MANILA. I saw a powerful video at church yesterday. It made my eyes sweat. It also made me proud to serve on the board of Real Life Foundation. Take a couple of minutes to watch this video. You will be glad you did.
NASHVILLE. Have you ever known someone who is crazy generous? Not the guy who occasionally drops a few coins in the tip box at Starbucks. I’m talking about those people who love to give and who live to give. Are you one of those extremely rare extreme givers?
Luke recorded a story about a woman who didn’t have much, but all she had, she gave to Jesus. She gave joyfully and sacrificially. She was not a pious religious woman. She was a woman with a past. A sinful past. A shameful past. A past filled with regret. But she gave Jesus her all and her best.
The reason for her extreme generosity was simple. Here’s how Jesus explained it to his small group of Rhodes Scholars.
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
Those who have been forgiven much, love much. Those who suppose they have been forgiven little, love little.
This idea of reciprocating love is the explanation for crazy generosity. So, if we have been forgiven much, we will show much generosity, but if we have been forgiven little we will show little generosity.
Two summary thoughts about generosity from this story in Luke’s Gospel:
1. Generosity is an expression of love and gratitude.
2. Generosity is a response to being forgiven.
I have been forgiven much, therefore I should be extremely generous. What about you, have you been forgiven much, or little?
Almost three decades ago, Brady preached at Victory-Manila. After all these years I still remember the gist of his sermon: “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the ministry, as long as the ministry is in you.”
During the memorial service Brady’s sister, Trudy, reminded us of Brady’s famous voice mail message. Imagine the most genteel southern gentleman accent possible, then slow it down and exaggerate it:
You’ve reached the most fortunate man in the world. I’ve got great kids. I love my job. I have the best friends a man could ask for. If there is anything I can do to help you, just leave a message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.
Brady’s sermon from thirty years ago and his voice mail message from last month sum up a good man’s life and legacy: faith, family, friends, and helping people.
Rest in peace, Brady Clark. You will me missed by many.
NASHVILLE. This week, twenty years ago, Every Nation Churches & Ministries serendipitously started in my home when a couple of old friends had a layover in Manila. The date was March 4. The time of day was late, close to midnight. The place was my house in Pasig, Philippines. Our fledgling ministry had no legal documents, no headquarters, no budget, no plan, no logo, but we had a clear call from God and a sense of stewardship for the university campuses of the world.
Here’s how I described that night in my book, 100 Years from Now.
Six years after the demise of the ministry and mission agency that sent us to the Philippines, I received a call from Rice Broocks that would change our lives. Every decade or so, I get a call like that from him. Rice called to ask if he and an old friend, Phil Bonasso, could crash at my house in Manila for a couple of nights on their way to Singapore and Malaysia. Rice and Phil’s Asian adventure was a response to a “Macedonian call” from a friend of a friend asking them to consider assisting two new church-planting opportunities in Asia.
I’ll never forget that late night in my house in Manila. Rice and Phil were talking about the open doors in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and then one of them said, “We need to plant churches in those cities.” I responded, “Who is ‘we?’ There is no ‘we.’ There is only you, and you, and me.” In 1989, when Maranatha Campus Ministries ended and we all went our separate ways, any semblance of “we” had abruptly ended. I can’t remember the whole conversation, but by the time Rice and Phil left my house, there was a “we” that the three of us agreed to call Morning Star International. God had connected us together for the purpose of “church planting, campus ministry, and world missions.” Phil and I agreed to join our ministries together if Rice would take the lead. We never imagined anyone would want to join with us. We simply wanted to plant new churches, not gather existing churches. To our surprise, as soon as Rice and Phil landed in the USA a week later, old friends started calling to ask if they could join our little church-planting group. A few years later, we changed our name to Every Nation, but we never changed our commitment to church planting, campus ministry, and world missions.
When God reconnected Rice, Phil, and me that night in Manila, it was not because we were all struggling and failing. Quite the contrary—all three of us were leading what most people would consider growing and successful ministries. Every Nation came about because the three of us believed we could accomplish more together than apart. We believed we could be better together.
That’s how we started. It has been quite a ride these past twenty years. Together we have made a lot of disciples, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of great memories. I thank God for allowing me to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and plant churches with good friends all over the world.
By His grace, eventually we will reach every nation with the Gospel.
MANILA. It seems like the doctrine of God’s grace is being preached, taught, blogged, and tweeted more than ever. That’s a good thing. But sometimes what is being preached, taught, blogged, and tweeted about grace is misunderstood, misapplied, and misinterpreted. That is not a good thing.
A couple of weeks ago Victory hosted our second Every Nation Worship Writers’ Workshop with twenty-five worship writers from Singapore, India, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Guam, and the Philippines. Don’t worry, I was not singing or writing. I was teaching the Bible in order to give our writers ideas for worship songs.
One topic I talked about was God’s transformational grace. I tried to communicate that grace not only forgives us, it also transforms us from the inside out. I challenged our writers to compose worship songs about the power of God’s grace to change us. They wrote some great songs that I am sure you will sing in your church and in Every Nation conferences over the next few years.
