Monday, February 25, 2019

Muddy Water

This past Friday was the second Work as Worship Retreat, put on by RightNow Media.  While I was disappointed that my church decided not to participate, I was thankful that across the country more than 11,000 people participated in many local churches.  I'm additionally excited that RightNow Media is partnering with Discipling Marketplace Leaders to replicate the Work as Worship Retreat in the countries where we are working in Africa in May of this year.  It is a great event to explore the concept of doing work as an act of worship, and it then opens the door to go from that event to the next step with people in discipleship.

Francis Chan started the day talking about watching people washing clothes in muddy water or even drinking muddy/murky water.  He reflected on how that muddy and murky water must be doing something or people wouldn't be using it.  Somehow it is cleaning the clothes.  Somehow it is relieving thirst. But that water can't be doing all it could do, were the water to be clear.  He was comparing it to his teaching, which is like muddy water, as opposed to hearing directly from the word of God, which is like clean, pure water.

I felt that way about many of the speakers of the day.  And also about myself.  Much of what we do is presenting muddy water.  It can do some good - it can accomplish something - but nothing like the penetrating word of God.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." (NLT)

And that is what I love about the message of DML.  This is not a new message or our own ideas but it brings us back to what God intended in the beginning.  We present it through the medium of muddy water, but we point to the pure water of life that will cause people never to thirst again.

1 Corinthians 3:4 says this though:  "For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another says, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere human beings?" Paul is pointing to something greater within each of us who have agreed to follow Jesus.  He is challenging us to understand that we are not to behave like mere humans, as we have been given the Spirit of God which exists in and through us, manifesting to speak to the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7 reminds us that "to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."  To each one.  Not just to those who work in churches.  Not just to those who work in Christian non-profits.  To every person.  We are to remember that we are to demonstrate the spirit and power of the Living God, not acting as mere humans.  We are not to do this with arrogance however, as 1 Corinthians 1:17 and 2:2 says, but with fear and trembling.

Francis Chan also shared the story of when he started his first house church and watched it grow from 10 to 20 people, from 20 to 50, from 50 to 100, then to 1000, then to 2500, then to 5000.  As they reached capacity in their building, growth began to slow down, to maybe 100 people per year.  He said this about that time:  "People were coming to church but just sitting there.  And it was costing a fortune to have them just come and sit there.  I had a sales force of 5000 and we were making 100 sales per year.  If I was in the workplace, I would be fired because I'm a terrible sales manager.  I'm spending a fortune on running this church for 5100 people but I'm not getting a return on my investment."

I read recently that in the last twenty years, the institutional church in North America spent $530 billion dollars on itself and didn't increase the percentage of Christians by even one percent - some even argue that the percentage is decreasing.  Globally, the percentage of Christians in 1970 was 33.4% and by 2018, it was 33.0%.  Now, just as the population in the world has grown, the number of Christians has grown from 1.1 billion in 1970 to 2.4 billion in 2018.  (By contrast, the percentage of Muslims in the world grew from 19% in the 1970s to 27% in 2018.)

A return on investment in the church.  Members as part of the sales force of Jesus Christ.  Can we talk about such terms with the institutional church?

I think we can and I think we need to.  The message received on a Sunday morning needs to be turned into application and transformation throughout the week, otherwise it is simply information.

What would happen if churches were more intentional about discipling people to do their work as an act of worship?  I am talking about real discipleship - not just preaching on the topic once or twice in a year.  Many pastors and church leaders say they do this for their members, but many members I talk to do not agree.  It is rarely reflected in official programming of the church and even more rarely reflected in the budget (which is where the church's real commitments can often be seen).

Churches spend a lot of time helping to develop our personal relationship with God and with others, both of which are very important.  But our relationship to work and the creation was part of the curse as well and the workplace is where we spend most of our adult lives.  This relationship needs to be restored.  Christ has redeemed it - we need to reclaim it.  To not speak to this issue in our churches in an intentional way is causing a great gap and lost opportunities.

Muslims have figured out how to integrate their faith and their work.  There has not been the same dichotomy between what is sacred and secular.  For Christians, it's not too late for us to begin doing this more intentionally as well.

