Ministry Standard 4: Humility

We have looked at the practice of being approachable, responsible, and empathetic. Let's look at the fourth standard: Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PM

4. HUMBLEAlso a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:24-27).

As leaders, we serve with humility in every situation as the Lord directs. We do not focus on titles or hierarchy, and we submit to authority and one another in the will and purpose of God.  We are careful to prefer one another in love and to make our gifts, experience, and time available to others whenever they are needed.

Service is a means through which leaders stay grounded even though they sometimes are public figures through teaching the pulpit ministry. The kind of service we exhibit must meet practical needs and equips the saints for the work of their ministry:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

 


Ministry Standard 3: Empathetic

Let's take a look at the third ministry standard of value that I used to guide my efforts when I was on a church staff and today as Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PMI coach, mentor, and write:

3. EMPATHETIC – We seek first to understand and then to be understood. That requires that we are good and effective listeners, as the Bible commands: My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). 

Sympathy is the act of having compassion for someone when we are confronted with the reality of their situation. Empathy is identifying with how they feel before they tell us! This is represented in the story of the woman who touched Jesus and was healed:

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it (Mark 5:30-32).

Jesus sensed someone's need even though there were many others around Him. We want to have that kind of sensitivity to the people God has assigned to our care.

We also take the time to ask good questions that draw people out and then give accurate summaries of what we heard so they know they have been heard when they have an encounter or meeting with us. We are always, however, seeking to direct them to the Lord and His purpose for their lives and/or current situation.

In other words, I want to feel what people are feeling before they tell me so I can initiate ministry even if they are hesitant to ask for it. Let it be, Lord Jesus.


Ministry Standard 2: Responsive

The second ministry standard I had for myself and my team is:

2. RESPONSIVE It's important that we become “quick responders.” There's nothing our senior pastor dislikes more Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PMthan to hear that one of us did not respond to a request, a new volunteer, or a cry for help. When the cry for help or assistance comes, we need to interrupt what we are doing to heed the call.

In Mark 5:21-34, we see two instances of Jesus responding immediately. First, there was a man named Jairus whose daughter was dying.  Jesus left immediately to go to his house. Finding her dead, he raised her back to life. Before he got to the daughter, however, there was the woman who was healed immediately when she touched the hem of His garment. Jesus told her to go in peace and be freed from her suffering. He did not make her wait until He was finished with His other task; He ministered to her need there on the spot. Though we usually can't heal or resurrect like Jesus did, we can respond to the needs that confront us regularly. When we say we are going to do something, we keep our word. When there are needs, we respond. Our responsiveness may decide whether or not an individual or family puts their trust in God and His people. 


Ministry Standard 1: Approachable

During my last position on a church staff (2009-2014), I spelled out what people, staff, and members, could expect from me and Screen Shot 2022-02-16 at 8.36.40 PMmy team. I thought it important that I put forth some standards by which I and we could be evaluated by those who were the recipients of our care and service. I came up with eight standards and I thought I would share them now in the hopes that others in ministry will see them and adopt the practicealthough the standards should and will vary from individual to individual and team to team. Here is my first standard which are presented and ranked in their order of priority for me:

  1. APPROACHABLE "Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:13-14).

The disciples tried to prevent the children from coming to Jesus. Jesus, however, said in so many words, “Hey, this is why I’m here. For people to touch me.” At times, working in an office, talking on the phone, or other day-to-day tasks become more urgent than the people Jesus sent us to serve. We need to be like Jesus and communicate, “I’m here for you” no matter how busy or tired we are.

Perhaps another word I could have used here is "accessible." I never wanted a secretary, usher, or "armor-bearer" to stand between me and the people I was sent to serve. Therefore, my door was always open, I shook a lot of hands when the church doors were open for services, and I had many one-on-one appointments with those who wanted to see me and "touch" a pastor. This value or ministry standard is also the reason I am on social media all day every day. There I can stay in "touch" with my flock, and I use the term loosely, all over the world. In the next post, we will look at the second standard which is "responsive," but ministry effectiveness starts for me by being available or accessible to the people.


Tell 'Em

I've taught several classes on preaching over the course of my career and I'm fond of a maxim I didn't invent but have used Screen Shot 2022-02-14 at 3.33.59 PMagain and again. It goes something like this:

  • Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em.
  • Tell 'em.
  • Then tell 'em what you told 'em.

This is the reason I start every one of my preached messages with a "point to remember" on which I "hang" the rest of my message. When I'm writing, I try to have a purpose statement of the book's theme and evaluate all the chapters and content against that statement. Here's how this simple trilogy of phrases can help you in your teaching or writing or speaking.

