Monday, April 29, 2013

How do we judge spiritual maturity?

I've talked about this with a few you, but it keeps running through my head so I thought it was worth posting.

How do we judge spiritual maturity?  Here are two ways that aren't so good, followed by a better way.

Knowledge-based maturity.  This is the idea that the more you know about Jesus, God and the Bible, the more spiritually mature you are.  What's the problem with it?  James 2:19 tells us that even Demons believe in God.  First Corinthians 8:1 reminds us that knowledge makes us feel important, but love is what actual strengthens the church.  Knowledge-based maturity is everywhere in American Christianity.  The point of most teachings and sermons is to get you to know something you didn't, with the hope that you'll understand it, therefore making you more mature.  There's a thread of truth here, because we are called to know and understand our great God, but if it only stops with mental knowledge then we've missed the point.

Service-based maturity.  This one is sneaky.  It says the more you serve both in and and outside of the church, the more spiritually mature you are.  The problem is that you can serve with poor motives.  You can serve well in one are of your life and ignore some major sin issues in other areas.  (Does it matter how faithfully you usher every Sunday morning if you don't love your wife as God calls you to?)  Again, the truth is that God often calls us to sacrificial service of others, but the point is not the service as much as it is obeying God's call.  (oops, tipped my hand.)

Obedience-based maturity.  Answer this: What has God called you to do and are you doing it?  God might be calling you to learn more and He might be calling you to serve more, but the point is obeying God's call.  Who are Jesus' friends?  Those who do what he commands (John 15:14).

What's the point?  I alluded to it earlier.  Most everything in American Christianity misses obedience-based maturity.  When's the last time you were asked (after any sort of workshop or sermon or teaching): What are you going to do with what you learned?  Even better, when was their follow-up to see if you actually kept your word?

Mature disciples obey Jesus.  Looks like we all have a long way to go.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

PLP: Follow Up

Last in a fundraising series based on my book: Partner Like Paul.

Step 1: Start with the Bible
Step 2: Who?
Step 3: 1st Contact
Step 4: The Ask

Step 5: Follow Up
Messages have been sent.  Asks have been made. Your fundraising work is done right?
Not quite.  Not-at-all actually.  Here are some oh-so-important steps to keep in mind.

Prayer: First of all, thank God for those who are supporting you through prayer and finances.  But second, find out how you can pray for those people.  This is where fundraising can be shown to be more than just a one way cash grab.  If you really care for the relationships you asked for help, you'll show it.

Thanks: This is so simple, yet so important.  Thank those that are supporting you, specifically and directly.

Update: Provide updates to God's work.  If this was a short-term trip or a one-time fundraiser, those who supported you deserve to know how it went.  If you're fundraising for the long-haul, keeping them updated about God at work in your ministry is one of the best ways to keep them giving to your ministry.  The frequency of your updates really depends on you, but as a general rule the more often you update partners, the better.

Ask Again?  IF you need more financial support, clearly explain what and why in one of your ongoing updates.  If God has provided for your needs, let your partners know that!  You'll gain their trust by letting them know when you're needs have been met.

That's it! Find the whole book at: partnerlikepaul.pheaney.com

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ways we should be more like Kelton...

It's been crazy to me how many of my family members have had birthdays fall on a Monday or a Thursday recently.  In keeping with the tradition, our youngest Lindell, Kelton, turns one today.

Can we learn something from a one-year old?  I'm thinking we can.  Here are a couple things that jump to mind:

Don't limit yourself.  Kelton is an expert at using anything and everything as a toy.  He certainly doesn't limit himself to the box of 'one-year old items' that we put in front of him to entertain him.  Once he's experienced those he moves on to whatever he can get his hands on.

Enjoy a hug with the ones you love.  We have a family tradition of praying before our day starts, and then ending in a big group hug.  He enjoys the hug so much that he literally jumps out of our arms to get it started. We should all enjoy our family that much.

Whatever age you may be, live and love well today.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

PLP: The Ask

Fourth in a fundraising series based on my book: Partner Like Paul.

Step 1: Start with the Bible
Step 2: Who?
Step 3: 1st Contact

Step 4: The Ask
Alright... if you've gotten this far there's no turning back now.  Here are some areas to consider when asking for financial support:

Prayer:  Is this getting redundant?  Too bad, you (and I) really should pray more.  I am continually amazed at how God provides for very real needs when we take the time to pray.  In this situation, the need is a certain amount of funds that need to be raised.  Pray that God will use his people to provide that.

Method:  How did people respond when you made your 1st Contact?  Do you feel that the method you chose then was effective to get your message out?  Consider those questions as you choose what method you would use to communicate now.  Most people choose a paper letter here, and there's nothing wrong with that.  This is just a call to think critically and see if there are other methods that may be more effective.

Message: Here's what you need to include in that message.
- A story of God working in what you're doing.
- A picture (or two or three). They can be of you or your ministry in action or the people you are serving. But please, put in a picture!
- An ask for prayer. Nearly every 'support letter' has one of these, but sometimes they don't feel genuine.  They feel like "Here's my token ask for prayer so I can ask for the real thing..  MONEY" sort of asks.  How do you avoid that?  I think the best way is to get them signed up for a prayer team that you can update regularly.  That is at least one way to prove you are serious about wanting them to pray.
 - An ask for financial support.  This was the whole reason you started on this fundraising journey in the first place.  So go ahead and ask.  Give them a clear and easy way to respond.  But Ask.