We may do it with muddy water.  We should do it with fear and trembling.  But we should also remember that we are not "mere humans."  We have the capacity with our muddy water to point people to the Living Water.

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Tribute to Bob's Mom, Lucille Cain Reed Mosher

As I travelled home from Cameroon on Sunday and Monday, I received a text message that Bob's mom, my mother-in-law of 29 years, was not expected to live long.  She had been given two weeks to live before I left for West Africa, and my prayer had been that she would last until I got home.  I got home on Monday night and on Tuesday morning drove through the snow/ice of a winter storm to Cadillac to see her.  I had the priviledge to sit by her side until she passed on Wednesday at noon.  It was an honor to sit with her, sing to her, read to her, pray for her, massage her feet, and wet her lips.  She was unconscious the whole time but I was told she could still hear.  In some ways it felt like a divine appointment that I was able to get back in time to have that precious time with her.

As the family has decided to just have a visitation service for her, I wanted to share my thoughts about this woman and decided that since this blog has been like a journal for me, I would share it here.  Maybe someday my grandchildren will want to know about their great-grandmother.

I met Lucille in 1990, the year Bob and I started dating and married.  At that time, Lucille was married to her third husband, Keith.  Her first husband, Bob's dad, died in a house fire when Bob was three.  They had four children together.  Her second husband was Bob's uncle and they had two children together.  Her marriage to Keith lasted more than 25 years.

Lucille was a bit of an enigma to me.  She was a very giving person - always making pies and cookies for people, helping to rake their yards, mow their lawns, shovel their snow.  She loved garage sales and was always picking things up for her kids and grandkids, or for neighbors and friends.  It was Bob's belief that because she had received so much after the house fire and her husband's death, that she wanted to give back.   I think it was just also a part of who she was and it helped define her.  But despite her love to help, she was not your stereotypical loving, giving person - not one for much flowery emotion or sentimental conversation.  She was a very no-nonsense, direct woman (if you knew Bob, that's where he probably got it from), and absolutely disliked talking about deep issues or emotions (and if you knew Bob, you knew that drove him nuts).  Her favorite response when asked about her thoughts or feelings on things was "I don't care."

Often, if we pushed subjects to deep issues, she would quickly begin crying.  Bob believed that was because she kept burying emotions without processing, and so it didn't take much prodding to get to the underlying emotions that were there.  I was privileged to do an interview with her when I was working on my MSW and I learned things about her that Bob had no idea about.  For a few minutes, I was able to lift that curtain to see the complex woman underneath.

Her faith was also a subject of debate between Bob and I.  She certainly was not a fan of "institutional religion" but Bob thought that she might have a private faith.  She acknowledged a belief in God but didn't go much further from what we could see.  Again, as she wouldn't entertain discussions of a deeper nature, it was difficult to have a good understanding of where she stood.

When Bob died, I wanted to do for his mom and stepdad what he would do if he was still alive.  And, even though I was in Africa much of the time, I tried my best to help out and visit as much as I could.  When I spoke to her on Tuesday, I shared what I thought Bob would say if he was there.  As I did, a tear came out of her eye.  I would love to think that she has now met up with Bob in heaven and that they are doing some catching up together.

Hannah and Noah lost their grandmother on Wednesday.  I hope they haven't lost their connection with their dad's side of the family.  Please keep them in your prayers as they process this loss in and of itself, along with the possible complications.

Keith, Lucille, and Bob - maybe all three in heaven, catching up together.

Lucille with five of her six children (2005).  Her daughter Brenda had passed away the year before (2004), and Bob died five years later (2010).  She is survived by four children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Frustrated Eagerness

"I want to tell you how this has changed me.  You need to hear the details."  She said this to me with an urgency, while sitting on the edge of her chair.  "The message that my work can be worship has been startling and invigorating at the same time.  I have taken it to my staff and they too are changing.  We had never even thought about the environmental bottom line before and now all of us are involved in caring for the environment.  But more than that, I want to teach churches about how to do better with their administration and finance.  They measure eve rything by the Great Commission, but do they not think that they will be held accountable for how they handled the money of the church?  They have not been trained in this and there is no accountability or responsible planning.  Can I use your materials to help train churches in my city?"