  1. Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em. If you can't summarize what you're about to communicate in a clear and concise manner, your communication will be garbled or disjointed. This plays out in a book by making a clear statement in the introduction of who you are and what the reader can expect to learn in the coming pages.
  2. Tell 'em. Once you spell out a general outline of your content, then produce the goods and fulfill your promise of what you said you would deliver. Don't be in a hurry and don't assume your reader/listener knows what you're presenting. Be thorough and deliberate and it's not about your style, but how your style contributes to delivering your content.
  3. Tell 'em what you told 'em. Don't be afraid to repeat what you've presented. I urge writers to conclude their chapters with summary points along with questions to help the reader apply the material. If you're speaking, have a regular review of the points you've made. When writing or speaking, consider a clear conclusion at the end of your class, speech, or manuscript. By doing so, the reader will have no doubt as to the most important points you've made, those things you want them to take with them when you or they are finished.

Screen Shot 2022-02-14 at 3.34.33 PMRemember, the goal isn't for you to finish writing or speaking. The goal is some desired result in the minds or hearts of your readers or listeners. There's another saying that applies here and that's "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." It's not about you and what you did to communicate, but whether or not the listener or reader heard and comprehended what you meant to say or write. If you cook up a great message, but they can't "eat" or "consume" it, then you've failed. If you follow these three simple steps, however, you'll be considered an effective communicator even if you aren't the most dynamic writer or speaker in the world. And effectiveness and not "splash" is what good communication is all about.


Reviving Revelation

I have been asked many times during the pandemic (and before) if this is "the end," if the return of the Lord is imminent as proved by the signs of the times. Some have referred to the book of Revelation, which Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 7.49.59 PMcertainly seems to describe cataclysmic global events like we have recently witnessed. My answer is always the same, "I don't know if this is the end, but I am closer to my end than I have ever been." The truth is I don't know and no one else does either. All we can do is be faithful to this day and trust the Lord for tomorrow.

Years ago, I wrote a commentary on Revelation called The Revelation Project: A Fresh Look at the Last Book and then edited and re-released it as part of my Live the Word Commentary series. My perspective in both books flew in the face of most commonly held interpretations. I recently re-read the introduction to both books and thought it may be helpful if I shared it with you. My purpose is to continue my work to reclaim and revive the last book of the Bible from the zany and bizarre interpretations many hold that cause them to mistakenly examine current affairs under the light of Revelation's message. Here is what I had to say in my introduction.

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I suppose it's natural for us to think about the end of time and speculate concerning what will happen leading up to the end and beyond. Due to the popularity of fiction books that focus on the end times, along with the commonly held and taught positions on the meaning of the rapture, the millenium, and the antichrist, people study Revelation, along with Daniel, Ezekiel, and some parts of the gospel accounts. Many are looking for the beast, the dragon, and the meaning of the number 666, among other things mentioned in Revelation.

LiveTheWordRevelationYet as you start this commentary, I'm asking you to do something completely counterintuitive: Suspend any and all preconceived notions you have accumulated about Revelation, just for as long as you read this book. I don’t want you to think as a pre- or post-millenialist. If you tend more to be a preterist, futurist, historicist, or even an idealist (and if you aren't familiar with those four labels, please don't spend much time researching them), I want you to approach this book like you know nothing at all. If you don’t do that, then you will approach my book or a reading of Revelation looking for the familiar, consequently not seeing what else may be there. If you go looking for the antichrist, that's all you'll see. If you can go looking for the Christ, you may notice things you have not seen before.

That brings me to my main objective for writing this commentary and that is I want you to read  Revelation, approaching it as a devotional book. My reason for this is because that is how you approach, at least in part, the other 65 books of the Bible. You usually read those books asking, “What can I learn from this that will help me in my daily walk? What can I learn about God’s will for my life? What can I learn about the Lord Jesus that will enhance my worship and walk with Him?” 

Once you suspend your preconceived notions of what Revelation is or how you have interpreted it, here are some other guidelines I have set up as you work through the material, just so you know how I'm approaching this work:

