- DML is blessed with leaders who have many years of experience. Through the years we have learned to check with God before jumping into new opportunities. We are blessed with a board and team that highly values seeking the Lord. The goal is to discern whether God is saying, yes, no, or wait. We love to hear the Lord say “yes” to opportunities. Especially when we see the value in those opportunities to expand the Kingdom of God!
At our recent Board meeting, we discussed some of the parameters that might confirm the Lord’s "yes." We also discussed some parameters where the Lord is saying “wait" or "no.” DML is blessed by some amazing opportunities being presented to us. Currently our budget is enough to help empower 12 partners working in 11 countries. But not enough to take advantage of a growing number of opportunities. That means we need to use the word "wait." One of the opportunities comes from the team that invited us to Cote d'Ivoire, a French speaking country in West Africa. French speaking countries in Africa often lag behind when it comes to resources and help. We were fascinated by the early steps in DML being taken by business leaders and their Churches. We believe God desires DML to expand into French speaking Africa. But we need to see God confirm this with the resources needed.
God is opening many opportunities for DML. This past week we had conversations with people, churches, denominations and ministries from many diverse places. As DML becomes better known, we are entering into conversations from people around the world. These leaders have a passion for the blending of faith and work in and through the church. We had requests for DML just this week from Chad, Zambia, Brazil, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Some of these opportunities may be met through some strategic partnerships that DML has made with like-minded organizations who are taking DML and making it their own. These partner ministries are able to bridge some of the resource gap to reach new countries with the DML message, but not all.
God is rallying His people around the oft-forgotten message of Genesis 1 and 2 . I was reminded this week that DML is part of the vision of God to redeem and restore creation to His purpose. This is not a short term process but a long term vision measured in time as only God can measure.
The Bible says that the harvest is plenty but the workers are few. But what we are finding is that the harvest is plenty, the workers are showing up and available, but the resources to support these initiatives are not yet in place.
The answer for now seems to continue to be "wait."
But there is also a sense that God is up to something here and I'm looking forward to seeing how we can continue to join Him in the work that He is already doing!
We just sent out the DML June letter and amazing newsletter from Tanzania, describing the work going on with the Masai. If you have not received your copy in your mailbox, please click on the links to read it here!
How often have you prayed the words from the Lord's Prayer, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"? I have prayed those words often but I have to admit that up until recently I saw those words more about God's work than my own. After all, what do I know about heaven? I haven't been there. And do I really know God's will?
But, as is the case with much relating to prayer, God's answer comes most of the time through His people. Miracles are the exception, not the rule. God created humanity to be the answer - the fulfillment - of the capacity of the earth He created. He created humanity to be co-creators in bringing about the ability for all to flourish: all humanity, all creatures, all of creation. So while I pray this prayer, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," I need to ask myself what I am doing each day to bring a piece of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth - at least a little bit more than there was yesterday.
Earth is not a waiting room for heaven. John Ortberg said this, "Many people think our job is to get my afterlife destination taken care of, then tread water till we all get ejected and God comes back and torches this place. But Jesus never told anybody - neither his disciples nor us - to pray, 'Get me out of here so I can go up there." His prayer was, 'Make up there come down here. Make things down here run the way they do up there.'"
We get a few hints of what "up there" looks like from Scripture. Genesis 1 and 2 is an example of how it was before sin entered in. Humanity was to work and care for the garden. Revelation 22 tells us that while we started in a garden, we will end in a city. Isaiah 65 describes the new heavens and new earth as a place where we will build and plant. We will work, but it will be without the struggle of sin. Our relationship with work and creation will be repaired. So we can have a pretty good idea of what God's will is and what the Kingdom of Heaven could look like on earth. We will all be serving the one and only Sovereign King. And the new earth will include the making and managing of cities (the reward of the parable of talents and minas). So it's not that foreign after all to us - it's within our imagination and experience.
