Sunday, November 24, 2019

"Taught to give, but not to get."

It is the week of Thanksgiving in the US.  It is a week when many of us reflect with thankfulness for the blessings of God in the past year.  God has given each of us three resources of time, treasure, and talent, and we can give thanks for how those three have been used in this last year.

Thanksgiving is followed by "Black Friday" (which I won't comment on) and then with "Giving Tuesday" a few days later.  The idea of giving following a reflection on blessings makes sense. 

But it brings to mind a conversation that we recently had at a DML event in Nigeria.  We were meeting with a businessman from Jos, Nigeria who expressed, with some frustration, that the church regularly teaches and pressures members to give, but never seems to teach them how to get.  The church often thinks of "getting" as "worldly" or "secular" but then seems to have no problem accepting the giving regardless of how it was obtained. 

This businessman said, "Does the church not understand that in order to give, one needs to get?  And is there not an understanding that how we "get" is important?"  

We reflected together on how many countries with populations of majority Christian are often very high in terms of corruption. Christians fill the church buildings on Sunday but don't remember to BE the church once they leave the building and enter the marketplace.  We believe that they have been taught that "giving is worship" but they have not been discipled to the purpose of doing "work as worship."

He was preaching to the choir but I like the way he put it. We are taught to give.  But we are not taught how to get.  As I was discussing this over the weekend with my mom, she pointed out that many of us give IN ORDER to get (if not in this lifetime, at least to get us into heaven).  That adds another layer of complexity to the whole discussion but that also needs to be addressed by the church.  It's difficult, in my experience, to find seminaries that have classes that address these issues with pastors, despite the fact that the majority of adult members of all churches work and are expected to get and to give.

It's not that the Bible doesn't speak about this.  Did you know that there are more than 2000 verses in the Bible about money?  That one in seven verses in the New Testament is about money?  That Jesus spoke more about money than heaven and hell combined?  The instructions in Genesis 1:28 are clear in God's directive to humankind to be fruitful and multiply the resources that He generously gave. 

Rev. Dr. Tongoi from Kenya said that no pastor should ask for a tithe until he/she has taught the members about how to do their work as an act of worship and with integrity AND has taught them financial freedom and how to budget.  Then a tithe can be requested.  

It's a different perspective on Thanksgiving.  Colossians 3:21 instructs fathers not to exasperate their children or they may grow discouraged.  I think many Christians are discouraged as they have great pressure to give to the Church and to the poor, but are not taught how to get.  Or alternatively, the place where they get - the Marketplace - is treated as "less than" or a place of corruption.  I don't think we can have it both ways.  We can't continue to ask for money with one hand but ignore or discredit where and how that money was obtained.

And there are so many people who do their work as an act of worship.  So many role models that can be highlighted in church services for "getting" in ways that honor God and help people to flourish.  

I am thankful that in this last year I have been able to meet many of them in many different countries, cities, towns, and villages.  

Which brings me back to Thanksgiving.  I am so thankful that God has allowed me to join Him in the work of reminding people of the ministry of business and the sacred calling in work that is done "as unto the Lord."  And we couldn't do this ministry without you!  

There are those of you who give of your treasure, and we are thankful!  
There are those of you who give of your time through prayer and encouragement, and we are thankful!  
There are those of you who give of your talent by volunteering or serving as mentors, and we are thankful!

I leave you with a picture of one of our new partners in Burkina Faso, for whom we are also thankful, as they commit to take the message of "work as worship" to their network of churches!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Onward to Burkina Faso

It was a great week in Nigeria with the DML team from West Africa.  We laughed, we cried, we worshipped, we shared, we debated, and we learned.  We spent most of our time in meetings and then we had one day of an outing to an organic farm with aquaponics and hydroponics.  Wonderful lessons learned in farming!  I'll include some shots from this past week.  We are so thankful for your prayers that allowed for both equipping and encouraging of these ambassadors for God.  We are also so very thankful for those who donated to make this event possible.  We are recognizing how critical it is for the teams to gather together to share best practices for disseminating the message in their various contexts.  They are a creative bunch and are finding innovative ways to reach the gate-keepers of the church and the marketplace.

A highlight of this past week now feeds into this week, as we head to Burkina Faso.  Both men who attended our regional conference from Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso) are decision-makers for major denominations: one for the Assemblies of God Church with 6000 churches and the other for Christian Missionary Alliance with 1000 churches.  Both say they want to sign an MOU with us to carry out the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry in their denominations.  This is not the first time that they have heard the DML message, as they have attended several DML trainings in Ghana.  But now they are ready to take the next step.  Praise God!

