Feb
18

Kelvin Syndrome

written by JD

This is the best possible scenario. There is no better way. Never has been. Never will be.

Lord Kelvin (a physicist) once stated there was nothing new to be discovered in physics. Any future endeavors would only produce more specific measurements. After this declaration, Einstein set forth his theory of relativity.

The Kelvin Syndrome is not the same as the Uncle Rico Syndrome, but it is just as problematic.

We’re going to keep leading like this.
We’re going to keep raising support like this.
We’re going to keep reaching people like this.
We’re going to keep recruiting people like this.
We’re going to keep administrating the organization like this.
Because we’ve figured it out. There is no better way today or tomorrow.

Once we have entered into this line of thinking, we have departed the realm of wise Kingdom stewards.

We’ve ruled out sanctification.

We’ve ruled out the gospel reaching the Gentiles (Acts 10, 13-14).

We’ve ruled out future gospel breakthroughs.

We’re ruled out the Spirit preventing us from entering Asia or Bithynia that He might lead us to Philippi (Acts 16:6-15).

We’ve forgotten our predecessors made the same statements–then we came along and showed everyone otherwise.

It may be true. What we presently have may be the best option for now. And this option may be the best for the next 2, 5, 10, or 75 years. However, wise Kingdom stewards always put everything on the table. They aggressively evaluate everything, even the boundaries of the box.

Feb
17

Uncle Rico Syndrome

written by JD

The past is always better. It just got messed up along the way. If this or that would not have happened, then everything would be okay. I got a bad deal. [REPEAT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE]

This is the Uncle Rico Syndrome. It freezes us to a moment past, and hinders us from movement. Maybe life just happened. Maybe we messed up. Maybe someone else made the wrong decision. Coach did not put us in the game; now we are selling plastic bowls and not playing in the NFL.  If you’ve got 45 seconds, then you can watch the Uncle Rico Syndrome HERE.

The past does have a bearing on both the present and, Lord willing, the future. The past should not be forgotten or ignored. It should be remembered (1 Cor 10:6; Rom 15:4).

Yes, it is possible a mistake was made. Maybe sin occurred. However, we were not created to live or lead from the past. We must live and lead in the present. As followers of Jesus, we are moving toward an eschatological reality. We are not doomed to be stuck mentally in the past and never advance. The four billion remain.

When we own the Uncle Rico Syndrome, we walk in a miserable state. It robs us of joy, hinders gospel advancement, and interferes with our abilities as Kingdom stewards.

Remember the past. Repent, if necessary. Learn from the past. Move.

We have a Good Shepherd who leads us in the present (Ps 23:1-2), sanctifies us in the present (Lev 20:8), comforts us in the present (2 Cor 7:6) and has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:3)–this is more wonderful than winning the state championship game!

Feb
16

When Generosity Hurts

written by JD

One of the coffee shops I frequent, because of its proximity to my office, has great customer service. The baristas are great! The service is fast. It is a place of much generosity.

But sometimes generosity results in problems.

99.9% of the time I drink my coffee black. However, I’ve learned that I need to start saying yes when asked, “Do you want any room for cream?” If I fail to say yes, then my generous barista fills my cup nearly to the brim. This causes the lid of my cup to leak as I drive to the church’s parking lot, and then walk from my car to my office. Unbeknownst to me, this slow leak ends up dribbling coffee on my pants and shirt.

Generosity sometimes leads to a dry cleaning bill.

Most of the time my coffee is served in two paper cups. My guess is this is simply a generous means of keeping one’s hand from being burned. I greatly appreciate that. However, my two cups often come with an 85% post-consumer-fiber cup sleeve, which “uses 34% less paper than our original.” The reason for this environmentally friendly resource is “because we care about our planet.” Again, while I greatly appreciate the added protection, it seems the extra cup is counterproductive to creation care.

Generosity sometimes leads to more in the landfill.