This is not a prayer to opt out of this earth. It is a prayer to opt in to making it happen on earth.It is a macro prayer and a micro prayer. We need to scale it up to the big picture of heaven on earth, and then scale it down to my specific part in fulfilling that. Where am I to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth? At my work? At home? In my community? With my friends/family?
Wherever we are, as followers of Jesus, we seek to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Lord, help us to recognize that when we treasure your kingdom, we're one step closer to you, the King.
Lord, we seek your kingdom throughout every sphere. We long for heaven's demonstration here - and we picture the different "heres" where we'll find ourselves this week.
Jesus, may your light shine bright for all to see. Lord, transform, revive, and heal society.
We pray 'your kingdom come, Lord.' So that your sovereign rule will come now, more tomorrow than today, starting with me, increasing in number and quality and in the future in its fullness and permanence with Christ's return.
(Prayer taken from LICC.org.uk)
- We hear the term "on the frontline" a lot more these days. In the past, it was often used only in reference to military positions. Those on the frontline were those leading the charge, those facing actual conflict or struggle.But today, we hear about frontline workers in the health sector, especially those working with COVID-19 patients. We hear about frontline workers in the social work field, working with those struggling with the effects of racial tension, drug/alcohol abuse, and more.But as ambassadors of the Most High God, all of us are on the frontline, especially in our places of work. It is where we bring light into darkness. It is where we work for the flourishing of individuals and communities. It is on the frontline that we are to bring the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
The frontline is a place that is the least protected from criticism or attack. It is a place of vulnerability.
Therefore, it is a place where we need strategies and direction. It is a place where we learn to worship God through our work so that He receives the glory and people flourish.
It also needs to be a place of faithfulness.
But what does this look like on the frontline?
At DML, we define faithfulness as following God's three great directives: the Great Commitment (Gen. 1:28, 2:15), the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission. We spell that out by saying that no matter where we work, every Christian needs to have an economic, environmental, social, and missional bottom line. These four goals will result in flourishing as well as glory to our God.
Most of the time we think about faithfulness in terms of explicit opportunities through witnessing or talking about God. But faithfulness also needs to be present in how we do our work:
- Do I do it with excellence? To the best of my ability?
- Do I strive to get better at whatever it is I have the opportunity to do? Is there a goal of continuous improvement?
- How do I use my time while at work? With integrity?
- How do I preach the gospel through my actions (not my words)?
- Who is God calling me to love at my place of work? That difficult colleague or customer?
- Am I being a disciple at work? Is there an area of my work where I am not representing God well?
- Who might God be calling me to disciple? How can I begin to pray for that person?
- Am I working for the Lord and not for man? Meaning, regardless of what I think of my boss, or the place where I work, I strive to do it with excellence because ultimately I am working for the Lord and the flourishing of His people?
For some people, the only gospel they will ever see is how we act when on the frontlines.
Wherever your frontlines may be (and we have them at home, church, and in our communities in addition to our work), receive this blessing:Now go, Church.
Go in the name and in the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Go and extend your worship into your work.
Go and extend Christ’s service into your service.
Take the grace that you've received at this table and extend it to all for whom you care.
Remember the hospitality you found here.
Offer it to others tomorrow.
Go and work.
Honor the one who is working on you.
Do so by making beautiful things, by serving in beautiful ways, by speaking up for the weak whose beauty is being maligned, by filling the city with the aroma of good and beautiful work.
Reflect the beautiful work of your Heavenly Father, nourished now by the grace and mercy of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
God has already accomplished the great work.
God goes before you and behind you.
God works at your side. (Taken from Work and Worship, Kaemingk and Willson, page 140)
- Last week was spent in Liberia, both in Monrovia and Kakata. We are working with the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries, whose churches are spread throughout the country of Liberia, as well as six continents around the world. They had their annual conference this past week and the presiding bishop from the US, along with a number of other bishops, gathered in Liberia for meetings. The presiding bishop, Dr. Darlingston G. Johnson, wrote a book in 2008 called Anointed for the Marketplace. Reading that book was like reading our own writings for Discipling Marketplace Leaders. I continue to marvel at how God calls together His people who are like-minded and passionate in similar areas - it has been this way since we started this ministry. It shouldn't be a surprise to me, as it is how we were created to be. It is a joy to meet like-minded Christian leaders. In our meeting, the Bishop said that he has been passionate about this for years but has not had the tools to move it forward in the church. It is a great joy to join them on this journey.
