Monday, August 22, 2016

Discipling Marketplacer Leaders Update

It's time for a bit of an update as it relates to the actual work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML).  The past six weeks have involved a lot of meetings and networking Stateside for me and now the time is approaching for me to get back out on the field again.

There are a couple new surprise additions to the countries where DML will be implemented.  The first is Guatemala, ICM's first non-African country, as well as my first time going to Central
America.  This came out of a relationship with a member of one of my supporting churches, working with a Partners Worldwide affiliate.  We will travel there during the third week of September, and materials are being rapidly translated into Spanish as I write.  Additionally, we hope to have two prospective team members from the US who hope to help us with our training join us for this trip.  God is building His team!

Additionally, this week we interviewed candidates for a DML staff position in Ghana, and during the course of the conversation with Fanny, the director of our implementing partner Hopeline Institute, I learned that the two day training we are planning to do in Ghana in November will have at least fifty pastors and church leaders from neighboring countries Niger and Chad, who have heard about DML and wish to join!  This is because of our good friend and partner Rev. Johnson, who I wrote about earlier, and the work he is doing in Northern Ghana as it relates to business as mission.  These are all heavily Muslim areas that have had some significant struggles, so if we can equip business people to be Marketplace Ministers, we believe that the Marketplace can be reclaimed for Christ!

As for Ghana, there are eleven churches who are implementing "30 Days in the Marketplace" in which there are four weeks of preaching and teaching by the senior pastor as it relates to faith and work, which will then be followed by training of the business members.  This is very exciting!

Kenya continues to be moving forward, with the annual prayer walk approaching on August 27.  This will take place across four different cities, with Marketplace Ministers traveling two by two, praying for businesses, government buildings, and the city in general.  Please pray with us for a good turn-out, for God to hear the prayers of His people, and that the Marketplace Ministers may also continue to have their hearts turned toward the city as their active parish.

I spent time this past week training a missionary to Ethiopia to be a trainer for DML.  We met him in Addis Ababa several months ago and found that he was doing business development already but needed a stronger curriculum.  When we introduced the idea of doing this through the church, he immediately saw the potential for where he is in north-west Ethiopia.  Ethiopia has been having some challenges however and continues to need our prayers.
Egypt continues to move slowly, but at least it is moving.  We have struggled to find the right churches with whom to partner.  Unfortunately, churches there apparently expect to be paid for doing ministry, rather than owning the ministry for themselves.  This has been brought about through unhealthy development practices where people are paid to come to workshops, etc.  But we continue to hear loudly the need and desire for it, especially by business people, and so we are trusting that with patience, the right church will be found.

This fall we will also make our first presentation in Nigeria.  So that means that from September to November, I will be in Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.  I will be back in Egypt in January, then Kenya and Ethiopia in March, and so on.

Please continue to pray with us.  We want to join God in where He is working, and we want to see His church built, with His will done on earth "as it is in Heaven."  Thanks to all of you who join us in prayer, in encouragement, through volunteering your time, or through financial support!  God is building His church by using His church!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bob's Birthday - sharing his words...

The photo entitled, "Yers Trooly," his pen name for the blog.
August 9 is Bob's birthday.  He would have been 62 and probably would have been grumpy about it.  He did not like birthdays and did not like growing older.  The worst memory of a birthday with him was when he turned 50 years old, we were camping, and I had the nerve to invite some people that we knew to have birthday cake with us. He was not happy about that!  As I approach 50, I can see a bit of what he meant!

I have to admit that I've been missing him more lately.  [And please know that I can say that without it having any reflection of my marriage to Michael or my love for Michael.  I love Michael dearly, but just as many of you miss parents or siblings or friends who have passed, I miss Bob for the many different roles he had in my life.]  If you are new to this blog, I was married to Bob for 19 years, raised two children with him (to the ages of 15 and almost 17), and served in ministry together for nine years.  He died very suddenly in 2010, while we were living and working in Ghana, West Africa.  He started writing the blog when we moved to Liberia in 2005 (he started with www.reedsinliberia.blogspot.com) and was a great writer.  Many of you can attest to that.  But even beyond writing, he was a great thinker and a wise man.  So to celebrate his birthday (and in some defiance to his wishes which may have now changed since he has crossed over to heaven and hopefully realizes that birthdays are a celebration of life, NOT an acknowledgement of age and demise!), I want to share some words that he wrote ten months before he died:

With his favorite pet in Liberia, a pangolin.
After living for 54 years, and paying attention for 40, I find myself tired and occasionally angry, a victim of sorts to an ironic paradox.  40 years ago—or more precisely 39 years ago—I set out on a quest.  Terrified by my own morality, of the thought that this incredible thing called life would end, I sought  the truth—wherever I found it.  I was particularly interested in the unseen truths. I wondered: was there a god, an afterlife, consciousness after death?  But really, any truth would help, I assumed, as I journeyed.   I hungered and thirsted for it.
After 40 years here are a few observations that have proven themselves worthy of being called true. 
·         Non attachment is the wise course through life. Attachment leads to loss of awareness and disconnect from self.

