Before any debate the campaign staff will downplay their own candidate's debating ability and generously compliment the opponent. What are they doing? Trying to raise your expectations for the opponent and lower your expectations for their candidate. Then, they hope you are disappointed in the opponent and pleasantly surprised by their candidate.
Expectations strongly effect our judgement. Expectations that we have of others (meaning, how we think they will do--not demands or requirements) tell us a lot about how we view other people.
So when people call me an overachiever, I know that they have simply underestimated me.
I once got a dose of this from the president of my mission agency after I came back from my first 3-month trip to The Location.
"Koffijah, I am so impressed with what you've done! You did a great job this summer! You know, before you left we looked at you and it was kind of like when you're watching little league baseball. We're down by two, the bases are loaded, it's the bottom of the last inning and there are two outs. Then you come up to bat and you're the boy who is last on the lineup. You have to bat because in little league everyone gets to bat. Everyone on the team moans and all the parents in the stands moan, too because this is the kid who strikes out almost every time. But Koffijah, you just hit it out of the park!"
Yes, he actually said that. I was like, "Uh... thank you." I was glad he was so happy with what I had done, but was rather disturbed that he expected so very little. I knew he had a pretty low view of me and didn't think I would be capable of doing much, but, hey, "God can use anyone!"
Do you do this with anyone in your life? Do you look at them and think, "I don't think they have what it takes." Or, "If they end up doing anything it's going to be God for sure!" If so, then we just might take time to look deeper at them and reconsider our view of them. It just might end up making a big difference.
Maybe you'll start batting them cleanup.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I used to have one of those pin buttons with this phrase on it. I don't know if I really felt like that at the time or if I just thought it was funny. When I realized its deeper meaning I threw it away. This was a very long time ago... and before I became a Christian.
After I started following Christ and was in a fellowship of Christians I had a renewed love for people in general. Those in the fellowship were like dear brothers and dear sisters. Those outside were people we would love to welcome into our fellowship and really hoped they would join.
It took me a number of years to begin to have my faith in people eroded. And I admit... even now I find it really easy to get discouraged with people in general. Myself included.
I have written quite a bit in The Koffi House about how we view people. In fact, if you click on the label "View of People" you will get all the posts I have tagged with that description. One of the best posts regarding this topic is The Arrogance of Agape Love. It describes the difference between loving people as doing something good for them and loving people as viewing them as someone valuable.
This morning I was thinking about monks in Burma that set themselves on fire to make a political protest. I thought about other non-Western people basically throwing their lives away to make some kind of point in protest. I thought to myself, "They don't value their lives as much as we do in the West." This immediately led me to think of the verse in Revelation 12:11 that describes those who died because of their witness of Christ and their refusal to deny him even in the face of death. It says, "they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."
You see, it's not that these Christian martyrs (or even those burning Buddhist monks) didn't value their lives. It's just that they valued something more--something greater than themselves. If I would have used my own wording to described these people do you know what word I would have chosen? I would have said, "They didn't value their lives so much..."
That's when it hit me. Value equals love. Love equals value. If we love someone we value them. Just like the martyrs in Revelation 12 didn't love their lives so much it means that they loved Christ even more. They valued Christ more than their own physical lives.
You can't separate value from love. You can't claim to love someone whom you don't value as a person or a child of God. This requires we change how we view people. This requires a change in our values.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Well, even though you might need to hear it, I'm not going to share the nuts and bolts of what probably needs to happen. (But if you really want to know, leave me a comment and I'll be glad to get into that with you.) I'd rather focus on the preparation of you as a person--developing the "material" that will make you an effective missionary.
Now, if you remember from what I wrote in Missionary Material 2, your walk with Christ and your spiritual character are WAY more important than whatever strategy or approach you use. So, even if you might be excited about what I wrote in Missionary Material 4 regarding business and all that--don't get too excited just yet. You need to be discipled, first.
