Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who's Will?

Few things in life are more powerful than the human will. One idea, coupled with the human will, made modern transportation possible. One idea, coupled with the human will, made it possible for any person on any continent of the earth to fly to another continent – anywhere in the world – the airplane was created. One idea, coupled with the human will, put the first man on the moon. The human will has made modern transportation and modern technology a reality. Few things in life are more powerful than the human will.

The Bible says that David was “…a man after God’s own heart…” King Saul & King David were so different in so many ways. King Saul did things his way. He did what was right in his eyes, and what was right in the eyes of others. His will came before the will of God. But, David’s will was submitted to the will of God. As I was reading (in my Daily Bible Reading) a few weeks ago, I read David’s words in Psalm 101. Eleven times, King David uses the words “I Will”.

“…I will sing of your love and justice, Lord. I will praise you with songs. 2 I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. 3 I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. 4 I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. 5 I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. 6 I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me. 7 I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. 8 My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the Lord from their grip…” It was evident me, while reading this passage, that King David had learned to surrender his will to the will of God.

Jesus had to surrender His will at the age of twelve when His parents found him in the Temple. He had to surrender His will in the Garden of Gethsemane. Noah built an ark for more than one hundred years while being ridiculed. His will was in check. Nehemiah, the disciples, the Apostle Paul…well, the list doesn’t end – they surrendered their wills to God.

What about you today? Who’s will is most important to you: The will of the people, the will of self, or the will of God? How can you miss the will of God? What are common ways that we, as church leaders, ignore the will of God?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

CAUTION: There's a Young Leader in the House!

David was somewhere between twelve and fifteen when he was anointed to become King of Israel. But David wasn’t appointed as King for more than a dozen years. There were things that had to happen between the anointing and the appointing. Many senior leaders fail to put the mark of a father on their spiritual sons and daughters, fearful that they’ll lose them. But young leaders must be taught, corrected, encouraged, rebuked, and trained.

Many up-and-coming leaders miss the vital lessons necessary for a successful future ministry when impatience, pride, or rebellion so often leads them away from their places of preparation.

What can David teach us? First, David learned to wait for God’s timing. When David was anointed to be King at a young age, he didn’t throw a party. He didn’t post it on Face-Book, MySpace, or his church web-site. What did he do? He went back to work. He was faithful to his current assignment. He waited on the Lord’s timing for promotion.

Secondly, David learned how to cooperatively and faithfully serve the current leader. Even when his leader attempted to kill him, David never lost his heart for the King. When given the opportunity to kill the King in self-defense, he refused to do it (he would not touch God’s anointed and appointed leader).

Next, David learned to win over the little things before tackling the big ones. Before David could take on a giant by the name of Goliath, he first was tested with the battle of a lion and a bear. Before he could be King, he would have to serve the King. Apprentice leaders must learn to win over small things before God can offer the challenging battles of the ministry Goliaths veteran leaders must face on a regular basis.

Finally, David learned to win over his private battles before entering the public arena. The Lion and the bear were private battles. Young leaders need to learn how to win the private battles before stepping into their places of maximum impacting ministries. So often, when they prematurely leave their place of preparation, they leave without victory over the private issues that will later hinder their success in public ministry.

How are you handling your young leaders? Do you recognize greatness when you see it? Does potential in others intimidate you? Do you feel threatened by strong leaders on your team? Are you afraid to offer correction to apprentice leaders? What could you add to my above observations concerning King David?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A New Season

Monday was graduation day for "The Season of Evangelism". Our Recovery Ministry hosted our annual B-B-Q. More than 300 were in attendance. Last night, there were eight new families at our Get Real Recovery service (between 100-200 people attend each week).

A couple of weeks ago our youth hosted it's season finale with the "Gym Jam". Hundreds of teens come for this outreach each month. There were more than 40 who gave their lives to Christ.

In a few weeks, we'll baptize between 50 and 75 people. It's the end of another great season of evangelism before heading into the new season.