·         Quietness with patience is wise.  Quietness with patience clarifies and allows truth to emerge.
·         Distraction from being centered within ourselves is the great evil.  Being centered fosters patience, distraction leads to loss of self.
·         Truth is found in many places, but it is always found in beauty. 
·         Non attachment, patience, quietness and centeredness are great principles, spanning thousands of years across civilizations and religious traditions.
·         There is a Truth that especially honors patience, quietness and non attachment.
·         This Truth seems to be conscious and interactive.  I call it God.
·         The Christ event (Jesus of Nazareth’s life and resurrection from death) actually happened and is the central event in human history.

Bob and Noah
The irony or paradox is this: for years I’ve aligned myself with a religion that—in its American expression— often distracts me from my pursuit of truth.  American culture is not patient, centered, unattached or quiet, and these characteristics have permeated and saturated American Christianity.  My observation is that American Christians are quick to speak, reactive not reflective, noisy, slow to listen and seem thoroughly distracted by social and cultural activities.   And I find myself frustrated because I feel like I’ve joined a club of distracted, busy people, fully attached to the trappings of the surrounding culture, casually convinced that all is well.   And then I become distracted by my own observations, and then I become judgmental, and at that point my own pursuit of quietness and non-attachment gets derailed. 

What did Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplish?  Was it not to simply restore us to fellowship with the Father? And once restored, how are we to live our lives?  Is it not at least to allow us to remain connected to spiritual principles that have remained constant across cultures and millennia?

For 10,000 years-- 99.9% of our time here-- we lived close to the earth, close to the beautiful, painful reality of the natural world around us. For 10,000 years, we lived as part of the creation and in small communities.  Our tasks were basic, in front of us, and simple.  Within just the last few hundred years, that “close to the earth” way of life changed profoundly, first for thousands, then millions, eventually for billions of us.  And for billions of others, still living close to the earth, many seek to live in the distracting, options-laden world spawned by the great Industrial and technological revolutions.   

Could it be that humans are not spiritually equipped for this high tech, options-laden life – separated from the earth, from the creation?  Could it be that we do not function as well with the distractions and choices of wealth and access?  Could it be that we are in over our heads?  How will we be able to find truth in the cacophony, without access to simplicity and natural beauty? 

And by the way, how do we fight for justice while remaining quiet and centered?
He closed this writing by asking people for their thoughts on the subject.  How I'd love to hear his thoughts, having had a view from heaven for six years now.  What would he say today about the racial tensions in the US, the upcoming election, the world situation with IS, and the growing refugee movement?  I'm thankful that some day we will catch up again.

Happy birthday, Robert Allen Reed.  Your life was and is a blessing.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Three Great Mandates

Puzzle pieces floating around in the air...looking and feeling chaotic...and then the pieces begin to come together and a picture begins emerge...

That is how I feel about the work of Discipling Marketplace Ministries in the last year.  Slowly a picture is coalescing, with what feels like the hand-print of God bringing it together through His people.

One major piece that has come together recently has come with the help of Dr. Walker.  For years, I have taught people about having a quadruple bottom line in their workplace or business:  economic, environmental, spiritual and social.  But what Dr. Walker did was take that quadruple bottom line and fit it into the more common language of the mandates given by God, which we are calling the "Three Great Mandates."  This is where the rubber meets the road - where the language of the Bible, the language of the Church, and the language of Business as Mission can coalesce into one.

The Spiritual bottom line can be viewed through the Great Commission.  We all know about the great commission from Matthew 28:  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  We are to be disciples and to make disciples.  We love to ask pastors how many commands are in this text?  Most say four:  go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.  But the real answer is only one:  Make Disciples.  "Go" can be explained as "as you go about your business;" and baptizing and teaching is what we do once we have made the disciples.  How can we be a disciple and who can we be discipling in our place of work?

The Social bottom line can be viewed through the Great Commandment.  We all know about the second great - the great commandment from Matthew 22:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Who are our neighbors in the workplace?  Customers, employees/employers, suppliers, competitors, colleagues, as well as the community where our place of work is located.  How can I love them?