Have you been discipled? Have you ever hung out with a deeply spiritual and Christlike person whose mind was on how he/she could please Christ and serve him? Have you allowed this person to peer into your life, counsel you and coach you? Have you allowed them to suggest to you how you need to change or where you need to grow? Have you spent time in prayer with them? Have you spent time serving alongside of this person in real-life ministry situations? Have you joined this person when he/she has spent time with those outside the faith?
If you have answered "no" to any of these questions, I think you need to find someone like this, first, and ask them to disciple you. Live with them if you can. But whatever you do, don't get someone who is a good talker (can explain anything about God) but never seems to get around to doing any ministry or spending time with anyone outside of the Christian community. If you allow yourself to be discipled by someone like that then you will probably become like that, too.
Allow yourself discipleship time to change into the kind of person God wants you to be. This is primary before any kind of ministry--cross-cultural or not. Of course, you will always be growing and discipleship is ongoing--it will never end. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take time to be discipled, first, before jumping into a situation where you will be tried in ways you've never even imagined before. You need time to deal with the issues deep in your heart. You need time to allow others to help you grow strong where you are weak.
Nobody runs a marathon without first having gone through extensive personal training. It doesn't matter how much academic knowledge you have about running. Nor does it matter how much you have spent on your fancy shoes. You better be in shape when the whistle blows.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
For many people business and ministry cannot mix. Business exists to make money. Ministry exists to save souls. And money is what those of us in ministry are often fighting against in trying to save all those souls from loving it more than God. So, in many ways, business and ministry are enemies.
Many Christians think the Bible says something to the effect of "Money is the root of all evil."
It does, doesn't it?
Well, no, it doesn't.
Here's the verse you're thinking of:
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10
Money in and of itself is neutral. The sin is to LOVE money. The sin is to SEEK money before God. The sin is to HOARD money that we have when we could use it to help people in need.
So, business, like money, is neutral. It is no more sinful to do business than it is to have money.
But for many of us... we reject anything from the realm of business because we assume that if your purpose is to make a profit then you must not have pure motives. At the end of the day... we assume... you're in it for the money!
I've written elsewhere about ways we can do business and shield ourselves from the temptations of profits. But as I read through much of the Bible and as I learn more about business I am starting to see that business, in a lot of ways, is a lot like good stewardship. It's a lot like trying to make smart financial decisions. And, if you look at it one way, anyone who has and uses any amount of money is already doing business.
You work at a job and get paid. That is how you make money. You then use this money to buy food and clothes and also pay for your car and your house. When you buy a house, you have to be careful not to spend too much or your salary will not be able to keep up with it. Sometimes things get tight and you have to plan your purchases carefully. At the end of the day, you are selling your services (by doing your job) and then you are managing your expenses the best you can so that you will hopefully end up with a little to save each month. Hey, don't look now, but--You're doing business!
If we manage our expenses poorly we go into debt, are forced to sell assets or we have to live without for a period of time. We probably all have experience at this. So...
Why not learn to do business right? Could learning about good business practices be a matter of good stewardship?
I am reading a very good book now that I think every high-school student should study. That's right--high school! I have gone all of these years (after having majored in science and theology) and have never been taught these things that I believe would be a good idea to include as required high-school or college general education curriculum. The book?
The Complete Idiot's Guide to MBA Basics
It's not rocket science and don't let the "MBA" part fool you--it doesn't take a business whiz to grasp the concepts. Also, don't let the "Idiot" part fool you, either--that just means this book assumes no prior knowledge in the business discipline. Good for guys like me.
So, how about that young missionary wannabe who wants to know how to become an effective missionary in a very unreached part of the world? Well, I'm not saying you HAVE to do BAM, but I think it is a very good option that will allow you to get to and involved in so many places that would never accept someone who just has a Missions degree from a Bible college. And, depending upon the kind of business you do, you will likely need to get training in something else, too, besides missiology.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Seriously, now what? What does someone do to become a missionary? Where does someone go to find out what it takes to become a missionary?
Perhaps it is his youth pastor? Or maybe his church's senior minister? Maybe he should just google "missionary" online and see what he gets. (Yeah, maybe not!) Or would someone down at the Bible college know about how someone becomes a missionary?