It's a new season: "The Season of Fellowship". I'm getting ready!!! Are you???

Can you share your summer ideas? What do you do in the summer months to promote fellowship? Help my staff...we're always open to new ideas!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Do You Plan To Slow Down?

As a youth pastor in the early 90's, I dreaded those numbers-deflating summer months! It seemed we lost about two thirds of the group. I was a "numbers guy". When the numbers were up, I was up too; but when they were down, I spiraled into frustration and self-examination.

After a few years of agony, I finally decided to pray about my situation. Asking the Lord for purpose during those lonely months of ministry, He revealed a truth that has helped me beyond youth ministry.

There was always great purpose in the Fall season of ministry. Kids were back from the summer break. They were thinking of school, learning, discipline, structure, schedules, sports, and more. It was a great opportunity for a youth pastor to capatalize on the season - and I did! I called it "The Season of Discipleship". My messages and calendaring complimented the season. I preached about "Lordship", "Commitment", "Servanthood", and the like.

There was also great purpose in the Winter/Spring Season of youth ministry. Those were the months of great growth, and I called it "The Season of Evangelism". I learned that from January to May, I could motivate the youth to bring friends to youth. I preached messages about salvation and the need for evangelism. We did major outreach events like the "Gym Jam", where it was not uncommon for 30-50 teens to receive Christ each month. Teens were saved by the dozens every year (I think it is safe to say that they were saved into the hundreds).

I just couldn't find purpose for those dreadful summer months until the year I finally prayed about them. God revealed to me that the summer months had purpose. He gave those months definition for me. I would see them differently from that moment on. I actually looked forward to the summer months the very next year. I called it (rather, the Lord defined it as) "The Season of Fellowship". Who cared that I only had 35-40 kids in those summer months - they were still important kids to God! I decided to give those kids the summer of their lives. We went to water parks, theme parks, camp-outs, bowling days, golf days, swim days, and so much more. We had water-wars, B-B-Q's, game days (Oakland A's and SF Giants baseball), and they enjoyed every moment of their summer. I built relationships in those summer seasons that continue to this very day. A leader can let his/her hair down at a fellowship event. Followers get to see their leader on a lighter note; and it was often in that season when a teenager and his/her parents gave me permission to lead them.

During "The Season of Fellowship", my messages were about family, friends, and relationships (always leading them to their relationship with God). They grew together as a group; and in many cases, leaders in the youth group emerged during those months.

Today, I'm looking forward to the next season. I'll prepare for the Fall. I'll prepare for the Winter. I can't wait for "The Season of Discipleship" and "The Season of Evangelism". Each year for the past three years, we've baptized more than 150 people. We're very intentional about each season. My team is already gearing up for the seasons. But, we're ready for this new season: "The Season of Fellowship". Retreats, campouts, game days - they're already planned! While people are resting, we rest! While people are playing, we play! While people are hanging out with one another, so are we! When they're slowing down, we don't feel guilty if we slow the pace either. Let me ask you today: What are your plans to enjoy this new season? Do you feel guilty when you rest? Do you get frustrated when your people are camping out, on a bike ride, visiting family, or vacationing? What are you planning to do with them this summer?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Team Ministry

Team ministry recognizes the WORTH of all ministries. Trying to do ministry alone is as useless as a "screen door on a submarine." (I think I remember that line from a song in the 80's - concerning faith without works. lol)

We all need someone!
  • Batman had Robin
  • The Lone Ranger had Tonto
  • Laverne had Shirley
  • Laurel had Hardy
  • etc.
Nehemiah was a leader that relied on others to assist in his dream. "... I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man and feared God above many." - Nehemiah 7:2

Two qualifications: Faithfulness and the Fear of God.
  • We can accomplish MORE when we are surrounded by people who know they will give an account to God for everything with which they've been entrusted.
  • Nehemiah's team held off the enemy as well as restored God's people at Jerusalem.
With today's world slipping further away from Godly principles - we need teams of FAITHFUL men to lead us!
  • Where no council is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. - Proverbs 11:14
Solomon considered it an extreme importance to have a MULTITUDE OF COUNSELORS surrounding him.
  • Pastor - as you lead your team - who's leading you?
  • Do you have a multitude of counselors (i.e., counseling team, spiritual fathers, etc.) in place?
If we are to be effective Pastors - we must have the THREE FOLD CORD in our life. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) The teams we lead are definitely watching our life as we are leading them. They are watching to see if we are being "led" just as we are "leading".

