How to Wait on God

Around this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, as the days grow shorter and colder, those changes trigger a hormone in leaf-dropping trees that sends a chemical message to every leaf that says, in essence, “Time to go! Let’s part company!” – From here.

Like abscission cells that act like scissors to leaves on a deciduous tree, creating a hormone that pushes away the leaf from the tree little by little, I, too, am pushing away things in my life that get in the way of learning what God is wanting to do in and to my life. Why did it take me becoming a worker with WorldVenture for me to see God more clearly? Why doesn’t every Christian put themselves through journeys like this to push away things we cling to (no matter what our age) and grow better?

Fall is a symbol of change. Recently, I just finished reading “Peace Child” by Don Richardson. On page 273, he writes, “One of the beliefs which the Sawi had inherited from the distant past was the belief that it was unwise to attempt anything their ancestors had not previously sanctioned.” Change was difficult for the Sawi people even after they became a Christian, but their response to building a bigger meeting house was, “If we think only of ourselves, we can, of course, make do with a smaller building…” In deciding to build it, they said, “It will be a house of peace in which former enemies can sit down together at the Lord’s table, and a house of prayer for the tribes around us who are still without God’s Word.” (emphasis mine)

I’m also reading a new book recommended by both my husband and Wayne at GBC by Andy Stanley called, “Visioneering: Your Guide for Discovering and Maintaining Personal Vision.” It’s like it was written for me. Visioneering goes into the story of Nehemiah and the wall.

On page 22, it says, “So what did he (Nehemiah) do? Nothing. He did absolutely nothing. He didn’t steal away across the desert in the night. He didn’t fabricate a reason to leave Persia. He didn’t even share his burden with other concerned Jews. But neither did he allow his daily responsibilities to distract him from the burden that had gripped his heart. No, Nehemiah knew what so many of us have a hard time remembering: What could be and should be can’t be until God is ready for it to be. So he waited.” (emphasis mine)

This is a rich period of waiting and learning. The vision still needed work in 2015 when I was appointed by WorldVenture, and when I received my new job description from WorldVenture, I knew THIS was where God wanted me in the first place. Like the tree that sheds its leaves, I had to push away a beloved ministry I managed since 2012 and close another ministry to accept this one so I can take another obedient step in God’s direction just to wait again. The theme of waiting is familiar now since my appointment. Social Media is too new of a field for people to recognize it. People naturally fight change and cling to comfort and sameness. But if a tree doesn’t shed its leaves, ” …they wouldn’t grow new ones.” Growth comes from waiting, shedding, and growing.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. – John 15:1-2

Where Are The Good Followers? #SocialMedia #Christian

Image result for letters to the church francis chan

According to “Cairnway,” 1,246 paperback books with leadership in the title were published in 2017. “Counting all formats, Amazon offers 57,136 books with the word leadership in the title.” In a Google search, I found only a few articles or books on being good followers. Most of the time, leadership takes precedent. It’s what you hear in church. Based on a 4-day devotional from the Youversion app on Francis Chan’s “Letters to The Church,” I bought the book, hungry for being in awe of my position as a member of the Body of Christ. And this chapter set me down on my knees.

In fact, I posted on my Facebook, “I love this book, but I am not reading it from a spirit of trying to find someone else to blame; I am learning to be in awe of being a member of the body of Christ and to help bring about a spirit of unity by supporting, leading, and doing away with my own sense of ego, pride, and competition.” Too often, we hit the share button because we want someone else to see it. The lesson is for them, not for us. I want to learn Jesus’ version of leadership. (John 13:1-17).

Francis Chan says,

“Imagine how difficult it would be to coach a team where each player refuses to follow because he or she has a better plan than the coach. Welcome to the American Church in the twenty-first century. Let’s exercise some humility.”

My biggest struggle is getting rid of my sense of competition, especially when you are raising support to only have to work one full-time job. I’ve encountered people who believe they are the only ones doing it right. That attitude is in the name of their ministries, their words, and even in their defensiveness. To maintain a sense of unity, I seek to work with what is established and help others succeed in their ministry goals. In some situations, I become a leader; in others, I become a follower. Once upon a time, I hated how teachers would force me into group work. Now, I see value in collaboration, but don’t hold too tightly to your ideas as a leader. God is such a creative God. He dreams bigger than we do.

A good follower of Christ and a good leader is aware that people are always watching. With social media, this is acutely true. The more notoriety you get (like Francis Chan), the more critical and the more encouraging the comments. Chan struggled with so much criticism and flattery. As a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, I can understand that pressure, but not to his level. On an individual level, a person must show their faith and life online and treat their social media as an extension of their face-to-face life. They should be one and the same. You can, with social media, be both a leader and a follower. The church needs good followers.