It is frightening the kinds of advice this young man is going to get from all of these different quarters. Many will smile real big and say, "Great!" while inside they are saying, "You'll never make it!" Others will overtly try to talk him out of the idea or question God's calling of him. Some with try to psychoanalyze him and say he is being eccentric because of pent-up angst stemming from being bullied or neglected as a child. There will always be the multitude of people saying that you don't have to be a missionary to be a Christian and that good works do not earn us salvation. (When did that become the issue?) A few will be impressed. Most will assume it is just a phase.
Then some will point this young man to the traditional means by which many people have become missionaries for centuries: Theological training institutions. The young man visits such an institution and meets people who indeed advise him on how he can become a missionary if he's really committed. This includes theological training and graduating with a theological degree, ordination to missionary service and then commissioning to the field through a missionary or denominational agency.
So... what's the problem with all of this, you might ask?
Our world has changed. Traditional ways of doing missions only works in places that allow traditional missions. And you know what? The vast majority of people who are unreached and have never been given the opportunity to follow Christ live in places where traditional missionaries are not welcome.
What's a young missionary wannabe to do?
I'll share some of my thoughts in my next post.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
In general, I would say good people make good missionaries. You know, just like good people also make good husbands, good fathers, good wives and good employees. In general, the better a person you are the better you will be at being a missionary, as well as a thousand other roles in life. You will always be better the more loving you are; the more joyful you are; the more peaceful you are; the more patient you are; the kinder you are; the more gentle you are; the more faithful you are; the more self-controlled you are. The more the Holy Spirit has molded you into the likeness of Christ, the more effective you will be at being his witness.
But here are three things you can start with for being an effective missionary:
- Have a close, abiding walk with Jesus and his Word.
- Have God's view of the people you're trying to reach.
- Have a good approach/strategy.
Also, have them in that order, too--not the other way around.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I love the phrase "missionary material." The only time you ever hear it is when we're judging whether or not someone should be a missionary. Either they're not spiritual enough or they're not tough enough. We say, "I don't think they're missionary material."
I've probably uttered these words once in my life. I don't have a specific memory, but I wouldn't deny it if someone else did. I know I've thought that way before. But this phrase just makes me want to laugh now.
Because usually we have some pretty uninformed ideas of what kind of person makes a good missionary. Would the following things be on your list?
* Loves adventure.
* Very extroverted.
* Doesn't mind being dirty.
* Enjoys eating strange foods.
* A little on the wild side.
* Has a strong sense of God's calling.
* Loves working with children.
* Doesn't miss home, friends or loved ones when gone.
* Loves mixing and pouring concrete.
* Has MacGyver-like skills at fixing almost anything.
* Confident riding motorcycles.
* Enjoys speaking to large crowds of people.
* Has no need for luxury or convenience.
* Can live on next to nothing.
* Has training in agriculture or machine mechanics.
* Good at initiating conversations with strangers.
* Loves to travel and can't stay in one place (wanderlust).
* Has a pith helmet.
Well, let me tell you that while many missionaries do possess many of these qualities, many of them are actually less effective BECAUSE of these same things.
I once met a person who told me they wouldn't be a good missionary because it would be too difficult to leave relatives, friends and loved ones. They suggested that people who don't miss their families would be better missionaries.
Actually, I think those who know how to form deep relationships with others and then feel like they don't know what they could do without a close connection to those people would actually make very good missionaries. Those who don't have deep relational ties at home usually aren't able to form deep ties with nationals on the field, either.
Those who are "social butterflies" aren't as good at discipling small groups of people.
Those who are very independent often clash with other missionaries on the field (who are also very independent). (You've heard we missionaries don't get along very well, right? And that most of us who return home early do so because of differences with other missionaries on the field. Well, that independent streak has a lot to do with that.)
Those who are good at mechanics, farming or some other skill often get caught up into doing work.
Those who love to work with children often don't know how to relate to the leaders and decision makers in their location and are sometimes seen as deceptive by preying on the little ones to spread their foreign religion.
Those who have wanderlust aren't very good at staying put on the mission field, either, and are always traveling around and not doing consistent ministry in any one location.