Last week, Beverly and I celebrated 10 years of pastoral ministry at Bethel Family Worship Center. We were so blessed to have all five of our spiritual fathers in attendance at the same time. As I look at this group of men, I see diversity, seasons & wisdom wrapped up in their collective. They are a gift from God. (Ephesians 4:11)
  • Teaching Father - Rev. Ray Hylton
  • Pastoral Father - Rev. Leeroy Hill
  • Evangelistic Father - Bishop Tom Branham
  • Prophetic Father - Bishop Wayman Ming Jr.
  • Apostolic Father - Rev. Rick Clendenen

I'm truly thankful for the team that is leading me. Diversity - they are definitely that. Each of them have had a part (and continue to) in my life at specific seasons. Their wisdom collectively is the biggest safety net I've ever had.

What a team!

Friday, May 22, 2009

What would your team say about you?

How is your relationship with your team? You may view it one way, but your team may have an entirely different opinion.

The relationship between the lead pastor and the rest of the team pastors is vital to the health and ministry of the church.

If you ask your team about how they view their relationship with you, what do you think they would say?

Another question. What do you feel your staff would say matters most to them as it pertains to maintaining a professional or even a personal relationship with you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Qualities of a Good Team

My heart this week has been to focus on the team God has graciously allowed me to work with. Working with a team is so much better then working alone. Can you imagine doing it all again? I remember 10 years ago when Beverly and I came to Indianapolis, we assumed leadership of a church that was struggling with internal dysfunction in it's leadership.

The good news is that we just loved the people through it and an atmosphere of trust was created which gave us the opportunity to set the right climate. Don't get me wrong, this took time. (You don't turn a ship on a dime.) Today, with the right climate, we've been able to produce a culture that is conducive to leadership training.

Building a diverse team has been an exciting challenge. Here are some things that I've kept in mind along the journey.

1. The leader must be gifted & committed to leading the team. - Ephesians 4:11
2. The team must be united under the Lordship of Jesus. - Ephesians 5:23
3. Recruit gifted people for vital roles (especially in areas you are weak in.) - Acts 6:3
4. Give on the job training. - Matthew 28:19-20
5. Create a "servant-leadership" climate where service is more important than position. - Luke 22:26-27
6. Show respect for one another. - Hebrews 13:17
7. Recognize the need for honest and open communication. - 2 Corinthians 12:19
8. Prepare for opposition. - 1 Peter 5:8-9
9. Stay focused on your vision & goals. - Philippians 3:14
10.Be accountable and open to correction. - Revelation 3:19

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Building a Great Team!

Beverly and I are blessed to have a great ministry team. That team consists of pastoral staff, elders, deacons & ministry coordinators. All of which, are the wheels of the ministry at BFWC. Without them, well...we'd be severely handicapped.

As you know, building the right team can take time. Each team member has a unique personality and diverse giftings. Learning how to flow those personalities together can be a challenge. However, when it's can be a win-win situation for you and your congregation.

  • The Ant - (the driver) (Apostle Paul) - "Excuse me, pardon me, coming through!" These people can appear to be rude, offensive, bossy and just plain over the top. And at times they are. But at least they get the job done. Once they are tempered by the "fruit" of Galatians 5:22-23, they may still have the ability to "cut your ear off" but they are more mindful of how they are perceived.

  • The Conie - (the peacemaker) (Barnabas) - "Can't we all just get along?" These people strive for peace and can't stand arguing or strong debate. They will defend the underdog and make sure everyone is treated fairly. They are a blessing because of their ability to manufacture peace in almost any situation.

