Monday, October 3, 2022

Prayer for Burkina Faso

A week ago, I was flying out of Burkina Faso to Liberia.

Just five days later, on Friday, September 30, Burkina Faso experienced their second coup this year by the military.   In January of 2022, the elected president was overthrown by the military who claimed that there was not enough being done to protect the country from Islamist extremists.  A temporary government was set up for 18 months and elections were set to be held next July.  While I was in Burkina Faso, I had the opportunity to meet one of the candidates who is running for president.  He is a Christian and has established a Christian party.

While I was there, I was told by a number of people that there had not been much improvement in addressing terrorism and instability in the country.  BBC reports that Burkina Faso only controls about 60% of their territory and that Islamist violence is worsening.  Since 2020, more than one million people have been displaced because of the violence.  The Islamic insurgency started in 2015, and in that time more than 2 million people have been displaced.

On Monday of last week, September 26, eleven soldiers were killed while escorting a convey of civilian vehicles in the north. Fifty civilians are missing.  This follows another attack on September 5, in which another convoy was attacked, killing 35 civilians and wounding another 37.  Protest broke out in the capital, Ouagadougou, last week concerning this.

On Friday the 30th, I started receiving messages of concern from one of our partners, Pastor Theo, who lives quite near the capital.  He reported that there had been shooting, explosions, and he could see soldiers about 250 meters from his house.  At the time he didn't know what it was, but later he confirmed there had been a coup.  Announcements were made publicly, borders were closed, and the airport was shut down.  On Saturday, a counterattack was made by the ousted military leader.  Main roads are shut down and businesses are closed.  

On Sunday, the ousted leader (who had ousted the President in January) agreed to step down.

I know this is not a new story.  Sadly, this is not a unique story.  But it sure feels different when you were just there and people that you call colleagues are in the middle.  And so I ask you to pray for Burkina Faso.  Pray for safety for the citizens.  Pray that this country may find a strong leader who knows how to lead a nation to flourishing.  Pray for those who have been displaced.  Pray for those who have recently lost loved ones.  Pray for healing.

I have left Liberia, despite delays and problems with my flights, and am trying to make my way to Minnesota for a conference.  I thank God for what He is doing in Liberia and continue to ask Him to strengthen the mind and heart of Liberians as they still have much recovery to do from their own civil war.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Brief Update from the Road

Greetings from Liberia, dear brothers and sisters in Christ!  

I want to thank you for your prayers thus far on this trip, as they have been answered in multiple ways!  The time in Burkina Faso was very full, with the highlight being the women's conference with the Assemblies of God Church.  What a delight to be with so many women, one third of whom were widows, and to take some deep dives into understanding our purpose for creation from Genesis 1 & 2 (beyond having babies!), to learning about Mary the mother of Jesus as a widow, Jesus as first-born son, and many women business leaders and church planters in the Bible.  It was a rich time which enjoyed so much.  If I had better connectivity, I would upload their singing, dancing, and praying which was amazing with so large a group!  But there are pictures below, including the pictures where they prayed in small groups that each person would be healthy in their various gardens (marriage, children, workplace, church, community, etc) and apply the quadruple goals (economic, environmental, social and missional).

I also met with the Christian Missionary Alliance leaders in Ouagadougou learned of how this is working in and through the denomination and did some further strategizing with them for dissemination.  The workshop we held was interesting as it was a mix of trainers, pastors who are doing DML, and those who are new.  And what I loved was when a question was asked by someone new, the answers were often given by those in the crowd who have internalized this message and are now teaching it as their own.

After another 14 hours of travel yesterday to get from Burkina Faso to Liberia (!), I am thankful to be here.  There was an air traffic controllers strike that started in many African countries on Friday evening and flights were cancelled for about 24 hours before they reached an agreement to call off the strike and continue negotiations for ten more days.  Praise the Lord!  There were long lines, delays, and angry people as I worked my way from Burkina Faso to Lomé to Accra to Monrovia but thank God I was able to arrive in time!  

This week I will have two training of trainers with the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries Unlimited denomination - one in Harbel and one in Ganta.  Please continue to pray that a healthy theology of work and a moving away from the prosperity gospel may settle into hearts and minds, and work may be done as an act of worship!

Monday, September 19, 2022

Praise and Prayers

 It's been a busy couple of weeks with my daughter, Hannah, getting married!  It was a beautiful day and I feel so blessed to have both of my children married to amazing spouses!  And both got married in the last four months, which makes this momma's heart so happy (and a little tired!).  I have included some pictures below although we don't have the photographer's photos yet.

Today I leave for West Africa, planning to first be in Burkina Faso and then going to Liberia.  In Burkina Faso, I have the great privilege to be the speaker for 3000 women from the Assemblies of God Church on both Thursday and Friday.  On Saturday, I will spend the day with leaders from the Christian Missionary Alliance (also a partner with DML), and then will fly to Liberia.  In Liberia, I will continue to work with Harvest Intercontinental Ministries Unlimited (HIM-U), as they roll out DML throughout their denomination.

