Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Great Generosity - An Indicator of a Movement

When I get together with fellow trainers of Disciple Makers and Church Planters, we often talk about this question. What are the indicators of a movement?  What are the signs to watch for, the things that we need to see to know a group of disciples (church or churches) are heading toward becoming a DMM (Disciple Making Movement)?  

We need to make sure we are seeing the right things happening. We need to be intentional about developing the right DNA in the movements we start. 

I have the privilege, with my husband, of parenting three wonderful children who are now adults.  We also have a grandson and two son-in-laws.  When our kids were little, their physical development was something we carefully watched.  We regularly took them to the doctor for check ups.  We wanted to make sure they were growing well, that the indicators; such as their weight and height, reflexes, and developmental growth (were they talking, walking, etc), were on track.

In much the same way, we watch for indicators as we plant churches that we hope will grow into movements of churches.

One key indicator I repeatedly notice, but that we don't always work on, is "Great Generosity" flowing within the movement.  We see a great example of this happening in the Macedonian churches as referred to in 2 Corinthians.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor [a]of participation in the [b]support of the [c]saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-4 NASB)
As I look at the movements we are starting in South Asia, this is an indicator I feel a bit concerned about.  We see generous giving happening some, in some places. I believe we need to prayerfully work on this more.  In many places, offerings are taken but they are not generous.  We often see people giving to God "token gifts" (more like what we give to beggars because we feel we should give a few rupees.)  In some places, offerings are not taken at all because of a poverty mentality.  In other places, offerings are significant but there is a sense of holding on to that money, or hording it, of keeping it for their own movement's needs.  I would have to say that generosity is the exception, not the norm in the church planting work I observe.  This should concern us!

We need to pray, train, teach and work intentionally to make disciples who understand the role of generous giving in the life of a Jesus follower.  I also believe we need to pray that God's Spirit would bring such incredible love and transformation of heart and mind that generous giving flows naturally and without any kind of pressure or forcing from us!  We need to see a supernatural revival of giving!

Let's also model this in our own lives- not only in the area of finances.  Are we generous with grace?  Generous with our time?  Generous to forgive others? 

May God make us a people of GREAT GENEROSITY! 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Believing for the Impossible

How do we determine what is possible and impossible?  

Usually we base our judgements about this on past experiences.  We tried that and it didn't work.  Other's tried that and it didn't work for them either.  We may base our judgements as to what is possible (or impossible) on probabilities, statistical data and research.  How did Jesus determine what was possible?

In Matthew 19:26 Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

In Matthew 9:23 Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”

In Mark 10:27 Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

And in Mark 14:36 Jesus again said “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
Jesus' perception of what was possible was firmly rooted in His Father.  He believed...He knew...that God was able to do all things.  

The second verse above is interesting because it gives a condition.  All things are possible, not only for God, but through God for all who believe.  
In the possibility equation, where does faith come in? 

Faith is the ability to see things that haven't yet happened as though they are now happening (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith is followed up by actions that demonstrate that faith to be real.  

So how are you doing in believing today that God could use you to start a disciple making movement?  Or even to lead one person to Christ?  Or even to help you open your mouth to share your testimony with someone who doesn't know the Lord?  

In Matt 9:24, the boy of a father whose son was sick says “I do believe; help my unbelief.” I love this!  I love this man's honesty and also his step of faith to declare that in spite of his struggle he was choosing to believe.  

Lets join him in our honest response to God today.  Refuse to let past experiences, your own weaknesses and failures, your fears and worries, or anything other than God's great power to do the impossible determine your faith for what God is able to do through you today.

Lord I believe!  Help my unbelief.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Overcoming Negative Coaching Experiences

Getting a coaching relationship established with someone who has not been
coached before can be frustrating! They may not really see the value of being coached yet. They may never have had a positive experience in anything like this before.  Many will have prior negative experiences or feelings about coaching that first have to be overcome.  They may have had a teacher who was harsh and strict with them, or a parent or auntie who wanted to fix them, etc.   


It can be difficult to get the relationship moving forward in a positive way.  Some of the common experiences I have had are:
- coachees forget their appointments (as someone said- when I call they are out in the jungle somewhere!)
- coachees don't remember their action steps and haven't worked on them at all
- coachees take little initiative in the relationship and I have to be the one contacting and reminding them all the time
- coachees don't seem to be very motivated about being coached or value the time I am giving them

At times when we are seeing this happen,  we need to *filter.  We need to discontinue the coaching relationship and put our efforts somewhere else.  This isn't always the case though.

