Tuesday I mentioned that it has never been easier to go to the nations than it is right now. Business creates a climate where it is possible to travel to untold parts of our planet. On my flight from Dallas to Tokyo I sat next to a man who works in the health industry. His company is developing a portable lab for doing all kinds of specialized blood tests—one you can carry in your pants pocket! Needless to say, this resource will be incredibly valuable! But the best thing is he is a believer and he was traveling with two other men from the church where he is involved. These two focus on international missions.
This guy’s business travels will likely give him access the other two men cannot go. There will be places in the Middle East that will be strongly interested in this medical device, once the FDA approval is completed. Wherever this man goes he will be a kingdom representative! The possibilities are endless.
Sadly, this man was jealous of the other two guys being able to spend all their time focused on “spiritual” matters. What can be more spiritual than providing doctors with instant information about cancer markers or heart enzymes? Here is a man who needs to learn how to catalyze Disciple Making Movements and use the access his business will grant him for kingdom advances. I am excited to think about following up with him when I return home. What a beautiful opportunity to swap business cards! When I told him why I was traveling he said, “It is exciting to hear of so many things that God is doing in our world!” Yes, it is!
Imagine God has called you to minister to widows and orphans who live in a slum area of a third-world country. You could pour yourself into fund-raising in order to build a feeding center. It will be on the outskirts of the slum since you can purchase acreage there (with some government stipulations of a local board of directors, since foreigners cannot actually own land post-colonialism). You raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed for the land, structure, wall and gate so you can protect the donor’s investments and the staff you will need. Oh, yes, there is also some money left for the first food you will give to the people you want to bless.
Yes, more people than you could have anticipated are willing to come for the beans and rice you give at lunch. Yes, they are willing to sit through the mandatory Bible study that precedes the meal. You know you are keeping some of these single moms from giving up their children as orphans because now they have at least one meal every day. You also know they are hearing from Scriptures and God’s Word will not come back void.
Have you really helped? Have you trained local people that “through this kind of hard work we must help the weak,” per Paul’s counsel?
Last Tuesday I wrote about giving. I want to return to the subject since we have had time to “chew on this cud” for a while.
I believe that Paul’s care calls us to engage this issue thoughtfully. He was concerned to prevent his apostolic band from being discounted as more religious charlatans–notorious con-artists. He, also, raises the issue of his desire to preach the gospel at his own personal cost so he could go “above and beyond the call of duty.” The apostle to the Gentiles models a very nuanced theology of giving.
Maybe I am misreading Acts 20:34-35, but it appears to me that Paul’s business enterprise in Ephesus was adequate to support his personal needs, also financed a sizable apostolic team and produced enough to “help the weak.”
My dream is to see apostolic workers (those commissioned to get the gospel into truly unreached people groups) who are able to enter communities with business models that are simple, easily reproduced and adequately resourced so they are truly financially sustainable. They will be of such a nature that they involve the workers in providing a valuable service for the people of the new community. They will provide excellent opportunities to look for Persons of Peace. They will become valuable for the community on a long-term basis. They will provide the opportunity to model hard work and helping the weak.
Maybe Paul had not taught about giving at earlier stages during his three year stay in Ephesus. Maybe his statement about “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” was a personal remembrance. But I suspect he is pointing their minds back to earlier teaching he had done when he quoted this from Jesus [NOTE: This statement on giving is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Is this something Jesus said to Paul personally after his Damascus Road encounter?]
I am thankful that my time in Arkansas prompted me to return to this issue. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Recently I was encouraged to put an index to some of my more useful blog posts, on this site. I have placed links to similar posts within posts, but I was not sure how to accomplish what was requested.
After I got on my site the next time I decided to check out the “Categories” and the “Tags” links (if you put your cursor over the words that follow either of these two, you will find they change color, meaning if you click on one you will be provided every entry that deals with a specific category, or every one that mentions the tagged topic. So the categories is sort of like a topical table of contents and the tagged words are sort of thematic indexes. This is what you get when you read the blog of a novice–I keep learning more of the features that are built into this blog format.
If you go to the top of this article you will see that just below the title, “Still Learning My Way Around,” there is a box that has “Category:” followed by several items like, “Bible Studies, Communication, Community Development, etc.” Click on any of those and you will get all of the posts I have grouped under than category.
In that same box, just below “Categories” is the option of “Tags:” which is followed by words like “Discovery Bible Studies.” If you click on that you will get the 10-11 articles that mention these.
Hopefully this is old news to most of you. But just in case you are still sort of new to this whole blogging scene (like I obviously am), I want to be sure you know how to use this feature. While I listed all the categories, I only gave you a few of the tags since there are more than 40 of them.
Let me know if any of these posts prompt questions. Some of my best writing happens when people ask good questions.