The culture of generosity is greatly needed today in all walks of life. Of course, the Church should be setting the example in this area (Acts 2:46, 2 Cor 9:11, 1 Tim 6:18). However, wise Kingdom stewards do not shift their minds into neutral when it comes to generosity. Prayerful discernment and vision are important.  Sincerity is not sufficiency. Sometimes our big hearts lead us to unintended consequences (For more on this idea, read Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s excellent book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself.).

Be generous, very generous. Create a culture of generosity. But do not give up discernment in the process.

Feb
15

Stretch the Choir

written by JD

Leaders preach to the choir. They are members of our tribe.

We need it as preachers. The choir needs it. When we preach to the choir, we are reminding them what they already know, what they already believe. It is an extremely important aspect of tribal life. It is foundational to the Christian community (2 Pet 1:12; Titus 2:1).

However, there is another aspect to the Christian community beyond preaching to the choir–stretching the choir. It is not enough to agree. Leaders must lead (1 Cor 4:17).

Paul was not hesitant to preach to the choir, but he did not leave them there. It has been said about half of his epistles are comprised of doctrine, foundational matter. The other half is exhortation to action. Foundation then action. Agreement then movement.

However, if I’m only sharing with the choir what they already know, believe, and feel, then we are moving nowhere. We are caught in an eddy. This round-and-around experience may cause us to feel good and contribute to our encouragement, but it does not move us forward.

Jesus is the only Savior and explicit faith must be put in His name.
We must share the gospel with others.
Fifty Shades of Grey is bad.
Homosexual marriage is bad.
Pornography is bad.
Read your Bible.
Love others.
Pray

Thank you for stating this.  I agree with you 100%. You’re preaching to the choir. I’ve agreed 100% with these and a multitude of other matters since I encountered the Word of God years ago.  No advance degrees were necessary; the Word was sufficient to convince.

Leaders, tell us something we don’t know. Stretch us.

Oh, I’m not calling for some shock therapy or deviation from God’s standard. I’m just asking you to lead us to the what next. Seeing that we agree with these matters, tell us what to do next. Challenge us to think and act as wise Kingdom stewards who are already right there with you.

Too many good-hearted pundits only preach to the choir. We mistake this for good leadership. It’s not. It’s the eddy.

Preach to us and stretch us.  We don’t have time for life in the whirlpool. The 4 billion remain.

Feb
12

Using the Christian Calendar as an Opportunity to Party

written by JD

Christian holidays are excellent opportunities to connect with your neighbors and share your faith.  With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I want to give you an idea to try in the future–one that my family and I have used before–if you’re willing to dig into some history and party.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Many people do not know their neighbors
  • Many families with kids in your neighborhood like connecting with other families with kids
  • Neighborhood parties are excellent opportunities to strengthen community
  • Most neighborhoods don’t have a family hosting regular family parties
  • The calendar has several “Christian” holidays that can be used as excuses to party with families in your neighborhood

Here are the holiday party dates to keep in mind:

  • October, Fall Party (nothing overtly Christian here, just fun so your neighbors will not think you are a religious nut)
  • November, Thanksgiving
  • December, Christmas
  • February, St. Valentine’s Day
  • March, St. Patrick’s Day
  • April, Easter

Here are the guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Visit your neighbors with an invitation in hand
  • The invitation must read “family-friendly” so as to keep things appropriate
  • Begin with a party that has no religious aspects (I like starting with an October Fall Party, but you don’t have to do this.)
  • The first invitation (Fall Party) is just about fun, candy, games
  • Have snacks and punch on hand, but tell guests to bring some dessert (say “dessert,” or you may end up with unwanted potations)
  • The other holiday parties are promoted as fun, candy, games, etc., but also an historic story for the kids about St. Nicholas, St. Valentine, St. Patrick, etc. and a related biblical reading (e.g., nativity story, what is true love, Easter story)

My family invited our neighbors to an October Fall Party at our house.  It was a blast.  We met many people we did not know.  Before the party was over, we asked the parents to sign a sheet with their contact information so we could let them know of our next party.

We were unable to host a party that November, but we made certain we did for December and February.  On both of these months, the adults hung out and talked, everyone ate, the kids played, and then it was story time for the kids (of course, the adults were encouraged to listen).

