Thursday, May 29

Going Stateside

I love Ecuador. I love being a missionary. I love our work. I love being a servant of God. I love what the Lord is doing in our midst. For 32 years this country has been my home (21 as a missionary and 11 as an MK.)

But we need a break.

We are scheduled to be going Stateside June 1 to August 15 of this year. More than anything, what we need is a change of pace from ministry demands to rest, recharge, reflect, retune our hearts to God's still, small voice.

We hope to continue blogging, but probably not as frequently due to the amount of traveling we have coming up while in America. (So much for the part about needing "rest!" :)

My wife and I are scheduled to be at the SBC in Indianapolis. Much of our time there will be spent on duty at the IMB booth. If you happen to be in Indy, please stop by and let us meet you in person. We would love to put a face to some of the names we have enjoyed reading in the blog world.

The following song "Yo Nací En Este País" (I was born in this country) is a really a great song and quite popular over much of South America. It is sung by Ecuadorians Juan Fernando Velasco and Pamela Cortez. Though I was not born in Ecuador, both our children were, and after living here for 32 years, feel very much "in tune" with the message of this song!

Monday, May 26

What I would like to say to those coming on mission trips

As we approach the summer months we begin what is traditionally the season for volunteer groups to come down to help us in our mission work. We are very grateful for all those who come year after year and do such a great job while amongst us. After every team leaves there are things I wish I had shared but always feel that I might be misunderstood, so usually say little to nothing about these matters.

Things I would like to say to our Baptist partners and friends from the States coming on mission trips but am afraid of being misunderstood.

1) We desire an on-going relationship. Most of the groups coming down see the trip as a "missions experience." Something to talk about for a few days once you get back home. You want to DO missions, not just give to some missions offering. For a few short days you are eager to do things you normally wouldn't do. You take lots of photos. You meet new friends, experience a taste of a developing country's culture, food, and way of life. You have a lot of fun. Your heart is broken at seeing the how the poor barely survive from day to day. Once your 7-10 days are up, you get back on the plane and we never hear from you again. That is, unless you decide you want to come back, and then our communication is about dates for next year.

This is not what WE want.

After you leave, we want to stay in contact with you. We want to know that you are praying for the people you have met and worked with. We want you to pester us with questions, updates, and actually stay in contact with those new friends you met while here. We want to feel that you too are committed to finishing the task you came to help out with while here.

Most of you who come are deeply touched by what you experience while here. Many of you say your life has been changed by the experience. Your eyes have been opened to things you never knew were out there. Why then, once you leave, we never hear back from you? If your lives have been changed it would seem you would at least want to sign up for our PrayerNewsletters to keep up at least in your praying for us. It is also strange to the nationals that after all the hugs and tears and moments shared, you never call, write, or even ask about them. Where are all the promised copies of those photos you took while here holding their kids on your laps?

2) We want you to become advocates for us there in the States. If the trip meant so much, share it with everyone you know back home. Make everyone look at your photos. Tell them how your life was changed by the trip. Share with them people's stories; not just, "oh, it was awesome!" Request time at church to share. Start an Ecuador prayer group, or at least keep Ecuador in your prayers. If God spoke to your heart while on the trip, follow up with the Lord about what He opened your eyes to. Don't return to life as it was before you came down. Be an advocate for missions. Keep Ecuador and global missions on the front burner of your church's attention.

3) Come prepared. It is amazing to me how many come down knowing they will be spending a lot of time sharing the Gospel one-on-one and yet not knowing how to do so. One of the comments we hear from our national brothers after every volunteer team has left is, "They apparently had never shared the Gospel with anyone before this trip." While there are certainly people who have come down who do know how to share an effective Gospel presentation, I would say that it is a very small percentage. Many coming on missions trips are doing so for the first time, and have never shared their faith back home, little less, overseas.