Why write songs about God’s transformational grace? It has become common to hear a “grace” preached and sung today that has little resemblance to biblical grace. Modern grace erases the guilt of sin, but does not break the power of sin. Biblical grace forgives and transforms.
Here are a couple of verses about God’s transformational grace.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age Titus 2:11,12
According to Paul, grace not only forgives sin, it teaches us to say NO to sin. It also teaches us to live self-controlled and godly lives. Grace is not a license to continue in sin, but a license to arrest sin.
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Romans 5:17
In this passage, Paul is teaching the Romans that they can “reign in life” not by human effort and religious affiliation, but by receiving “God’s abundant provision of grace.” God’s grace is abundant and it empowers us to reign, to overcome, to be victorious.
Grace is supposed to change us. Is His grace changing you?
DUBAI. I have noticed a strange phenomenon in churches and businesses regarding leadership transitions. Too often otherwise great and successful leaders fail at transitioning the reigns to the next generation.
Here are three important questions to ponder for any leader who wants to successfully pass the leadership baton.
The most important part of leadership transitions, and the most ignored, is defining exactly what the baton is. Much time and many books have been dedicated to baton-passing succession plans. Future leaders have been prepared and mentored. The next leaders are ready to receive the baton and run the race, but have we clearly defined which baton we are passing? Usually not.Here’s a quick description of the “baton” that current church and ministry leaders must pass to next generation leaders.
-The Gospel. Paul felt compelled to constantly remind people of the Gospel.
-Mission. It must be clearly written on the wall and on the heart.
-Values. Our daily guideline and plum line for all we do.
-Culture. Corporate culture is the result of consistent mission and values.
Leadership is a relay race, not an individual sprint. Therefore we can’t simply hand the baton to some random bystander. We must clearly identify the next runner. Not the expert baton critic. Not the baton scholar. Not the baton collector. Not the person who loves batons. We must identify the next RUNNER. Batons should only be passed to runners.
Timing can make or break a good succession plan. There are good times and bad times to pass the baton. I have always tried to pass leadership batons during times of upward momentum. That is probably why most of my leadership transitions have been successful. Momentum can cover a multitude of young leadership mistakes. Sometimes leadership batons have to be passed during down times. This difficult, but not impossible. If we get the who and the what right, then we can survive a less-than-perfect when.
I guess the last day of the year is as good as any other day to start blogging again. Another year has ended, and another is about to start. Now is the time to look back and thank God for a great year. In my opinion 2013 was one of the best years ever! Of course, I say that every year. And I mean it every year. Here are my top 10 highlights.
9. Ignite2013: Every Nation Campus Ministries Asia Conference. Nothing quite as loud or as exciting as a few days in a basketball arena with 7000+ students. Change the campus, change the world, and don’t forget to bring your earplugs. Seriously, Deborah and I always bring earplugs to Every Nation Campus Ministry conferences.
8. Asian Pastors Equipping Conference. Hosted by Every Nation Indonesia this year. APEC is always one of our favorite conferences of the year. We get to do life and ministry with amazing leaders who have become life-long friends.
7. Finished 100 Years From Now book. The best part of writing a book is when the final edited manuscript is in your hands. The final edit does not mean all the mistakes are corrected, it just means you don’t have any more time or energy for the project. (above)
6. No More Tuition Payments! In May Jonathan graduated from Belmont University. In June we received our first fund-raising letter from Belmont. Did they really think I would send them a donation after all the money I paid them the past four years?
5. Father, Son (& Friends) Motorcycle trips. Every mile on two wheels is an adventure, but my best ride of 2013 was Manila to Banaue to Sagada to Baguio to Manila. Get your motor runnin, Head out on the highway, Lookin’ for adventure, And whatever comes our way…
4. EN2013: Every Nation World Conference. If you have never experienced an Every Nation World Conference, think big family reunion meets mission conference. Special guests included Wayne Alcorn and Mickey Mouse (below).
3. Traveling the world with my best friend. Six trans-Pacific Nashville to Manila trips, plus Taipei, Singapore, Denpasar, Jakarta, Orlando, Jacksonville, Calgary, Toronto,… I average over 150,000 miles a year on Delta Airlines. I am glad I get to do most of those miles with Deborah. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do this job alone.
2. MoJo wedding. Do you believe in love at second sight? They didn’t exactly like each other when Moriah’s parents were missionaries in the Philippines and they carpooled together to Faith Academy. Then her family moved back to Detroit. We stayed in Manila. They met again in Nashville ten years later when 18-year-old Moriah was checking out Belmont University. It was love at second sight. Three semesters later, in February Jonathan proposed. Moriah said yes. In June I had the honor of officiating their wedding. Welcome to the family, Moriah!
1. Best Christmas gift ever! Josephine Kate Murrell, our first grandchild. Life does not get any better than this.
(Note: Jo is the daughter of William and Rachel who have been married for 18 months, not Jonathan and Moriah who have been married six months.)