From Liberia, I will fly to Minneapolis Minnesota, to join the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication annual forum, where we will be participating with Marketplace Engagement workshops.

The next few weeks will be busy, so I am asking for your prayers!  We continue to see movement as more and more people and organizations are catching a vision for how the church can be involved in the BAM (Business as Mission) movement.  God is moving among His people, and we are excited to be involved in that process.  

Please pray that we may aid that message and not get in the way of it.  

Please pray that our strategic planning with our partner denominations may grow deep so that every local church is engaged.

Please pray that the women of Burkina Faso, who have had a difficult year politically and economically, may be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to participate in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in their various spheres of influence.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Labor Day: A Time for Appreciation

For much of my life, Labor Day meant a three-day weekend and a signal for season change.  It didn't usually go much deeper than that.

However, when I read the history of Labor Day, it's purpose is to "reflect our willingness to toil to improve our country through hard work."  Its goal is to honor and recognize the work and contributions of laborers to "the developments and achievements of the United States."  

To be honest, I haven't done much of that in the past during this long weekend.  But several years ago, as Discipling Marketplace Leaders grew in wisdom and knowledge about work as worship, that began to change.  And I realized that in many of our partner countries across Africa, who often celebrate Labor Day in May, they do take time to celebrate work.  It's not just a day off, but a time when people gather to learn, discuss, and pray for jobs.  

So today is an important day for DML because it is a day when we recognize all the work that people do across the globe to make our world function and flourish.  So much of that is unnoticed by us.  Yet each person and business contribute in some way, shape or form.  

One of my favorite videos to illustrate this is the video, I Pencil, which we show in most of our workshops.  It shows how many people are involved in making something that looks so simple.  Yet it takes an amazing number of people around the world to make that pencil.  If that it takes just for a pencil, think about items that contain more than four or five ingredients.  The web of how the economy works global is amazing, and while this video talks about an invisible hand guiding it, we know the owner of this Owner and Creator of that Hand.  

And so we thank God today.  In whatever you are doing this day, whatever you put your hand on or whatever activity you do, pause and reflect on those who created it who are made in His Image, using His good resources, for our flourishing.  When you eat, thank God for those who were involved from the field all the way to our plates.  And whatever you do for work, whether at home, in the workplace, or otherwise, thank God for the ability to join in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by doing good work.  

Good goods.  Good work.  God wealth.  Below is a great summary of six practical principles for business.  Taken from the "Vocation of the Business Leader:  A Reflection" (Discatery for Promoting Integral Human Development).

Monday, August 22, 2022

Africa's Climate Paradox: Least responsible but paying the highest price globally.

We are so blessed to continue to have very rich prayer times with our Global DML team every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  And while those times are rich and community building, they are also challenging as we hear of droughts, floods, and tensions which often arise from economic challenges.  This week I heard of 137 farmers in one area who committed suicide in just the last month and a half because of crop failures caused by excessive rainfall.  Heartbreaking.

We teach about the importance of creation care, and we see many businesses increasing their understanding and purposefulness of being good stewards of creation.  But we can't control the overall climate, so the businesses and farms that we work with across Africa suffer, and all we can do is watch and pray.

According to a recent report put out by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Africa is suffering the most.  Consider these statistics:

  • Between 1960 and 2020, Africa only accounted for 3.3% of global emissions.  Asia, Europe, and North America have each emitted over eight times the carbon of Africa
  • In Africa, temperatures are increasing faster than the global average, and they are projected to continue doing so during the rest of the 21st century.
  • Africa is most affected of all world regions by droughts and second most affected by floods, with at least 215.3 million people affected over 2010-2022.
  • Climate change is forecasted to push an additional 78 million people into chronic hunger by 2050, over half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In eight of the ten most climate vulnerable countries in Africa at least 60% of the working population are employed in the highly climate sensitive agricultural sector.
  • 39.7 million additional people in sub-Saharan Africa could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to climate change, more than in any other world region.
  • Since 2010, the number of protests and riots in Africa over water resources have multiplied by 40.
  • In 2020, 4.3 million persons in Africa were newly displaced by natural disaster events, accounting for almost 40% of all new internal displacement on the continent in that year.
  • While almost three-quarters of African countries have achieved SDG13 on climate action, no EU or North American countries is on track for achieving the same.
That last one is striking, isn't it?  75% of African countries HAVE ACHIEVED the sustainable development goals on climate action, while NO EU or North American country is even on track to achieve it.  

When the impact is imminent and the resources are not available to mitigate the challenges, changes are made.  But for those who don't feel the challenge as close to home, we don't.  Why have we not banned plastic bags in the US?  Why have we not banned Styrofoam?  We certainly have the ability to find alternatives, just as many countries in Africa have.  

This past weekend, I read a report that says that there is no longer any safe drinking water in the world due to "forever chemicals" or PFAS.  PFAS are used to make products resistant to oil, heat, stain or water, and can be found in food wrappers, non-stick pans, cosmetics, and more. One study said that 97% of Americans have PFAS in our blood, coming through drinking water.  The guideline values for PFAS have been declining for twenty years.  Rainwater is not only essential for drinking but also for agriculture.

