Resolved to be Risk-Takers

This journey of faith continues to define us as we daily move forward in the walk Christ calls us to live.  Admittedly, stepping away from a secure position as a Lead Pastor of a church is not advisable when you have nothing to step to.  I would never have recommended anyone to do what we did.  There simply was far too much risk involved.  Yet, we recognize that sometimes Jesus calls us to be risk-takers.

How do you explain to others that what you are about to do is worth the risk you are taking, especially when you don’t know exactly what it is you are going to do?
And when understanding begins to dawn you fumble for words to share the vision.  Nothing you think of seems adequate to express the idea you hold in your heart.  Your best attempts come with a totally silly feel to them that embarrass you as you hear the words come from your mouth.  It just seems impossible!

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This is where we found ourselves just a little over a year ago.  Family and friends thought we had lost our minds as we set aside the security of a job we’d held for 23 years to begin a new adventure.  David’s Mom expressed what most thought, “But David, how are you going to live?  I mean, how will you pay your bills?”  Yes, it’s true this adventure started out void of any plan, income, or destination.  Some might describe it as a whim, a fancy of sorts, where people hit their midlife crisis and do weird things.  It seemed like an insane thing to do, and the people around us had no problem pointing out the insanity!

Actually, this reality didn’t bother us at all because we knew the motivation was love for us.  Their questions were good as they forced us to dig deeper in our own hearts to discover the reason why we would take these steps.  The questions pushed us to this crazy thing called prayer to find answers we didn’t have.  If it wasn’t a midlife crisis, then what was it that had driven us to this action?

One thing we discovered in this journey is not everyone is concerned about your future, and their questions aren’t meant to help you.  All they really want to do is keep you from doing something extraordinary.  Ok, maybe that last line was over the top and cruel, but it is how you feel in a few of these conversations.  Who knows what the real reasons are?

  • Maybe they don’t want to be challenged themselves to a life of faith in Christ.
  • It could be they have experienced some sort of trauma keeping them from risk-taking.
  • It might simply be they are one of the people in this world whose personality kills the sense of adventure in themselves and any others they can influence.

Matthew Barnett posted on his Twitter feed this statement, “Trying to convince a doubter that your leap of faith makes sense is a massive waste of productivity and mental energy.”  What a true statement.  Sometimes, in our efforts to convince the naysayers, all we really do is get frustrated and waste energy.

It isn’t that we think it’s a waste of time to help people who love you to understand the steps you are taking.  They care, and you need their understanding and support.  In fact, experience has taught us some of those you talk with become your biggest supporters for the journey.  When you feel like giving up they are the ones who step up to challenge you to go one more step.  They are worth the energy spent to explain Jesus’ calling.

However, it is a waste of productivity trying to change the minds of people who doubt that you heard from God.  If they don’t think God is in the idea then you just have to wait for God to show that He is.  And that is up to God to do; don’t even go there out of some narcissistic reason to validate yourself.  You don’t need the frustration or waste the time.

As we move further down the path of faith we discover more evidence that the Holy Spirit is going with us on this journey.  There are some days when that is such a relief to our souls.  Multiple times we have seen things that let us know Christ has gone before us and prepared the way.  Here are a few simple examples:

  • 4 days after our final service at Bridge of Hope we were asked to be an interim pastor in the greater Canton, OH area.  God knew the need of that dear church, and He knew our need of income.  The interim time ended just as we had been accepted into U.S. Missions and knew we needed to focus all our time there.
  • After arriving at our current destination we had to shop for a washer/dryer.  Money was going to be a factor at some point, and so we searched for the right situation.  Our prayers were answered as we found a good deal, and the salesman also gave us a slightly damaged microwave for free.  Coincidence? Maybe, but we rather think that God was answering a need.
  • Every time someone becomes a part of our Support Team we are humbled by the reality that another person has chosen to stand with us and say that they believe we have heard from God.  As a pastor serving the local church we never understood what this meant to a missionary.
  • When church planters seek us out for a little advice or a bit of training it encourages us.  There really is need for what God put in our hearts to do, and there are people waiting for someone who can give them the time.  Incidentally, these conversations happen at just the right moments.  Amazing!