  • The Locust - (the partier) (Apostle Peter) - "Whens the next church dinner?" These people exemplify the personality of a networker. They would rather talk than work. They have the ability to sell sand in the desert and they almost never know a stranger! They are great for connecting with new people.

  • The Spider - (the thinker) (Apostle John) - "Let's think before we speak." These people are perfectionist in their personalities. They are often loners. When they offer their opinion, you know they've given a lot of time thinking it through. They are problem solvers and can save your neck if you listen to their council.

We definitely have all four personalities at work in our pastoral team. It's amazing to watch everyone function together - so different, yet so compatible.

We administer a personality test to each of our leaders. This helps us find their best place on the team. Nothing is worse then having personality clashes - it disrupts the flow of ministry. Sometimes it's unavoidable. However if you can understand a person's personality, then you can communicate with them better.

This by far, has been the most valued lesson I've learned in building a great team.

Our pastoral team in Chicago on our last Staff Retreat.
L-R: Jeremey & Tara Mckinney - Children's Pastors
Russell & Beverly Hylton - Senior Pastors
Josh & Jennifer Palmer - Youth Pastors
Nathan & Julie Steensma - Executive Pastors

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leaning on your Staff

Today I am extremely grateful for the kindness shown to me by our congregation.
Yesterday, Beverly, Kaitlyn and I were surprised by our church family with a special 10 year celebration. All week we have been celebrating the completion of phase one and two with nightly services & events. As we were beginning our second morning service, our staff stopped everything and began a surprise for us that was incredible.

We received letters from city officials, local agencies and friends in the ministry from around the country. We were also surprised to have members of our families in attendance. Our choir & dance teams performed special songs in our honor and a 10 year video was shown in our honor. Also, Bishop Wayman Ming preached a message that was very inspirational!

In addition, our family was overwhelmed with a generous offering & gifts from our congregation, a brand new stainless steel refrigerator, a Wii and a Caribbean cruise.

I am encouraged and thankful to our staff who led the way in this very thoughtful gesture. Apparently they have been planning this for several months and did it all right under our noses. :-)

When your team plans something like this, you are truly grateful and quite frankly embarrassed. However, their thoughtfulness is such a shot in the arm!

Today I commend our team for their affection and love towards their pastors!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What do you expect?

"The spirit of expectancy is breeding ground for miracles". Those are the words I heard Mike Murdock speak years ago at my church where I first youth pastored almost 20 years ago and I still remember it as though it were yesterday. I listen to what people say and their words indicate they don't believe something good is going to happen for them. I not o nly believe, I expect good things to happen to me and for me according to God's Word and His promises.

I do not expect to be tomorrow where I am is that simple! I am doing what I can with what I have to the best of my ability and am leaving the rest to God. I know He loves me and has my best interest at heart and wants me blessed more than I want me to be blessed!

Today is the day the Lord has made.....let us rejoice and be glad......and expect God to do great things! Have a blessed Sunday!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let the Word do the work

I have a guy in my church who works for PGA West golf club just a few miles from us and can get me free golf whenever I want. Problem, I either don't have the time or don't take the time to play like I want to. So today, the first time in almost a year I went golfing and it was not pretty. I am not very good anyway, normally shoot in the 90's but today was OUCH...bad.
It took me until the 16th hole to realize one of my MANY problems. I wasn't letting the club do the work. I was swinging too hard and trying to do to much instead of letting up a little, try not to kill the ball and let the club do what it was designed to do.
So on my way home I thought about us as pastors that at times we try to do too much. We think if we work a few more hours and just a little harder that the church will grow. I have found out the hard way that it is simply not always true. You see, when you try to do too much swinging a golf club you end up getting your stance messed up or moving something that needed to be still or bending what needed to be straight.
The point is this. When we try to do too much we usually end up messing things up one way or another. Things get out of whack instead of letting His Word do wat it was intended to do. His word does not fail. That does not mean we should all play golf all week long, preach Sunday and let the Word do the rest. We have some responsibilities and things we should be doing to partner with God. However, nothing we can do, no matter how hard we try can make God's Word more powerful than it already is. So next time, do what you can within reason and then......