For whatever the reason, we don't have the resolve to boldly make changes (and I have a feeling one of the major reason is the worshiping of "my rights" in the US over against loving my neighbor, or the good of the community).  And those with the least will suffer the most.  

May God help us learn how to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And as we continue to work with those doing business, from field to fork, please continue to pray for our partners and Marketplace ministers!

Monday, August 15, 2022

The Nounouma in Burkina Faso: When God Uses DML to Address Profound Cultural Issues

This week's blog comes to you from Pastor Theo, who leads the Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) team with the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination in Burkina Faso.  He writes:

In this quarter, despise security challenges, God opened doors for us to move forward with DML in a particular tribal group called Nounouma, about 200 km from the capital city of Ouagadougou, where several pastors and church leaders took part in the DML foundational workshop and Basic Business Training.

Within that tribal group, there is a strange practice that even Christians are involved in. Within a family, the wife would have her farmland and the man would have his own. Girls followed the mother and boys their father, and each kept their harvest of crops separate. During the farming season, the family ate the crops of the man and during the dry season, that of the women. There is strong division in the family and most pastors don’t question this established practice.

When we began our training, the matter came to light. This is not Christian - the two become one in all ways! A wise man from that village explained that it wasn’t always so. The tradition was a result of men getting other wives; from each of them would come a bountiful harvest and the women reacted to that by refusing to contribute to an increase that would help their husbands bring in a rival. 

Unfortunately, even after conversion, this inherited concept and practice continued among believers who do not practice polygamy.

By the grace of God, we addressed this divided “Great Commitment” (Genesis 1 and 2) practice which is neither healthy nor biblical. Praise God, even though others are still resistant to the truth, some of the couples in our meeting decided to consolidate their farmlands and work together.  

It is always thrilling to see how God can use common Christian workers in their workplaces to save others for eternal life.

This year again, we have seen a chain of people being saved. 

It all began with a lady selling water and juice in the market. After going through DML, she spoke to a young man selling soap in the market and he gave his life to Christ. More women were touched in the marketplaces as they meet this woman doing her business as mission. This woman got more converted than many established churches with programs. 

Now there is a gathering place for these converted men and women in the courtyard of the lady who began the process. The “Go and Make Disciples” is really effective as Christian workers do their business as mission. 

Pastor Theo illustrates the power of being disciples in every space and every place, as well as the power of equipping the priesthood of believers every day of the week.  We thank God for how God is using him to equip the saints and for the saints accepting the call to be ministers in the marketplace!  

As Burkina Faso continues to experience unrest, please pray for peace in that country!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

1.8 times around the world and climbing!

I am writing today from Harlingen, Texas, just a few miles from the border of Mexico.  

We were invited to come by an organization called Nation to Nation Christian University to film our classes in their studio.  Nation to Nation will be able to use the DML courses in their schools across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and we will be able to get these videos out to a wider audience as well.  Each filmed session is thirty minutes, followed by thirty minutes of discussion with a facilitator, as well as class work in application of the information.  

This has been a mutual answer to prayer.  Nation to Nation has been praying for courses related to the Marketplace, as most of their courses focus on the Bible and on community development.  At the same time, we knew that our two-hour videos were way too long for most people to sit through, but it was going to cost too much money to hire a studio and camera people for this work.  Voice over translation will also be done into key languages.  We will be doing three DML courses while we are here, for a total of about forty sessions.  

My face is getting a lot of makeup and my hair is getting quite the workout.  The Director, John, has taken the scissors to my hair a couple of times (not to mention my clothing for any stray threads) and has managed to keep things in place.  

This past week I received an email from Google Maps Timeline which informed me that so far this year I have traveled 1.8 times around the world.  It tells me that I travelled about 44,268 miles, to 25 countries/regions, 375 cities, and 1,645 places.  While it's a bit creepy that it knows that (!), it also is interesting to see those numbers.  It makes me a bit tired because I know that I still have two more international trips this year as well as some domestic ones, but more than anything it makes me incredibly grateful.
  • I am grateful to God for the amazing things I see in His world, in both creation (nature) and in His unique, dynamic people.  
  • I am grateful to God for the opportunities to join Him in the work that He is doing in His church around the world, as He continues to bring people together to reclaim the redeemed Marketplace.  
  • I am grateful to God for the people who have created airlines, cars, microphones, projectors, computers, internet, and more that allow this work to spread.  
  • I am grateful to God for the DML team and our implementing partners in so many countries who have a similar calling and carry out their work with integrity and passion.  
  • I am grateful to God for each person who prayers for our ministry and supports it financially, participating in helping people to grow their businesses and alleviate poverty, create jobs, and help work become an act of worship.

Lord, you are good and your mercies endure forever!

Monday, August 1, 2022

Jubilant Fields: Helping Creation Worship

Have you seen a jubilant field?  

We don't often recognize fields as jubilant but I'm guessing we can all imagine what a jubilant field might look like.  I imagine that it is growing healthy, strong, tall, with lots of fruit.  I imagine it stretching to heaven, a vibrant green, and waving in a healthy breeze. 

