Monday, May 23, 2022

Why Asia and South America? Isn't DML an African ministry?

In a recent blog post, I announced that the DML team would be traveling to Asia and South America over the next few months, to launch DML.  

Some of you may be wondering why we would be doing this - are we not mostly an African ministry?  Is there not more work to do in Africa?  Has the curriculum not been mostly formed for African churches and businesses?

To these questions, I would say, "Yes, yes, and yes."  And then I would add, "But..."

DML was started, formed, and developed in West and East Africa.  That continues to be the place where we do most of our learning.  Our DML teams across Africa are continually testing and trying ways to see how to help the local church and denominations be change agents in the marketplace, and to reclaim the marketplace for Christ through the local church.  Africa will always be further ahead in the implementation of DML than any other place and we continue to learn from what are teams/church denominations are doing there.  

There is still more work to be done in Africa.  Our teams, in most places, have captured one or two denominations, have set up trainings in a few of the cities and there is much more opportunity in every place!  Additionally, there are many more countries in Africa that can be reached with this message of the integration of faith and work through the local church.  

BUT the good news is that our teams are responding to these requests.  Our teams in Burkina Faso are reaching Cote d'Ivoire and Gabon.  Our team in Nigeria is reaching Botswana.  Our DML leader in Tanzania is speaking to a team in South Africa.  This is happening naturally as people from different countries hear our teams speak.  We praise God for this!

DML has committed from the beginning to work on a "pull" rather than a "push."  That means that we would not look for opportunities to go to different places, but rather wait for a pull from a place and discern whether that pull was a good fit for who we are at the time.  

In 2019, DML met with an organization out of Texas called "Global Advance."  They serve and equip pastors and church leaders, and also had a passion for reclaiming the marketplace for Christ but didn't have the tools necessary to make that happen.  Global Advance had a strong pull from their teams in Asia and South America for this.  In 2020, we started a formal partnership with them, and our goal was to equip their leaders who had a desire to reach the marketplace through the local church. Since then, our teams have trained their leaders in eight countries where they are working, and this summer we will help two of those teams to officially launch. 

What is exciting about this is that we don't have to vet these requests or partners but because of our relationship with Global Advance and their long-term relationships with their partners, we can jump right in and get going.  

The curriculum does need to change slightly in the approach as many parts of Asia do not have nearly the number of churches/Christians as Africa.  Some have very strong opposition to anything Christian being brought into the country, so I have to be careful even in writing this blog.  We need to learn about the religions and cultures in these places and adjust them accordingly.  Thankfully we do have partners who are helping us through that.

We thank God for these opportunities, and we covet your prayers as we go outside of the places that we know a tiny bit about, to places that we know even less about!  

Monday, May 16, 2022

Weddings and Wisdom and Writing, oh my!

Wedding:  The wedding of my son, Noah, to his bride Hannah, was a beautiful and joyous event.  We don't have many pictures yet, as we relied on the photographer and kept our phones in our pockets, but I have a couple that I can share with you.  We welcome Hannah to our family (formally - she has been part of our family for six years already!).

Now we begin to focus on my daughter Hannah's wedding in less than four months!  Such joy!  Such blessings!

Wisdom:  I received so much excellent feedback from many of you as it relates to workshop titles that would resonate with North American pastors and church leaders.  Several of you actually asked your pastors for feedback, others of you proposed excellent alternatives, and still others proposed sound methodology that we will be taking under consideration going forward.  I feel so blessed that you take the time to read and respond in such thoughtful ways!  It makes the body of Christ very real and alive to me - thank you!  

Writing:  This past week had the additional joy of completing a year-long project of writing a paper for the BAM (Business as Mission) Global Think Tank.  The subject of the paper was "BAM and the Church" and involved three key areas:  the theological challenges inherent in the sacred/secular divide, the structural challenges of the local church in engaging the marketplace, and the cultural challenges found in many parts of the world regarding the view of work and the perception of the role of the church.