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Are You Done Yet?

Last night I received a very disturbing call that wrecked me for a time. It was my Bishop on the other end informing me that on of our ministers (35) had been pronounced brain dead following a fatal car accident while away with his wife over the weekend.

I am not ging to lie, we were on different planets when it came to our views of ministry and though we were not enemies we were not buddies either if you know what I mean.

After hanging up with Bishop Lake I said a prayer for his wife and kids and started to get emotional whn my wife walked in and asked me what was wrong. I told her what had happened and we both sat there stunned for a few moments. My mind raced with thoughts about his family, his ministry & did he make provisions etc. You see moments like that cause all differences to go away if not but for a short period of time and we remember we are all brothers on the same team. It also makes you realize how much there is to do and if we do not get busy we may miss it!

Jesus said "work while it is yet day for the night comes when no man can work". I am 2 years older than Jason and I have s much to do for my family and for the Kingdom. The question is if there is much to be done..are we doing it and if not, why not?

Let me close with this. None of us have been promised tomorrow or how much more time we have to do what needs to be done so.........ARE YOU DONE YET? If not, what are you waitin for?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Busy or Productive

Recently in the last year or so we have trimmed away some things that consumed time and money but really wasn't effective when it came to our true purpose. I realized that at times we were doing things just because it seemed everyone else did them. Before I knew it our calendar was always full which at the time seemed really "spiritual". I soon came to realize that busy was foolish if it was not bringing forth the purpose for which we were called. We could be a church known for having alot going on, none if it really great but we had something for everyone. Or, we could be a church known for being very good at certain things, the right things! We are not a buffet church......there are enough of those all around. Instead my goal is to get Legacy to a place that we know exactly who we are and what God wants us to do and if IT does not accomplish exactly that then we will cut it off and let it die!

I realize that some things are not neccessarily bad things but they don't have to be wrong to not be the right things either. Our people have alot going on between work, family and personal responsibilities. If we are going to ask them to participate in something let's make sure it is the right things and if they are worth doing let's do them well!

Any thoughts?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

5 Styles of Leadership that always Lose

#5 - The Fearful Leader

I remember the first staff member we hired I was scared…I knew it didn’t make sense on paper…but I KNEW it was what God wanted.
I remember the first time we moved to being a portable church. I was scared to death…but I KNEW it was what God wanted.
I remember when we moved from being portable into a 1.4 million $$ facility. I was scared…but I KNEW it was what God wanted.
I remember when we launched 2 Sunday worship experiences. It didn’t make sense…it was CRAZY…but I knew it was what God wanted.

I could go on and on. The bottom line ISN’T that a leader never comes face to face with a fearful situation…but rather a leader learns to trust in God’s direction and power rather than give into fear and uncertainty.
When a leader allows fear to control him…the people he leads ALWAYS lose.
Fear forces a leader to embrace the “way things are” rather than how they should be.
Fear causes a leader to think more about what they have to lose rather than what the Kingdom has to gain.
Fear makes a person depend on their power and ability rather than God’s.
Fear leads to impulsive and unwise decisions rather than prayed through and processed ones.

MY prayer for myself is that I NEVER become obsessed with safety and lose sight of HIS SOVEREIGNTY.

Any fears you need to face? PCG Pastors…what steps is God asking you to pray about that will only be done if He shows up. Those are God led steps of faith…and never play it safe because we have WAY too much at stake!

Friday, May 8, 2009

5 Styles of Leadership that always Lose

#4 - The “Keep Everyone Happy” Leader.

You will NEVER please everyone in your church…EVER!
AND…the thing I’ve learned is that when people are upset they are usually the loudest…which makes them seem like the majority.