What about forests, singing for joy?  

We often quote "the trees of the field will clap their hands."  We can imagine trees waving together in unison in a forest, even while individual leaves are clapping their hands.   

In Psalm 96: 11-13, we see this imagery and it reminds us that creation understands worship.  And just as importantly, we get to help creation worship.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.
       He will judge the world in righteousness
            and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Isaiah 35:1-2 gives us even more imagery:

    1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

Wow!  The desert and parched land will be glad!  The wilderness will rejoice and blossom!  The crocus will burst into bloom and will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. 

As creation exuberantly and worshipfully responds to its Maker, we see God's exuberance as well:  an overabundance of seeds that are produced that will never germinate, leaves on trees that turn brilliant colors whether or not anyone sees them, species of fish hidden from sight deep in the ocean, flowers bursting in every field and place where no person is tending.  All of it is there to be enjoyed.  And it is part of a flourishing creation that worships God.  

Humans are called to help articulate creation's praise.  That's what we get to do through our daily work. We do it as we shape a tree into a chair or bed or violin.  We do it as we work in a field to produce food.  We do it as we take iron from rocks or copper from the hills and shape it into meaningful things to help people flourish (Deut. 8).  

But we remember Genesis 2:15 which says we WORK and CARE for creation.  We both serve and protect.  As you do both in this week, I pray that it will be an act of worship for you and that you in turn will see creation worshipping as well!

Monday, July 18, 2022

A Theology of Housework

This past week, the DML team, BAM Global, and GACX members were privileged to have some time with Mark Greene, former Executive Director for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC), author, and current mission champion.  He spoke at Lausanne in Cape Town in 2010 and said that, "the church has been using an inadequate mission strategy around the world, wherein the essence has been to recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the mission activities of church paid workers."  He went on to say that "98% of Christians who are not employed by a church are not being equipped to live missionally for 95% of their waking lives."  

In our meeting with him, he used the words "tragedy" and "outrage" to describe the fact that so many people die without knowing their calling.

Then, during the course of our interview, he talked about a "theology of housework."  For those of us who have a love/hate (okay...really a hate/hate) relationship with housework, my ears definitely perked up.

We serve a working God, who continues to work today (John 5:17:  My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I am too.) He described five different impacts of God's work and compared it to housework.

1.  God's work brings order.  We see this throughout creation.  Housework also brings order to the home.  Things get put back into place so that we can find them again.  Cluttered spaces get a chance to breath as they are straightened.

2.  God's work generates provision.  Housework also generates provision.  Provision of a clean bed and room for very important sleep.  Provision of hygienic bathrooms and kitchens for healthy bodies and healthy food.  Provision of safe spaces for thinking, creating, playing, and learning together.  And so much more!

3.  God's work brings joy.  While I am not saying that housework IS joy, it does indeed bring joy!  Think about the feeling of being in your home AFTER the cleaning is done.  It smells fresh.  Nothing is sticky.  Everything is in its place.  You feel joyful and proud to have people over.  

4.  God's work brings beauty.  Housework does too!  The beauty of sparkling sinks.  The beauty of clean windows to see the outside world.  The beauty of clean, pressed clothing that brings out the inner beauty of the person wearing those clothes with confidence.  

5.  God's work releases potential.  Ah.  Here's the best one.  Housecleaning releases the potential for new creativity and new work.  This was always the struggle for me!  I would finish cleaning the house, only to have the family come home and turn it upside down again so quickly.  But a clean kitchen invites cooking or baking.  Cleaned up toys invites children to play in new ways.  Fresh clothes invite us to dress with confidence and go into our other spheres of influence.

We can ask ourselves these questions about the other work that we do as well.  How does your work bring order, provision, joy, beauty, and release potential?  

The work that we do brings about these things because we are the hands and feet of Jesus, involved in the good work of our original creation (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15), and now involved in the restoration of creation until Jesus returns again.  We are to bring the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, every day, a little at a time, through our work.

But a mental shift is needed to see it this way.  And sometimes it starts with our language.  I no longer say, "I'm going to weed the garden."  I say, "I'm going to subdue the earth."  It reminds me that this work (that I really don't enjoy!) is fulfilling an aspect of God's command, and therefore it is a good and holy thing!

And then we can do our work with joy, as Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."  Amen!

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Hunger of First-Generation Christians

I just returned from a three-week trip to a country that is persecuting Christians and Muslims, seeking to make itself a religious state by imposing that religion on all citizens.  It reinforces my thoughts that faith is something that people are invited into, not something forced upon.  

But it also showed me a church in action that is different than what I have seen in both Christian and post-Christian places.  There is a passion and hunger in person after person that I met who called themselves a "first-generation Christian."  They didn't need to be reminded that they are the Church from Monday-Sunday - they hungered for others to receive the love and the hope that they had found in Jesus.  They are planting house churches, and as one leader said, they encourage pastors NOT to have church buildings but to continue meeting in homes.  This leader said, "Once you have a church building, you go into maintenance mode - we want to stay in disciple-making mode - ever seeking and searching to establish new faith groups."  