The Economic and Environmental Bottom line can be viewed through the Creation mandate, which we (at Discipling Marketplace Leaders) are calling the Great Commitment. This comes from Genesis 1: 28:  God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."  This is the first mandate that God gives - the work that man was given to do before the fall.  Often we have been taught that being fruitful and increasing in number refers only to procreation or having children, but it also refers to the taking of the resources of creation, being creative with them, and then multiplying those creations so that more people can benefit from them.  That is what most of us have been made to do.  But we need to be fruitful and multiply within the limits God has given us, so that we are stewards and caretakers (and not simply users) of the earth.

The message of the "Three Greats" seems to resonate very well with pastors and church leaders and it has helped them to better understand why it is important to have a discipleship ministry to people in the workplace, helping them to understand their call to these three greats.

It is exciting to see a picture emerge when putting a puzzle together.  Sometimes you are a long way from seeing the completed picture; sometimes you work on a puzzle and never complete it (and someone else has the satisfaction of seeing it completed), sometimes all the pieces look alike and it is simply trial and error.  But the satisfaction of having one piece fit after trying many...that feels good!

Monday, July 18, 2016

An Economic Missionary?

My mom (center), five kids, and their spouses.
Last week, I was able to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday.  We are so blessed to have such a healthy and happy mother, who is enjoying these years with her sisters, taking care of my Dad, and loving her children and grandchildren.  We were able to get together with all five children and spouses, as well as many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, aunts and uncles, and many friends to celebrate her 80 years.

On our way back from Canada, we stopped at the border and I handed the border guard the passports.  As is often the case, this guard reacted to the thickness of my passport.  Here is how the conversation went:

The five of us, torturing our dear mother.
Guard (weighing my passport against the other three I had handed him):  Is this your passport?  Why is it so thick?
Me:  I travel a lot for work.
Guard:  What do you do?
Me:  (in an effort to keep the answer simple and short) I am in international development.
Guard:  What does that mean?
Me:  I do business development in various parts of Africa.
Guard:  What does that mean?
Me (wondering how long of an answer he might want):  Well, we work to develop businesses so that poverty can be alleviated.
Guard:  Who is we?
Me:  I work for International Christian Missionaries.
Guard:  Oh.  Okay.  (pause, thinking) So you are like an economic missionary?
Me:  Sure.  We can go with that.

I often don't know how to describe what I do.  On landing cards for different countries, I tend to put "business consultant" because that is something most people understand.  When talking with Christians, I tend to say "missionary" because that is what many understand.  If I had said "economic missionary" when I pulled up to the border, he would have had no clue what I was talking about.

But then the conversation with the guard got a bit more fun:
Guard:  Are you bringing any goods back with you to the US?
Me:  Potato chips
Guard:  (tipping his head as he is thinking) Ketchup?
Me:  No, but that was a close second!  "All-dressed" chips.
Guard:  Any chocolate?
Me: Unfortunately no.
Guard:  Really?  No Coffee Crisp, Smarties???
Me:  I wish we had.  But no.
Guard:  Well the bridge is really slow today.  I can let you turn around and get some yet if you want.
Me:  (laughing) No, that's okay.
Guard:  Are you sure?  Their chocolate is so good!
Me:  I appreciate the offer...but we are okay.

We were then released.  I wish I had told him, as he stood there in his bullet proof vest protecting our borders and trying to make people smile while doing his job, that I appreciate how he is serving our country.  I wish I had asked him whether I could say a prayer for him and the safety of this particular border.  Next time I hope not to miss that opportunity.

It's such a complex world that we live in.  So many trials and tribulations.  Although I hear over and over again that things are getting worse in the world, the statistical truth is that things are actually better overall.  What feels worse is that because of social media, we now know of every abuse, killing, and attack with vivid detail, often as it happens.  But never-the-less, there are many trials and tribulations in the world.  And yet, we are called to continue to act in so many different ways to fulfill God's call on our life.  For me, I'm an "economic missionary."  That is my calling and I am embracing my work as an ambassador of this work.  It is challenging at times, but we all have challenges no matter where we work or with whom.  Where-ever there are human beings, there are challenges; one of the real challenges how to turn those challenges from problems to opportunities. 

This saying has been my encouragement in the last week and I hope it also encourages you:

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Road Not Taken

Recently, Dr. Phil Walker, the founder and president of International Christian Ministries, wrote the following message as it relates to the Church in Africa and beyond, and the relevance of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry.  I would like to share his message with you today, as it may be good to hear another voice on this topic then only mine.  Please read the important call to action regarding Ghana at the end of this post!

The Road Not Taken
This is the title of a famous poem by Robert Frost. It also represents a concern I have about the future of the Church in Africa. When ICM began 30 years ago in Kenya the focus was on discipleship. The goal was to come alongside Christians leaders and teach them how to be effective disciplers in and through their churches. Over time this discipleship emphasis found expression in two delivery models, the Africa Theological Seminary and the Christian Leadership Institute, providing invaluable teaching for leaders to develop a Biblical foundation for discipleship, tools for discipleship and skills for leading the local church.

