Saturday, November 15, 2008

Because They are Hard

"We choose to reach the nations. We choose to reach the nations in this decade and do the other things, not only because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

To all who love the great history of our nation you will recognize this quote as being a modification of a famous speech by JFK. I replaced the phrase “go to the moon” with my phrase “reach the nations”.

JFK was a great visionary in pursuing the conquest of space – as if such a thing can be conquered. Going to the moon was an impossible task in those days, but it was made possible by vision, determination and resources. This speech carries so much wisdom and instruction for our desire to fulfill the Great Commission that I want to underline a few of the main points:

  • It is hard. There is nothing easy or convenient about making disciples and planting new churches in other nations. It will cost us more than is convenient to pay, and it will take us longer than we anticipate.
  • It is the best possible use of our material and people resources in the kingdom of God. Any use of God’s resources for other than God’s goals is a waste of life itself. I would go so far as to call it spiritual embezzlement. This does not mean that we cannot enjoy life and creation along the way, but along the way to where?
  • It is a challenge that we are willing to accept. This challenge does not mean that everyone will get on a plane, but it does mean that all of our lives should be oriented around the purposes of God.
  • It is a challenge that cannot be postponed. We are unwilling to postpone it. Postpone it for what? The enemy has not postponed his plan for the nations so neither should we delay.
  • We intend to win this battle. We intend to obey our God. He gave us all power and resources, a personal directive and He will be with us along the way.

There is only one thing harder than attempting this great endeavor. It is to manage a future in a world where it is not being done. Now that will be hard!

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matt 28:18-20

Friday, November 14, 2008

Looking Over the Generational Horizon

A young leader recently asked me how to mentor up-and-coming leaders and especially how do we utilize what Paul told Timothy? “Entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Most leaders with whom I work understand the urgency of raising up the next generation - the Timothys - but Paul is teaching us something that is a little more unique.

We are not simply called to raise up the next generation, but we are called to peer in faith over the generational horizon and plan for those who are yet to be saved. Moreover, we should even plan leadership for those who are yet to be born. That’s right, we have to plan now for a time when we will not be here and for a people we might not ever meet.

In the military there is a specialty called artillery observer. These people are located next to or even behind enemy lines, and their job is to direct the artillery fire which may be located miles away. The artillery men are not just miles away, but they often cannot even see the target because they are beyond the horizon. They have to trust the instructions of the observers so they can deliver accurate fire. We also need visionary leadership in the church – and I will add here in our nation also - that will help us direct our efforts towards a future that we cannot and might not ever see.

As I travel I meet leaders in different churches and denominations, and there are many diverse styles of leadership. Some churches are in dire need of CPR, but even for those that are healthy I often feel concern because they are a one-lifetime church. This usually means several things all of which add up to a short-sighted view of the kingdom of God.

First is that the main leader has built everything to be dependent upon himself. Even if he is a great leader the church will wane when he passes. Even good leaders unknowingly do this, but this causes the next generation to be stunted, and within several generations this church might close or need a serious reboot from God.

Second is a leader who does not recognize the obvious Timothys in his midst. I wrote about this in a
previous post, but suffice it to say that young leaders are usually more ready to take the baton of responsibility than we would think. They don’t have to be as polished as we; they only need to be faithful and proficient.

Third is the mass of faithful men and women in every church who are waiting to be equipped for ministry. I distinguish here between going to Sunday school and equipping for ministry. Equipping encompasses learning, but the accumulation of knowledge does not always translate into doing. There is a task to be done, and people need to be equipped to do it. Equipping is basically purpose-oriented, directional learning.

Fourth is the mystery group. They are the others be they saved, not born again or maybe not even born. This is Paul’s goal as he writes to Timothy. As a seasoned man of God he is aiming at a target that is over the generational horizon, and he realizes that a church that has this generational approach to ministry is a church that will encompass and span many generations of leaders in its mission to make disciples of all the nations.

Aim far, shoot far.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Love Ukraine: Nations Unite to Help The Poor

Please take a look at what God is doing in Lviv, Ukraine and especially what can happen when nations unite to reach the poor.

Every Nation Lviv Ukraine

Every Nation London’s outreach to the poor in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, check links below:

Video Links
Love Ukraine Dec 2007
Love Ukraine June 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Surrendering the Baton

In the life span of any great endeavor there is a beginning, middle and an end. Some endeavors, especially those inspired by God, are so vast that those who begin them will never live to see their ultimate fulfillment. However, as with Abraham even he was able to see in faith the day that Jesus would come and fulfill all things.

As a missionary who is on such a journey I can recall times when I was convinced that I could run an outright sprint until my dying days and see all that God had promised come to fruition while I was yet in my vigor. I have seen many start this sprint only to drop dead in the process. Their focus and vision were so intense that they ignored all warnings and wisdom. With each lap they ran at full speed right past the person who was next in the relay because they were running for personal gold. Families suffered, health failed and the race ended early. Also, those who were waiting patiently for the baton grew frustrated and decided to start their own race.

Others who paced themselves a little better still had to face the reality of the end of their influence in a specific area. In short, they either embraced this or they fought it to the very end. I for one have sprinted until I dropped and also survived by God’s grace only to face a more sober reality, the reality that I will not take Ukraine for Jesus. The years of effective service in one area are finite, and this window is even narrower when I am ministering in a foreign culture.

My vision for Ukraine has in no way diminished, but I understand that I was never called to take Ukraine or any other country. The task is too great for any one man, and it will take longer than any one lifetime.

I am still ministering to young people, but I am now older than their parents so I know that another generation must take over this work. I am also not the best one suited to be a senior pastor in Ukraine. The main reason is that I am not Ukrainian. I can do the work, I speak the language but the job was simply not meant for me. It was meant for Ukrainians.

While some would see this as the end of ministry, for me it is in-fact the beginning of the greatest years. The reason being is that those whom I work with know that this is my value system. They know that I only want to equip them to do exploits in God, and they know that I do not want the glory, the individual gold. Because of this they only invite me more into what they are doing, and I have found that my effectiveness and influence are actually increasing. I am thoroughly content with this transition in life, and I can see in the next generation the second leg of the fulfillment of all that God has promised. Seeing the next generation rise up and run with greater agility is truly exciting.

Unfortunately, many leaders wait until they are on their deathbed before they pass the baton. They say, “Here my son, the responsibility is now yours. I am going to be with the Lord now.”

To this the young leader might reply, “But father, I don’t know how to do this, you never taught me. You did it all, and people will never trust anyone like they trusted you, the patriarch. Will you have email in heaven, a cell phone?”

The deathbed is not the place to pass the baton. We need to surrender it in our hearts from the moment it is put in our hand. The very nature of the baton is that it is not a scepter, and it must be passed. The race is simply too long and too important for us to run it ourselves.

So when do we start raising up the next generation to take the baton? From the moment we meet them. Do we end up sitting on the sidelines? No! We are to get as many people into the race in as many nations as possible until we see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Good runners become good running coaches, and good running coaches never really stop running.