While they are doing this, they are finding their workplace to be a natural place to share the love of Christ, as in these stories below:

1.  He worked in a soda factory and didn't like the work.  He didn't make much money, had no hope of change, and was suicidal.  Then someone shared about the love of Jesus, and everything changed.  He realized that many people in his workplace probably felt as hopeless as he did.  He began to reach out to others and a church was eventually planted in the factory.

2.  He was a carpenter and a first-generation Christian.  He was asked to do some carpentry work in the home of a wealthy woman who served other gods.  Because he did that work so well, she asked him to help build something specifically for the temple that she had on her property for these other gods.  He wondered what he should do, and after praying, he decided to accept the job and ask God for an opportunity to share about Jesus with her.  That opportunity came and over the course of time, they had a number of conversations about faith and religion.  One day, close to the end of the project, the woman rushed to meet him when he arrived at work.  Jesus appeared to her in a dream the night before, showed her His hands, and told her to "Follow me."  She did.

3.  Two church planters had been trying to find an entry way into a village where there were no Christians or church.  For three years, they tried unsuccessfully.  They realized it was time to find a new approach and they decided to try to enter by finding a need the community had as it related to business.  This village was in a remote area, and no-one was selling cloth for clothing, so began to bring cloth in to sell.  However, they quickly realized that if they sold the cloth outright, they would only have one point of contact with the residents, and because this was a rural and cash-poor community, it might be good to offer the cloth to be paid in installments.  This means that they could meet with each person four or five times.  There were times when people could not make their payment and it gave the opportunity for them to pray for them, that God would provide.  It didn't take long for relationships to form and grow, and a new house church was formed.

Despite this hunger and desire to help others find the hope that is within them, that hasn't stopped a sacred/secular divide to enter in.  Many of the leaders we spoke to said that they had bought into the notion that work is only done for pay.  Work can be done for mission.  But that work itself is not mission.  Many of them had left their businesses, believing that pastors cannot do "worldly" work of business.  And now many of them are realizing that business is not only a means to doing work as worship, but it is also a way to fulfill the Great Commitment (Gen 1&2), Great Commandment, and Great Commission.  

When all members are equipped to be the church every day of the week, you see the impact in places that might feel unexpected.  

We thank God for these stories we heard in these past few weeks and will continue to process what the church can look like in a pre-Christian, Christian, and post-Christian environment!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Clergy and Lai...lai...laity...

There are some terms that need to be eradicated from our speech.  I believe that "laity" is one of those words and on this trip to Asia, we are passing that message on.  There is lots of support for this by different theologians and authors:

Eugene Peterson, in his book The Jesus Way, says "Within the Christian community, there are few words that are more disabling than 'layperson' and 'laity.'  The words convey the impression - an impression that quickly solidifies into a lie - that there is a two-level hierarchy among the men and women who follow Jesus...It is a lie because it misleads a huge company of Christians into assuming that their workplace severely limits their usefulness in the cause of Christ, that it necessarily confines them to part-time work for Jesus as they help out on the margins of Kingdom work."

John Stott said that laity is often a synonym for "amateur as opposed to professional" or "unqualified as opposed to expert."

Author Paul Stevens says that the words "only a layperson" is a phrase that should never be found on our lips as it is irreverent and demeaning.

The main objection to the word "laity" is what it does to the identity of the majority of believers in the Global Church, leading to a huge crippling effect in the body of Christ.

What is the history of this word "laity"?  Theologian and author Larry Peabody tells us that typically people have thought it comes from the Greek word "laos" which simply means "people" and this word occurs 142 times in the Greek New Testament.  But this word shows no distinction between people - it refers to all people.  In contrast, the Greek word "laikos" was first used by Clement of Rome in 96 AD and this word referred to the "common people."  The "uncommon people" were the high priests, priests, and Levites, and eventually this group was called the "clergy."  Clement wrote that the "laikos" or laymen were bound by laws that pertained to them.  

From here, it's not such a far leap to hear the familiar disqualifying sentence, "I'm just a layperson."  We see this in churches around the world.  

This is not a small problem.  It is a significant problem.  

But the good news is that there is a huge opportunity to refute this lie and release the potential of 95% of Christians to be ambassadors for Christ in every space and place.

We thank God for the testimonies we are hearing so far from people saying "Amen" and recognizing that we all called.  We heard from multiple people this week of the amount of guilt that they have because of their busyness with work and family and not doing enough for the church building.  This message has caused them to see that they are the church in their workplace and with their family.  The church rather can begin to support them in their frontlines.  

Please keep praying that this message will continue to go out and people will begin to reclaim every workplace and every frontline for God.

Monday, June 6, 2022

"The Movement is On"

Almost every morning when I awake, there are approximately 30-40 WhatsApp messages on my phone.  Most of these are from our DML teams who are posting about their work.  The teams cross a number of time zones, so while I sleep, the work continues.  It's a reminder to me that we have a God who neither slumbers nor sleeps, and because of the range of places where the DML message is being communicated, it feels like the work of DML goes 24/7 as well.

