Monday, September 28, 2020

In order to do good, you have to know how...

 In a book called The Church and Work by Sweeden and Cartwright, I found the following quote:

“How can you love your neighbor if you don’t know how to build or mend a fence, how to keep your filth out of his water supply and your poison out of his air; or if you do not produce anything and so have nothing to offer, or do not take care of yourself and so become a burden?  How can you be a neighbor without applying principle – without bringing virtue to a practical issue?  How will you practice virtue without skill?...The ability to do good is not the ability to do nothing.  It is not negative or passive.  It is the ability to do something well – to do good work for good reasons.  In order to be good, you have to know how – and this knowing is vast, complex, humble, and humbling; it is in the mind and of the hands; of neither alone.” 

At DML, we believe that being a good neighbor means four things.  You have to have:

  • compassion (concern for the misfortune of those around you)
  • capacity (to do able to do something about the situation, with time, treasure, or talent)
  • competence (to do whatever it is that you want to do well, without creating dependence)
  • courage (to love outside of your comfort zone)
Over the past two years (December 2017-2019), we have been doing research in northern Ghana regrading Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  Prior to that, we did research from 2013-2015 in Kenya.  And, Lord willing, we will do another research study in a couple of years again, probably for a longer period.

Why?  Because that's what it means to be a good neighbor.  We need to know that what we are doing is good work for good reasons.  We need to increase our competence and the only way to do that is through study and evaluation.  Iron needs to sharpen iron.  

"In order to do good, you have to know how..."

This isn't optional, in my opinion.  Love demands it.  Being a good neighbor demands it.  Stewardship demands it.  Too many ministries have spent too much time, and too much money, doing things that have not resulted in transformation but rather in keeping people busy.  We do things that FEEL good rather than things that DO good.  We measure activities rather than impact.  We measure attendance rather than transformation.

"...and this knowing is vast, complex, humble, and humbling..."

Don't get me wrong.  Measuring impact not easy.  It can be scary and challenging and disappointing.  You find out what worked and what didn't work.  

But it's in those difficult questions that progress can be made.

This Thursday, October 1, 2020 at noon EDT, we will be sharing the results of what we learned in this latest research, after tracking 25 churches and 608 businesses over the course of two years.  We would love it if you could join us to hear what worked, what didn't, and where we go from here.  

To join us for this one-hour Zoom presentation, please register here.

Our heart's desire is to see God glorified by His Church, His bride, the people of God, as they do their work as an act of worship and remember that they are the Church every day of the week.  We aren't there yet, but by God's grace, we will continue to learn and grow.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no-one will make them afraid. (Micah 4:4)

My daughter introduced me to the Broadway musical, Hamilton, a few months ago and I have grown to love it.  I grew up with two musicals:  Fiddler on the Roof and Sound of Music.  I think those were the only two movies I saw until the age of 14 or so.  So it doesn't take much for me love musicals.

But this one has taken the country by storm in a way that musicals seldom do.  Many have said it has made American history alive again.  There are so many aspects that I love about it, from the intentionality in the inclusion of diversity, to the rich lessons of our history from young immigrants, from the personal pain in the story of infidelity and the loss of young life.  It's funny, touching, sad, informative, and I could go on.  While there are some liberties taken for the purpose of telling the story on stage, there is much historical truth to Hamilton.  While some are rightfully critical of the role that our founding fathers played in owning slaves, I find an aspect of redemption in the fact that this was written and acted out by mostly people of color.

There is one song that has been playing over and over in my mind lately, when George Washington has decided to leave office and he quotes Micah 4:4:  Everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no-one will make them afraid.  Apparently, Washington loved this verse and there are at least fifty times that it is quoted from him.  [I know that this is bitterly ironic given the fact that he didn't live it out for everyone and didn't define people of color as fully human.]

But it is a beautiful verse to think about.  It sounds heavenly.  

First, everyone will sit.  Rest.  Relaxation.  Enjoyment.  Meditation.

Second, everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree.  Ownership.  My own piece of land.  We all long for it.  We feel safer in it then in renting.  And this land is productive.  We work it.  It takes care of us when we take care of it.  It does what it was created to do when we do what we were created to do.  Genesis 2:15 says we are to work and care for the garden.  

Third, no-one will make them afraid.  How many of us (especially in developing nations) own our own land and yet are still afraid?  This past week we helped two of our DML team relocate because of being afraid on their own land.  Afraid of kidnappers, thieves, those who wish to do harm.  Many are afraid of laws, authorities, policies, polluted air, things that cause us harm that we have no control over.

But in Micah 4:4, we are resting on our own land, enjoying the fruit of the land with no fear within or without.

I admit to fear for my colleagues in several countries.  I fear for the children growing up with such stress and turbulence that it impacts their capacity to cope and thrive and flourish.  I admit to fear for my own country and the incredible divisiveness not just politically but in the church.  I fear we are being torn apart and there seems to be no way of talking to each other or understanding each other.

How I long for the day when EVERYONE can sit under their own vine and fig tree and feel no fear.

And while we long for this piece of heaven, we are instructed to help to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  What is my part at a time such as this?  How am I working to bring about Micah 4:4?  Or am I involved in preventing Micah 4:4 perhaps blindly?  Am I fanning the flame of divisiveness with my speech or seeking understanding and peace?

God, what can I do to be part of your will being done on earth as it is in heaven?

May God help us.  He can.  And He will.  

