Lukewarm Water/B4T’ers

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:15-22

In ancient Roman times there was a hot spring near Hierapolis, whose water channeled its way slowly to the people of Laodicea. By the time it made it to Laodicea, the water was too cool to heat and too warm to refresh. It was lukewarm water, and Jesus said he would vomit (Greek word is stronger than our English “spit”) the people of the church of Laodicea out of his mouth. He couldn’t stomach their self-sufficiency (vv.17-18).

Yes Jesus is a God-man of incredible grace. He follows up His critique with v. 19 – “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” I believe sincerely that it is best we try to see ourselves in these critiques rather than others (Matthew 7:3-5). Behold, Jesus stands at the door and knocks. For us luke-warm B4T’ers, those who have tried to be sufficient without Jesus, those who have mixed a bit too much with the world around us, Jesus promises to come in and dine with us. All we must do is be zealous and repent (end of v.19).

So let’s repent. Repent of our self-sufficiency; repent of our depending on wealth – and let’s buy gold refined by fire (Jesus)!

Integrity

I recently came across the following Warren Buffet quote and thought I should try to find a way to write something about it, just for the sake of exposure to the quote itself.

We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.” – Warren Buffett

Mr. Buffett is really on to something here. When adding to your board of directors, when hiring a manager, or when hiring an employee of any kind, without integrity the foundation of your organization will collapse. A few weeks ago I wrote about corporate governance and the necessity of hiring to your values. Our Kingdom – the Kingdom of God – is one of transformation. Jesus made His hiring priorities clear: he hired incompetent people who He knew would be transformed into world changers (with the purposeful exception of Judas). Competence is very important, but integrity is more. Competence can be trained and gained, but integrity is much harder to work without. Because our Kingdom is transformational, it is the trust factor that is so important. God will do His incredible work in us and will make things happen around us, even when we don’t have the competencies required.

Let me finish by clarifying: competence is critical to success. But what often happens is we find incredible competence we feel we cannot do without and forget the value of integrity. By adding the perpetrators behind the Enron scandal to your organization, you will get an incredibly innovative and entrepreneurial group of people who will awe you with their creativity and productivity, but eventually the “value” they created will be found out for what it really was the whole time and the company will collapse under the weight of its falsities.

Find both: integrity and competence. But where you must exchange a little of one for a little of the other, take the increased integrity and train for competence. Of course, ideally, you will not have to choose!

Overcome

“You are not defined by your suffering. Yes, you must work so that your travail doesn’t become your identity. The things you suffer are powerful, life-shaping experiences, but they do not define you.” Paul Tripp

B4T’ers suffer a lot. Life on the field is not easy, but it is very easy to allow our suffering to define us. I can relate from a semi-serious medical illness I once suffered (and may never fully recover from). After about 6 months of suffering, I began to describe my situation to people in a permanent way rather than a “I’m not feeling well currently” sort of description. I began to let it give me my identity. I was a “sufferer.” Yet, our suffering doesn’t have to create despair in us. No, it will only do this if we forget who we are in Christ Jesus. Allow me to give you another quote from Paul Tripp’s excellent book, Suffering.

“Suffering has the power not only to renew tour hope but to transform it. Suffering can give you a strength unrelated to your gifts, health, power, or position….Suffering can bless you with a joy that’s independent of life being easy and people liking you.” – Paul Tripp

Ironically, suffering can relieve us from symptoms of another disease common to every man: selfishness. By transforming our hope from things of this world into the uncreated Creator, we will receive a new strength that is both outside of and more powerful than strength that is related to our natural gifting. When our health fails us, we are relieved from the false hope that we were able to accomplish His purposes for our lives because we were healthy. When we lose our position, we are freed from the lie that it is our position at work or in society that allows us to accomplish His will.

When you fall ill, lose your job, get kicked out of your country, or have a serious financial setback, don’t just seek answers – seek God. With His help, you will overcome.

The one who overcomes, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. – Revelation 3:21

Relying on Your Dreams For Your Calling

So many people wait to do something for the Kingdom of God until they hear those magic words from God on their calling in life. We have discussed some of the dangers in this type of thinking over the last several months. Here is an additional thought from Jude:

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

Jude tells us here that there are those who rely on their dreams. What he is talking about is people who claim their subjective experiences are from God and thus they create their own life plan with a stamp of confidence from above. However, subjective experiences should supplement what the Word of God says, rather than be the whole answer. If you read the Bible, you will receive a clear calling from the Lord through His words (general though it may be). No one who is healthy relies on vitamin supplements for their full nutrition, but rather eats their fruits and vegetables and may make up for a small portion with a few Vitamin B,C,D, etc. tablets.

The issue that Jude is working through here is that the human heart is desperately wicked and is not to be trusted (he is only echoing Solomon and then Jesus here). If we rely on our subjective experiences for what to do with our lives, our hearts will guide us into a comfortable, pat-myself-on-the-back, anything goes existence. Jude calls these type of people,

hidden reefs[e] at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

A hidden reef is particularly dangerous, because it will sink a ship without ever being seen. We don’t want to be waterless clouds, promising desperately needed rain but never actually providing it. We don’t want to be swept along by winds; we don’t want to be fruitless trees; we don’t want to be wild waves or wandering stars. All of these terms for people have in common that there is no central guiding truth or anchor in their lives. Look to the Bible first for your calling.

Dreams tend to be about things we have already been pondering. When your thinking is thoroughly biblical, your dreams will likely be so as well. Only then will they point you in the right direction.

Calling & B4T

Recently I wrote about calling in terms of its sufficiency for getting us through difficult times and into productive church-planting work. I would like to take the question from another angle now: is calling even necessary? For the sake of clarity, I will define calling here as a direct word from the Lord to do something specific, rather than a general burning desire to do something that makes His Name famous.

