10/30/15

God will match your need with his blessings

You might have a need that seems entirely too big to fill. You might have a situation that seems positively too impossible to solve.

What if God were ALREADY at work setting up just the help you need for just the time you will need it?

There is an impossible need right now for the International Mission Board. They are doing a right thing, while doing a heart-wrenching thing. They are required to reduce the number of missionaries and workers in numbers as large as 600 - 800 people in order to be good stewards of God's blessings of financial receipts and of manpower. (See the story here.) This situation is in spite of an increase in annual receipts from their annual Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions.


I want to tell you an inspiring story. In the tiny town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, a high school senior, who is a leader in his church youth group, wanted to plan a 3 on 3 basketball tournament for his community. The church leadership here at First Baptist Church of Philadelphia wanted to equip this young saint in his work for the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). He wanted this event to undergird a worthy cause. We quickly remembered a man who was raised in our church who is currently serving with the IMB in Central Asia. Why not do something to benefit him and the ministry God has given him? Thus, Hoops for C.A.M. was born (C.A.M. stands for Central Asian Missions). Our local newspaper, the Neshoba Democrat, published a story on this event. (Read it here.) In God’s providence, God has been leading this high school senior toward this idea of a basketball tournament for a worthy cause for such a time as this – a time when the IMB is in its greatest need. God will bring a small gift from a youth group in Philly MS to his great work among the nations. Even during the IMB’s greatest difficulty, God is being faithful in his own ways for our piece of his picture of his Great Commission work. We look forward to donating all our proceeds from the tournament, concessions, admission, and shirts to the Lottie Moon Offering. Because God led us to do this. Because he wanted to bless the IMB with our gift. Because God is still at work, even when we are tempted to believe he is not.


May God be gracious to us and bless us
     and make his face to shine upon us,
That your way may be known on earth,
     your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
     for you judge the peoples with equity
     and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase;
     God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
     let all the ends of the earth fear him!


A prayer of blessing from us to God's people at the International Mission Board:

Numbers 6:24-26

The LORD bless you and keep you; 
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.


10/15/15

Drafting: Ministry Momentum

In my town, there is an annual triathlon in the summer. There are strict rules about drafting as the competitors make the 27 mile cycling leg of the triathlon. What is drafting? Drafting is cycling behind or beside other competitors or a passing vehicle to reduce the drag (air resistance) that cyclists push through as they race. A competitor's drag can be reduced as much as 50% when they draft. I have seen a cyclist pull in behind a bus, and draft his way from 40 mph to 60 mph while putting out much less physical effort.

In ministry, we often struggle with creating MOMENTUM. What does ministry momentum look like? It can seen in several ways: people are EXCITED about a program in the church, LOTS of people are coming to the church program (this would look like an attendance number that is higher than average or much higher than predicted), people are TALKING (in person and on social media) about the program, etc. In other words, ministry momentum is when others are FOLLOWING you toward the church program to which you are LEADING. Momentum is often the goal -- sometimes the unspoken goal -- for church programs. If we do not succeed in creating momentum for something, it can feel as if we failed, and we probably did fail... at least in our goal of creating momentum. Also, in my experience, momentum is even more difficult to create in a small church (200 people or less). I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in ministry in small churches. You are the majority of us in ministry. Keep up the good work.

We should carefully evaluate our specific goal, too. Is our goal momentum? Is it a large attendance? Is it life change? Is it a greater spiritual depth in our people? Then plan your church program accordingly.

But IF our goal is momentum, let me offer you one strategy: DRAFTING. How would my program planning differ if I were to FIRST ask what things or which people have some momentum to them, then draft behind them as I plan for ministry?

Did my goal of increased evangelistic effort from our people happen after we encouraged them to have Jesus conversations in our church program? If it did not, was it because we did not pedal hard enough to create momentum for that program? What about our big worship conference we travel to, or our weekend-long church program? If those programs ALREADY have momentum, how can we accomplish increased evangelistic efforts from our people by drafting in behind a program, and adding or emphasizing Jesus conversations through that program?

Sometimes you feel as if you are pedaling as fast as you can while cycling uphill with the wind blowing hard in your face as you do ministry. Look around. Is there something you can draft behind that has less drag and that allows you to expend less energy and that would help you travel even farther than you would have otherwise?

I am convinced that this strategy is not used often enough in ministry. Possibly because this strategy requires a lot more listening and looking. It is easier and faster to simply dream up the greatest idea ever for a program, and try with all your energy to get everybody to join you in that (after all, it IS the greatest idea ever, is it not?). But it is slower to meet with lots of people in your ministry in order to identify what or who you can draft behind to maximize your ministry momentum.

Some of the time, it is important that you go in a direction that no one else is going, and you have to work harder in order that others jump in behind you and draft with you toward that important goal. However, some of the time, you are working harder and only traveling a short distance simply because you have not looked for an opportunity to draft behind something that already has momentum.

Questions for reflection:

-In my church, what is the ministry program with the greatest momentum right now? Can I draft in behind it?
-Is there a time when I expended a great deal of energy, and felt as if I created no momentum?
-What are some examples of a ministry goal that does not need momentum? That needs to travel at its own pace?
-What is an example of a situation when I do not need to draft, because I need to pedal in a new direction?
-How can I create ministry momentum, and encourage other people to draft in behind me so that we can build that momentum together?