But this past week, the number of messages I was receiving every morning was higher - probably 50-60 messages, and then countless more during the day.  It was picture after picture of work being done in new cities, new churches, and new denominations.  Pictures were coming from Gulu, Uganda, to the Anglican Church in Kenya, to Brekum, Ghana.  At one point, one of our leaders responded to the group chat saying, "The Movement is on, praise God!"  To which many others responded, "A powerful movement of God!"

What a privilege and joy to see the excitement from the teams as they engage with pastors, church leaders, and business owners to share the good news about work as calling and work as worship!  

To help illustrate how busy our teams were, let me share some of the numbers of those reached just in the first quarter (January-March) of this year:

  • 1,081 people sat through the DML foundational workshop, learning about the God of business from the Old and New Testament
  • 1,714 business owners went through a business training which will help them increase profit and household income and create more jobs.
  • 2,061 businesses engaged in mentoring, helping to make their business stronger and sustainable.

When we see some of those numbers, we can believe that a "movement is on," led by God the Father, through Jesus the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Let me share some of the pictures that I received this week with you:

The team in Gulu, Uganda.  Many churches will now begin their "business month" where the pastors will preach and teach on the God of Business over the course of four Sundays.
The Anglican Church in Kenya which commissioned this group this past weekend as "Ambassadors for Christ in the Marketplace."

The attendees from the DML training in Brekum, Ghana.  The DML leaders in Ghana have been intentional about calling this a "movement" since 2019 and have intentionally sought out leaders from many denominations across the country.

On Friday morning, my phone also had the following worship video from the workshop in Uganda.  I love worship in Africa as it is so expressive, and this video does not disappoint.  Enjoy as you enter your own Monday morning worship in your workplace!

God is good, all the time!

And all the time, God is good!

Monday, May 30, 2022

"What a tragic waste of human potential."

Have you ever had a conversation with a stranger, and you just feel an instant connection?  You feel like they "get you"?  

That is how Discipling Marketplace Leaders feels about the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC).  After searching the world over for other practitioners taking Business as Mission through the local church, we found LICC in the UK speaking our language.  But this organization started speaking this language ten years ago and is so far ahead of DML in terms of content and resources for equipping the local church.  It's exciting!

I have the opportunity to join LICC for a two-day conference in London prior to flying to Asia in early June.  There I will have a chance to meet with Mark Greene, who speaks in the brief video below about the failure of the church to embrace the workplace.  I encourage you to watch this short clip and be encouraged.

Mark is addressing the Lausanne Movement, and says that there are two main strategies for reaching the world by the Global Church:

  1. To recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the missionary initiatives of church-paid workers.
  2. To equip the people of God for fruitful mission in all of their life.
Most people from most countries in the world said that #1 is the model of missions that their church uses.

He says that the result of using the #1 strategy is that the 98% of Christians who are not in church-paid work are not equipped for mission except for the two to ten hours per week that they might spend in church-related activities every week.  "98% of Christians are not equipped for mission for 95% of their waking life."

Workplace ministry is not some little thing on the side for the church, he says, but it goes right to the heart of the potential of the world evangelism movement.

"What a tragic waste of human potential." 

Can I get an amen?  

And if so, what can we do to do to take this from a great video to a great movement in the global church?

It's time.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Why Asia and South America? Isn't DML an African ministry?

In a recent blog post, I announced that the DML team would be traveling to Asia and South America over the next few months, to launch DML.  

Some of you may be wondering why we would be doing this - are we not mostly an African ministry?  Is there not more work to do in Africa?  Has the curriculum not been mostly formed for African churches and businesses?

To these questions, I would say, "Yes, yes, and yes."  And then I would add, "But..."

DML was started, formed, and developed in West and East Africa.  That continues to be the place where we do most of our learning.  Our DML teams across Africa are continually testing and trying ways to see how to help the local church and denominations be change agents in the marketplace, and to reclaim the marketplace for Christ through the local church.  Africa will always be further ahead in the implementation of DML than any other place and we continue to learn from what are teams/church denominations are doing there.  

There is still more work to be done in Africa.  Our teams, in most places, have captured one or two denominations, have set up trainings in a few of the cities and there is much more opportunity in every place!  Additionally, there are many more countries in Africa that can be reached with this message of the integration of faith and work through the local church.  

BUT the good news is that our teams are responding to these requests.  Our teams in Burkina Faso are reaching Cote d'Ivoire and Gabon.  Our team in Nigeria is reaching Botswana.  Our DML leader in Tanzania is speaking to a team in South Africa.  This is happening naturally as people from different countries hear our teams speak.  We praise God for this!

DML has committed from the beginning to work on a "pull" rather than a "push."  That means that we would not look for opportunities to go to different places, but rather wait for a pull from a place and discern whether that pull was a good fit for who we are at the time.  

In 2019, DML met with an organization out of Texas called "Global Advance."  They serve and equip pastors and church leaders, and also had a passion for reclaiming the marketplace for Christ but didn't have the tools necessary to make that happen.  Global Advance had a strong pull from their teams in Asia and South America for this.  In 2020, we started a formal partnership with them, and our goal was to equip their leaders who had a desire to reach the marketplace through the local church. Since then, our teams have trained their leaders in eight countries where they are working, and this summer we will help two of those teams to officially launch. 