It became quickly clear to me in 2014 how social media will play a big role in missions, but only if we can mobilize the congregation to follow. Francis Chan pastored a megachurch before God took him out of the country. In this first chapter, he talked about wanting people to live holy lives. Too many people had no interest in applying the Bible to their lives at his megachurch. They would come to church every week and go home without appearing to show the fruit of belief in their lives. He wanted his church to become groups of people who challenged each other to action (and they did!).

In 2014, I saw more than half of the church on social media platforms like Facebook, and I asked God, “What if we trained those people to reach unbelievers, the unreached, and to learn another culture, even a language, to become digital workers? What if each church had a digital team that grew every year that supported the mission and vision of their church and likewise, supported missionary organizations? Missionary organizations that also help to provide training material to support a church’s mission goals and their own?” I also saw over-worked pastors and missionaries and communications staff that didn’t just do communications, but a hundred other jobs. Most churches and missionary organizations do not have the budget to support someone trained in communications. Sometimes, churches and missionary organizations only see their social media as a marketing tool, rather than a tool that can be used for digital discipleship. Francis Chan said, “Another issue we saw was how everything had grown to be very dependent on one person.”

Right now, I am training a non-profit on social media and digital discipleship. A ministry is only as good as the heart and drive of its people. If all leadership has to do is provide relevant content and lead, the digital teams become a powerful tool to saturate the world with the Gospel. This alleviates the pressure of having to do everything. Lastly, Francis Chan says this,

“After giving a very strong rebuke to the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm, Jesus simply asked them to open the door. Before you get overwhelmed by all tht is wrong with the Church, rememeber that He is not placing an insurmountable burden on your shoulders. He is asking you to fellowship with Him and join Him in what He is doing. We should be filled with faith and anticipation…”

You are the church.

You are also online.

Wordless Groans

I took a run yesterday after work around the lake. Runs help me cope with this journey. I pray and my heart expresses what it cannot verbalize. It reminded me of Romans 8:26-27,

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” 

I spend a lot of time in prayer these days. God has gifted me with this sense of powerlessness and acceptance. This morning I am struggling to put into words what is on my heart. There is so much work to be done to help the church understand online discipleship, accept it, use it well, and reach across the age and cultural divide that I feel overwhelmed. What is obvious is how this journey is not one to be done independently of the church or missionary organization.

In reflecting on this, I came to WorldVenture, not to start my own thing, but to partner with them to work with already established ministries/churches/workers and empower them to use social media, VR, and any other new technology that appears on the technological radar to share Christ through the friendships they discover, often cross-culturally and to unreached people groups. Being authentic, real, is important as online marketing tends to put the goal ahead of the person. To make disciples online is to think outside the box and get out of your comfort zone, investing your dollars and time in people online and face-to-face, not simply hitting the like button as if that’s enough. Likes are like a “How are you” as the person is heading out the door. I think we have a lot of great jump-offs from traditional ministries and churches that are doing great things with online discipleship.

Imagine how powerful the stories will be when we engage the traditional church in non-traditional ministry, especially cross-culturally? Change doesn’t come overnight. It comes with the blood and sweat of extreme effort and time. It takes education, allaying unfounded fears, and empowering people with knowledge to serve. Before one jumps to conclusions about a technology, we need to get to know it, how it works, and the positive and negative of it in order to use it well. Meanwhile, I embrace this powerlessness because I anticipate what God will do through me, through others, and definitely what He is already doing through technology.

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Are You Making Disciples Online?

More than once, missionaries and pastors have said, “We can’t do it all.” A pastor leads a congregation of 300 plus. Stats often say there is one missionary for every 200,000 to 400,000 people. Another said, planting churches is slow. Most churches have some sort of social media where they ask for volunteers, advertise church services, or share Scripture, but how many have engaged and mobilized their church congregants to serve online with the support of their church and missionary organizations? Are you making disciples online?

International students are swarming into our country. Refugees and migrants are streaming over our borders. The harvest has never been more ready. I’m glad I’m not the only one saying this: The church needs to train their congregation like missionaries to serve online and in the face-to-face world. We need to move away from our prejudices of social media and go where the people need to hear about Jesus through our relationships with them.

Because our pastors can’t do it all. Our missionaries can’t do it all.

But the way our country is doing social media is sending the wrong message. Can we tailor our profiles for a particular people group? Can we focus on praying for and learning about a people group, seeking them online? Can we practice self-control in what we post?

