I consider myself a missionary.
I need your help. Could it start with a few minutes of your time in the reading of this simple appeal?
As you probably know, I serve the Lord through Youth For Christ Roxboro.
I believe in this work with all my heart. I believe in foreign missions. There is no doubt in my mind God calls some people to go to other cultures and nations and people groups. I will support foreign missions in word and deed until the day the Lord calls me to heaven.
Even more, I believe in local missions. I believe the church is where she is, and must work constantly to build up the Body of Christ and reach the lost world. We are, all of us, right where we are all the time. Stop and think about that. We are right where we are. Every believer is called to proclaim the good news that Jesus is King. Wherever we are, with whatever gifting we have, with whatever level of understanding we have, preach Jesus.
The good King James Version says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19, emphasis mine). We often think that means we have to get up and go somewhere exotic to share the Gospel. In the original Greek, the word means to "carry over" or to "lead over" or (my favorite) to "continue on one's journey." We might say it's best translated as "As you are going, teach all nations..." And, that word, "teach," means to "make a disciple" or "teach, instruct" someone. That's not head-bowing-hand-raising-rallies with no shoulder-to-shoulder post-rally life together. That's walking with people, right where we are, as we are living. That requires time and a lifetime of commitment.
As we continue on our journey in life with Jesus, we are to be constantly making disciples. Constantly.
I think that's why I'm so passionate about YFC's mission; clearly, there, it says we are working / serving to "raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead..." It's multiplying disciples, which is faithful to the commands of Scripture.
Too many times I've seen people come into town and put on rallies for young people -- and even grown folks -- with no real plan to keep walking with them, and no real plan to equip the church to walk with them or ... or ... or... ..... ... (siiiiiiiigh).
We've got to make disciples! We've got to dig in and be committed to the lifelong work of raising up lifelong followers of Jesus, and even when they do begin walking with Jesus, we must continue to teach them everything He has commanded.
And, think about it, if every single person you know, every person in your town, every person in your county... if everyone everywhere began to walk with Jesus today, they'd be infants in the faith and need much help along the way. They'd need nurturing. They'd need love. They'd need discipling!
And, think about this very carefully...
We would still have to win the next generation that came after them. And, the next. And, the next.
I believe in missions around the world.
I believe in missions around this nation.
I believe in missions around this state.
I believe in missions around this county.
I believe in missions around my house!
I believe in missions to every generation!
Nations and generations: let's give 'em Jesus!
Yes! Those generations existent now, and those to come, are our calling, for as long as we draw breath.
As a team of local missionaries, we need help. Some of us -- like me -- are vocational, meaning we do this as our calling and as our job. Most on our team, are bi-vocational or volunteer.
Frankly, I considered myself a missionary while I was working at the powerplant, and on the softball field and in the grocery store. I considered myself an ambassador of Christ since the moment I started walking with Him. I didn't know to call myself an "ambassador" then, but I did know God's government ruled me, His Spirit filled me and His Son saved me, so I had much to speak to the nations and generations about.
So, then, what I mean to say, is I think of myself as a missionary in the vocational sense. It's my life, yes, and nothing will change that. It's also my employment, and that could change. Right now, as you know, I serve the Lord vocationally through Youth For Christ Roxboro. Youth For Christ is a national and international ministry, with thousands of missionaries, all over the US and around the world. Some of the finest folks I know serve the Lord through YFC, both around my native country and around the world.
Vocationally speaking, I've been the Executive Director of our local YFC chapter for over 8 years. I've been involved, first as a volunteer, for 12 years. It is an extremely challenging vocation, pressing me for skills not native to my upbringing, education or experience. I don't want that to change, but, frankly speaking, it may have to.
The calling part is what feels natural to me. Building relationships for the purpose of sharing Jesus is what I really love. Granted, I could do that anywhere...even through my old job at the powerplant, right? Right.
The vocation part often drains me, but it also causes me to press into the Lord for help. That serves to grow me in ways I would've never chosen for myself. When I was making mucho dollars per hour, this proud country boy would never have imagined I'd find myself on my knees asking God for money; didn't see that coming. I never imagined I'd be sitting up at 3:00 in the morning reading the tax code for non-profits to determine an answer to a problem we were facing. I never imagined I'd be writing a weekly article in the newspaper in representation of a ministry, or having radio spots. I never imagined I'd sit on community counsels, be asked to speak at graduations, be asked to write college recommendations...well, you get the picture; there's much I never saw this old country boy doing.
One of the best parts of things-never-imagined is being an undershepherd and provision seeker for these incredible people I serve with, and for these incredible ministry vehicles that are part of our chapter here in Roxboro.
All of it makes me press into God, seek Him and beg for His provision. My workplace prayers used to consist of asking God to help me witness to a co-worker, or keep me from cursing when I crunched my knuckles or reveal to me how to make a baffling repair. I was comfortable with those prayers, and pretty comfortable with the answers.