Here are some tips that have helped me in these situations.
- Be patient and give it time to develop in a positive way.  I like to give it at least 3 or 4 appointments before I give up.  Often after having several positive experiences of friendly, encouraging accountability, things begin to change. 
- Stick to the **coaching chart and give them a quality coaching session by being well prepared yourself.
- Pray for them daily (and all those you train/coach) and send short messages of encouragement or prophetic words, scriptures, etc. to them.  This can really help them know you are not there to correct them, but that you are with and for them.
- Establish a verbal coaching agreement.  Take a bit of time to talk through what their expectations and hopes are from the coaching experience. Share what you are also hoping for and expecting.
- Invite feedback from them.  After a few sessions ask them what they like about your times together and what could be improved to make it more helpful to them.

Don't give up too quickly.  You are learning how to coach and so are they.  

If in the end it just wasn't a good fit and didn't work out, find someone else to invest your time in.  Prayerfully chose a new person and offer to coach and train them.   That is not a failure, it is normal and something all coaches do from time to time. We filter for the fruitful, faithful and focused who we will prioritize giving our time to.

*Filter refers to the process by which we determine who we will continue to train and give our time to.  We watch for those who are applying and interested and doing something and invest more in those, slowly disconnecting from those who are not giving enough time or focus to implementation.
**Coaching chart refers to the simple coaching process we train people in.  If you'd like to have a copy of this chart or more information about how to be trained as a simple coach, write to us at fmsouthasia@gmail.com 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Dealing with Darts and Dart Throwers



What has God taught me about this over the past years of being a leader?  Have I had darts thrown at me (words of criticism and attacks that felt very personal)? Absolutely!  Much more often than I would have liked.  Leaders who are bringing about changes, who are boldly moving in the things God has spoken, will automatically attract a certain level of criticism.  It’s part of the price, and part of “normal life” for an apostolic leader.  

How we handle these darts and those who throw them at us is crucial to both our survival and sustainability as a leader. It affects our emotional health and our overall effectiveness in seeing the things God has spoken to us come about.  I have to be honest, I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way on this one!  I wish I'd had more wisdom in this area years ago.  I guess wisdom is gained by experience.  I hope though to pass on a few things that have helped, and to help other leaders avoid some of the pain and mistakes I’ve suffered in my learning process.
Three key lessons and principles stand out to me as I reflect on this topic.  The first is the importance of DEPERSONALIZING attacks and the criticism that comes.  It is so easy to take it personally and to be deeply hurt by words of criticism.  Intentionally step back and choose to depersonalize it.  Ask God to help you with this.  What is this person really saying?  What could I learn from what they are saying? Ninety percent of the time it isn’t about you, though it may come across that way and their choice of words may be unkind and immature- “you did this, you said that, you are this”… etc.  More likely, the issue is theirs and they are resisting change or reacting to you because you unknowingly hit on something sensitive for them.

The second thing that helps me is to ask God to give me EMPATHY toward this person.  Ask God to show you what they are feeling. Ask Him to give you genuine compassion for them, eyes to see them as His beloved creation and as children who are much loved by God. This is not easy. Our natural fight or flight nature kicks in and the last thing we want to do is empathize with them!  We want to run away or attack back!  Take a deep breath, don’t fire back an immediate email response (this is not the right time for the 3 minute manager rule, ok?) Pause. Chose to wait to respond until you have allowed God to give you his perspective on the person, to value them and their feelings.

The last thing (and this certainly is not an exhaustive list) that truly helps me is DISTANCE.  This isn’t the same as running away from them or the problem.  I need to say, however, that there are some people who are constantly critical, negative and unkind. With these people I intentionally put some space between myself and them. I move away so the darts don’t hit me.  You do not have to stay close to them or stay engaged with them and be a martyr.  Love yourself enough to set boundaries on the amount of time you will interact with dart throwers, with people who are hurt, angry and like to criticize you (or often everything).  Henry Cloud in his excellent book called “Boundaries for Leaders” writes about the importance of limiting negativity in our lives and work places.  Its okay to give yourself space to heal and its okay to choose not to have dart throwers in your inner circle of friends and those you work closest with.

Keep loving, keep forgiving, stay humble, keep learning, and be gracious with both yourself and the dart throwers.  Dart throwers have helped me learn to be more cautious about throwing darts myself. I try hard to depersonalize issues, be specific and offer solutions and alternatives not just criticism when I'm unhappy about something these days. I can honestly thank God for the role they have played in my life and what they have taught me.  I hope one day you will be able to do that too.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shameless Audacity in Prayer

I was reading today one of Jesus' teachings on prayer. 
Luke 11:5-Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[f] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.-NIV
I am a first language English speaker, but I wasn't fully sure what that word audacity exactly meant.  It actually has two meanings, one rather negative and one that is positive. 