    1. Revelation isn't a book primarily about the future. It's a book about the past. This doesn't mean there are no future aspects to Revelation. There most certainly are. Yet the other 65 books of the Bible primarily explain how God has worked among His people, culminating in the work of Christ on the cross. The Old Testament basically tells us that Christ is coming. The New Testament explains the implications for His finished work and Ascension to heaven. Revelation has much to tell us about Christ’s work just like the other books do.
    2. Revelation is a book about the Christ, not the Antichrist. Yes, Revelation does depict the work of forces that align themselves against the Lord and His Anointed One, but their actions are shown to be futile in light of God’s superior power and authority and the finished work of Christ on the cross. Focusing on the enemies of God has tended to magnify their power and actions. We are never to magnify the enemy, only God.
    3. Revelation had to mean something to the churches that initially received it. The New Testament was written to the Church in all ages, and Revelation is no exception. The gospel of Matthew has meaning for us today, but it also meant something to those for whom it was first writtenthe Jews of the first century. If we can grasp and recapture some of what Revelation could have meant to the early church, then we will have a clearer understanding of what it says to us today. 
    4. Revelation is also called the Apocalypse because it's a book that utilizes apocalyptic language and images. The word apocalypse literally means unveiling. It was a genre of literature that was well-known to the early church, but almost a complete mystery to us today. There were specific rules of interpretation for apocalyptic literature then, just like there are for satire and science fiction today. You approach those latter types of literature with certain expectations and rules for interpretation. You must do the same as you read Revelation. Much of Revelation employs graphic and exaggerated symbols and metaphors, intended to give a general “bird’s eye view” of the work of Christ as He rules until all His enemies are His footstool. Those metaphors aren't to be interpreted as literally as some have done. When Revelation wants us to know what something represents, it tells us. When it doesn't, be careful not to assign specific meanings that may even make some sense, but aren't supported by biblical evidence.
    5. Revelation wasn't intended to generate fear, but trust and confidence in God. If the other 65 books of the Bible were intended to teach reverence for God and confidence in His ability to protect His people, then why would Revelation be any different? Yet the Bible and Revelation do tell the sinnerthose who are apart from God and in open rebellionto fear. He will not remain silent or inactive forever but will eventually judge His enemies, both in this Age and at the Final Judgment. If anyone should fear when reading Revelation, it's not God’s people but those who do not know Him. Of course, they are not reading it and our depictions of it do little to draw them to Christ.

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There you have my basic approach to the reading, study, and interpretation of Revelation. It is a book of victory, not of defeat, and I resent just a little those who have made it be something else. It matters what you believe about the end for that will direct how you live. I want to live as one who exalts daily in the truth that Jesus has taken on, and will continue to do so, all comers and is still winner and champion. Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Hiding in the Baggage

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking in the Sunday service at The Summit Church in Hackensack, New Jersey. The title of Screen Shot 2022-02-12 at 8.09.30 AMmy message was "Hiding in the Baggage," which focused on Saul's reluctance to be the king even though he had multiple supernatural confirmations that this was the will of God. My point to remember was that "hearing from the Lord is no guarantee that you will do the will of God." I mainly look at verses in 1 Samuel 10. I am attaching my PowerPoint slides if you would be interested in going over the main points of my message.

Download TheSummit2-6-22


New York City

I first went through New York City on my way to prep school in Connecticut when I was 14 years old. I had been raised in a city, Screen Shot 2022-02-11 at 7.52.45 AMbut New York was nothing like my city. It was sprawling, and scary, and unforgiving, and exhilarating, and overwhelmingand I loved it all! I passed through regularly for the next four years and then found myself as an adult having business there from time to time. When my children turned 16, their reward was a trip with me to, where else?, New York and both of them lived there for a period of time as adults.

I just returned from staying in the city with my wife to assist her at a jewelry show at which she was displaying her art (check out her Metalace creations heremaybe even order something). We were in the city six nights, having driven the six hours from our home to set up shop and stay near Times Square. One night I went to a show (Moulin Rouge); every night we ate out; on Sunday, I drove over to New Jersey to preach. I had a few meetings of my own in the city.

My point in sharing this is that now we're home and I'm energized and ready to dive back into my work and that includes 17 book projects for people and four of my own. I couldn't afford to take the time off but I chose to do so, first to help my wife and then to be refreshed in a city that wears others down. What energizes you? What can you do that gives you joy and charges your batteries? If you want to do, write, paint, lecture on, or create interesting things, you must do interesting things that feed your soul and challenge your mind.

I'm not suggesting you go to New York although if it contributes to your well-being and creative energy, then by all means, go. You are the instrument that God uses to touch the world and extend His kingdom and anything you can do that will enhance your ability to do so is a good thing. Travel is one such thing for me, and by the way, we are going back in August for another show. I have put it on my calendar and look forward to a summer version of New York. By then, I'm sure I will need the boost.


Thank You Notes from Kenya

I received this nice thank you from one of our partners this week. We were able to sponsor another orphan to go to school through the brick making business we started a few years ago. THANK YOU, LORD and THANK YOU DONORS!
 
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Dr J,
 
God bless you so much for making good things happen here.
 
The three students are now in their new school and I want to thank you for that. This term will end on the 30 the September and the IMG-20210805-WA0004 2nd term starts in October. So school fees will need to be paid again in October. I will be updating you every term and any other time about their progress.
 