The person assigned to DML for the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries in Liberia is Dr. Jacob Meiporkoyah as well as Pastor Lisa Travis. The two of them make a powerful team and we already have trained the regional leaders for the church. We look forward to see what God is going to do in the next year! I was privileged to preach in Dr. Jacob's church last week Sunday, and to do a radio interview with Pastor Lisa as well (see pictures below).
I also had the joy to see "Baby Renita" again, who is no longer a baby by any means! If you don't remember the story, her mom, Patience, was 16 when she had Renita and we had the privilege of taking care of Baby Renita for the first year of her life during our last year in Liberia. Renita is now 12 years old and is a bright and beautiful young lady!
I am thankful to God for what He is doing in and through His church in Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, and Liberia. I'm also thankful for the safe travel from place to place, a safe return home, and thankful for the prayers that were lifted on behalf of this work. Blessings!Patience, her fiancé Amos, their daughter Renita, and son Amos. A lovely family and a wedding planned for this December!
Baby Renita and Renita in 2008
Renita and Renita in 2021
Dr. Jacob (right), the DML leader for HIM in Liberia, Pastor Moses (middle), who is also helping with DML, and myself.
Pastor Lisa Travis, interviewing me for their radio program, "Harvesting the Marketplace."
The first batch of DML trainers certificated in Liberia!
Cassava, manioc, and yuca are different names for the same starchy tuber that grows in different parts of the world. The French call it "manioc" (in Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire) and the English call it "cassava" (Liberia).But no matter what it is called, I love the way it is prepared in a very special community called Ira, Cote d'Ivoire. We had such a treat this past week, following our conference, to drive about three hours west of Abidjan to an area very rich in rubber trees, palm oil plantations, and cassava farms. We drove deep into a community where hundreds of women work twelve hours a day, seven hours a week (that's right - you heard me...no day off...ever) to process cassava.
Most women spend their days doing what the woman in the video below is doing - peeling cassava. I had to peel potatoes once a day growing up - for about fifteen minutes. I can't imagine doing this twelve hours a day, every day. From there, the cassava is soaked, washed, then ground up and dried. Some of it goes into what is called "attieke" which is almost like couscous, and other is made into a flour for "gari" which is like a cream of wheat.
The good news is that they have more demand than they can currently meet, both locally and for nearby countries. The bad news is that they have only one machine that grinds up the cassava, and therefore that machine is being worked 24 hours, seven days a week. We have been asked to help with a loan for some additional machines to provide for some more efficiency (and maybe a day off for the women!).
But it is fascinating to drive into this community, off the main road, where they have developed their own economy with churches, schools, shops, to support the work of processing cassava. These women are super hard working and I admire them!
Thirty members of this community were sent to Abidjan to attend our workshop, including some of the owners of these businesses and three pastors of three local churches. All of them are saying "Yes" and "Amen" to the message that work can be done as an act of worship, and that we are to be the church every day of the week in all that we do. They said they will start teaching that this Sunday! We are excited to partner with them, to take them through the business training, and then see how these businesses can increase their productivity to help even more people flourish!
Please enjoy the pictures and the very brief video of the women peeling cassava below, although this media can't capture the amazing work!
Pressing the moisture out of the cassava.
The tireless machine which grinds the cassava, and the women who wait for hours to use it.
For those who don't wait, the sifting is done by hand.
I am now in Liberia where we are working with the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries and will be leaving for home at the end of this week. God has been good and we are thankful!