4) Be ready for the schedule to be changed. I know how frustrating it is to have one's plans changed at the last minute. But that is just the way things are here. Americans plan months and years in advance and like to have an hour by hour schedule of what they will be doing to maximize their time. That isn't the way things work here. We can plan all we want to and make out nice, organized sensible schedules, but most of the time things here are decided on the spur of the moment. I know it is frustrating (it is for me too) but being flexible is and willing to adapt quickly is something I wish I could say and not upset you.

5) Eat what is set before you. Most of you do a super job at eating all the foods and drinks offered to you while here. You make our people feel that their food is the best in the world. It really is! But there is always at least one of you in the group who is picky about what they eat. To not eat what is offered is a huge offense here. The people will always give you the best that they have. They are often embarrassed by the little they have to offer, but when it is rejected they are hurt. No excuses are acceptable, such as: "I am on a diet", "this is too much starch on one plate", "I can't eat this much", "has this lettuce been washed?", "what is this?", "if I eat this it will make me sick." Eat what is set before you (that is Biblical--see Luke 10!) The people who are hosting you have been eating/drinking these foods for eons and they are doing just fine. You'll be fine too.

6) Don't make promises you can't keep. After being here for a few days you realize how blessed you really are. You want to help the dear brothers and sisters whom you have grown to love in the few short days you have been here. But please be careful in what you tell them you are going to do after you leave. Without exaggerating, hardly ever do you follow-up on what you offered while here. One of my personal pet peeves is to hear you talk about all the great new books and tell me you'll be sure and send a copy, but never do. It is like "out of sight, out of mind" once you get back to the States. Closely related to this one is #7 below...

7) Consult with the missionary team about any money matters. Money is something you have a lot more of than those you are working amongst. When you see needs, the tendency is to want to do something to help. I'll be honest here. There are many things that we definitely could use money for. But most of the time we are not consulted. Amongst yourselves you decide where you want to give money. This usually causes problems after you leave. For one thing, if you give to one dear brother whom you met and grew to love, what about all the others? To give to one and not to all the others causes problems. I could write pages on this, but suffice it to say, if you want to leave some money, tell us how much you want to give, and then ask us where/what/who it would best be used.

After all the above, I hope you hear my heart. We really want you to come help us. We have definite areas of our strategy that you can play a major role. What we are asking for is probably more than most are willing to give. But these are some of the things I have always wanted to say to the teams coming down.

Friday, May 23

Understanding Church Planting Movements

I recently Googled Church Planting Movements (CPM) to see what came up. Steve Addison has done us all a favor by collecting several David Garrison podcasts to help us understand various aspects of church planting movements.

I encourage you to click on these short podcasts as an introduction to CPM and learn what God is doing in today's world.
So, what do you think about CPM principles? Is there anything in these podcasts that caught your attention? Do these principles translate into all contexts of church planting?

Tuesday, May 20

ten2b praying

One of Jesus' most ignored commands in the New Testament is "...pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He send out workers into His harvest." Luke 10:2b

This is one prayer the Lord wants to answer. It is the first command Jesus instructed the 70 in Luke 10 as he prepared them for going out into the fields white and ready for harvest.

If I were training the "70" prayer would be an important element. But would praying for workers be the focus of the praying? Probably not. To me it is interesting that Jesus doesn't tell them to pray for the lost; he instructs them to pray for workers. It seems our job is to ask God to call out the laborers and send them to the harvest fields; it is the Holy Spirit's job to put those workers into contact with hearts He is dealing with.

Does God intend to answer this prayer? Yes. Right now we are in the middle of trying to train more people than is humanely possible. For the first time in eight years we are at the point of simply not having enough time and physical strength to train all those the Lord is sending out way. Our minds still cannot grasp that we are looking at training 60,000 workers this year.

I am more convinced than ever He is just waiting on us to ask him for workers. The most consistent prayer we pray is for harvest laborers. This isn't an occasional prayer request, it is daily. Unless the Lord calls out the workers and puts it in their hearts to do the work, it doesn't matter how many hundreds of people we might train, or how many churches we get invited to. Very little fruit will remain.