I invited a friend to tell the historic story of St. Nicolas, using excitement in his voice and actions (We did not talk about Santa Claus.)–as the invitation promised.  Then–again, as the invitation promised–I read the birth narrative of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel, noting the real reason for Christmas.  We then returned to playing games, eating, and talking.

We followed up with those who attended to say how delighted we were to have them.  Later, with February 14 approaching, we returned to our neighbors’ homes inviting them to the “St. Valentine’s Day Party.”  We did the same things as we did for Christmas, but this time, as the invitation promised, story time involved a friend telling the kids about the historic St. Valentine, followed by a reading about true love from 1 Corinthians 13.

This pattern of connection, invitation, celebration, historic story, and biblical witness can be followed with St. Patrick’s Day (emphasis on family friendly or you may have unwanted green beer in your house) and Easter.

International students love these parties.  Catholic communities love these parties.  If you are a U.S. citizen living outside of the country, you are likely to find many people in your community interested in American holiday traditions.

Keep it simple. Be intentional with developing the relationships. Contextualize for your community. Pray like crazy. See what the Spirit does and where future conversations go for opportunities to preach the gospel.

Feb
11

Origin of Gospel Advancing Ideas

written by JD

Great ideas develop from collaboration not through privatization.  Remember, victory may be found in an abundance of counselors (Prov 24:6), not a lone ranger.  Counselors (plural) are able to provide healthy guidance to a people (Prov 11:14).

Great ideas develop in community not isolation.

Great ideas are developed by an iterative process–thinking of them, talking about them, checking them against the Word, chewing on them, praying about them, re-thinking, re-talking, re-checking, re-chewing, re-praying.

Ideas, apart from the mind of God, are worthless in reaching the 4 billion (John 15:5).  And if no one comprehends the mind of God except of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:11), then the first great idea is to walk in step with the Spirit we have received (1 Cor 2:12).

Spirit-

Word-

Meditation-

Prayer-

Community of saints-

Here’s where great gospel advancing ideas come from.

Let’s get off our islands, walk in the Spirit, know the Word, and start those conversations!

Feb
10

Life in 140 Characters

written by JD

The Word has much to say about the importance of patience–including it being an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). We dare not fail to teach about it and model it.  However, as patient priests, we walk in the world of the instant.  The Church walks in this world. Those outside of the Kingdom walk in this world.

Gone are the days when we can point to TV dinners as a manifestation of a society lacking patience.  Also, gone are the days of using instant mashed potatoes and microwave popcorn as examples of changing times.

We now live life in 140 characters.

How does this new normal affect your leadership style? Your preaching? The way you conduct meetings? Etc.?

At least with TV dinners we had to wait forever–40 minutes for the Salisbury steak and cubed carrots to heat properly.

At least with microwave popcorn we had 2 minutes.

Now it’s Insta this and Snap that, Tweet this and emoticon that. :)

The world continues to reduce many attention spans via 6 second videos.  Michael Kruger notes 5 ways Facebook may be harming your church.  Have you given any thought to life in 140 characters?  It’s a culture sculptor that has been with us for a while.

In light of the biblical teachings on patience, are you continuing–as if nothing has changed–to lead ministries, administrate structures and organizations, oversee degree programs, communicate, and work with boards developed for a TV dinner world?  Or worse, a pre-TV dinner world?

 

Feb
9

You Must Write the Manual

written by JD

Many of the necessary Kingdom advances today require teams to write the manual as they go.  And for some of you providing supervision to others, you’re going to have a hard time with giving them this absolutely necessary freedom.

This does not mean teams must create something from nothing. Rather, the how-to guide has not been written for how to take what exists and forge into new territory.

What manuals do exist were written for a society that existed 10, 20, 100, 500 years ago.

For most people, this is a scary place. Those who write manuals are the ones who live on the border of structure and chaos. Of course, Kingdom advancement has always been located here (Acts 10; 11, 13-14) and should not be a scary place.  Where there is no manual, there is great dependence on the Spirit.