Those who can jump in, blend in and live in poverty are often seen as strange and useless in the eyes of nationals who know the missionary has more money than them.
So, don't sell yourself short. You don't have to be a cross between Indiana Jones, MacGyver, Jason Bourne and Mother Teresa in order to be a missionary. God calls people of all shapes and sizes.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Traveling now. Buying lots of fish and fruit trees as this is the time of year that ponds fill with water and trees are planted.
I'm also working on potentially sending a big load of The Stuff to the UK. Would be great if it happens and a big encouragement to us here.
Other exciting news on the horizon. My son's going to get a little sister very soon. :-)
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In a posting from a large church (1,000+) for a preaching position was the following description:
We offer a very competitive package of benefits including a comfortable salary, housing allowance and vacation time.
Competitive package? With whom are they competing? Other churches? By offering a higher salary or more benefits does it help this church to attract a more spiritual pastor? Does it help them hire the person God has chosen for them?
For the would-be preacher who applies--Does a more comfortable salary and living situation indicate God's leading to preach at this church?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
What do you think of this quote? Do you agree?
I don't know. A case can be made that you will do the job better than anyone else out there. That is possible. Also, it could be that no one else wants that job and if you don’t take it then your employer will not be able to find anyone else. In that case it is also possible to make a difference by accepting the position offered to you.
However, most people don’t seek or take jobs in order to make a difference. They do it in order to make a living—to make enough money to live, feed and clothe their family and send their children to school. There is nothing wrong with that, either. If our goal is to live and provide for our loved ones, then competing for a desirable job position with a good salary makes sense. It will allow us to live the life we want and to have enough money to do it.
In the long run, most people do their jobs because of one reason: Payday. If it weren’t for the money they wouldn’t be spending all this time doing this job. And there is nothing wrong or dishonorable about working for pay. Earned money is a good thing and nothing to be ashamed of. Many people around the world would love just the opportunity to work and earn a living.
Some people, on the other hand, choose not only to earn a living and provide for a family, but to try to make a difference in our world. They aren’t motivated just by the money (although, that is necessary in order to eat and live) but they are also motivated by the positive impact their work has on society. These may be people like doctors, police men and women, teachers or even lawyers. The majority of these people take positions that were already created for them. And sometimes it is a pretty competitive position.
Just think about job competition for a moment. What is the purpose? From the employer’s perspective it is to find the best candidate out of many who apply for the same position. From the applicant’s perspective it is to get a good job that is hard to find. Some positions are so desirable (high salary, great benefits, convenient location, good hours, light work, etc.) that many people compete to be the lucky one chosen for the job. This is true for both jobs that make a positive impact on society and those that don’t. (Think working in a soft drink company as compared to teaching in a city school.)
But does taking a job that makes a positive impact on society really make a net difference in the world? Maybe. Maybe not. Because even if you don’t take that position someone else probably will. Most likely, the difference is going to be made by one person or another.
A question: If you left your job today, would they hire someone else to take your position?
Why would you want to be a doctor in a hospital that already has 100 other doctors and your patients aren’t even really sick? Why wouldn’t you want to be a doctor in a poor country where the lives of hundreds who are dying every day without any doctors would be saved by you?
We couldn’t imagine the sacrifice it would take (giving up our lifestyles) to go save their lives. We love our lives the way they are (i.e.: our lifestyles) and feel it is not necessary to change them because, after all, people in our own country get the flu, too.
Okay, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying you need to go to another country in order to make a difference in the world. I’m just trying to make one simple point. Here is the point:
There aren’t many existing job positions for the kinds of things most needed in our world that you can apply for, receive a salary and make a difference. If you want to make an impact you have to figure out what needs to be done that isn’t being done by anyone, where it needs to be done, and then figure out a way to fund yourself to do it. Most of those things will not have someone waiting to hire/pay you to do it.
In business we call these people entrepreneurs. In charting and settling unknown territory, we call these people pioneers. In ministry, we call them...