Thursday, May 13, was the last day of Ramadan, Eid-el-Fitr, which means "the festival of breaking the fast." This is the last day of a thirty day fast, and is a big holiday in the Muslim calendar. About 63% of the population of Burkina Faso is Muslim, 22% Christian, and so one would expect to see about 63% of the shops closed and 63% less traffic on the streets.
We had been told since we started working in Burkina Faso that Christians do not do business, but it became very obvious that day. Christians view business as secular. Business is worldly. During our workshop, pastors told us that members are afraid of becoming rich because they believe they won't get into heaven. They reminded us that Jesus whipped those selling in the temple, therefore business must be evil (this story is MUCH more complex than that!).
While poverty has decreased in total percentages globally, mostly because of business development in China and India, it has actually increased in Sub-Saharan Africa. The per capita income in Burkina Faso is $600 USD. Believing that business is evil doesn't help move a country toward poverty alleviation.Discipling Marketplace Leaders is working with the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso. They have 6000 churches and over a million members. They are divided into 72 regions throughout the country, and each region sent three representatives to our training. We had more than 300 pastors and church leaders present and they all said "yes" to this ministry by the end of our training.
DML is also working with the Christian Missionary Alliance in Burkina Faso. They have 1000 churches throughout the country, and they called together a workshop with several other denominational leaders present as well. This is so important! For a denomination to recognize that we need to work together to reclaim the redeemed marketplace for Christ is critical. Workplace discipleship needs to be across many churches if we are going to see transformation! As a result, the Apostolic Church with 250 churches and 100,000 members has said yes to the DML ministry and said they are going to get started this Sunday!
We are so excited to have three denominations say yes to having workplace discipleship ministries in their churches in Burkina Faso!
But our teams here are not stopping within their borders!
The DML team in the Christian Missionary Alliance has also been teaching pastors in Gabon, and is training them to be trainers!
The DML team with the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso has arranged for many denominational leaders to gather in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire and we are having a workshop with them on Monday and Tuesday.
So from the Ghana DML team came the link to Burkina Faso. From Burkina Faso, to Cote d'Ivoire and Gabon. And so it goes. We thank God for open doors and for people recognizing that this is a forgotten Biblical truth!
And we trust that He will continue to call and equip His people to have His will done on earth as it is in heaven! Thank you for your continued prayers! (And yes, I did receive my bags so thank you for those prayers as well!)
One more thing - on of our DML team members in Burkina Faso, Ismael Illa, married his beautiful bride Tabitha on Saturday and we were privileged to attend! It is so beautiful to see weddings in other cultures - there were many things that they did which I would love to see picked up in US weddings. Enjoy a couple of pictures and a very brief video of the "joining of the families" dance, where both families join together to bless the couple and their future children.
Ismael putting the ring on Tabitha's finger, for all to see.
I am back in Africa! I have not stepped foot on the continent for almost fourteen months, having made it back one day before things shut down, the longest stretch since I started going in 2004. While the last fourteen months have brought some amazing, unexpected, and exciting growth for Discipling Marketplace Leaders, it did feel good to get the dust off the suitcases and head out again.The trip is centered on West Africa, starting in Burkina Faso. The leaders of the Assemblies of God Burkina Faso have been waiting since early last year for a training for all of their denominational leaders. We postponed several times and are happy to be going to be with them now. There are about 6000 AG churches in Burkina Faso and we will be speaking to the leadership.
We will then be meeting with the leadership of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, which started implementing DML about two years ago. It will be good to spend time with them and help them go to a new level.
We will then be going to Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), courtesy of our partner in Burkina Faso who has organized several denominational leaders there to hear the message of DML.
From there, we will go to Liberia to meet with the leaders of Harvest Intercontinental Ministries, formerly known as Bethel World Outreach. They are implementing DML in all 80 of their churches in Liberia, with 55,000 members, but we have now learned that they are flying in their bishops from all around the world to attend the conference during the third week of May. We are very excited about what this means for the continued call of the integration of faith and work taking place in and through our churches!