But something is missing.

As I travel the continent teaching, sharing and watching, I have come to the conclusion that far too many churches in Africa (and beyond) are taking a dead end approach to church development that hinders their impact.

Jesus came at just the right time to offer the world a way back to God. His message of reconciliation was preached through signs and wonders as well as words and deeds. The ultimate deed was his death on the cross for our sins, which made reconciliation possible.  Fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament, Jesus paved the way for a "nation of priests" commissioned to go into the whole world and make disciples of every people. This nation is more commonly known as the Church, the called out ones. The Church is a nation of ambassadors commissioned with the message of reconciliation. As the Church, they gather in their various communities to worship, partake of the sacraments, and be equipped as effective disciples that come in to grow, so they can go out ambassadors to the world.

The emphasis was not on the local gathering but on the effective witness of every believer in their sphere of influence. It would appear that this model of coming in order to go is not emphasized enough. The road most traveled appears to be one that places the greatest emphasis on the gathering of believers.

Come to Get

When there is a shift to church as building there is a danger that it will become more akin to a social club than to a center for equipping people for the work of the ministry. Consider the following examples: 
·   In a recent interview with a growing church in Africa, the leaders proudly revealed they had 40 programs in which members could participate on a weekly basis. Programs are not wrong or bad, but people have limited time. Where is the "going" into the community?
·   In West Africa, I turned on the TV and watched a few minutes of casting out of demons and flailing of bodies and limbs as people were healed...miracles are good, but we should do them where Jesus did them: in the marketplace.
·   Riding around any major city in Africa you will see signs for “miracle services/crusades” on nearly every street corner. The call is, "come to get" something God has for you. These events are not wrong, but very incomplete. God's call is to take his message and healing power into every corner of the marketplace.

I want to be clear: I do not oppose the miraculous. But we need to travel carefully along the road to ensure miracles do not replace transformation. Instead of transformation that comes from intentional discipleship, some pastors believe that a show of God’s miracle power is the key to unlocking church growth.
There are two consequences of this “Come and Get a Blessing” model: the laity views itself as ‘consumers,’ and pastors begin to view themselves as prophet/priests. The result is the local church becomes an entertainment hub, where the focal point is "priests and prophets" who are intermediaries delivering God's miracle to the members.

 

Come to Go

The "Come to Go" church is committed to serving the congregation by equipping them to live for Jesus seven days a week. While the “Come and Get a Blessing” model is very prevalent, we can be encouraged that there are pastors and local churches who have not succumbed to the temptation to travel the road of a church as entertainment. These churches still offer programs, but they are geared toward equipping members to live for Jesus in all aspects of their lives – their marriages, families and work. In these churches, pastors see themselves as servant-leaders, committed to equipping their members to “go” into the community and be God’s blessing, light and leaven. There is a need for greater emphasis on discipling every member of every congregation.

Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML)
In 2013 ICM launched a pilot project called, “Discipling Marketplace Leaders.” There are many organizations working with Christians to help them become better business people. But none of these groups are doing so in direct conjunction with the local church. After two years of studying the synergy between the local church and their business people, the pilot project demonstrated that through the local church’s discipling, business people increased their spiritual and financial bottom lines. Through DML, pastors gain a better understanding of how to effectively disciple business people. It also helps business people understand the call as ministers to their communities by running their businesses as unto the Lord. The results are pastors commissioning business people to be ministers through their daily interaction within their communities. As a result, churches grow, giving increases, and members become more committed.

Frost ends his poem like this:
I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. (
http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html)

It is time to take the road less traveled, it is the one Jesus took, and we are to follow.

Thank you, Dr. Walker, for these thoughtful and challenging words.

ICM has now begun the process of rolling out DML in Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, and Nigeria. We are looking at 2017 as a breakout year where we reach a tipping point in the movement. We need your help! We are looking for business people and pastors who want to team up with us to make the DML movement possible in many more countries. We are also in need of help in meeting the financial challenges of taking this message to the nations.  We are specifically looking for help as it relates to the work starting in the Northern Region of Ghana.  This is predominantly Muslim area and the Church is working hard to maintain its ground and grow.  This ministry would be of great assistance to the Church there.  We need $15,000 for the first year of work, to hire staff and navigate the vast terrain of the Northern Ghana region.  Or, to put it another way, we need twelve people to commit to $100/month for one year to help cover this cost.  If you would like to financially assist with this work, please give through the envelope enclosed from CRWM, or through their website at www.crwm.org (go to missionaries and find my name), or you can go directly to ICM at www.icmusa.org and include ‘20065’in the comment line.

Thank you for your faithful prayers, encouragement and support in partnering with the DML ministry!