This vocation makes me uncomfortable, a lot, and all the time. But, that causes me to pursue God, a lot, and all the time.
So, here I am today, uncomfortable, and doing something this old country boy neither imagined myself ever doing OR really wants to do. However, this is where pressing into God has led me.
I need your help. In the past two years, there has been massive changes in our contributions received. We had a major supporter retire, and massively change their income, and another's income dramatically changed due to major health issues. That's resulted in the loss of over $50,000.00 in annual donations. One of those occurrences we knew was coming, and have been planning for its consequences. The other occurrence we never saw coming. Though it's been nearly a year, I feel like I am still in a swoon!
I need help. I need prayer warriors. I need ministry partners. I need givers.
There were a lot of uses of the word "I" in that sentence. I know. (There I go again...)
It's all a preface to what I really want to say...
There's never been an "I" in any of this. It's just that I am in the middle of it all, and I have been called to serve as the gatekeeper here at YFC-Roxboro and I never really have liked asking for help...or money...or even for prayers. I want to be like George Mueller. I want to simply pray about it all and leave it alone, and rest in silence. Maybe I don't have that kind of faith, and that is convicting. I don't know...honestly, I'm wrestling with that.
I do know I can't have too much faith, so, "Lord, I have faith; give me more."
I think God is working through faith, though. We don't spend money on advertising, although it's well proven that advertising is often justifiable and useful. We don't do fundraisers, because (1) we're not asking the world to fund the Lord's work and (2) we are already up to our necks in working in the ministry, and fundraising done right requires a lot of extra work and (3) we think asking straightforward, rather than selling a product, is the way we ought to approach the people of God for the work of God. There are no tricks or gimmicks in our support-seeking; we simply ask individuals, local churches, businesses and other collaborative partners to join us in the work with time, talent and treasure.
How can you help? I am flinging this request into the hands of God. If you have received it, and have read this far, it's probably for a reason.
We need help right now. I mean, NOW. We are over $17,000.00 behind today. We need immediate help. June and July are always tough. You look at that number and you're tempted to think your gift won't matter. Every time someone says that to me, I say, "Don't tell the flood it's made up of rain drops."
You can be a big help.
BEST BIG HELP: Stop, right now, and pray...
Big help #1: Give a gift today.
Big help #2: Ask a friend to give, too.
Big help #3: If you aren't a monthly donor, pray about becoming one. Remember, rain drops pile up! No gift given freely, by calling, from a pure heart can be too small!
Big help #4: Talk to your friends about becoming monthly donors. Every partner is important! It's easy to set up an automatic gift through your bank's online billpay system. All you need to do it is our address and phone number.
Big help #5: Introduce me (or another YFC staffer) to someone and let us share the vision with them. We'll be nice to your friends; we promise! Frankly, that's one of my problems...I've run out of people to talk to! I'll share and I'll ask, but I've got to find someone to share with!
Big help #6: If your local church is not a monthly partner, advocate for us. You can do it. You can invite us to come over.
Big help #7: Like every staff member here, I personally need my friends and family to support me every month in this work. I'd love to talk to you about supporting a staff member with monthly giving. I'm totally unoffended if people do not want to support me; I love general budget givers and I love raising up donors for my teammates, too!
Big help #8: We have other resource needs and dreams, too. For example, our facility needs mucho repair. That might be your forte.
There's even more. Will you help?
Monday, July 08, 2013
There is no such a thing as casual Christianity. Now, there is casual religion, but to walk in relationship to the Living God through Jesus Christ requires total commitment. Romans 12:1 says we are to "present ourselves." James 4:7 says "submit yourselves...to God." Presented and submitted into the hands and requirements of God means constant readiness to do His will.
Romans 12:9-21 says, "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (ESV)
There are many powerful commands in such a short space! "Abhor" and "hold fast" alone are strong statements, and encompass a lifetime of application. There is much to think on here, but what is on my mind is simple: if a person who reads these few words thinks for even one moment there is room to live casually in our relationship to God and casually towards the things of and in the world, they are blind, deaf and dumb.
And, don't think we can dismiss the Bible or its commands / directions on how we ought to live and think. It is God's revelation of His Son, Jesus. It is the directive to how we practice our faith. We ought to hold a high value on His word, for God desires to use His word to make us "complete" and ready for "every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Christianity is more than "being nice" and "going to church." It is full of violent discipleship -- take for example: "iron sharpens iron" and "every branch...He prunes" and "tested by fire" and "piercing to the division of soul and spirit" (Proverbs 27:17, John 15:2, 1 Peter 1:7 and Hebrews 4:12). All these show how God is willing to give friction, to cut and burn away and to pierce us in soul operation. These are violent, difficult images of discipleship!
Yes, I am freshly convinced there is no such a thing as casual Christianity. Where there is no passion, there is either spiritual sickness or spiritual lostness. God is extremely passionate about us, and our only proper response is to be extremely passionate about Him.