Let me preface this by saying that some people, perhaps even many people, are called to do something in particular. There is no sense in giving a percentage here, as any specific calling is up to the Living God. However, in the social media age when someone is called it can become common quickly for everyone to feel as though they need a calling to do anything at all. Allow me to give but one (of many) scriptural examples of great consequence where there was no calling to do anything. I won’t even mention Nehemiah here, who wielded incredible influence over the most powerful person on earth and rallied the troops to rebuild a wall around Jerusalem – all without a direct command from God to do so (but he certainly a burning desire to live rightly before his God).

The example I’ll use here is quite famous in itself – David.

26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” – 1 Samuel 17:26

32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” – 1 Sam 17:32

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  – 1 Sam 17:34-37

If you read these quotes from David, you will see a deep sense of anger and an intense desire to do something. David couldn’t stand the thought of some human, however large he was, calling into question the power of God. He couldn’t stand the thought of God’s glory being missed because of a comparatively puny trouble maker. Therefore, he volunteered to do something about it. The rest is history.

This is really an Old Testament version of the point I’m wanting to make here. In the New Testament times we live in, we see least reached people groups around the world dying with no knowledge of the God who loves them and came in person to save them. Even with no sense of calling, one should feel the same anger as David (an anger that would drive us to empathy for people rather than hatred of people) and get up to go work with the Lord on reaching those who He has generally called the entire Church to reach. In this context, no specific calling is needed. Where is there a need? Where are there no workers? Go there! Should everyone go? No, that would be madness. But does someone need to go? Absolutely. We need a new generation of B4T’ers to rise up without needing to hear directly from God before they begin to obey what He has already generally called us all to participate in – the Great Commission, the finishing of which will bring Jesus back for His church.

What are you waiting for?!?

Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is not a topic typically associated with B4T. However, accountability is. For this reason, we should make sure we understand corporate governance in context and ensure appropriate accountability over our B4Ts. In general, governance is a major issue because the world is fallen. Throughout history every king, wealthy land owner, and household has struggled to ensure that their subjects, workers, and servants kept their masters’ values while stewarding their resources. Enter the company. Shareholders typically elect a board of directors to govern the company and ensure the mission, vision, values, and strategy are kept. Let’s dig in a bit to the details on the history of corporate governance and put our current thinking in some context.

There have been several past eras of corporate governance. Pre-1920 data is sparse, but further, most companies were family owned and thus were governed by one or a few people. From 1920 – 1985, managers tended to govern the corporation. During this era the interests of managers sometimes differed from the interest of the owners of the company, and conflicts of interest often arose. From 1985-2005, companies were governed by passive shareholders (i.e. the Board maintained control and shareholders tended not to interfere a great deal in the affairs of the corporation). This was also quite dangerous, because with many shareholders of little interest each, none tended to be powerful enough to force change on wayward management. From 2005 – present, and more prominently in the past 7-10 years, we live in a new era of hedge-fund activism. This new generation of corporate raiders take companies by storm due to some perceived inefficiencies or fat that needs to be trimmed. Power is more concentrated in the hands of a few, which could be a really good thing if they are trustworthy individuals being held accountable and in touch with the mission of God. However, it is often a bad thing, and in the case of 3G Capital from the recent headlines one can see the danger this poses to a corporation.

The issue here is that companies are being run by large-block shareholders and all minority interests are pushed to the side. The main objective is for some of the richest people on the planet to get richer by exploiting inefficiencies in capitalism. In B4T we can never let this happen. When setting up a board of directors, one must think critically about their values and ensure any shareholder holds the same values dear. We cannot give up control or power of our companies to those without a double, triple or quadruple bottom-line focus (depending on your B4T’s mission).

Jesus said it best: we cannot serve both God and money. If those whose primary interest is money begin to govern our companies, we will slowly lose our way (or sometimes quickly) and the B4T movement will die a slow and painful death. As B4T investing becomes more popular, head this warning and give equity stakes / board positions only to those who share your values.

Loneliness on the Field

I’ve often reflected on how much more lonely I am on the field. I used to have a great deal of close friends (in a sense, I still do – I just only see them once every year or two). “Life on life” is not a 100% money-back guarantee on the field. In fact, one of the hardest things I’ve had to give up is being understood.

My local friends don’t fully understand me. Missionaries don’t understand me. Many B4T’ers don’t understand me. Because of this, it struck me in fresh light as I recently studied Paul’s relationship with God how misunderstood he was. Take Acts 21, for example. Paul had prophets warn him not to go to Jerusalem in Acts 20 and he ignored their warnings. When he finally made it to Jerusalem, he gave a report of how God had used him among the Gentiles.

20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. – Acts 21:20-21

Paul was a Pharisee who gave his life to Jesus and never looked back. He became a very misunderstood Pharisee. Verses 27-36 describe a rather large crowd of Jews angrily shouting accusations that he no longer values the law of Moses and he had been preaching this or that (some of which wasn’t true and some of which wasn’t in context). It must have been particularly painful that he wasn’t hauled off because of his love for Jesus but because of misunderstandings on perceived positions of various Mosaic laws.

In the end, Paul was never understood. Pharisees thought he was a traitor. Jews thought he was a traitor. Followers of Jesus often thought he had gone rogue. Following God’s path for you is not a good way to be understood. It’s better to settle with ourselves that we will often be misunderstood for the sake of His Name. I believe in trying to state our case so as to be understood by those close to us, but only insofar as we seek to bring reconciliation and move forward the kingdom of God in this world.

Being misunderstood contributes to a great sense of loneliness that many of us feel on the field. Let us have faith that His grace will be sufficient for our psyches.