There is no manual for:

Church revitalization when 90% of the churches in your denomination are declining.

Reaching unreached people groups in a land where most evangelicals do not see these strangers next door.

What to do when seminary enrollment is on the decline. Or, what to do when your large numbers of seminary graduates are entering into a saturated ministerial marketplace.

How the mission agency is to thrive when funds are hard to come by.

Reaching the 3,000 unengaged-unreached people groups across the world.

Tackling the challenges that come with our highly globalized and urbanized world.

Etc..

Feb
8

Phlegons Among Us

written by JD

The last time I played Bible Trivial Pursuit no question was asked about Phlegon.

Throughout three years of M.Div. studies and three years of Ph.D. work, I was never confronted with Phlegon.

To me, he was a nobody.  A no name.  Nonexistent.

To Paul, Phlegon was someone worthy of his greeting and of great value to the Church in Rome (Rom 16:14).  In fact, in many of Paul’s writings, there are a bunch of Phlegons–saints of significance, but nobodies to us.

We don’t read of them doing any cool stuff:  raising the dead, doing miracles, planting churches, preaching sermons, withstanding persecution.  Nothing spectacular.  No names.

We don’t want to read about them, consider them, or even deal with them today.

We want the extraordinary.  We want Superman, not the Greatest American Hero. We forget–often within the Kingdom economy–the ordinary does the extraordinary.  But that is so uncool.

Your church or organization is filled with Phlegons. Do you see them?  Do you see their Kingdom potential in reaching the four billion? Are you only looking for the Pauls?

When we begin to think of how uncool it is to serve and equip the Phlegons, we need to be reminded: our names are not listed in the inerrant, infallible, inspired, Word of God.  Phlegon’s is.

And for a “nobody” to be listed in God’s Word…that’s pretty cool.

 

(Thanks to Matt Mason for drawing my attention to Phlegon sometime ago.)

Feb
5

That Chinese Church is Doing What!!??

written by JD

“A church in the Northwest sent a married couple to a remote area to establish a minority group church. The remote area is accessible by a 10-hour drive from the couple’s church. They have been doing this work for four years and have established a church with more than 80 people that is made up of Mongolian, Hui, and Tibetan believers.”

These words are found in the article, “Cross-cultural Ministry in the Chinese Church” (HT: @TGC_IO), one of the most encouraging articles I’ve read recently.

Where is this “church?”  China.

Who is this “church in the Northwest?”  They are a group of Chinese believers.

Who is this “married couple?”  They are Chinese believers who are members of this church in China comprised of Chinese believers.

Where is this “remote area?”  China.

Who is this “minority group?”  They are some of the 341 unreached peoples living in China.

But I thought China was a missionary-receiving country containing one of the largest numbers of unreached peoples in the world?  Yes, that is correct.

Can this young Chinese Church in China plant churches among unreached people groups in China?  They already did.

 

For centuries we went and the Spirit did exactly what the Word told us He would do. Now, the Church in China (which is massive in number) is allowing that same Spirit to lead them to the unreached people groups among them and beyond.

If you read the article linked above, you will see that Chinese believers:

1) Are catching a vision of lostness among the unreached people groups within their own country and are carrying out the Great Commission.

2) Are recognizing the geographical and cultural challenges required to engage in cross-cultural disicple making that leads to church planting and are not afraid of those challenges.

3) Are capitalizing on the opportunity to prepare themselves for church planting abroad by doing it at home among unreached peoples.

We in the West have much to learn from our Chinese brothers and sisters. With an estimated 1200 unreached people groups living in the West (360 in the US/180 in Canada), we must recognize the strangers next door.  In a day when most church planting efforts within the United States and Canada are among reached people groups, the greatest need of the hour is cross-cultural church planting among the unreached peoples.  And how many times do we send church planters to other countries without any expectation for them to gain experience in such activities at home?

The Church in China is far from perfect.  However, She has much to teach us.  Are we humble enough to hear what the Spirit is saying to us through our brothers and sisters?

Look for It