Monday, June 28, 2021

Connecting Our Tithe to Our Workship

Connecting our tithe to our work seems like a natural thing to do, right?  Most of us would shrug and agree that, of course, our tithe comes from our work.  But we often don't make that connection when the church is gathered.  

A few weeks ago, I was invited to preach in Liberia, West Africa.  The main offering was taken before the message and the process started by asking those who were going to give a tithe to come to the front of the church and lay their tithe directly on the podium.  Then the pastor prayed for these tithers.  He asked God to bless the seeds that were being sown, and to help those seeds produce great fruit for the Kingdom of God.

He then asked the tithers to sit down, and the offering was then collected from everyone else (those who were not giving a full tenth but an offering of sorts).

That didn't sit well with me.  Not because of the calling out of the tithers - I'm not a fan of that process but I am used to that.  That is a pretty regular occurrence in many churches in Africa.  But it didn't sit well with me because the tithe was not tied at all to the work that provided the money - the pastor did not look back at where and how the money came, he only looked forward to how it could be used.

As my message was focused on "Thy Kingdom Come," I decided (likely a Holy Spirit prompting) to address this missing link.  Part way through my message, in talking about how we are to be actively working to bring the kingdom of heaven on earth, I asked those who had given their tithe to rise.

I then went into the congregation and approached the man in the first row who was standing.  I asked him to tell the church how it was he got his tithe.  He said, "Well, I calculated ten percent of my earnings."  I smiled and rephrased the question.  "What work did you do to receive those earnings?"  He smiled and said that he was a carpenter and made furniture.  I put my hand on his shoulder and asked the church to pray with me.  We thanked God for this man's ability to work, to make things from the resources that God has given.  We  prayed that God's Kingdom would come more and more in and through this business, and that this man would be a testimony to God as His image-bearer.  We thanked God for his faithfulness and asked God to continue to bless the work of his hands.

Then I went to the next woman who owned a provision shop and prayed a similar prayer.

Then another man who worked in an office.

I wanted to speak to more people but time was moving on.  As I headed up to the podium, there was an elderly lady in the front row with a sweet smile and I couldn't pass her by.  

I asked her how she had received her tithe money.  She said in very broken English, "My children give me money and I give one tenth of it."  I asked her what her children do.  She said that one is a nurse and one drives a taxi.  We prayed for the work of her children.  The world and the work being done seemed very present in the service.

I then continued my message in which I was emphasizing that "Thy Kingdom come" is not a simple longing for Heaven.  It is a mandate for us to work at it while we are here on earth.  Every day a little more than the day before.

As I reflected on it later, I thought about the first man's response.  His mind had so disconnected his tithe from his work that he could only think of how he did the math.  Our brain compartmentalizes things.  We say, "this is sacred and that is secular."  We think that our tithe is about future fruits.  We don't talk about how it came to be.

It makes me sad and increasingly frustrated.  Our total disconnect of our work from our worship is reaping negative consequences.  But I think it's a frustration that is coming at a good time.  God is opening my eyes to this more and more, and at the same time, I'm in conversations with others around the world who also believe in the church AND believe that a change needs to happen.

The purpose of Sunday is Monday.  And if that is not coming out when the church gathers, we are missing massive opportunities when the church scatters.  Our work becomes an act of worship - or as some people have phrased it: workship.

I leave you with this quote from author and theologian Miroslav Volf, from The Church's Great Malfunctions:

We need to build and strengthen mature communities of vision and character who celebrate faith as a way of life as they gather before God for worship and who, sent by God, live it out as they scatter to pursue various tasks in the world.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Yes, No, Wait

DML is blessed with leaders who have many years of experience.  Through the years we have learned to check with God before jumping into new opportunities.  We are blessed with a board and team that highly values seeking the Lord.  The goal is to discern whether God is saying, yes, no, or wait. We love to hear the Lord say “yes” to opportunities.  Especially when we see the value in those opportunities to expand the Kingdom of God!

At our recent Board meeting, we discussed some of the parameters that might confirm the Lord’s "yes."  We also discussed some parameters where the Lord is saying “wait" or "no.”  DML is blessed by some amazing opportunities being presented to us.  Currently our budget is enough to help empower 12 partners working in 11 countries.  But not enough to take advantage of a growing number of opportunities. That means we need to use the word "wait." One of the opportunities comes from the team that invited us to Cote d'Ivoire, a French speaking country in West Africa.  French speaking countries in Africa often lag behind when it comes to resources and help.  We were fascinated by the early steps in DML being taken by business leaders and their Churches.  We believe God desires DML to expand into French speaking Africa.  But we need to see God confirm this with the resources needed.