Please pray for us on this trip, especially with the COVID issues that will need to be negotiated from border to border. But mostly pray that hearts and minds will be open, for all of us, for what God is doing in and through His church.
This past week I attended the BAM (Business as Mission) Global Congress (thanks to those of you who prayed for this event - more on that later!) and heard this lovely song which they are now calling the BAM Anthem, set to the tune of the old hymn, Abide with Me. It is truly lovely. Please enjoy!
- Ardie, Did You Know?
A 17-year-old young womanAway from family, friends, and country,
Walks into the sanctuary of a church.
The sanctuary is dark, somewhat dingy,
In an area that feels oppressed and depressed.
Not unlike her soul.
Also Dark. Dingy. Depressed.
Ardie, did you know?
Ardie, an African American man,
The age of this young white woman’s father,
At a time when their relationship was broken.
Greets her with a genuine smile,
A hug, and with his deep voice,
Acceptance. Affirmation. A balm.
Ardie, did you know?
She comes back again,
Despite the worship feeling foreign,
The people foreign,
The community foreign,
Because there is one accepting, welcoming face.
And over time her faith is stoked.
Her life is changed.
She finds her place.
Truth. Transformation. Trust.
Ardie, did you know?
Ardie, did you know?
Another white, privileged, Calvin student,
Entering a community plagued by poverty and racism,
Yet seen by you as a broken person,in need of the hug and love of a Father.
Did you know she was in pain?
What were your thoughts?
You never let on.
“Welcome, sweetheart.” “Welcome, Baby.” “Welcome, Daughter.”
Ardie, did you know?
I hope you can see what your gift produced in this young woman over the next 35 years.
A love for Madison Square Church,
A love for the Madison Square community,
A love for mission,
A love for the Church,
A love for God.
Would it had been the same if she had attended another church?Would life had been different if not for that hug? That welcome?
Ardie, did you know?
I think you knew.
And you did it for hundreds of people. Maybe thousands.
And you never stopped.
I hope that when I too leave this world,
And come to the gates of heaven,
That along with the welcome of Jesus,
That you will be there,
Saying, “Welcome, daughter.”
Rest in peace, dear Ardie.Brother, Elder, Father, and Friend.An Usher for God.
- In this coming week, Discipling Marketplace Leaders will have the opportunity to speak during the BAM (Business as Mission) Global Congress on the role of the church in the Business as Mission movement. The Business as Mission movement started in around 2001 and has grown significantly in influence around the world. Yet while the original recommendations for this movement were to start with the church, to date it has mostly operated outside the church.
The reasons BAM leaders have given for this are 1. that the church is too difficult to work with, 2. that church and business don't mix, and 3. that if the church is the people, then we should be able to work directly with people in the marketplace without going through the gathered church.
Yet the belief of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders global team is that NOT working through the church is the main reason that faith and work integrations have come and gone over the centuries. Because it has not been embraced and fully accepted as a core need for holistic discipleship in the church means that there has been no institutional grounding for this movement.
So it remains a movement outside of the church, with a very real risk of dying out without the sustaining role that workplace discipleship can be given through the institutional church, pastors, and seminaries.But the greater loss of not doing this through the church is the loss of an exponential rippling impact when this discipleship is done through the church, rather than individual business by individual business. The potential for the church to teach more Christians to do our work for the flourishing of our customers, the flourishing of our employees, with a missional, social, environmental, and economic bottom line has impacts that can ripple out even further into communities.
When churches begin to teach life on life evangelism rather than evangelistic programs and events, the opportunity for the growth of the church is also exponential. Our research shows that churches grow both numerically and financially when a workplace ministry becomes part of the fabric of the church.
We have great hope for what could happen if more churches and denominations begin to accept the need for discipleship in this important area. Yesterday my pastor said that hope is profound certainty. This is based on trust that God is continuing to work out His purpose for the Church and bringing His people together. We have seen it, and we are seeing it, and we believe we will continue to see it going forward.
