Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"The More People I Meet...

...the more I like my dog."

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

Missionary Material 5

So, say you're that missionary wannabe I described in Missionary Material 3. What do you need to do to become a missionary?

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

Missionary Material 4

I used to think that everyone who majored in business majored in greed. In fact I had a roommate once who was a business major and on one occasion I commented to him that he and all the other business students are majoring in greed. He kind of smirked and said, "For most people--that's about right!"

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

Missionary Material 3

A young high-school or college-aged student has recently become a Christian and is "on fire" for Christ. While this fire is still burning brightly he goes on a mission trip (to Mexico or Haiti, of course) and then it hits him: He wants to be a missionary! This is indeed what God is calling him to do.

Now what?

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

Missionary Material 2

What does it take to be an effective missionary? Well, I've written many things on this topic and you can peruse them by clicking on the label "Effectiveness" in the labels list on the right. It is a bit hard to be generic, though, because there are few generic missionaries. I mean, a missionary is not just one kind of animal. There are doctors, translators, leadership trainers, evangelists, business owners, tentmakers, support, development workers, pilots, mechanics, financial directors, etc. The list goes on and on. So, how do you generalize?

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:
  1. Have a close, abiding walk with Jesus and his Word.
  2. Have God's view of the people you're trying to reach.
  3. Have a good approach/strategy.

Also, have them in that order, too--not the other way around.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Missionary Material

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.
* Independent.
* 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

Fish, Fruit and The Stuff

Hi all faithful followers of The Koffi House. :-)

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

Competitive Package

A Bible college I once visited kept postings of open ministry positions on a bulletin board in their Administration building. Bible college students getting ready to graduate could peruse the postings and contact various churches to apply for a job. The postings would normally be divided into categories, such as Senior Minister, Youth Minister, Worship Minister, Children's Minister, etc.

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

Taking Job Positions

“If there is an existing position for the work that you want to do then you won’t really be making a difference by taking that job. That is because if you don’t take that job somebody else will.”

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?

Another question:

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?

An answer:

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

Not Impact But Obedience

The following quote is from Skye Jethani author of the book The Divine Commodity. I saw this on another blog and liked it so much that I've posted his quote here.

"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.