God is opening many opportunities for DML.  This past week we had conversations with people, churches, denominations and ministries from many diverse places.  As DML becomes better known, we are entering into conversations from people around the world.  These leaders  have a passion for the blending of faith and work in and through the church.  We had requests for DML just this week from Chad, Zambia, Brazil, Honduras, and El Salvador.  

Some of these opportunities may be met through some strategic partnerships that DML has made with like-minded organizations who are taking DML and making it their own.  These partner ministries are able to bridge some of the resource gap to reach new countries with the DML message, but not all.

God is rallying His people around the oft-forgotten message of Genesis 1 and 2 .  I was reminded this week that DML is part of the vision of God to redeem and restore creation to His purpose.  This is not a short term process but a long term vision measured in time as only God can measure.

The Bible says that the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.  But what we are finding is that the harvest is plenty, the workers are showing up and available, but the resources to support these initiatives are not yet in place.

The answer for now seems to continue to be "wait."  

But there is also a sense that God is up to something here and I'm looking forward to seeing how we can continue to join Him in the work that He is already doing!

We just sent out the DML June letter and amazing newsletter from Tanzania, describing the work going on with the Masai.  If you have not received your copy in your mailbox, please click on the links to read it here!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Your Kingdom Come

How often have you prayed the words from the Lord's Prayer,  "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"?  I have prayed those words often but I have to admit that up until recently I saw those words more about God's work than my own.  After all, what do I know about heaven?  I haven't been there.  And do I really know God's will?

But, as is the case with much relating to prayer, God's answer comes most of the time through His people.  Miracles are the exception, not the rule.  God created humanity to be the answer - the fulfillment - of the capacity of the earth He created.  He created humanity to be co-creators in bringing about the ability for all to flourish:  all humanity, all creatures, all of creation.  So while I pray this prayer, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," I need to ask myself what I am doing each day to bring a piece of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth - at least a little bit more than there was yesterday.

Earth is not a waiting room for heaven.  John Ortberg said this, "Many people think our job is to get my afterlife destination taken care of, then tread water till we all get ejected and God comes back and torches this place.  But Jesus never told anybody - neither his disciples nor us - to pray, 'Get me out of here so I can go up there."  His prayer was, 'Make up there come down here.  Make things down here run the way they do up there.'"

We get a few hints of what "up there" looks like from Scripture.  Genesis 1 and 2 is an example of how it was before sin entered in.  Humanity was to work and care for the garden.  Revelation 22 tells us that while we started in a garden, we will end in a city.  Isaiah 65 describes the new heavens and new earth as a place where we will build and plant.  We will work, but it will be without the struggle of sin.  Our relationship with work and creation will be repaired.  So we can have a pretty good idea of what God's will is and what the Kingdom of Heaven could look like on earth.  We will all be serving the one and only Sovereign King.  And the new earth will include the making and managing of cities (the reward of the parable of talents and minas).  So it's not that foreign after all to us - it's within our imagination and experience.  

This is not a prayer to opt out of this earth.  It is a prayer to opt in to making it happen on earth.  

It is a macro prayer and a micro prayer.  We need to scale it up to the big picture of heaven on earth, and then scale it down to my specific part in fulfilling that.  Where am I to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth?  At my work?  At home?  In my community?  With my friends/family?

Wherever we are, as followers of Jesus, we seek to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  

Lord, help us to recognize that when we treasure your kingdom, we're one step closer to you, the King.

Lord, we seek your kingdom throughout every sphere.  We long for heaven's demonstration here - and we picture the different "heres" where we'll find ourselves this week.

Jesus, may your light shine bright for all to see.  Lord, transform, revive, and heal society.

We pray 'your kingdom come, Lord.' So that your sovereign rule will come now, more tomorrow than today, starting with me, increasing in number and quality and in the future in its fullness and permanence with Christ's return.  


(Prayer taken from

Monday, June 7, 2021

On the Frontline

We hear the term "on the frontline" a lot more these days.  In the past, it was often used only in reference to military positions.  Those on the frontline were those leading the charge, those facing actual conflict or struggle.
But today, we hear about frontline workers in the health sector, especially those working with COVID-19 patients.  We hear about frontline workers in the social work field, working with those struggling with the effects of racial tension, drug/alcohol abuse, and more.