This is the kind of thing that gives us the resolve to move forward, growing in strength with each step we take.  When these moments come that defy explanation, we find ourselves compelled by the Holy Spirit and this walk we are on to finish the course and see it through to the end!

*If you would like to know more about the mission that we are on and how you can be a vital part of it, please feel free to contact us.  We would love to share with you what we are doing and how you can best help us out in the journey.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Questions Asked About Our Mission – Difficult Places (Part 3)

What are you referring to when you talk about planting churches in difficult places? (Part 3 of 3)

Friendship is powerful and opens closed doors.  When you have proven that you genuinely love someone they generally will listen, even if they reject what we share, and some will.  Let’s be honest about it; not everyone wants to believe even when they see genuine examples of Christ’s love at work.

As the Holy Spirit provides opportunity for friendship we find ourselves in a place of influence to share the love of God.  This reality is so crucial to reaching people no matter where we find them or what culture they reflect.  Authentic friendship, it cannot be some substitute built around winning them to our Christian faith.  Others will smell that motive out long before we get close enough to be friends.  And if they don’t, one day, when it is revealed, they will be scarred to the point that makes them cynics who are virtually unreachable.  Friends influence friends; that is a reality.  It cannot be forced or simply a front; it has to be real … you have to care about each other.Photo1_3

One important thing we believe is that those with whom we share the Gospel will have the opporutnity to make a good decision about their interest in the Gospel.  How is this accomplished?  We do this by being a good friend in their life.  We know that every person has to make their own decision concerning Jesus; we simply cannot believe for them.  Thus, it is important that our friends are able to understand the message of the Gospel.  If they understand the message of Christ then they can make better decisions about Jesus.  And when they can both hear and experience the Gospel it provides the listener with even more ability to make life decisions.

We see these places as difficult because they require everyone to learn, grow, and change.  When we say everyone we mean all who are involved:  our missionaries, the followers of Jesus who join them in this work, and those to whom we have come to share the Gospel with.  As we intersect (converge) through everyday life situations we peel away one layer at a time until trust is built.  It is like taking down layers of past experiences and opinions, one layer at a time, until the real person can be seen and the true Gospel can be found.

Once trust is built we simply live the Gospel and allow the truth of Christ to go to work.  We share our faith in natural ways, never hiding who we are, while being sensitive to the people around us.  Trust grows and with it understanding and the love of God which changes everything.

The difficulty is more in the learning process than anything else.  It is in the breaking down of barriers that keep relationships from developing.  It is the willingness of those involved to do the hard work of love that dispells the bias of misinformation.  We then can patiently work through the things that divide us and grow in our appreciation for one another.  Then the Gospel does the rest and, just like in any other situation, people have to make their own choices in what to do with what they discover.

Missionaries do this everyday where they work as they cross cultures and share the good news of Christ’s love with those they live with.  Today America is a mission field and needs us to use such approaches as we establish new communities of Christ in new places to reach a new people.  This is what we mean when we say that we want to establish new churches in difficult places.  It is what Jesus has called us to do.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Difficult Places (Part 2)

What are you referring to when you talk about planting churches in difficult places?

(Part 2 of 3)

ImageOur personal focus (Kandy and myself) is the people of the University District Villages of America. That is a mouthful to read and say, but each of the words is important and descriptive of the people Christ has called us to. One day I will write what I have discovered about each one of them, but that isn’t the focus of this series of blogs.

In short, we are interested in being an influence to other influencers. In the university district you will find there are many different types of people who make up the variety of villages within its boundaries. They are the men and women who work in and around the university, who are the influencers of others: the professors, administrators, teacher assistants, admin staff, coaches, security staff, and business people who serve the school. It is a vast and diverse group of people with some common ideals that tie them together.

Few would argue the thought that the American University is one of the most influential places in our culture. Daily it influences the people of this village. Their influence is felt in the cities where they are located. You even feel their influence across the states where they are established. If you pay attention and follow the dots you will see the influence of the American university around the world. The university is a place of great influence.

OK … so the university is a place of influence, what is the big deal? The big deal is that in all of it’s influencing, the American university is often void of the influence of God. There is a spiritual presence on the campus, but it isn’t always the spirit of God that is present. This means that in all the influencing going on through the university, very little is being influenced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This grieves our hearts as we see a people who often times feel marginalized by the church because they hold a very different worldview. There it is again, that word “different,” a word that sometimes scares us because we don’t understand what “different” really is or what it means.