We received Ksh. 26000 ($260) from the sale of bricks (we helped them start a brick making company a few years ago) and we have paid part of Penina's (pictured here; the folded mat is her bedding) school fees to also join high school. Penina's mother is a widow and couldn't afford to pay for her. She has been a student and sat for her national exams here together with the 3 orphans.
 
I made the decision to do so after I realized that she was not able to join high school. I will help her with money from the bricks. Say thanks to the brick's machine donors.
 
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And here is a thank you for the three students mentioned above:
 
Dr J,
 
IMG-20210802-WA0010The three children were official admitted in high school where they have started the four year academic race. You have challenged me in a big way by raising the money for the whole course. I trust God that the students will perform well and find their stable foundation to better future. I will keep you posted regularly.
 
Please let those who participated in the fundraising know that they did so for the least in society and that this is like a mustard seed. On behalf of the orphans and the Dr. Stanko Academy, I want to express our gratitude and say thanks to all of you who donated. IMG-20210802-WA0014
 
I have been trying to educate them but because of lack of resources most of them ended up dropping out of school. I thank God for using you to turn things around for good. It is my prayer that other orphans will find favor in eyes of God and complete their education. May God bless You, may you reap grace and may God be with the children.
I will forever be grateful for the help.
 
Keep knocking doors for help on behalf of the least and the lost in society.
 
Shalom.
Pastor Francis
 
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I get requests every week for help. If you would like to contribute, please use this link or send a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. THANK YOU for making all this possible.

A Theology of Social Media - Part 1

Social media and technology continue to represent an untapped opportunity for the Church to disseminate its message Screen Shot 2021-07-20 at 10.05.22 AMand disciple individuals. With that in mind, I am starting a series I call "A Theology of Technology" which will focus on excerpts from my book, Changing the Way We Do Church: 8 Steps to a Purposeful Reformation.

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Here is the definition of technology I use throughout my book :

Technology is a body of knowledge devoted to creating tools, processing actions, and the extracting of materials. The term ‘technology’ is wide, and everyone has their way of understanding its meaning. We use technology to accomplish various tasks in our daily lives, in brief; we can describe technology as products and processes used to simplify our daily lives. We use technology to extend our abilities, making people the most crucial part of any technological system.

We tend to think of anything that was developed in our lifetime as technology but are not as apt to apply the label to something that existed before we were born. For example, we usually don't think of our refrigerator as technology but it is. In church, we don't think of the video projection during services as technology but we do categorize the iPhone as technology (although my five-year-old granddaughter will grow up not to think of it as such). The point is that at one time ink, paper, the Roman road and sea travel system, and the ships that carried Paul's letters were new technological inventions that eventually were taken for granted.

Is there a theology of technology, if I can label it that, that extends even to the use of social media? I believe there is, so let me present my case. You be the judge if it’s valid. Let's start by looking at some verses that speak to the issue of technology and how it fits in with the Church and its mission. We begin with a sub-category of technology and that is the written word.

  1. “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them” – Deuteronomy 31:19.

God had Israel compose a song to remember, but in this case, the theme was to commemorate their unfaithfulness. We compose and write to help people remember God’s faithfulness, even when we are unfaithful to Him and His ways. The instruments we use to write, publish, broadcast, distribute, and watch all allow us to produce, store, and process what we or others write.

  1. “Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me” – Joshua 18:4.

God asked the scouts to submit a report of what they saw in writing. I am not sure why He required it in writing, but perhaps it was so they could keep the vision alive of what God had promised them. The same holds true for us. We write and broadcast what we see in faith, which may be something that cannot be yet seen except through the eyes of faith. Then once it happens, we can look back and see how God led us along the way and was faithful to His word and promises.

  1. As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it.” – Joshua 18:8

It's interesting that the people could write at this early stage of history. This would have represented an early form of technology using papyrus and ink to record words that could be read and understood by others. And why did they write? Presumably so others could read what the spies had seen.

  1. “Go now, write it on a tablet for them ,inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.” – Isaiah 30:8

We are not writing anything that compares to the inspired word of God, yet we should write down or send out what we believe God is showing us—about His word, His promises, our experiences, our creative interpretations of truth capable of communicating that truth and God’s beauty to others—all with a view toward providing a witness for future generations concerning God’s love and acts in every generation. Think of those who did this: John Wesley, St. Augustine, St. Thomas a Kempis, John Calvin, D. L. Moody, G. Campbell Morgan, and Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King Jr., just to name a few. Aren’t you glad that they didn’t simply rely on the spoken word but made the effort and invested the time to record what they heard and saw for us to consider  and learn from today? Shouldn't we do the same?

We have plenty more to consider but this will suffice for this first entry in our Theology of Technology series. Stay tuned, there's more coming!