But as ambassadors of the Most High God, all of us are on the frontline, especially in our places of work.  It is where we bring light into darkness.  It is where we work for the flourishing of individuals and communities. It is on the frontline that we are to bring the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

The frontline is a place that is the least protected from criticism or attack.  It is a place of vulnerability.

Therefore, it is a place where we need strategies and direction.  It is a place where we learn to worship God through our work so that He receives the glory and people flourish.  

It also needs to be a place of faithfulness.  

But what does this look like on the frontline?

At DML, we define faithfulness as following God's three great directives:  the Great Commitment (Gen. 1:28, 2:15), the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.  We spell that out by saying that no matter where we work, every Christian needs to have an economic, environmental, social, and missional bottom line.  These four goals will result in flourishing as well as glory to our God.

Most of the time we think about faithfulness in terms of explicit opportunities through witnessing or talking about God.  But faithfulness also needs to be present in how we do our work:

  • Do I do it with excellence?  To the best of my ability?
  • Do I strive to get better at whatever it is I have the opportunity to do?  Is there a goal of continuous improvement?
  • How do I use my time while at work?  With integrity?  
  • How do I preach the gospel through my actions (not my words)?  
  • Who is God calling me to love at my place of work?  That difficult colleague or customer?
  • Am I being a disciple at work?  Is there an area of my work where I am not representing God well?
  • Who might God be calling me to disciple?  How can I begin to pray for that person?
  • Am I working for the Lord and not for man?  Meaning, regardless of what I think of my boss, or the place where I work, I strive to do it with excellence because ultimately I am working for the Lord and the flourishing of His people?

For some people, the only gospel they will ever see is how we act when on the frontlines.   

Wherever your frontlines may be (and we have them at home, church, and in our communities in addition to our work), receive this blessing:

Now go, Church.
Leave here.
Go in the name and in the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Go and extend your worship into your work.
Go and extend Christ’s service into your service.
Take the grace that you've received at this table and extend it to all for whom you care.
Remember the hospitality you found here.
Offer it to others tomorrow.
Go and work.
Honor the one who is working on you.
Do so by making beautiful things, by serving in beautiful ways, by speaking up for the weak whose beauty is being maligned, by filling the city with the aroma of good and beautiful work.
Reflect the beautiful work of your Heavenly Father, nourished now by the grace and mercy of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
God has already accomplished the great work.
God goes before you and behind you.
God works at your side.

(Taken from Work and Worship, Kaemingk and Willson, page 140)

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

And now on to Liberia...

Last week was spent in Liberia, both in Monrovia and Kakata.  We are working with the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries, whose churches are spread throughout the country of Liberia, as well as six continents around the world.  They had their annual conference this past week and the presiding bishop from the US, along with a number of other bishops, gathered in Liberia for meetings.  

The presiding bishop, Dr. Darlingston G. Johnson, wrote a book in 2008 called Anointed for the Marketplace.  Reading that book was like reading our own writings for Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  I continue to marvel at how God calls together His people who are like-minded and passionate in similar areas -  it has been this way since we started this ministry.  It shouldn't be a surprise to me, as it is how we were created to be.  It is a joy to meet like-minded Christian leaders.  In our meeting, the Bishop said that he has been passionate about this for years but has not had the tools to move it forward in the church.  It is a great joy to join them on this journey.

The person assigned to DML for the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries in Liberia is Dr. Jacob Meiporkoyah as well as Pastor Lisa Travis.  The two of them make a powerful team and we already have trained the regional leaders for the church.  We look forward to see what God is going to do in the next year!  I was privileged to preach in Dr. Jacob's church last week Sunday, and to do a radio interview with Pastor Lisa as well (see pictures below).  

I also had the joy to see "Baby Renita" again, who is no longer a baby by any means!  If you don't remember the story, her mom, Patience, was 16 when she had Renita and we had the privilege of taking care of Baby Renita for the first year of her life during our last year in Liberia.  Renita is now 12 years old and is a bright and beautiful young lady!  

I am thankful to God for what He is doing in and through His church in Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, and Liberia.  I'm also thankful for the safe travel from place to place, a safe return home, and thankful for the prayers that were lifted on behalf of this work.  Blessings!

Patience, her fiancĂ© Amos, their daughter Renita, and son Amos.  A lovely family and a wedding planned for this December!
Baby Renita and Renita in 2008

Renita and Renita in 2021

Dr. Jacob (right), the DML leader for HIM in Liberia, Pastor Moses (middle), who is also helping with DML, and myself.

Pastor Lisa Travis, interviewing me for their radio program, "Harvesting the Marketplace."

The first batch of DML trainers certificated in Liberia!