We have just finished up another COSECHA (harvest) discipleship/church planting training cycle. Our Guayas Mestizo Team has divided itself into seven teaching teams. Each team is assigned three churches every week. In each of the churches there have been anywhere from 30-150 men and women. Last week alone we trained in 18 different churches. Most teams are traveling 2-4 hours to get to the churches, and then 2-4 more hours to get back home...night after night.

What is my point? ten2b praying works. It is God's way of getting the job done. Praying for workers is something He wants to answer. He is waiting for us to get serious about praying for workers, so that He can get serious with us about sending us the workers he intends on using.

There are so many stories I could share from the past days that confirm the above, but will limit myself to this one from last Tuesday night.

Posorja is a 2-hour drive from Guayaquil. The first night of the training two men came. Nobody seemed to know who they were and they didn't say much. It was obvious they were visitors. This past Tuesday night as we were concluding the training I asked for people to share what the Lord had impressed upon them during our time together. Much to everyone's surprise both men stood, indicating they wanted to speak. The first man began to weep uncontrollably for several moments. Slowly their story got out...

My partner and I are professional fishermen from Costa Rica. We have been in Posorja for the past few weeks wondering why on earth God led us to this place. We have not been able to accomplish anything we had originally come here to do. Our plans were to go to Manta (another port city on the coast of Ecuador) and yet God strangely led us here. The first day we decided to go out and try to find an evangelical church. We happened to "discover" this church the first night of the training. We now fully understand why God brought us to Posorja. It was not for fishing permits, but for something far greater. We have been wanting to work for the Lord and serve Him, but didn't know how to go about it. The tools we received in this training are exactly what we have been needing. We fish up and down the coast of South America and come into contact with many people in our travels. Our desire is to be effective fishers of men to all the places God takes us. We now feel prepared for the task God has called us to.

Some would call the above a coincidence. But I firmly believe this was yet another answer to our ten2b praying. God heard our prayers for workers, coordinated the coming together with two fishermen just "passing through" who were letting God know they were available. Then the Lord has a way of choosing a remote fishing village, in a church that neither of us had ever set foot in before, for a divine encounter with eternal consequences. Such are the kinds of things that happen when we pray like Jesus commanded.

Sunday, May 18

Third places

Ragamuffin quotes Michael Frost's Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by asking...

Where are the "third places"?

[Frost] suggests that people generally live out their lives between three distinct places: Home, Work and a third place. For many Christians, their third place is church and church activities. (He goes on to suggest a deep interconnectedness between this reality and the decline of the church.) While many Christians spend their free time engaged in religious activities with religious people, most everyone else has traditionally found their third place in spaces like bowling alleys, pool halls, mothers' groups, local pubs, and beauty parlors.

Identifying the third places of your community will tell you a lot about the people you are seeking to reach. Furthermore, it identifies for you the places your church must go if you are to reach them. People don't have time for a fourth place. That is what the church isn't getting.

Some helpful questions for determining the community's third places might be: How do people spend their free time? Is there a thriving night life? Recreational lifestyle? Performing arts community? Professional sports team? Family culture?

This is an interesting question. What are the 'third places' for my people group?

After giving the matter some thought, I am encouraged to realize that for a great number their 'third place' is others homes. People here are very social. They love to spend time together with other people. Due to the difficulty of getting around in large congested cities, most tend to stay close to home at each others houses. Usually the homes of other family members. When people are not at work or at home, they are likely to be at someone else's house visiting. In that sense they are what Frost describes above as a family culture.

What implications does this hold for planting new house churches?

1) We are about small family based assemblies oikos/house churches made up principally of extended family members, their friends, and neighbors.

2) We have barely begun to tap into the potential of this 'third place' family culture of the home.

3) What strategies might we suggest to existing church families to begin seeing the potential for using their homes as 'third places' to minister to family and friends who happen to stop by?

What are common 'third places' for your people group?

Friday, May 16

What motivates team members?

As a Strategy Coordinator for the Guayas Mestizo people group, I have often benefited from the sound advise gleaned from Jay Lorenzen's OnMovements blog.