This was a group project with contributions from faith & work leaders from around the world.  Anyone who remembers doing group projects in college or high school can likely recall both their joy and the struggles, and when you add in about twelve time zones, different styles of writing, and different voices, it did become a complicated task!  But we are all happy with the final draft and we hope to be able to release not too long from now.  

God is good!

Pastor David Beelen, the pastor Noah has known his whole life, officiated the wedding.

Noah's side of the family including my mom, one sister, brother, nephew.  It was good to be together!

Monday, May 2, 2022

Feedback Requested

The ministry of Discipling Marketplace Leaders was started and grown in both East, West, and Central Africa.  It is now beginning to be exported from Africa to other parts of the world.  I'm excited to announce that in June, we will be in Asia for three weeks, meeting with three partners.  And in August, we will be in Brazil meeting with a different partner.  God is opening doors and we are thankful for the opportunity to join Him in His work.

Many of you have been reading this blog for some time and have an understanding of our goal to have every Christian understand their calling and mission in every workplace.  That means what we do is important (and we are to do our work with excellence), how we do our work matters as we are Christ's ambassadors, understanding why we work (flourishing of creation and humanity), and where are called to work (in every space and place where work leads to flourishing) matters!

And many of you have said at one time or another, "We need this in the US."  In fact, I have been asked the following occasionally by Africans, "This must be working well in the US for you to bring it to Africa."  I have to let them know that this was started and shaped by African pastors and businesspeople and now can be exported to the rest of the world.

But getting traction in the US is not easy.  There are many reasons that I believe are the cause of that, but today I'm looking for feedback on how we can attract busy pastors and church leaders to at least stop and hear the message of discipleship for the workplace.  

To that end, I have created a number of titles for a one-hour or two-hour workshop and would love your feedback for which you think would resonate with a pastor in the US or Canada.  It is our belief that almost every pastor wants to be making disciples and see transformation happen in and through their members.  Understanding that common vision, we would like to offer a title that would capture enough attention for a busy pastor to make space in his/her calendar to attend.  Our offerings are:

  1.  The Purpose of Sunday is Monday
  2.  Whole Life Discipleship:  Every Place and Every Space
  3. Meeting God at Work
  4. Unleashing the Church:  From Sunday Christians to Everyday Christians
  5. Preparing the Church for a Post-Christian World
Would you be willing to think about which might resonate with pastors and send me a brief response?

This week my son, Noah, gets married so I will be slow on responses but will respond as soon as I can.

Scholarship Campaign Update:  We are so thankful for the Gospel Patrons who joined our scholarship campaign during the month of April!  Whether you have been a Gospel Patron with DML for some time or you are new through the campaign, we thank God for you!  Although we did not quite meet or goal of $30,000 in April, if you are interested, there is still time to contribute to the message of "work as worship" going far and wide!  Click here for more details.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Garden to Graveyard, Graveyard to Garden

Yesterday we celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus. 

Sometimes celebrating Easter is difficult when in the midst of seeing suffering and death all around.  From a shooting death in what should be simple traffic stop in Grand Rapids MI, to kidnappings in Kaduna Nigeria, to the war in Ukraine, the words "death where is your victory" can sometimes ring hollow.

But yesterday I was reminded of the shift from garden to graveyard, and then graveyard to garden.  Our pastor reminded us that in the recounting of the fall in Genesis 3, Eden moved from being a Garden to being a Graveyard.  Adam and Eve, who were created to work and care for the garden, suddenly knew death. This garden that was created for flourishing and life had the shadow of death cast over it.

From that time on, the world knew daily the reality of the graveyard.  

But then Jesus came to earth, lived and died, and was buried in a tomb which was located in a garden.  He defeats death.  And the first person He appears to, Mary Magdalene, confuses Him for a gardener (John 20:15). 

And as it turns out, she is not mistaken.  Our God and Father, and Jesus the Son, are indeed gardeners.

Author Larry Peabody (God Loves Your Work) reminds us that God used words in the creation of this world.  Genesis 1 says over and again, "And God said..."  But when God made man, there is different terminology.  God "formed" man and "took the rib" from man to form woman.  You can speak from a distance, but God's hands got dirty when making humanity.