Friday, June 5, 2009
"What compelled Jesus was not impact but obedience. He was nourished by doing everything his Father commanded. 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me,' he said. Whether amid an adoring crowd entering Jerusalem, or isolated in the wilderness for forty days, Jesus' single-minded obedience to his Father never wavered. His legitimacy did not come from the size of the crowd he impacted, but from the One who declared from heaven, 'This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.' With an identity anchored in his Father rather than his fans, Jesus was able to engage his mission and abandon the outcomes to God."
I don't know if I'm brave enough to "abandon the outcomes to God." You know, I'm here on a mission and there are things I wish to accomplish with the express purpose of making an impact here in The Location. I have goals to be successful in doing these things for God's kingdom and I feel I would be letting all of my supporters down by abandoning such goals and not worrying about whether or not I achieve them.
Do you see my line of thinking? This is what I'm saying:
I'm more concerned about what supporters think than I am about obeying God.
The goals I wish to accomplish for God are more important to me than the activities God might have me to do.
I am doing these things for God rather than with God.
Lord, purify my heart and let my only goal to be obedience to you.
Friday, May 29, 2009
This is a hard question for me to answer. While I will say yes, it is possible, I will also say, no, it is unlikely. Not impossible, but improbable. As I grow older I find myself having less faith that people will indeed change, despite the lip service we give to making changes in our lives.
How about changing our beliefs? Beliefs about ourselves? Here's a question for you:
Which is harder for you to really believe: That Jesus rose from the dead, or, that Jesus really does love you?
Feeling like you are unloveable or are somehow a bad person is not an easy thing to change. You do bad things and those things just confirm to you that you are bad. Some bad things you do, you really want to stop doing. But you find yourself doing them again and again. You get discouraged. You feel like you can't change. You sigh in defeat, "This is just the way I am." And because that way is not good, you feel you are bad.
For many of us “bad” also means “unchangeable” or “unsavable.” Nothing good can be salvaged out of this wretched heart of ours. We suffer from depression, mostly, because we believe that we cannot change—that we will always be bad and do bad things and be unaccepted, unloved, unrespected and unappreciated by people in society.
One of the deepest questions people ask in their lives is, “Am I good?” And there are two main sources for a major answer of “No!” to that question.
One, you are not good because you do bad things—you sin. Sin has made you unclean. You have sinned in the past, you do sin and you will sin again.
Two, you are not good if you are unliked or unattractive to many people in society. You know this may not be how it really is, but it is how you sometimes feel. People don't pay you attention. People don't take you seriously. People judge you, ignore you and don't respect you all that much. People don't want to spend a lot of time just hanging out with you. At least, that is how you find yourself feeling sometimes.
There is something in you that tells you that if you were “good” people would treat you better, respect you more than they do and want to be your friend and spend time with you. Any negativity you get from other people—you turn it on yourself and feel that it is because you are not good. You don’t like the person you are because you wish you were someone other people liked more.
This is my message to you. Not only can you change, but you are worth changing. And, really, the latter is a more important issue. It is where it starts.
I remember when my Grandpa was living with us and was getting old. One time he became very sick and had to go to the hospital. He lost a lot of weight very fast. Relatives joined at our house to discuss what to do when he was in the hospital. One lady said that we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that he is dying. I was just a kid at the time—maybe just 10 years old, I don’t remember. And what she said, I now realize, was wise and good. But at the time it angered me. I felt like they were giving up on him. I felt like they were calling the game "over” when the fat lady had not yet sung. I remember thinking, “He’s not dead yet!”
About that time (I don’t remember clearly the chronology of events) I remember my dad taking me into see grandpa at the hospital. The doctor laid out the options before my grandpa and dad about what can be done, and that he needed some sort of surgery or procedure if he was going to live much longer. I think the cost of this procedure was expensive or not covered by insurance, or there was some sort of financial issue involved. (Again, I am not too clear.) But I remember my grandpa saying something to the effect that we might not choose to do the procedure—perhaps because it was too expensive and he was so old and not worth saving. But my dad didn’t waiver at all, and said that we would definitely do the procedure. To my dad, it wasn’t a question to consider—my grandpa was worth saving, at any cost.