Teams that build movements was an especially helpful piece. In this post Jay quotes Bill Allison that team building "requires an understanding of what motivates the people on our teams."

In working with the twelve men and women that currently make up the Guayas Mestizo Team, the following tried and proven principles have paid off well in helping to motivate our team...

Spiritual Giftedness. Do your team members really understand their spiritual gifts? As a team leader, you need to help people understand and discover how God has wired them spiritually. Using your primary gifting to serve God is highly motivating.

Clarity. Do your team members know exactly what you want from them? Don’t make the assumption that staff and volunteers know what you want them to do. Spell it out clearly. Put it on paper. Review it once a year.

Tools and Training. Are your team members equipped with the tools and training to do their ministries well? Non-existent or ineffective tools and lack of training take the motivational wind out of the sails of your team members. Get the tools and materials they need into their hands. Build confidence through training.

The Big Picture. Do your team members understand the BIG PICTURE? Do they see the connection between what they are doing and the vision/ mission of your joint efforts together? The quickest way to destroy team motivation is to create a feeling of disconnection. No one wants to be a cog in a bureaucratic machine. No one wants to just fill a slot. Help your team members understand the vision and mission and where and how they fit.

Thankfulness. Are your staff and volunteers recognized, publicly appreciated, and championed for their work? There is a direct connection between appreciation and motivation. Most staff and volunteers don’t choose to serve so they can be loved, appreciated and thanked. Yet, notice how people tend to flock to teams where those things are practiced.

Tuesday, May 13

Some of my favorite bloggers

There are a lot of really good blogs out there.

Actually, way too many to keep up with. I use the JetBrains Omea Blog Reader 2.2 to which I have added feeds from 99 blogs.

Why not go ahead and make it an even 100?

Well, 100 blogs is a ridiculous number of blogs to try and keep up with, so I keep it at a manageable max of 99! And just so you don't think that blogging is all I ever we ever do, I limit myself to no more than an hour everyday for blogging.

I enjoy reading the 99 bloggers currently on my list, but due to infrequent posting only a few qualify for my "favorite bloggers" list. So with that clarification...

Who are my favorite bloggers? I tend to be partial towards missionary blogs and those writing about missions-related issues. You might be surprised at my list, but here goes...

Interested in missionary blogs? The best place to start is that currently tracks 475 active missionary blogs. My complaint though with most of my fellow M Bloggers is infrequent blogging. Of course they do have busy day jobs of saving the world that keep them from posting more often!

No list would be complete without Wade Burleson's Grace and Truth to You. This is the one blog every IMB missionary I know reads (along with half the SBC), whether or not they will admit it. It's hard to get M's together and the topic of a WB post not come up as part of the conversation.

Three blogs missionaries ought to be reading for their excellent missiological content are Ken Sorrell's Return to Biblical Missions, Tim Patterson's Travel Light, and Jeff Gilbertson's Until All Have Heard.

The best "missionary story-telling" blog goes to Strider's Tales from Middle Earth.

The best balanced, MOR, SBC blog is sbc IMPACT! authored by several writers. I like this blog because it deals fairly and constructively with SBC and missions issues.

Another good balanced SBC blog that directs a lot of attention towards missions issues is Les Puryear's Joining God in His Work.

The best blog for learning about everyday life on the mission field from the perspective of a missionary wife is my own Linda Muse's A Foreign Life. I think she does a super job and would highly recommend her blog even if she wasn't my wife!

The best "practical helps" blog for missionaries, packed with wisdom and experience gleaned from years on the field, goes to David Watson and his Touch Point blog.

The missionary blogger I agree with 99.99% of the time (including comments on others blogs), is David Rogers writing for sbc IMPACT! and his own Love Each Stone. He has a way of saying just what I wish I could put into words.

The best blog to wake up to in the mornings with a cup of coffee is Bryan Riley's Charis Shalom.

The Best Thoughts of a Christian Woman goes to Debbie Kaufman. She always has something worthwhile to share and is a missionary cheerleader for those of us on the field. I love the songs she chooses to play every time I visit her blog.