Let me say something important. The problem isn’t that churches have not been planted before in these areas or that churches do not exist there today. We have planted churches and some have done well, especially when we are talking about establishing churches to reach the students of the university. Unfortunately, more often than not, it seems that most of the churches have struggled to make it and fail in the process. Our hearts are glad for those who are reached through these works. We also recognize there are many people in the universtiy districts who for various reasons remain unimpacted by them. Could it be as simple as we don’t understand them and they don’t understand the Church?

Through Converge Group we want to treat the universtity as a mission field like we would any foreign mission field we send a missionary to. It is important to discover the nuances of any culture so that you understand them and can communicate better with them. We are talking about loving people enough to know them. This is what missionaries do all across the world.

We feel that we can best impact the people of the university village by taking time to get to know them first, genuinely care for them, and become part of their world. These are some of the difficult steps that must be taken when crossing cultures and finding ways to share love with others. It is what growing in love for your neighbor is about.

Some may want to argue that this involves compromise and we shouldn’t cross that line. It isn’t that we deny our faith or compromise ourselves in terms of our walk with Christ. This is about the truth of Scripture rather than the expressions of worship that are dictated by tradition and culture. It is about returning to the basics of truth found in God’s Word rather than living out the ideas of people on how to live that truth. We are simply looking at doing what missionaries do: take the message of the Gospel and find ways to live it in the context of the culture of the people.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Musings from the Great Northwest – Part 1

ImageThe last 2 weeks have been interesting as we traveled to the Great Northwest region of America.  As candidate missionaries we spend a lot of time traveling and meeting new people as we share the vision God has given us.  At each stop we find people who are interested in what we are doing as they ask questions and share their own hearts with us.  It amazes me how many people have been captured by the same basic call to live the mission of making disciples.

It doesn’t seem to matter if we are talking to people in our home state of Ohio, travel a little north to Michigan, or out here in Washington and Oregon.  God is speaking to people about His mission inviting them to join Him on an incredible journey. Through this we experience the joy of encouragement as others join us as a part of our Support Team.  We are not alone!

The expressions are different in each situation.  Some taking a much more radical approach while others making subtle adjustments to what they are doing.  Either way they are being directed by the Holy Spirit to refocus their attention to the basics of the Gospel.  As we share about identifying and training missionary church planters to reach the marginalized we get to hear wonderful stories.  Stories of support as people tell us about the refocusing of their lives to the call from God.

This trip has brought the joy of seeing our 2 sons who live in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  With each friend of theirs we meet our eyes and ears go to work as we learn about the lives they have lived and views they hold.  Wonderful people who experience life in different ways yet hold a similar desire in their heats: a desire for a better way to live that is real, genuine, honest, and worthy of trust.

People like Verlon who are courageous as they lead their church forward in the mission of Jesus.  This group of people has set aside the comforts of worship as usual to establish a different kind of church that is active in feeding those who are hungry.  About 5 times a week they gather in different parts of the city meeting the need of hunger while leading in worship. Their gatherings are filled with a mix of people sitting around tables sharing love as they break bread, sing songs of praise, and listen to a message. It’s an incredible experience to be a part of.  The mission is awake in their hearts and infectious to all who come around them. They are not just meeting the need of the marginalized; they are becoming friends with them.

Wow, what a story!

As we continue our quest to build a Support Team who will stand with us in this missionary venture our hearts are encouraged.  We are encouraged because . . .

  • the people God has called us to train as missionary church planters actually do exist.
  • we have meant them and they have beautiful faces and wonderful names.
  • each place we go we discover others who hear what God has given us to do and choose to go with us as part of our Support Team.

Thank you Northwest America for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Short-Term Help

Is there something we can do to help you in the short term while you are raising support?

This has been and will continue to be a journey of faith as we trust God to provide through people who love and care about us and the work He has given to us to accomplish.  One thing I learned while serving as a pastor: missionaries have a lot of expenses as they raise money to do what God has asked of them.  During this time they have lower incomes as they wait for Faith Promises to come in.  Here are some ways you can help us:

One Time Gifts – It may not seem like a big deal to you, but a one-time gift might be the very thing that meets a particular need or bill that comes up.  While this can always be helpful in this life of faith, it is especially helpful during this time where we are trying to raise funds.  These gifts can help sustain us as we itinerate and have lower incomes because the budget hasn’t been fully raised.  In the future they become a great help to do extra-unexpected projects that come up in any ministry.