During Jesus' time on earth, his hands got dirty again.  Very dirty.  Calloused, splintered, and injured as a carpenter for 18 years, and then scarred as the nails pierced them as a result of an unjust trial, sentence, and execution.  

You can't garden from a distance.  You have to get your hands dirty in the soil.  And thankfully, God does not garden from a distance.  We are told in John 5:17 that, "My Father is always working, and so am I."  

And each of us, in our own gardens, cannot garden from a distance.  And so, our hands get dirty with the invasive species of sin that has filled our own gardens:  in our homes, with our loved ones, in our churches, in our communities, in our nations, and in our world.

Death has lost its victory and has lost its sting.  The graveyard has become a garden again.  

We lament when there is death and sickness and suffering.  We lament when there is war and kidnappings and fear. 

But we do not despair.  We do not grieve as if we have no hope.  Rather we join the God that saved us by getting His hands dirty and continue to get our own hands dirty.  We get in the dirt, we pull the weeds, we plant the seeds, we labor as gardeners using our time, treasure, and talent.

And in so doing, we strive to join with our Father in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, a little bit at a time.  

I thank God for an Easter that allows for both lament and rejoicing, for the now and the not yet.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Keeping it real: We were made to work!

This week, our partner from Burkina Faso posted this video on our Global DML WhatsApp platform, with this comment:  

Work is just part of our spiritual and physical DNA. Even when we lose all our ability, we still want to work because Work is part of God's image in us.

When I watched the video, I was struck by two things:

  1. I should never complain about hard work!
  2. The need, desire, and joy of work is deep and real!

This joy in work has been frustrated by sin.  As we see people rediscover their joy and purpose in work, we find that there is an attitude change which then results in greater productivity!  When I work for money or I work without joy, my eyes are cast down on myself.  But when I work as a calling, work for the Lord or for the flourishing of humanity and creation, my eyes are lifted up!

For those who are partnered with us in getting this message out, we thank you!  If you are not, we invite you to join us in our effort to get this message across Africa and beyond by becoming a Gospel Patron!  For more information or to join us, please click here.

Monday, April 4, 2022

DML's Scholarship Campaign

Discipling Marketplace Leaders is running a scholarship campaign during the month of April, in an effort to raise $30,000 in 30 days to provide scholarships to pastors, church leaders, and marketplace ministers through our partners across Africa and Nicaragua.  These scholarships allow these leaders to attend DML workshops and trainings and access the on-going support and resources to implement workplace ministries in their church as well as mentoring for business leaders. 

That is a goal of $1000/day and I am praying the goal will be met so that we can continue to spread the message of a healthy theology of work! 

In 2021, we were able to train almost 3,000 pulpit pastors and 6,400 marketplace ministers, many of whom paid fees to cover the costs of these trainings but for those 10% who had financial challenges, these scholarship funds covered their expenses, which allowed for more people to hear this good news!  

It only costs about $20/person to have a pulpit pastor/church leader attend our foundational workshop and about $50/person for a business owner to go through our twelve-week workshop. And we know that these trainings will help churches equip the priesthood of believers to be the church every day of the week, and will also increase profit, household income, and create jobs in the businesses!

We can't do this without your support!  As a donor, you become a "gospel patron" on the DML team.  

During April, we will be sharing a number of brief videos that our partners have sent of pulpit pastors and marketplace ministers who share the importance of understanding that God works, that we were created to work, and that work can be an act of worship. Here is a brief video from our partner in Burundi.  The language that is being spoken is Kirundi, but the subtitles are in English.

Please consider joining us in April by giving toward this goal!  Click here for more information.

As I stuffed envelopes for this campaign, I had to chuckle over the picture below, sent to me by someone in the fundraising arena.  This feels true at times!  But God is so good in calling us to link arms together to combine the three resources (time, treasure and talent) that God has given each of us in order for us to work together for the flourishing of humankind and creation, to the glory of God.  Amen?