Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Situation Critical

I once lived briefly in a military town that had fighter jets flying over all the time. When I first got there I found it rather exciting to see. After a while, it just became an annoying noise.

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

Trump Card

Just another thought regarding the Location post I just made...

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.


In retail business there is one aspect of your enterprise that is not only critically important--it is exclusively important. Meaning, if this aspect isn't good, then it matters very little how well you do in every other aspect. What is it?


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:

  1. 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.
  2. Cultural location. This just means doing things according to the “culture” of where people are at. Call it being culturally relevant, if you like.
  3. 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

With Or Without God's Help

I am all for excellence in ministry.

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

Teammates Needed

I came to the mission field as a single man. I have been married only four years and in a few days my wife will be giving birth to our second child.

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


I have been called an overachiever before.

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.