Each time this happens the missionary feels the depths of your love; your generous heart humbles us.  Something we never really are looking for, but are always appreciative of, are the gifts that come at just the right time.  So, follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit and do what He asks of you.

Prayer – This can sound so cliché, but it is so true.  Not sure I understood how important it is for the missionary until we took the step of faith ourselves.  We literally depend on the prayers of God’s people.  Through prayer we can do things none of us could accomplish on our own when prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray.  Put us on a regular rotation in your prayer time and see what God does to help us out.  Prayer is critical and multiplies the efforts that go forth.

Missions Service – If you can help us get into a church or para-church organization to share in a missions service that would be wonderful.  Your influence can help us get into places we could never have been able to do ourselves.  It would be customary for either a love offering to be received or an honorarium to be shared.  Helping with travel costs is another way to lighten the load of the visiting missionary.

We would love to come to your church or para-church group to share the vision God has given to us.  Talk with your pastor or the leader of your organization you are a part of and then connect them to us.  Then we can schedule to come and share with your church or group.

There are several ways you can give help during the fund raising time.  If you are able to do something please let us know and we will guide you through the process.  Thanks in advance for a generous and loving heart!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – How to Help

How can we help you get to the mission field that God has called you to?

There are several ways that people can help us get to the mission field.  First there is something everyone can do:  pray for us.  Prayer is powerful and a great help to every missionary.  Here are a few other things you can do that would be a big help.  Let me take a few moments and share what they are.

Monthly Faith Promise – this is the lifeblood of every missionary.  Through monthly support we are able to focus our attention on the mission God has given to us.  When people become a part of our Support Team they catapult us forward in the mission ahead.

Missions Parties – sometimes people want to do more to help than their budgets allow for them to participate.  A great way to multiply your monthly gift is to host a Missions Party for us.  These are events you sponsor and invite some friends that you think would be interested in what we are doing.  At the party we will share the vision to develop missionary church planters to reach places like the university districts of America.  Opportunity will be given to those in attendance to become part of our Support Team through either one-time gifts or monthly Faith Promise support.  Please be sure to let the people know ahead of time that a financial appeal will be made; we want to be up front with what the event is about. 

One Time Gifts – another great way to help us is through a one-time gift.  This is especially helpful during this time where we are trying to raise funds.  These gifts can help sustain us as we itinerate and have lower incomes because the budget hasn’t been fully raised.  In the future they become a great help to do extra-unexpected projects that come up in any ministry.

Annual Gifts – there are ways for us to set up an annual gift for those who are unable to do the monthly Faith Promise.  Often times business people find this advantageous as they do year-end giving based on profits from the previous year.  Talk with us, and we will help you find the way that best accomplishes what you are wanting to do.

Missions Service – we would love to come to your church or para-church group to share the vision God has given to us.  Talk with your pastor or the leader of your organization you are a part of and then connect them to us.  It would be great to talk with your leaders and explain to them what we are trying to accomplish.  Then we can schedule a time to come and share with your church or church group.

As you can see there are a number of different ways you can get involved in helping us move forward.  If you are interested in one or more of them please feel free to contact us so we can discuss more with you about how you can join us.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Financial Support

Do you have to raise money like foreign missionaries do sometimes?

Yes, together with our U.S. Missions leaders we have put together a budget that is needed to accomplish the job before us. This budget includes the finances necessary to sustain us (myself and Kandy) as we work in areas where no other source of revenue is available. This is part of what makes our ministry fit in the area of Missionary Church Planting & Development with U.S. Missions. Because of this reality we are in need of financial support from those who are willing to help us.

Our budget not only provides the income that we need, but it also has to cover all our expenses for the work that we will do. Thus, the monthly budget is rather large as we have to cover basic expenses like equipment, rent, utilities, curriculum, and travel. As we train missionary church planters to go out we need to be resourced so that we can do the job well.

