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. (

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 (go to missionaries and find my name), or you can go directly to ICM at and include ‘20065’in the comment line.

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