If not through us, then He will find a willing vessel somewhere.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

DML Prayer Requests

This week, I'm writing to ask for prayers regarding three important issues:  two for our partners in Nigeria and Cameroon, and one for an opportunity before us this week.

First, Nigeria:

Kidnappings in Nigeria are not a new issue.  But there has been a significant increase in those kidnappings, especially in Kaduna State, which is home to most of our DML team.  This past week, the DML leaders there was informed that he was on the short-list of who will be kidnapped next.  He had to pack up his family and move to another state.  Since he will need to be there for a while, he will have to get rid of all the animals on his farm and his wife has to close the health clinic that she runs.  The children need to find a new school.  This is just one family that is affected.  Please pray for him (name withheld for safety) and for his family, that they may be able to return home soon, that the kidnappings will decrease, and that the government may intervene in an effective to allow people to travel in peace once again.

You can watch the brief YouTube video below or read this news report just to see two of many reports of kidnappings in Kaduna State.

Second request is for Cameroon:

Prayer is also needed for the ongoing conflict in Cameroon, which is now in it's fourth year.  Kidnappings, shut-downs, and violence have been the order of the day as the Anglophone community tries to find justice and equality amidst the Francophone majority.  Many people from the Northwest are now in Internally Displaced Person camps, which has other unique challenges.  Our colleague in that part of Cameroon has been kidnapped herself, as has her son and husband, and also sees the real challenges for her teenage children struggling to find a path in this difficult time (many of those fighting for equality are young men.  You can read a recent report here  of the challenges in Cameroon.

At a time like this, being a good neighbor to these friends and colleagues is to lift them up in prayer.  We lament with them, are pained and angered by the challenges which they have to face daily, and seek for God to intervene.  Please join us in these prayers.  

Lastly, we have an opportunity this week to join the virtual forum from the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication, which has about 3800 people registered from 125 countries, and give a workshop on DML.  This is an opportunity to share with those in the church planting movement about the need to equip the whole church to be the church every day of the week.  We ask for your prayer for this opportunity.

And if you are like me and sometimes at a loss of how to pray when things are overwhelming or unchanging, let me bring in a prayer from Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace, to help us get started:

Sometimes, Lord, it just seems to be too much:  too much violence, too much fear; too much of demands and problems; too much of broken dreams and broken lives; too much of war and slums and dying; too much of greed and squishy fatness and the sounds of people devouring each other and the earth...
Sometimes the very air seems scorched by threats and rejection and decay until there is nothing but to inhale pain and exhale confusion. 
Too much of darkness, Lord, too much of cruelty and selfishness and indifference...Too much, Lord, too much, too bloody, bruising, brain-washing much.
Or is it too little, too little of compassion, too little of courage, of daring, or persistence, of sacrifice; too little of music and laughter and celebration?
O God, make of me some nourishment for these starved times, some food for my brothers and sisters who are hungry for gladness and hope, that, being bread for them, I may also be fed and be full.


Monday, September 7, 2020

Three Resources Given by God

God has given each of us three resources:  time, treasure and talent.

Of these three resources, two are renewable:  treasure and talent.  Time is not.  Once it is used up it is gone.

So we must be careful with how we use our time, but we also must use our treasure and talent as they are renewable and can actually grow and increase with good use.

To that end, DML has been looking at how to be stewardly with the use of our time, treasure, and talent, given that there are many opportunities for this forgotten message from Genesis 1 and 2, but limited time, treasure and talent.

We have concluded to look at potential partners in light of these three resources and separate them into three tears depending on the usage of these resources.

Our Level One partners are those partners who begin to interact with us and request some resources.  We send those to them but then we don't go much further. They have access to our "talent" in the form of materials but we don't really know how they are using them.

Our Level Two partners are those partners with whom we share our time and our talent.  We train them (time) and share our materials with them (talent).  

Our Level Three partners are those partners with whom we share our time, talent, and treasure.  These are the ten teams that we are currently working with the closest in Africa, investing our time, materials, and also the treasure that DML is able to raise through faithful friends and partners.  This treasure goes to stipends to those facilitating the ministry, communication and travel costs, equipment costs, scholarships for pastors or church leaders to attend trainings, scholarships to business owners to attend trainings, and so on.  

Friends, this past week we had the chance to travel to Dallas, Texas in order to present the work of DML to a Level Two partner who is doing work in a number of countries in Asia and South America relating to church planting and church leader equipping.  

Behind this group, there are about four other such groups talking to us as well who would fit into the Level Two partner group.  This is so exciting for us, as their passion for this increases and they take this message from God to the networks that they have.

The idea is that DML is one more tool in the toolbox of a healthy church.  As we keep saying, if you have a youth ministry, a women's or men's ministry, you need to have a workplace ministry or marketplace ministry, as that is where most adults spend most of their time each week.  

And that message is getting out to church planting organizations, in part because of some strategic networking with whom we have been blessed to be linked.  So next year, we will likely build capacity in this particular organization and travel with them to equip their teams.

The body of Christ is a beautiful thing when we can get out of our silos and work together.  We are intent, at DML, to have open hands with the message that God has invited us to join in giving, as well as our time, treasure and talent, as He allows!

And for those of you who give your time to pray for us and/or volunteer with us, we thank you!

For those of you who give your talent to work along side with us by advising or volunteering your services, we thank you!

And for those of you who give of your treasure so that this work can grow and reach more people, we thank you!

Some of you are giving all three, and for that we are very grateful!  Thank you for making the world a better place!