One of the problems that exist today in church world is that very few people are willing to LEAD…to have convictions and stand up for them…no matter who gets ticked off.
Paul addressed this in Galatians 1:10…we cannot please people AND please Jesus–period!
And if it ever becomes a leaders goal to keep EVERYONE happy…they will be successful in reaching NO ONE.

Leadership takes guts…thick skin…a willingness to take a slap in the face and keep on going.
God didn’t call leaders to make people happy…He called us to lead people to Jesus.
AND…being obsessed with what others think of you is the QUICKEST way to enter into a state of depression that you will never pull out of.

Acts 20:24…we need to consider our lives worth nothing…and do all we can for HIM…not “them!”

Jesus consistently ticked off the religious scholars and pharisees because He spent time with sinners. They even made the statement that He gets cozy with them and treats them like friends.

If they were ticked off at Jesus, they will get ticked off at you. Quit trying to please everyone. Please the one that matters.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

5 Styles of Leadership that always Lose!!

#3 - The “It Will Go Away” Leader

One of the WORSE things a leader can do when they become aware of a problem is IGNORE it…because problems seldom (if ever) just go away.

One of the things I’m learning as a leader is that, when God reveals a problem to me…it isn’t so that I can remain passive about it and hope it will go away–He wants me to take action.

I know leaders who have staff issues in their church…but will not deal with them because they keep thinking if they ignore poor work performance and bad attitudes long enough that the problem will eventually correct itself. I know leaders who allow really bad programming to continue in their church…thinking that one day what is horrible will magically become good. It doesn’t.

Jesus was proactive and confronted issues when they arose. We must do the same. Don't forsake the Mission by allowing a non confrontational approach to ministry. We should always do the work of the Ministry with excellence and not allow others to approach it any other way. Move on the thing that needs to be taken care of now, today, immediately. It will not go away and in a week you will still be making excuses of why you are not dealing with the situation.

This style of Leadership always loses. DOn't let it be you....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

5 styles of Leadership that always Lose!!

#2 - The Apathetic Leader

One of the biggest problems that exist in church world today is that there are leaders that do not care about the people they are serving…or the condition of the world around them.
Apathy is one of satan’s best weapons. He doesn’t mind if we know the truth about life, death, heaven, hell and such…he just wants us not to care about it.
One of his best tactics is to get a pastor or a staff member so focused on going to another church, you know, taking a step “up” in ministry that he/she totally neglects the church where they are supposed to be serving.

The day a leader no longer cares about the people he is serving…he should resign immediately.
The day a leader no longer can get passionate about God’s direction for the ministry they are in…and they are OK with it…BIG problems are only a step away.
I believe a leaders job is to beg God…
**Let me see as You see!
**Let me feel as You feel!

When those two prayers get legs under them…apathy is no longer a possibility.
Passion is essential for longevity in leadership!

What are you doing to constantly refill your passion tank? We must be in THE WORD daily!
Surround yourself with passionate people. (I do not allow negative people around me…can’t handle it!)
Attend conferences where leadership is taught.
Make sure we work on our physical health.

My prayer is that, as a leader, I will always love what I do…who I serve with and the place of ministry God has called me to be. God has called us to a great calling as Men of God to be full of integrity, passion & purpose. I pray that each of us will not be driven by pleasing church people, acceptance of other ministries, our denomination (PCG), but you will be DRIVEN by Passion to build the Kingdom of God by winning the lost and leading them to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

A leader who simply does not care will never be a difference maker!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

5 Styles of Leadership

#1 - The Lazy Leader

A church loses when the leadership is lazy and embraces mediocrity.
Lazy leaders waste time asking God to do the very things He has already COMMANDED them to do.
In Genesis 6-8, God announced to Noah that He was going to destroy the world (talk about a bad day)…but…then told Noah that he and his family would be saved (which HAD to be a relief!)
BUT…God’s plan was for NOAH to actually build the boat that would save him and his family.
Noah didn’t pray that God would build the boat. He took ACTION…God was very specific on the details and Noah put time and effort into doing what God commanded Him to do.
If He had been lazy…passive…”a prayer warrior” you know, all of the mumbo jumbo people use as an excuse to not do anything…then he and his entire family would have DIED as a result of his laziness.