She went on for about forty-five minutes with her ideas and her excitement.  She had been has been involved with Discipling Marketplace Leaders since July of last year but her understanding and her commitment to the message is deepening.

She asked, "Are you okay with DML being used in this way?"  I answered, "This is not material that belongs to DML.  This is a Biblical truth from Genesis 1 and 2.  We don't own this.  This is for all of us, from our Heavenly Father to all of His children.  You should use this in the way that you feel called."

She is the owner of a microfinance bank in Cameroon, with four branches in large cities.  She told me the story of the almost $50,000 she had to pay to be registered with the central bank, having to submit and resubmit documents over and over for whatever reason they could find to reject her applications, until she finally had to hire someone to do it for her.  She has no receipts for the $50,000 that she has paid.  But she can now do the work that she believes God has given her, to be salt and light to a people who are hurting and struggling in a difficult environment.

Her home is in a city that has been closed due to a strike and she cannot return home until February 15.  All businesses have been forced to be closed for these two weeks.  She told me about the army trucks heading into her hometown while she and many others left prior to the strike starting.  News of shootings and killings trickled back to her each day while we were in trainings last week.  The stress of what is happening is just under the surface of the passion she feels in wanting to move forward with her calling.  Friday morning, news came to us that there were many arrests of Anglophones in Yaounde (where we were) as the trial of one of the separatists was getting under way at the courthouse.  Tension rose in the group, but especially with her.  She wants peace but also resolution.

The tension of the "now, but not yet."  We see the potential to live out an aspect of the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," but we have to continue to deal with the fallen will of people around us.  We get excited to do our work as an act of worship, and then we are frustrated by those who prevent us from even going to work.

Romans 8:21-23  ...With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.

Here is a video that was put out last week about the struggle in Cameroon with the separatists.  It is a good video to watch to give an understanding of the challenges and how we can pray.  Thank you for reading and for praying.  We appreciate your support!

Monday, February 4, 2019

This Is Your Morning

I have left Liberia and am now in Cameroon.  I am writing this on the road (Sunday morning) as we are traveling from Douala, the business capital, to Yaoundé, which is the official capital.  After conversations for the first couple of hours, I spent the rest of the trip going through my notes from Nigeria, Liberia, and Cameroon, and making the updates, changes, and reminders from workshops and presentations.  This is a regular must-do after each trip as we debrief and make suggestions for how to have continuous improvement to this message that God has entrusted to us.

I read a comment that I had noted from someone in Nigeria at the end of a two-day workshop.  He said, “The Igbos (a tribe in Nigeria) have a saying that the time when you wake up is your morning.”  He continued, “I wish I had met DML before now, but now that I have woken up, this is my morning."
It is a joy to continue to see the lightbulbs going off for pastors, church leaders, and businessmen and businesswomen.  The most common phrase we hear is, “How did I miss this?”  I love that this is a forgotten truth from God, our Creator, and not something that we made up or discovered. 

In Cameroon, we held a microbusiness training in Douala.  It was supposed to be in Limbe, but the civil crisis has continued and it was declared that all people in the Northwest and Southwest of Cameroon were to strike from February 1-15 – that means no one should leave their homes, or they could come under attack (the map highlights in red the parts of Cameroon considered to be unsafe.  The goal from the Ambazonians is to take out the French leadership in those two areas.  They quickly changed the venue from Limbe to Douala, which is bigger and tends to be more peaceful, and then we were thankful to hear that they postponed the strike until February 5.  This allowed us to get out of Douala and into Yaoundé before the strike started.

The microbusiness training is designed for members of churches where the pastors have already done the Thirty Days in the Marketplace, but about half of the group were also pastors.  During our introductions I heard a new theme which must have come from our Cameroonian trainers:  The Church focuses on the 10% of members money and not on the 90%.  We need to train our members not only on how to use the 90% but also how to use their time and talent to obtain the 90%.  
In Liberia, I was delighted to meet my namesake whom we cared for during the first fourteen months of her life.  She is now 11 years old and a beautiful girl.  Below is a picture of Baby Renita and I in 2008, and then a picture that we took last week.