The most misunderstood SBC missionary blogger, but one who always provides a good read with his incisive questioning of the way we do things in missions circles is Missions Misunderstood. I look forward to the direction his writing will take once he is back Stateside and no longer an overseas missionary.

The best "new kid in town" missionary blogs are Camel Crossing and Crucified With Christ.

The best "SBC-Pastor" blogs writing on missional themes goes to Alan Cross's DownshoreDrift, and Marty Duren's ie:missional.

Hands down, the best non-ministry related missionary blog goes to Amanda Parmley's Following an Unknown Path. The descriptions of everyday life in Taiwan are fascinating and always complete with plenty of colorful photos. She has got to have the cutest dog on the planet (plenty of photos of him as well.)

The best Christian music videos to inspire and get your day off to a good start can be seen on Nightwatch's blog. I love her choice of songs.

The best "where does he find all that stuff?" blog goes to Kevin Bussey's Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee.

The hands down best blog on "how to be the church" goes to Alan Knox's The Assembling of the Church. I wish there was a way to put Alan in charge of teaching ecclesiology at all our seminaries.

The best "friend's blog" about house churching and transparent spiritual sharing goes to Travis' He Must Increase and his wife Beth's Women4theKingdom. While a lot of us "talk the talk" about house church, these guys are doing it.

Dorcas Hawker's Attorney Notes is less about attorney notes, and more like a diary of the life of this lively person. It can really become addictive following her daily excursions. Kind of like getting hooked on soap operas. One is drawn into the daily comings and goings of this sister who loves missions and missionaries. She even set us up last year with our own "Missionary Dr. Pepper Fund".

Best "Ecuador photos blog" goes to Ben and Christine Haley's Pray Daily for the Haleys. Their blog is a photo journal of their time as missionaries here in Ecuador.

Peru missionaries have a great advocate in Kevin's Somewhere in South America blog.

Alas, my list must come to an end. If your blog didn't make the cut, don't feel bad. You are still safe as one of the "chosen 99" in my Omea blog reader. If you will start posting more often, I can guarantee you a spot in any future "favorite blogger" lists.

Any suggestions for me? I'm always on the look out for new blogs. Who are some of your own favorite bloggers?

Sunday, May 11

The little things God does

About two years I was going through a tough patch of discouragement. Little was happening, and our discipleship/church planting ministry was stuck in neutral going nowhere.

During this period of little fruitfulness, I was asked by a small church to come share our materials on a Sunday night. I accepted, but had little enthusiasm. My excitement decreased further upon arrival to see only a handful of bored people sitting in a tiny hot room that served as their auditorium. My alloted part in the service turned out to be, not a two-hour training of the church, but only the "sermon time." There was no intention of putting into practice the COSECHA (Harvest) materials I had brought to share. I was only "pulpit filler" for that week.

Afterwards as I was driving home and feeling pretty low, I stopped at a red light only to see a huge gymnasium on the corner that was obviously being used as a church. What was amazing is that this mega-structure had been built in less than 30 days time, and now was filled to the brim with people. Praise choruses roared from the loud speakers clear out to the highway.

By then I had just about had it. It was like the fulfillment of the "if you build it they will come" from the movie Field of Dreams. How was it possible that in less than 30 days this church had been able to build this huge structure holding thousands of people, and fill it to the brim with excited worshipers? They were obviously doing something right, and we were somewhere far off in left field with all the stuff we were trying to teach.

As I stared at that red light, Satan stormed in and began taunting, "you are a total failure...wasting people's time...nobody is interested in simple church or anything you are trying to'd be better off pulling in and sitting on the back row and learn a thing or two from people who are getting the job done...the mega-churches are the only ones reaching people...throw in the towel and go home!"

The light turned green and I drove on home feeling sorry for myself and totally defeated.

Fast forward 18 months to May 10, 2008...