In order for us to go to work we need other people to join us through monthly Faith Promises just as our foreign missionaries do. Thus, we have been sent out to grow our Support Team, people who are committed to seeing the vision come to life and grow in the years ahead. God works through individuals like each of us to not only do the work, but to fund it as well.

This is probably one of the hardest parts of this entire venture. We realize how difficult it is to earn an income in this world and are humbled each time a person(s) chooses to share what they have earned with us. It amazes me how generous God’s people are and how committed they are to seeing people like us fulfill His call for our lives. Please know that missionaries, like us, appreciate each gift that is shared and recognize the sacrifice being made by those who give.

If you are interested in joining our Support Team please feel free to contact us so we can share more with you about the vision and how you can go with us.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Startup Time

When will you start doing this missions work?

Good question, which provides me with the opportunity to share something with you. We are all missionaries and should be doing the work of a missionary all the time. So, you could say that we already are doing this work (in that as a follower of Jesus Christ this is the life we have been given to live).

Formally, as fully appointed missionaries in partnership with U.S. Missions of the Assemblies of God we are able to start once our full budget is raised. Until then, our job is to raise the funds needed to do the job God has called us to.

While it can, at times, feel somewhat frustrating to put your desire and dream on hold, it is an important process to work through. During this time we are building a Support Team that does much to help us for years to come. Most obvious is that the financial support others provide for us enables us to focus our attention full time to the ministry God has given us. This is such a tremendous help as we are able to move forward undivided in our attention. And just as important is the prayer support that is being grown around us as we share the vision of influencing the influencers. The prayers of others are what will help us in the days ahead as we forge into new areas.

Of course, as we raise funds we are ministering to people along the way as we encourage, challenge, and teach them while we share the plan of God for our lives. It is fun and fulfilling to see people come alive to the mission of Christ as they discover how to live as a community of God’s family. During our itineration time our focus is on the relational convergence, that takes place one person at a time, as we meet people, share our hearts with them, and minister to them.

If you are interested in helping us feel free to contact us so we can share in more detail with you about the vision to impact the university districts of America.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Mission Explained

Can you describe what you will be doing in missions?

At the heart of our mission is a desire to ignite a fire in others to fulfill the mission Christ gave to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Here is how we see it happening.

We will identify, train, equip, resource, and walk with others who are willing to live as a missionary church planter. Through an apprenticeship type of program we are able to multiply ourselves as we share our 30+ years of ministry experience with others.  Instead of doing one church plant, our hope is to do multiple plants at a time as we work with and through other missionary church planters.

Our desire is to establish multiple churches in difficult situations where people often feel marginalized by the church.  These are people who most likely would never walk into an established church because of various understandings they hold.  They are interested in talking about God, but for different reasons are not interested in attending worship in a local church.  We want to send missionaries to them so that they can discover the love of Christ.

You could say that we will be like a coach or mentor as we help others learn how to live as missionaries in our world.  Then we will send them out to befriend others and experience life with them as they share the gospel message of Christ’s love.

Until we are fully appointed we will be focused for the next year or two primarily on raising funds to do the job we believe God has given to us to do.  If you are interested in helping us feel free to contact us so we can share more with you about the vision.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Candidate Missionary

What does it mean that you are a Candidate Missionary with U.S. Missions?

A Candidate Missionary is an individual who has applied with the Assemblies of God to serve as a missionary in one of two areas of focus. (World Missions – any missions endeavor outside the United States; and U.S. Missions – any missions endeavor within the United States.) They have been through an intensive interview process to determine if this individual is prepared to fulfill the work of a missionary. 

After some basic training the Candidate Missionary is released to begin the steps to becoming fully appointed as a missionary with the Assemblies of God.  It is here where the decision is confirmed through monthly support raised for their annual budget.  You could say that our leadership is wanting to see if those who know this person best are willing to stand with them in the mission field.  This means that every time we partner with a missionary through financial support we are in essence giving our approval.  We are recognizing their call to the mission field.

We (myself and Kandy) now have the opportunity to connect with other people to see if they are interested in standing with us to become fully appointed missionaries.  Once our budget is raised the U.S. Missions of the Assemblies of God will commission us.  Simply put, your support helps our leaders make full appointment with confidence knowing that the body of Christ stands with us.

If you would be interested in talking with us more about what we are working towards please feel free to contact us.  We would love the opportunity to share with you the idea God has given to us.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.