This week I’ll be posting my review of Hope of Nations by John S. Dickerson. It’s a book every Christian must read. Meanwhile, I am striving to change how we use social media, working in unity of spirit for the greater goal of sharing about Christ to every tribe and nation on earth. Even I have idols that must be tossed for a God who deserves my obedience.

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Boundaries and Balance

Our work schedules aren’t easy. My husband is also a light sleeper. A Facebook conversation captured my attention at a time of night when we were brushing our teeth, turning off the lights, and about to head to bed. I paused in the kitchen, looking at my tablet, praying, struggling between balance and boundaries.

“Are you coming to bed?” He said after he poked his head around the corner.

“I can’t.” I gave a sigh after I said this.

It reminded me of something someone said about children. You don’t choose the quality time; they do. Time zones or life events can mean instant chat, video conferencing, or an email. I try to keep some kind of normalcy during this transition time with my husband, like getting dinner ready by 6:30 pm when he gets home after a 12-hour day or stopping work by 5 or 5:30 pm so we can have some together time before bed. But sometimes, like that night, some conversations can’t be re-scheduled.

Serving in this field means establishing good time-management, balance, and making sure two factors aren’t neglected–God and my husband. Serving in this transition period means raising support on top of a full-time job, active ministry, and being a wife.

Thankfully, a current financial supporter has upped their support and I am now at 35% support. I have a long ways to go before I reach 100% support, but I celebrate each percentage because that means I am closer to reaching my calling.

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Morning Devotional: Serving in Bad Environments

Disclaimer: Not a Bible Teacher. Random thoughts from my morning devotions. 

Reading 1 Samuel 2

From Got Questions:

  • The author of 1 Samuel is anonymous.
  • Written from c. 1100 B.C. to c. 1000 B.C. One hundred years of history.
  • The role of Judges are removed and a unified nation under kings begins. Samuel is the last judge.
  • Two kings are anointed: Saul and David.
  • The child, Samuel first prophecy was one of judgment on the corrupt priests.

In 1 Samuel 2, I read Hannah’s prayer. As I moved to the next portion of the chapter, I learn about Eli’s Wicked Sons.

2 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they[b] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.

I wonder what it was like to serve among corrupt priests? In the Got Questions synopsis, I read this verse from 1 Samuel 15:22-23:

“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king’” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Were there any priests not corrupt? What temptations did they face? 

I am thinking, too, of how we serve at work or in the church. What temptations do we face to take shortcuts or make bad decisions out of pure exhaustion and low morale? If we don’t get what we want, do we say, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

What did you learn from reading this chapter? 

Meanwhile, I am praising God with this video. Sing with me.

 

 

Active Online Ministries

The Bible Study Project

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Roots Writers and Social Media Critique Group

The website was formerly under Cataclysm Missions Intl LLC. It is now under my new digital discipleship role. The website is located here, but it will be updated later this week with the same information as on the previous website. It will always have a link here directing you to their own website. It has its own brand. I co-lead it with Sherry Rossman. You can find her website here. 

Let’s Also Make Good Followers, Too

In scrolling down my Facebook news feed, I lost count on how many posts targeted leaders or potential leaders. A great many books and conferences are around leadership, but I wonder how many conferences talk about grooming good followers?

“The headline “Americans no longer want a boss” was seen above a story about a FreshBooks report that says the number of self-employed workers could triple in the next two years.” This came from LVB.com. 

The original article on “Americans No Longer Want a Boss” somehow got lost and deleted in my phone notifications. The above article didn’t go into as much detail as I would have wished, but it matches what is coming from the work force. Somehow, everyone wants to be a boss or a leader (or they want to play more and work less) but where are the good followers–that awesome team of supporters gifted in specific areas that can help the leader in the overall objectives and mission of the company, church, or missionary organization?

Where are the conferences that help create a dynamic work force that encourages each volunteer or employee to treat their places of employment like the mission field?

A conference can focus on the following:

  • Coming to work every day no matter the political climate, work environment, or how you emotionally feel.
  • How to give more back to your co-workers than you receive.
  • Starting the morning with Bible reading and prayer to fortify yourself for the day and to face the day with a “can do” attitude no matter the stress; to pray for difficult co-workers and working situations.
  • How to serve like Jesus in the work place.

Bosses lead the rest of the company forward. Without a good team, a boss will fail. We don’t need Zombies. We need thinking, creative, dependable, and honest workers who can love like Jesus and pursue holiness in their relationship with Him, even if the workplace is miserable.

My magazine is blessed to have such a team. Without them, TRC Magazine would suffer. They are an example of leaders understanding how to be good followers, and followers understanding how to support the overall mission and vision of a company.