The next step is Follow Up, but if you can't wait until then, find my book at: partnerlikepaul.pheaney.com

Monday, April 15, 2013

A dedication worth remembering

I don't normally pay much attention to the dedications found in front of books.  But in a recent book we were reading to our kids, I came across this one:

To Peter,
who makes the thoughts clearer,
the words truer,
the moments richer

Obviously the name caught my eye.  Beyond that, what a challenge for how you live!  I'd love to be known as a person who does those things for anyone I'm around.

I'll let you steal this challenge as well, even if your name isn't Peter.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

PLP: 1st Contact

Third in a fundraising series based on my book: Partner Like Paul.

Step 1: Start with the Bible
Step 2: Who?

Step 3: 1st Contact
Your fundraising strategy now comes around to getting in touch with the list of relationships you've brainstormed.

Prayer:  Really.  Pray for this initial interaction.  Pray that the people you're reaching out to will be 'all ears'.  Pray that God could open their hearts to hear from you about the work he is doing.

Methods: There are so many communication methods out there today.  Which is the most effective method (or methods) for you to use?  Most people assume that sending a paper letter through the postal service is the most effective way to get your message read.  It might be (and I'm not saying that it isn't.)  But this step requires some critical thinking about the type of people you're contacting, how much time you have to contact them, how you want them to respond, etc.

Message:  Whatever correspondence you choose, there are a few things you want to make sure you include in this message:  a) Your description of God at work in what you're doing (from step 2).  b) A short explanation of the financial need. c) A way for the receiver of the message to respond.  Give them the opportunity to opt-in, opt-out, or something.

The next step is The Ask (and could be combined with this step), but if you can't wait until then, find my book at: partnerlikepaul.pheaney.com

Monday, April 8, 2013

A lesson from the Kings of Judah

King Asa: He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 15:11).  He did not remove the high places that the people used for worship (1 Kings 15:14).  At the end of his reign he was "diseased in his feet" (1 Kings 15:23).

King Jehoshaphat: He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 22:43)  He did not remove the high places that the people used for worship (1 Kings 22:43).  At the end of his reign he had a whole fleet of ships destroyed (2 Chronicles 20:35-37).

King Joash (or Jehoash): He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 12:2)  He did not remove the high places that the people used for worship (2 Kings 12:3).  At the end of his reign he was murdered (2 Kings 12:19-20).

Side Note: High Places were where the people of Israel worshiped false Gods.  God had commanded they all be destroyed (Deuteronomy 12)

King Amaziah: He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 14:3)  He did not remove the high places that the people used for worship (2 Kings 14:4).  At the end of his reign he was taken captive in battle (2 Kings 14:11-14).


King Uzziah (or Azariah): He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 15:3)  He did not remove the high places that the people used for worship (2 Kings 15:4).  At the end of his reign he was struck with leprosy (2 Kings 14:11-14).

King Jotham: He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 15:34)  He did not remove the high places that the people used for worship (2 Kings 15:35).  At the end of his reign he was in a war with two enemy kings allied against him (2 Kings 15:37).

Feel free to check my work on this, but the pattern here is nearly undeniable.  My takeaway:

Doing what is right on your own but not having any regard for the people around you and how they are following God leaves a lot to be desired.

King Hezekiah: He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 18:3)  He did remove the high places that the people used for worship (2 Kings 18:4).  At the end of his reign he was given 15 extra years to live and reign (2 Kings 20:6).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

BOOR April 2012: A Dangerous Book

Here is my Best Of Online Reading from April of lat year.  Steve Addison posted it on his blog, but since he took it from somewhere else, I figured I would repost the whole thing as well.  Careful reading, it might be convicting!

Kierkegaard on the risk we take when we allow ordinary people to gather around the Scriptures and ask, “How can we obey what we are learning?”
The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.
Take any word in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. ‘My God,’ you will say, ‘if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?’ Here in lies the real place of Christian scholarship.
Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.
Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations, 201.

Monday, April 1, 2013

PLP: Who?

Step 1: Start with the Bible

Step 2: Who?
When it comes to a Biblical fundraising strategy, who do we start with?

Pray: We start with God!  Quick story: A few years back I was praying that God would show me who I should ask about donating to my support.  I had been regularly seeking God with this request for a few weeks.  Then, one Sunday a couple at my church approached me and asked me for permission to give to my support.  It was hilarious, ironic and so like God!  (This same story has happened multiple times to me.)  So... Pray!

Brainstorm:  This might be the tedious part of the job, but whenever you fundraise you need to sit down and come up with a list of contacts relationships.  There's two things you need to keep in mind with these relationships:
1) You need to actually have a relationship with them.
2) You could see them potentially having an interest in God's work.

The last section in this step is writing an answer to this question: How is God working in what he has called me to do and called me to raise money for?  If you can explain that in a short paragraph, you're already well on your way to communicating with the list of relationships you just brainstormed.

The next step is 1st Contact, but if you can't wait until then, find my book at: partnerlikepaul.pheaney.com