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country of about 20 million people, with French as the official language.  It has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, with each woman having an average of 5.7 children in 2016.  The median age in Burkina Faso is 17.1 years of age and it is projected that by 2050 (just thirty years from now!) the population will more than double to 43 million.  Muslims are the majority in this country, with 61.5%, Roman Catholic are 23.3%, traditional/animist are 7.8%, and Protestant Christian are only 6.5%.

 We have also been told that Muslims do the majority of business in the country.  Christians tend to believe that business is dirty work and that they should stay out of business.  So our challenge in this next week will be to remind Christians of the Biblical call to do business, like the patriarchs before us.  We will be meeting with the pastors and leaders of the fourteen evangelical denominations in Burkina Faso from Monday - Thursday.  Please pray for this time together, that the Holy Spirit may move in a mighty way!
The West Africa Regional Team:  Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Liberia

The Nigerian team (only four of seven pictured here), which is blessed with pastors, missionaries, businesspeople, and two vets!

Dr. Walker, Paul Soper, and myself, looking quite ready to go out and be farmers...or something like that!

A beautiful time of intercessory prayer together

Monday, November 4, 2019

Equip: Encourage, Enlighten, and Empower

"To equip the saints for the work of the ministry."  Ephesians 4:12

This is one of the foundational scriptures for DML.  We seek to equip the local church so that they can equip the saints who are in the Marketplace, to be the church every day of the week.

To do this, we have teams in the nine countries where we work, who are equipping pastors, church leaders, denominational leaders, as well as micro, small and medium-size businesspeople.

We believe that there are a number of things that constitute equipping:  encouraging, enlightening, and empowering.

So this week, we have called for our West African Teams to come together in Abuja, Nigeria for a period of equipping.

While I was writing this blog about equipping, Dr. Gaga arrived at the conference center and greeted me.  We sat down to talk and he began to share about how God has shown him something new about what it means to be equipping and what it means to be equipped.  With great excitement, he shared that some are called to be equipping the saints.  For example, Matthew was a tax collector, and he was called away from his work to equip the saints.  But Zacchaeus was also a tax collector and Jesus equipped him to do his work the right way.   Zacchaeus didn't stop being a tax collector - but he was equipped to do it with justice, integrity, and with Jesus as His Savior.  God cares about both - those who are equipping and those who are equipped.  For too long, he said, the church has been focused only on those who are equipping and neglecting the work of the equipped.

I love it!  Our heart's desire is for people to own this message and continue to seek God as He reveals Himself to each of us in His own way!  Dr. Gaga is on fire for this ministry and is being very creative in how it is done in his own context!

===Now back to the blog I was writing====

Would you please join us in prayer for this week, praying for each of them, as well as for the team together, during this time?  Assuming some of you will say yes, I will give you their names:
  • We have two teams from Cameroon:  two from our partnership with DAI Cameroon:  Joy and Pastor Williams; and two from ALAACS, a microfinance bank in Cameroon:  Maxcelline and Delphine.
  • We have one team from Ghana (the other team was not able to make it):  Pastor Derek and Kwame.
  • We have one team from Burkina Faso:  Rev. Dr. Phillippe and Theophile.
  • We have one person from our Liberia/Sierra Leone team:  Rev. Tage
  • We have eight people from our Nigeria team:  Dr. Gaga, Freeman, Ibrahim, Rev. Nevan, Rev. Raheem, Dr. Bode, Solomon, and Mrs. Bose.
  • In addition, we have Paul Soper who has joined Dr. Walker and me for the US team.

This brings us to a total of 21 people for the week from six different countries.  All come with their own personal challenges as well as challenges in their nations.  All come with their preconceived notions for what this week will bring.  

Our desire is to be present to the Holy Spirit during this time and have the right balance between empowering, encouraging, and enlightening.  My personal tendency is to focus more on the enlightening (improving the method of how to deliver this ministry as well as making sure we are all on the same page regarding the message), and I tend to fall short on the encouragement part.

Please pray for wisdom for us as we go through this week, that we may have a good balance of prayer time, sharing, learning, and growing.  We believe that God is opening doors of opportunity for the Church in Africa to receive this message through a number of different denominations and these leaders are strategically placed to help facilitate that.

Last year, we met together as a DML team for the first time in Ghana.  At that time we were able to bring together eighteen members of our team from West and East Africa.  This year, we decided to do two regional meetings, one in East Africa and one in West Africa.  Thanks to many of you and your generous support, we were able to bring together 43 team members, from ten different partnerships, and additionally denominational leaders from four major denominations.  We are so thankful to God for your financial support and your prayer support!
Our regional meeting team from 2018.  We gave all team members a bottle with a water filter (which they are holding on their heads just to be fun!), to help us work toward an environmental bottom line.  This year we are requesting all of our partners to be creative with their workshops and move away from giving multiple plastic bottles of water daily.  Our hosts have stepped up to the task for this regional meeting!