The mega-gym-church on the corner invited us to come train them with our COSECHA materials. Yes, the same church that Satan had taunted me with and had felt so inferior to only 18 months prior! It is the little things like this that God does that strengthen our faith and renew our passion for Him and his Kingdom. Here was the "successful mega-church" calling on little old us to help them. I felt the affirmation and smile of the Lord. I guess He isn't finished with us yet!

I arrived a few minutes early to talk with the pastor and learn a bit about the church before doing the two week training. Boy was I surprised!

The facts...

The church that I had seen filled to the brim eighteen months prior was not the congregation that normally meets there. The gymnasium had been built 18 months prior by the largest evangelical church in the country with some 10,000 members. This "mother church" was needing an extra large auditorium for conferences since there was no space downtown for such an edifice. The "gym-church" was the downtown mega-church's conference center!

The actual church that continues to meet in the gymnasium during the week is a church of less than 200. Most of those 200 are members of the downtown mega-church who find this satellite congregation more convenient to attend. The night I had seen the gym full, I had assumed they were all new converts of a new church plant. The reality was they were having a special conference that night and all the church members had been bused in from across the river for the special event.

The actual pastor is a lay pastor. He and the church are eager for help in training them how to reach their community, and how to go about planting new churches in homes. They realize they have not been making disciples and want very much to turn the church around in this direction. They were thrilled and honored to have me. I was treated like royalty last night. I couldn't help but smile at God's goodness, and my whole misunderstanding of the real situation.

What I learned is that Satan is a liar. He is always distorting the truth to try to discourage, distort, distract, diminish or divide God's servants. That night 18-months ago, he hit a home run with me, but it turned out to be all lies.

We should learn to trust God and not judge things by their outward appearances. We are nothing more than servants. "A test of how much a servant you are is how you act when you're treated like one." (Mark Chase) And, "We have no right to judge where we should be put or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything." (Oswald Chambers). God, in his goodness, allowed me to be invited personally to see the real situation and to affirm me as a servant. What a humbling experience, but one I truly rejoice in.

As I returned home from the training there was another song playing on my car CD player, Chris Tomlin's, "How Great is Our God"--indeed He is!

Thursday, May 8

Three questions for any church

1. What is your church doing to deliberately make disciples?

2. What is your church doing to intentionally plant/reproduce new churches?

3. What is your church doing missions wise to be His witnesses in your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth?

While I realize there is more to being the Bride of Christ than the answer to these three questions, it is hard for me to conceive of a church calling herself a church that does not have a clear plan to make disciples of the nations. The heart of God is a missionary one that loved the world so much that He gave what was most precious to Him, Jesus, so that we might be called the 'children of God'.

While there is certainly room in the Church for more than evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and missions, if we allow these to become anything less that priority mandates, the inevitable result will be a turning inwards and the beginning of a decline resulting in eventual death of that body of believers.

My own observations about the decline occurring within the Southern Baptist Convention is directly related to the loss of this focus we have traditionally had as a denomination.

So how do we turn the decline around? For starters, try honestly answering the above three questions!

Wednesday, May 7

A living prayer

Just because I like it...

I first heard this beautiful song by Alison Krauss on Nightwatch's blog. It expresses in song what I want my life to be--A Living Prayer.

Sunday, May 4

What If you only had 3 years of ministry left?

Jesus accomplished the Father's will and did so in three years of ministry. Can we claim the same?

Unconsciously, most of us think we have a life time in which to carry out the Lord's work. But what if we were guaranteed to having only three more years of ministry? What would become our priority? What would we do differently?

I don't know about you, but for me, making disciples that make disciples would be my priority.

Another related thought that continues to haunt me is that if just ONE CHURCH of 200 members were to commit to making ONE disciple per year, and were to faithfully carry out that task--with those discipled each year doing the same--by the time of our retirement in 15 years, theoretically THE ENTIRE WORLD would be followers of Christ.

Yet we can't seem to even win/disciple ONE per year!

The problem is we THINK we are doing what Christ commanded, but aren't. To illustrate, just ask for a simple show of hands next Sunday of those who in the past five years have won a single person to Christ and made discipling them a priority. If there are 5 out of 200 (including the full-time paid professional church leaders) who have done so, I would be shocked!