So we ask for your prayers this week as we have these conversations. Prayers for the right people to attend from around the world, for the internet to not be a barrier for those who need to be in these (and other) conversations. We will be working with BAM Global to build a task force to study this opportunity globally, and we will be looking for those individuals who have a calling and heart for this opportunity at this time.
Darrow Miller from Discipling Nations Alliance says, “You cannot transform nations without saving souls, but you can save souls without transforming nations." Releasing members to be the church every day of the week, in every workplace, can transform nations.
Please pray with us!
- Hurting SpiritsIn January, I wrote a blog on a story of two nurses and a pastor, describing potentially different responses by a church and pastor to two nurses. One pastor presented the church as a place that one goes to for theological answers while the other pastor presented the church as a place where workers can carry their questions, praises, and pains to God in community.
Shortly after posting that blog, I received the following email from someone who had a strong reaction after reading it. With this person's permission, (and with bolded areas added by me), I share it with you:My heart unexpectedly crashed when I read your blog. My head later caught up with my emotional reaction as I quietly meditated over what was going on in me.
Not once in my 40-year career as a professional service provider and as an active member within three congregations over that period of time was my work ever acknowledged as a form of worship, let alone prayed over and sent out by the church. Rather the implicit message was, "That is great what you do out there. Now, can you lead a group or teach a class in the church where God's real work is done?" And I did that in each of the churches where I was a member. Over the years, church participation was something more for me to do, over and beyond the service I provided in the community, especially for families in the community who would otherwise not financially afford the professional help.
Sadly, my connection with other church members was often peppered with requests for free advice or expectations that my professional privilege should easily be brought into the church life to enhance God's Kingdom work inside the church walls. I often experienced both a deeply felt fatigue and isolation in my church participation. Church was another drain on my personal resources of time and energy. I never experienced church as a resource or support for the work I did outside the church walls.
It is not that the theology of sacred work was not preached. But it was not put into practice because neither I nor the church leaders knew the practical implementation of supporting and commissioning professional knowledge-holder's work outside of the church walls.
July 31, 2020 was my last day as a professional service provider. I surrendered my state license. A part of me is sad; a part of me feels relief. However, my role in the church remains disconnected apart from participating in corporate worship.
I am resilient. I deeply love the Lord. I will be fine. But something was missing for decades. I am just beginning to understand the cost for the church and myself.My heart was deeply saddened when I read this. It haunted me for days. The last sentence especially gripped me: "I am just beginning to understand the cost for the church and myself."
There is cost on both sides.
The Church scattered, meaning the people of God from Monday-Saturday, suffer significantly when they are not equipped, encouraged, discipled, and commissioned to do their work as an act of worship with specific teaching on what that practically looks like.
But the Church gathered also suffers significant lose in this dichotomy between sacred and secular. The loss is so great yet often missed.
Kindred SpiritsShortly after receiving this response to the blog, I had an opportunity to meet with other Business as Mission practitioners who are also passionate about bringing this opportunity of discipleship into the church. Sadly, this group is very, very small. But I did find a kindred spirit.
Devin Dickle, from Open USA. Their motto is to "integrate the power of God and business to transform lives among the least reached. In further conversations, Devin informed me that he wrote a paper called, "Overcoming the Church and Business Divide." I encourage you to read it. You have heard this message from me as well as from Discipling Marketplace Leaders for some time, and it is good and refreshing to hear someone else deliver a very similar message. Then, if you have time for more, please listen to Devin's talk below.
I have been encouraged by this and I hope you are too. In a couple of weeks, the Business as Mission (BAM) Global Congress is going to meet, and Discipling Marketplace Leaders is going to have an opportunity to share, as well as work with other leaders who have a passion for BAM and the Church to come together. Please pray with us for this time, that it may be Spirit led and directed! We pray that we may find many more kindred spirits who have sensed a call to comprehensive discipleship of the nations!