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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Immediate, Radical, Costly Obedience

Several years ago I witnessed a man share the vision that God had given him. Rick, in his executive conference room, leaned back in his chair and talked for two and a half hours.

"I believe," he said, "that God wants us to mobilize a civilian force of compassion using the worldwide distribution network of millions of local churches."

Several lines that he used impacted me.

"Obedience is how we express our love to God," he said. "God is interested in immediate, radical, costly obedience!"

My mind flashed back to earlier days in my ministry to a time when I was unloading a U-Haul truck in muggy, 104-degree weather in central Alabama. I knew no one. I was 26-years old with a wife and two small children. However, I had heard the voice of God.

I recalled leaving a thriving, life-changing church to go to a place with no church. This time I had three children, a core group in the single digits, and a dream.

Another line that caught my attention was, "What is there about my life that God would want to multiply?"

He continued by telling of the largest House-Church Movement in China. The leaders had come together for a time of training. For hours they prayed and discussed their mission. Someone produced a large world map that indicated the spiritual temperature of each country. As they studied this map, the pastors/leaders--mostly rural Chinese farmers--felt impressed that someone among them was called to be a missionary. Finally, one lady raised her hand.

"I am the one God is calling," she said, "To Myanmar."

Later, the missions speaker went to sleep in the same room where the meeting had taken place. When he awoke the next morning, the lady was no longer there. Upon inquiring, he learned that the Chinese had been up all night.

"First, we had to pray to see who was called to go with her," a leader reported. "Then we had to get money together for tickets. The lady--a medical doctor--and her companion left on the first bus this morning for Myanmar. They traveled on one-way tickets."

This was obviously immediate, radical costly obedience.

The ENY-NE District has a goal to plant five churches in the next five years (2010-2015). "Would it be possible, Lord, to speak to men and women regarding the need and opportunity in the northeast? People who could catch your vision for impacting this crucial area of our country? People willing to relocate, get jobs, build relationships and start life-changing churches? Would you place in the hearts of several families a willingness to become core members of a church planting team? Would it be possible that some Bible School buddies or seminary mates would feel compelled to do something significant together in the northeast? Lord, would you give us leaders with immediate, radical, costly obedience?"

"It is possible," He replied. "In fact, I am already about the task. I am just waiting for them to hear and heed. Get ready! Church planters are headed your way!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Letter to My Nephew

Dear Ben,

Recently you Facebooked me and asked about Success University. Instead of a short answer, let me write in this blog, and let's call it, A Letter to My Nephew.

Years ago, when I was in Kansas, I wanted to coach/mentor some of my pastors. After hand-selecting seven guys, I invited them to spend one day a month with me. We called these meetings Success University. My plan was to spend six hours together--two hours on spiritual growth, two hours on personal development, and two hours on church growth. The materials that we used came from my years of reading and listening to CDs.

As word spread, more and more pastors wanted to participate, so in year two, 20 individuals joined. Results continued to be good. In year three, 40 pastors were a part of SU.

When I returned to the pastorate, I missed these coaching opportunities. I wondered if SU would have the same positive results on laypersons. I selected a dozen leaders of my church and watched as amazing things took place in their lives--things that were beyond anything that we could ask or imagine.

I took a group of 20-somethings through the same course. Again, life change happened.

Now that I am in the northeast, Success University is a big part of our effort to turn churches around. Three groups of pastors meet every month, and I am seeing outstanding change take place. I would hasten to add that SU is not for everyone. Attitude toward the process makes a big difference. Some get it; some don't! Some will embrace the process; some won't. What makes the difference? It's a mystery--a mystery of life.

I can hear you asking, "What do you study? What materials do you use?"

I have learned that what we study is not nearly as important as the process we go through. The first hour of each meeting we share stories of what has happened during the last 30 days in our homes, in our churches, and in our personal lives. Through peer pressure, we are held accountable for moving toward our goals (goals which we have set earlier in the year).

We discuss the balanced life--finances, health, education, spiritual, family, social and ministry. We discuss books that we are reading (some start reading for the first time since college). We go through leadership lessons by people like Maxwell, Warren, and Hybels. We discuss personal development concepts from motivational speakers like Rohn, Tracey and Waitley. We study church growth systems by Searcy. Most of all, we develop team spirit, encourage risk and provide an atmosphere of encouragement to our team mates in the battle. We provide a safe place where one can be real. Ben, it is the most exciting thing I do each month. As my team grows, I am fulfilled. Watching them succeed is more fun than succeeding myself.

I have watched others try similar programs that have not lasted as long or succeeded as well. My gut feeling is that too much emphasis is put on the material and not enough on the relationships. You cannot package love, passion, team spirit and accountability. That all comes from the heart--usually from the heart of a D.S., coach, or mentor. This key person--the heart and soul--intuitively understands that this is different from a denominational program that is neatly packaged and arrives in the mail.

Ben, there are lots of materials that would work in SU; however, there are few individuals who bring the experience, passion and love to a group. A coach/mentor is key! One of the things that I dream of doing in the years ahead is to find groups of young leaders like you, and spend a day a month pouring into their lives. My experience tells me that SU would impact the lives of the participants both now and throughout the next 50 years.

If you are really interested, get a group of like-minded individuals together--individuals who want to make a difference. Perhaps I could come and share what SU is and does. We could see where things go from there.

Still growing as a life coach,

Uncle Paul