Leaders are called to action…and when a leader is lazy and wants “God to do it all” and refuses to follow through in steps of obedience because “it’s hard,” the church loses.
**David had to actually walk down in the valley and whip Goliath’s butt.
**Moses actually had to walk across the Red Sea.
**Peter had to stand up and preach on the day of Pentecost.

Leaders don’t ask God for how little they can do–they constantly ask Him, “what else do You want me to do?”Anything God’s been asking you to do that you are “spiritualizing” rather than obeying?

In the next 5 Days read to find out your style of Leadership.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Different Perspective!

In my youth, I thought of missionaries as the people who came to our churches to raise money. They always had their hand out in a posture to receive. They always seemed to live in the land of "not enough". Then, as a young pastor in early short-term missionary travels, I would always find myself at the churches and ministries who lived in that same land. Whether Africa, the Philippines, El Salvador, Mexico, Hungary, or Romania, the land was still the land of "not enough". Once or twice, I recognized a new land, the land of "just enough". They had just enough to make it; and didn't seem quite so dependent on the American church.

When I came to Ghana, it was refreshing to meet someone in a land of familiarity. I'd had never enjoyed a land like this one - it felt so much like the land I live in. I'm not talking about the climate, the food, the amenities, or anything of that nature - I'm talking about the land of "more than enough". My friend, Dr. Ebenezer Markwei is a man with a vision. He is also the biggest giver that I have ever met in my life. He is building a 10,000 seat auditorium, followed by a 150 bed hospital.

Today, we sat with two National leaders, Kings, Chiefs, and Nobles. We were on National Television, as the church hosted a Medical Outreach. More than 30 doctors and nurses were on site. The national Minister of Health and the Minister of Information (equivalent to our Press Secretary) addressed some of the health concerns in Ghana before the church served the people. Medical supplies and services were provided, and the church is paying for the first 100 people to get 100% medical coverage for one year. Pastor Markwei said that the outreach would cost $200,000 US Dollars. You would be blown away if I disclosed how much he and his wife contributed personally for this event.

What's the point? I'm glad you asked. I was reminded today that my perspective of missionaries and pastors around the world hasn't always been accurate. There are men and women of God everywhere in the world - just like you and me - who are great givers! The next time you see a missionary or a pastor from some other part of the world, I encourage you to look more discerning at their hands. Yes, some have their hands extended in a posture to receive; but there are so many who have their hands out in a posture to give. What's your perspective?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just For Laughs!

For the past four years, each time I've traveled in Ghana, I saw something on a stick which people were selling on the side of the road. It's not seen at every street corner (like banana chips, nuts, toilet paper, grapes, and more). But if you travel outside the city, you'll see it every so often. It looks like a mini-bear-rug-on-a-stick. It's pink in color, like smoked salmon. The first time I saw it, I asked what it was.

Years ago in Mexico, I learned to never ask someone what they were eating. If you ask what something is in many countries, they assume that you want to try it. I was afraid that they'd do the same thing in Ghana. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they wouldn't make me eat what I questioned - it was "grasscutter". Grasscutter is in the gopher family. It looks like a cross between gopher and a possom. It's the size of a large possom.

The thing I have feared most just came upon me. We were eating at a nice restaurant. One of the local pastors was eating soup. It looked really good. IT WAS GRASSCUTTER SOUP!!! You guessed it - I ate some. They smoke it and then cook it with all of the necessary spices. It smelled very gamey; but in fact, it was very good. It tasted like smoked turkey meat (dark meat). Not bad. If you ever come to Ghana - give grasscutter a second look!

Just for fun, what is the wildest thing that you have ever eaten? Can you share a mission's experience where you ate something out of the ordinary?