What is exciting about this is that we don't have to vet these requests or partners but because of our relationship with Global Advance and their long-term relationships with their partners, we can jump right in and get going.  

The curriculum does need to change slightly in the approach as many parts of Asia do not have nearly the number of churches/Christians as Africa.  Some have very strong opposition to anything Christian being brought into the country, so I have to be careful even in writing this blog.  We need to learn about the religions and cultures in these places and adjust them accordingly.  Thankfully we do have partners who are helping us through that.

We thank God for these opportunities, and we covet your prayers as we go outside of the places that we know a tiny bit about, to places that we know even less about!  

Monday, May 16, 2022

Weddings and Wisdom and Writing, oh my!

Wedding:  The wedding of my son, Noah, to his bride Hannah, was a beautiful and joyous event.  We don't have many pictures yet, as we relied on the photographer and kept our phones in our pockets, but I have a couple that I can share with you.  We welcome Hannah to our family (formally - she has been part of our family for six years already!).

Now we begin to focus on my daughter Hannah's wedding in less than four months!  Such joy!  Such blessings!

Wisdom:  I received so much excellent feedback from many of you as it relates to workshop titles that would resonate with North American pastors and church leaders.  Several of you actually asked your pastors for feedback, others of you proposed excellent alternatives, and still others proposed sound methodology that we will be taking under consideration going forward.  I feel so blessed that you take the time to read and respond in such thoughtful ways!  It makes the body of Christ very real and alive to me - thank you!  

Writing:  This past week had the additional joy of completing a year-long project of writing a paper for the BAM (Business as Mission) Global Think Tank.  The subject of the paper was "BAM and the Church" and involved three key areas:  the theological challenges inherent in the sacred/secular divide, the structural challenges of the local church in engaging the marketplace, and the cultural challenges found in many parts of the world regarding the view of work and the perception of the role of the church.

This was a group project with contributions from faith & work leaders from around the world.  Anyone who remembers doing group projects in college or high school can likely recall both their joy and the struggles, and when you add in about twelve time zones, different styles of writing, and different voices, it did become a complicated task!  But we are all happy with the final draft and we hope to be able to release not too long from now.  

God is good!

Pastor David Beelen, the pastor Noah has known his whole life, officiated the wedding.

Noah's side of the family including my mom, one sister, brother, nephew.  It was good to be together!

Monday, May 2, 2022

Feedback Requested

The ministry of Discipling Marketplace Leaders was started and grown in both East, West, and Central Africa.  It is now beginning to be exported from Africa to other parts of the world.  I'm excited to announce that in June, we will be in Asia for three weeks, meeting with three partners.  And in August, we will be in Brazil meeting with a different partner.  God is opening doors and we are thankful for the opportunity to join Him in His work.

Many of you have been reading this blog for some time and have an understanding of our goal to have every Christian understand their calling and mission in every workplace.  That means what we do is important (and we are to do our work with excellence), how we do our work matters as we are Christ's ambassadors, understanding why we work (flourishing of creation and humanity), and where are called to work (in every space and place where work leads to flourishing) matters!

And many of you have said at one time or another, "We need this in the US."  In fact, I have been asked the following occasionally by Africans, "This must be working well in the US for you to bring it to Africa."  I have to let them know that this was started and shaped by African pastors and businesspeople and now can be exported to the rest of the world.

But getting traction in the US is not easy.  There are many reasons that I believe are the cause of that, but today I'm looking for feedback on how we can attract busy pastors and church leaders to at least stop and hear the message of discipleship for the workplace.  

To that end, I have created a number of titles for a one-hour or two-hour workshop and would love your feedback for which you think would resonate with a pastor in the US or Canada.  It is our belief that almost every pastor wants to be making disciples and see transformation happen in and through their members.  Understanding that common vision, we would like to offer a title that would capture enough attention for a busy pastor to make space in his/her calendar to attend.  Our offerings are:

  1.  The Purpose of Sunday is Monday
  2.  Whole Life Discipleship:  Every Place and Every Space
  3. Meeting God at Work
  4. Unleashing the Church:  From Sunday Christians to Everyday Christians
  5. Preparing the Church for a Post-Christian World
Would you be willing to think about which might resonate with pastors and send me a brief response?

This week my son, Noah, gets married so I will be slow on responses but will respond as soon as I can.

Scholarship Campaign Update:  We are so thankful for the Gospel Patrons who joined our scholarship campaign during the month of April!  Whether you have been a Gospel Patron with DML for some time or you are new through the campaign, we thank God for you!  Although we did not quite meet or goal of $30,000 in April, if you are interested, there is still time to contribute to the message of "work as worship" going far and wide!  Click here for more details.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Garden to Graveyard, Graveyard to Garden

Yesterday we celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus. 