Spiritually speaking, I have felt like my grandpa—too far gone to be worth saving. The issue isn’t just a question of possibility—it is a question of worth—of profitability. What would we really gain by saving this?
My grandpa got better, to everyone’s amazement. He put weight back on. He came back home with us and lived a life the same as before he went into the hospital. The night he died he had just finished helping me wash the dinner dishes and sang as he worked. I am so thankful that my dad saw him as worth saving.
My grandpa used to save everything. He had lived through the great depression and had lost his house during that time. Unlike people of my generation, he knew the pain of poverty, and how fleeting was worldly wealth. He did not take things for granted and therefore did not live wastefully. I remember that he saved his dinner napkins from almost every night of dinner when it didn’t get too dirty. He folded them up and kept them on top of his refrigerator in his room. They were still good. They could be used again. There was no need to throw them away so promptly.
My grandpa didn’t come from a disposable society. In our society, so many of the products we buy and use are disposable—we use them and then we throw them away. It is cheaper and easier to buy a new one than it is to re-use an old one. It has become our mentality. Once something is “old” or “used” then it cannot be made new again. So, we don’t get attached to it. We throw it away. Nothing has value to us for very long. And certainly nothing has redeemable valuable—something that we can save, or get value back out of. No, we just dispose and purchase new; dispose and purchase new.
Imagine a paper napkin that we have used to place a piece of barbecued chicken on. The sauce has dripped down and soaked the paper napkin. It is really impossible to re-use that napkin. The sauce has probably actually melted the paper of the napkin. There is no way we could, or would, take that napkin to the laundry room and wash it, dry it out, and then use it again. If we placed it in a washing machine or a dryer, it would disintegrate. But that is the point of a paper napkin—they are so cheap that they wouldn’t be worth spending the money on soap, water and electricity (much less our precious time) to re-use when we can just throw them away and grab another one out of the pack.
Now, if we had a fine cloth or silk napkin, we would probably think differently. If gravy gets on that napkin we certainly do not throw it away and buy another! We do all we can to get it clean, and restore it to its prior condition. Why? Because we have already spent a lot of money on it. It is worth more. A dirty paper napkin is not worth saving. A dirty silk napkin is worth saving because we have already invested a significant amount into it.
And that is my point about my dad and my grandpa. To my dad, my grandpa was not disposable. He was not something my dad could just so easily part with. Yes, he was sick. Yes, it was very serious. But he was worth saving. He was worth bringing back to his prior condition. My dad had no doubts about that. I am glad he didn’t.
So, I have to ask… Is your depressed and broken heart worth saving? Is it worth being changed? Is it worth being healed? Is it worth all the time and work it would require to restore it to a healthy condition?
Jesus died to say “Yes!” to this question. Romans 5:6-8 makes it clear that we were sick; we were sinners; our situation was very grave and serious. But Jesus didn’t even wait for us to ask. He didn’t wait for us “get well” on our own. No, he came with his purpose of “redeeming” us—of retaining the value that he had created us with. He came with the purpose of freeing our hearts from the prison of lies and sin, and to heal the broken hearted. Jesus wants our hearts free. Jesus wants our hearts healed.
So, yes, you are worth saving—your heart is worth saving. And if you are not dead yet, it is not too late. You are not “too far gone.” You can change, and you are worth changing.
Satan’s purpose is to get us to reject Jesus and to reject God’s grace. How do we usually reject God’s grace? By feeling that we are “not worth” saving. When we say, “I am not good,” we are not just saying that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory—no, we are actually saying that “we are not worth anything.” Yes, it is true that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But, no, it is not true that we are not worth saving. Satan’s most powerful deception is to get us to believe that we are “not worth” saving, so that we will thereby reject any grace, any possibility of change. (See Good and Good.)
So, in communicating the story of Jesus, we don’t just need to convince people that Jesus died save them, but that they are worth saving! This is good news!
To believe that you are worth being changed is simply to believe that God truly loves you.
“Okay, maybe I am worth being changed, but CAN I be changed?”
I think that if you can change your mind about your worth (that your heart is good, not bad), then you can change.