 

Decisions That Keep You Awake

Decisions That Keep You Awake…

“Don’t go in there,” my husband begged in text as I stood outside the pet shop. “Run!”

A couple of days later, we went home with a ball of fur because he couldn’t say no to his wife. His wife (me) couldn’t say no to amber eyes and a playful spirit. We lost our own cat several months prior and the house felt too empty. I knew our next resident would not be like our last cat. Just like our former dog wasn’t like our last dog. Each animal has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Even as I write this, I have taken two Excedrin as our cat kept us up most of the night. But other things kept my mind awake, too. When you take on new responsibility, you feel it.

  • Did I respond to that person right?
  • Should I have said no (or yes)?
  • What is God up to?
  • Slow down. Don’t share in haste. Don’t post in haste. Be thoughtful in everything.

And lastly, just plain old excitement for the future. Old fears battle fresh joy, and I find new courage each day to face daily challenges.  The weight of people that believe in what I do sits on my heart, but not in a way that is a burden; it is a reminder that God has entrusted me with more because I think I became trusted with little (Luke 16:10).

Breaking new ground is hard work, but I need my team around me. Their experience in places I have not seen will make this new ground fertile. I will make a lot more decisions and I am praying I make wise ones. Surrounded by true friends and a supportive husband, I can’t help but feel some confidence as I look toward the future. Just like I am confident that one day, our new resident will find her “normal” and settle into a predictable behavioral pattern (sigh).

Meanwhile, how could I say no to this girl?

P.S. WorldVenture published an important blog post. Go here to view it on their Facebook page. Be sure to share your thoughts afterwards on their Facebook page. This is an important conversation to have between organizations.

Business Versus Missions: Is There a Division? #Christian

WorldVenture hosted two Hackathons with Code For The Kingdom during the past couple of years. I participated in both and mingled with business people, missionaries, churches and regular working people. During those weekends, we worked together in creative endeavors to solve world challenges with technology.

In the last Hackathon, I assisted a businessman with his idea, helping to expand it. While I didn’t quite have the time I thought to fully review his manuscript for the ministry, his idea had merit. These are just two of many examples where not all the church is against business as missions or work having merit. So, when I began reading, “Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk,” I felt the divide between business and missions.

“Over the course of my career, I have thought a lot about this issue and discussed this topic at length with friends inside and outside of the world of entrepreneurship. It seems clear to me that the church has bought into a false storyline about work that says work is inherently bad and meaningless unless it is “full-time ministry.” Before we discern the calling of entrepreneurs specifically, we must first combat this thinking with biblical truths that give us a much more hopeful and meaningful storyline for all work.”
― from “Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk”

One of my leaders who recommended this book said she felt encouraged by it. The ministry God has me doing empowers creatives and entrepreneurs to partner with the church to serve in outreach to their global communities in line with or in addition to their daily jobs or business responsibilities. Most of what I do involves entrepreneurs and creatives. In fact, WorldVenture is such a fantastic organization that their vision includes creative people and ideas that are non-traditional in their paths.

In light of that leader’s response, I was inspired to think how I can encourage the church to embrace the creatives in their congregation. Because Social Media is a creative environment, it is ideal for photographers, artists, musicians, writers, etc to embrace this communication tool to share the Gospel through the relationships they build online and the stories they tell.

You might have noticed how marketers are embracing the idea of story telling to sell more products or services. Some religions other than Christianity are embracing story telling and marketing to attract the indecisive to their belief system. It seems a lot of Christians are hesitant about using this communication tool. Maybe some are wary of it or afraid? Maybe it just feels so big that it is like looking at a blank piece of paper and wondering where to start?

As a worker with WorldVenture, I want to mobilize the church to serve online as well as face-to-face, recognizing that social media is global and the world is different now. Whatever you feel about technology, the church needs to embrace it and train their congregations to use it in godly ways.

Don’t you train an army before you send them out into the battlefield?

When I read this chapter, I was less than thrilled, because the churches I have met or know do see that sharing the Gospel at work in honoring ways is part of being a Christian, and using your creativity in the arts can also bring about interesting conversation. If the church is going to share the Gospel in their communities, entrepreneurs, missionaries, church staff and regular workers (even ones less than thrilled about their employment) need to be unified in their causes. But then I focused on the last few words of that quote, “…meaningful storyline for all work.” All work, including the people who serve in churches and in mission organizations that depend upon the generosity of others to do their work.

Meanwhile, I will continue to read this book. Stay tuned for future blog posts. My leader’s response reminded me that I need to make sure my volunteers, group leaders, and those participating in ministry are encouraged in all their efforts and feel supported.