Sometimes celebrating Easter is difficult when in the midst of seeing suffering and death all around.  From a shooting death in what should be simple traffic stop in Grand Rapids MI, to kidnappings in Kaduna Nigeria, to the war in Ukraine, the words "death where is your victory" can sometimes ring hollow.

But yesterday I was reminded of the shift from garden to graveyard, and then graveyard to garden.  Our pastor reminded us that in the recounting of the fall in Genesis 3, Eden moved from being a Garden to being a Graveyard.  Adam and Eve, who were created to work and care for the garden, suddenly knew death. This garden that was created for flourishing and life had the shadow of death cast over it.

From that time on, the world knew daily the reality of the graveyard.  

But then Jesus came to earth, lived and died, and was buried in a tomb which was located in a garden.  He defeats death.  And the first person He appears to, Mary Magdalene, confuses Him for a gardener (John 20:15). 

And as it turns out, she is not mistaken.  Our God and Father, and Jesus the Son, are indeed gardeners.

Author Larry Peabody (God Loves Your Work) reminds us that God used words in the creation of this world.  Genesis 1 says over and again, "And God said..."  But when God made man, there is different terminology.  God "formed" man and "took the rib" from man to form woman.  You can speak from a distance, but God's hands got dirty when making humanity.

During Jesus' time on earth, his hands got dirty again.  Very dirty.  Calloused, splintered, and injured as a carpenter for 18 years, and then scarred as the nails pierced them as a result of an unjust trial, sentence, and execution.  

You can't garden from a distance.  You have to get your hands dirty in the soil.  And thankfully, God does not garden from a distance.  We are told in John 5:17 that, "My Father is always working, and so am I."  

And each of us, in our own gardens, cannot garden from a distance.  And so, our hands get dirty with the invasive species of sin that has filled our own gardens:  in our homes, with our loved ones, in our churches, in our communities, in our nations, and in our world.

Death has lost its victory and has lost its sting.  The graveyard has become a garden again.  

We lament when there is death and sickness and suffering.  We lament when there is war and kidnappings and fear. 

But we do not despair.  We do not grieve as if we have no hope.  Rather we join the God that saved us by getting His hands dirty and continue to get our own hands dirty.  We get in the dirt, we pull the weeds, we plant the seeds, we labor as gardeners using our time, treasure, and talent.

And in so doing, we strive to join with our Father in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, a little bit at a time.  

I thank God for an Easter that allows for both lament and rejoicing, for the now and the not yet.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Keeping it real: We were made to work!

This week, our partner from Burkina Faso posted this video on our Global DML WhatsApp platform, with this comment:  

Work is just part of our spiritual and physical DNA. Even when we lose all our ability, we still want to work because Work is part of God's image in us.

When I watched the video, I was struck by two things:

  1. I should never complain about hard work!
  2. The need, desire, and joy of work is deep and real!

This joy in work has been frustrated by sin.  As we see people rediscover their joy and purpose in work, we find that there is an attitude change which then results in greater productivity!  When I work for money or I work without joy, my eyes are cast down on myself.  But when I work as a calling, work for the Lord or for the flourishing of humanity and creation, my eyes are lifted up!

For those who are partnered with us in getting this message out, we thank you!  If you are not, we invite you to join us in our effort to get this message across Africa and beyond by becoming a Gospel Patron!  For more information or to join us, please click here.

Monday, April 4, 2022

DML's Scholarship Campaign

Discipling Marketplace Leaders is running a scholarship campaign during the month of April, in an effort to raise $30,000 in 30 days to provide scholarships to pastors, church leaders, and marketplace ministers through our partners across Africa and Nicaragua.  These scholarships allow these leaders to attend DML workshops and trainings and access the on-going support and resources to implement workplace ministries in their church as well as mentoring for business leaders. 

That is a goal of $1000/day and I am praying the goal will be met so that we can continue to spread the message of a healthy theology of work! 

In 2021, we were able to train almost 3,000 pulpit pastors and 6,400 marketplace ministers, many of whom paid fees to cover the costs of these trainings but for those 10% who had financial challenges, these scholarship funds covered their expenses, which allowed for more people to hear this good news!  

It only costs about $20/person to have a pulpit pastor/church leader attend our foundational workshop and about $50/person for a business owner to go through our twelve-week workshop. And we know that these trainings will help churches equip the priesthood of believers to be the church every day of the week, and will also increase profit, household income, and create jobs in the businesses!

We can't do this without your support!  As a donor, you become a "gospel patron" on the DML team.  

During April, we will be sharing a number of brief videos that our partners have sent of pulpit pastors and marketplace ministers who share the importance of understanding that God works, that we were created to work, and that work can be an act of worship. Here is a brief video from our partner in Burundi.  The language that is being spoken is Kirundi, but the subtitles are in English.

Please consider joining us in April by giving toward this goal!  Click here for more information.

As I stuffed envelopes for this campaign, I had to chuckle over the picture below, sent to me by someone in the fundraising arena.  This feels true at times!  But God is so good in calling us to link arms together to combine the three resources (time, treasure and talent) that God has given each of us in order for us to work together for the flourishing of humankind and creation, to the glory of God.  Amen?