1. A willingness to take bold risks (synonyms: boldness, daring, fearlessness, bravery)
2. rude or disrespectful behavior (synonyms: impudence, insolence, presumption)

I was assuming Jesus meant the first one, but as I considered it, there is a bit of a tone of the second definition in the illustration Jesus gives as well.  What do I understand from this?  Jesus is saying he wants us to be so very bold in our prayers that it is on the borderline of being rude or disrespectful.  He is saying that if we are to make a mistake it is to be on the side of being too bold, shamelessly bold, in asking God for the things of the Kingdom. 

I spend a lot of time these days in Thailand.  Anyone who has ever been to Thailand knows it is a very polite country.  There are not too many audacious people here and if there are, they certainly aren't looked on as good people! India seems to me to be a bit more bold.  Sometimes that rubs me wrong and makes me tired.  Yet I see in it something of this verse . 

The rickshaw walla who tries to cheat me or audaciously (read boldly or maybe rudely) asks me for 300 ruppees instead of the 30 it is supposed to be, can actually teach me a lesson. He is shamelessly asking for what he wants and needs though its much more than he deserves.  Now, I don't really want to take him for a role model, but I do want to learn from him and redeem something out of that!

When I pray for my Lost and Saved list today, for those I'm sharing Christ with in my circle of family, neighbors and friends...when I pray for those I am training, coaching and discipling...I'm going to pray "shamelessly audacious" prayers on their behalf.  Bold prayers.  Daring, fearless and brave prayers.  I will be asking my Heavenly Father who loves me, to move mountains today to bring the Lost to Him today. I will ask Him to help me develop strong, reproducing mighty men and women of God who are disciples who make many, many more disciples.  I'm boldly going to ask him to bring breakthroughs in those places we still haven't seen fruit.  I'm boldly going to ask Him to send out new laborers into the harvest fields of the unreached.  I'm going to ask Him boldly to be my protector and defender against the enemy of my soul, and to heal those who are sick.  

Join me today in being shameless and audacious in your Kingdom prayers! Be bold as you pray for the Lost and Saved in a new way today.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How do I know if I am "good soil?

When we read the parable Jesus told about the four kinds of soil, there are many applications for us in our work as disciple makers!  It's truly an important story for us to read, re-read and consider before the Lord.

This morning, I was telling the Lord how much I long to be good soil for Him, to be one of those who will bear much fruit for His kingdom.  I re-read this parable and was struck by the clues it gives us as to what needs to be present in our lives as we pray a prayer for "much fruit."

Take a look with me at this verse (Luke 8:15) in several translations.

The seed that fell on good soil are those who hear the word and commit themselves to it with a good and upright heart. Through their resolve, they bear fruit.- CEB
 
But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.- The Message
Four things stand out to me about those who are good soil.

- They hear God's Word
- They commit themselves
- They pay attention to their hearts (motives)
- They persevere until the fruit comes 
They hear God's Word. Hearing should be the easy part, but there are times we find it difficult. In the midst of our busy schedules, the noise of life around us, pressures, work...are we really hearing His Word?  Do we, as the Message translation says, "seize the Word and hold on no matter what"?  How big a part of our lives are both the written and the Rama Word from God?  Without His Word, we can't hear His heart, His direction, His encouragement, or follow Him well!
They commit themselves.  This reminds me of the other parable about the Wise and Foolish builders.  Wow... God really values action as well as knowledge!  He wants us to not only hear, but commit ourselves and start doing what He said. How committed are we to what we know God has spoken to us about making disciples who make disciples? Seeing movements? Focusing on the Lost? Becoming a trainer of trainers? 
They pay attention to their heart.  Its amazing how easy it is to allow our hearts to be deceived!  Jealousy, desire to be seen as pleasing in other's eyes, pride, taking credit for things God did, blaming God for our own failures, insecurity...it all can creep in so fast. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything else flows from it (Prov 4:23).
Lastly, and so importantly, they persevere and don't give up!  I talked with someone last week who oversees a team that has struggled and struggled to see a breakthrough- to find the man or woman of peace, that person who will lead to seeing that first group of disciples started. It's been years of prayer and efforts and not much seems to have happened.  Are they simply bad soil? I'm sure they must have asked themselves that from time to time!  No way!  They need to keep doing what this verse talks about- Hearing God, staying committed, watching their hearts, and persevering.  Fruit will come if they don't give up.  
I'm going to keep doing these vital things.  I believe God chose me to bear much fruit and to be "good soil" that brings about 30,60 or 100 fold!  How about you?