The fact is, we are NOT making disciples. We are doing a lot of good 'churchy-type' activities, but winning the lost, and making disciples is not amongst the top priorities of most churches out there.

What does a church look like that indeed has evangelism/discipleship, church planting, and missions as a priority?

I visited one a few weeks ago. There were about 20 adults present (10% of the typical church mentioned above), along with children running in and out of the room. The church 'service' was anything but orderly, with everyone talking at once about the previous week's experiences of:

* lost family and friends they are praying for
* people being discipled and related questions they came up during the time together
* how and where to purchase follow-up materials for people won that week
* logistics for an evangelism blitz the coming weekend
* funny stories that took place in the new house church being planted across town
* prayer for a couple that were going out that week to visit a family
* needing more money from the collected offerings to buy Bibles for new believers
* several testimonies of God's opening doors for them to 'preach the Gospel'
* a missions report about what God is doing in another Latin American county

I am not exaggerating. The entire church 'service' was what I have described. There were a few songs sandwiched in, along with a short teaching from the Gospel of Matthew, but the rest was everyone pumped-up about their excitement of being on-mission with God.

This is a church that is truly missional in every sense of the word. They aren't looking to attract people to their tiny garage church, they are a vibrant church on mission with God, taking the church out to where the world is dying in its sin. I don't know about you, but that is the kind of church I want to belong to!

It would seem most of us (including me) are greatly distracted by all the programs, buildings, financial needs, meetings, and paraphernalia of Christendom that we have lost sight of the simple mandate of Christ to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.

What do you think? What would you do if you knew you only had three more years of ministry?

Thursday, May 1

Networking pays off

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned as a missionary is to network. Not just with those like me, but those different from me. Those doing different ministries and people from different walks of life.

The Riley Guide defines networking as, the art of building alliances. You are networking when:

* attending meetings, conferences, seminars
* talking to others, asking questions
* volunteering to help in others projects
* taking time to visit with members of similar ministries/religious groups
* listening and learning from others
* striking up conversations with others while going about daily living
* posting messages/articles on the internet (blogs, forums, etc.)
* answering emails and phone calls which encourage ongoing dialog

I like what this article says about networking...

Anytime you are making connections or acquaintances with people based upon shared experiences or interests, you are networking.

I have found that many people are out there looking for help. They are trying to get others to help them achieve their ministry objectives. This is very different from networking.

Networking is a two-way street. It must benefit both persons to be most effective, so as you ask your network for prepared to return the favor when asked.

I have found that sitting down with people outside my normal circle of contacts stimulates new ideas. Often previously closed doors will open through networking with those I normally would not associate. These 'new friends' often lead to greater ministry opportunities, or facilitating our own current efforts.

All of us need help. Nobody can do it all by themselves. We all need partners in order to reach our own objectives. When we intentionally network, there are many benefits.

* discovering materials that fit our needs and not having to reinvent the wheel

* getting people on board with helping reach common goals

* saving time by knowing where to go to get something that is needed

* making new friends and possible future working relationships

* entries into whole other realms of ministry

* open doors to not only help, but help shape the direction of others ministry efforts

* increased influence (usually far beyond that merited!)

* greater comradery and trust between entities that normally would not relate to one another

* obtaining materials that normally wouldn't be available without having to pay a lot of money

* good will and support rather than suspicion and criticism

* access to resources, personnel, and knowledge of different groups that can directly assist/benefit what we are doing

The list is indeed longer than the above, but it serves as an example of the benefits from taking the time to network.

I know a lot of the above sounds like "business world" kind of stuff, but I have found that what networking is really about is putting into practice the one another concepts of the New Testament. We are actually exhorted to relate to one another in this fashion within the Body of Christ. As we 'do unto others', they are more likely to 'do unto us' in return. As we 'one another' each other, the winner is clearly the Kingdom of God.

So, do you network in your ministry? How do you go about it? What are some of your thoughts or observations on the above?

BTW, one of the reasons I blog is to network!