Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Certainty---on the brink of disaster

Anthony will soon be traveling to Charlotte to meet with SIM leaders about TEN3. The news in many ways is not good; we set up to grow, but are shrinking. We have only three places we are working currently--Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zambia--and those each have their struggles. But we're hopeful that this meeting will help get us some more needed personnel and opportunities to move forward. In preparation, I am republishing TEN3's Orientation Guide, and came across this section, written years ago, that has turned out to be rather prophetic for this time:

Counting the cost, or the certainty of uncertainty

I [Dr. Petrillo] wonder if you ever get the impression I get when working with church mission committees or people taking an MBA? That impression is that if we work hard enough on our planning, we can figure everything out and have a business plan that will guarantee our success.

Oh, no, they would never say that. There is no guarantee to success unless you are lucky enough to publish a book that guarantees success. People will buy that by the millions. I am not questioning the fact that we should plan. The Lord makes that clear when he talks about the cost of discipleship.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, "This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish."

Luke 14:28-30

What I am questioning is something deeper down in our souls. Something that shows itself over and over in different ways in our lives.

We work in Africa where uncertainty is a part of life. But in America and much of the West, "uncertainty" is a foul word. We strive hard to take all uncertainty out of our lives. We have precision statistics in our factories so we can make parts for, say a jet, so we know the steel will be able to handle all the pressure and the jet will fly properly. We have car insurance, health insurance, house insurance, you name it and we insure against the uncertainties of life. Is this bad? No way. I'm so glad for the engineers that work extremely hard to give me the best chance that the jet I'm flying will remain in the air.

But, alas, that last sentence let the cat out of the bag. They are working on the chance I'll stay in the air, not the certainty that I will. Like some say, "The only certain things of life are death and taxes," and they are wrong about death, at least death eternal.

Yes, certainty is a real struggle and uncertainty is a reality. In general, Westerners do not really understand this, while Africans live it. Westerners education has been inadequate and purposely short-sighted, resulting in this inability to deal with uncertainty.

As I said, in general, Westerners do not understand uncertainty, and this prevents them from functioning well with African projects. Interestingly, it also hinders them from being good leaders. However, there are Westerners that understand this very well. Dan Allender explains it well when discussing crisis as one of the costs of being a leader:

Leading … is all about moving toward a goal while confronting significant obstacles with limited resources in the midst of uncertainty and with people who may or may not come through in a pinch. Leadership is about whether or not we will grow in maturity in the extremity of crisis.

Crisis is the eruption of chaos, the cloudburst that ruins the beautiful day. We want fair winds and a safe run from our port to the destination ahead. We may have secured a favorable weather report and prepared the boat for every possible problem, but as sure as the sun will rise, tides will change, and entropy happens, few of our plans will go as we design. There is no way to plan for all the contingencies or have all the knowledge we need to navigate the strange waters of life.

Crisis is not a bump in the pavement that causes us to hold the steering wheel more tightly; it is the wall that we hit while we're steering with everything we've got – and it leaves us wondering how we will survive. Crisis is a context for opportunity and growth, but it also takes us to the edge where some don't survive. . . Crises serve to remind us that we are fundamentally not in control. In reality, we are dependent on grace, on a host of people and circumstances that operate well beyond our control, and on the perspiration we have expended in trying to anticipate the unknown (an impossible feat in and of itself).

… We have adversaries who want not merely to replace us but to destroy us. We have enemies in high places who operate with powers and principalities that wish us hellish harm. We live in a disturbed universe that groans daily like a woman in childbirth, and we share the planet with people who at their best are still a mixture of glory and darkness. We all deal with a finite, fallen, unpredictable world that is bent on decay and moves inexorably toward a final, cataclysmic crisis. As leaders, we live on the edge of disaster each day. (Allender, Dan. Leading with a Limp. Waterbook Press, Colorado Springs)

I've added the emphasis. I almost left the last sentence out because it seems like Dan is a bit extreme, but is he? Do you really know what your next day or even your next hour will be like? No, we do not live in a world of certainty. We pretend we do, but it is just pretending so we do not become overwhelmed; we fear it will make us huge pessimists that do nothing.

That's just not good enough! That's a cop-out. It's a lie that our enemy has carefully sown into our media and educational system to destroy us. Jesus didn't come to leave us prisoners to the uncertainties of life. He came to free us ... Jesus is the certainty of life. If you are reading this, I'm telling you nothing new. And yet, it is new every morning. Each day we arise we must remind ourselves of this awesome Lord whom we know and serve, and come hell or high water we will not be separated from him, never! ...

So if you venture with us on this journey of seeing transformational education systems, be forewarned it will not go all as planned. Rather, join with us in being a Deo Volente (God Willing) organization, in which we plan the best we can, but ultimately trust the Lord for the final outcome, which will be growth in grace, wisdom and love and honour to the King of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Urgency or patience?

What's the place of urgency for the saint?

Urgency for Christians is often preached as a positive. For instance, the following story I've heard from the pulpit:

Satan was discussing with his demons how to dissuade Christians in their service advancing the Kingdom of Christ. They began offering suggestions:
"Tell them there's no God."
"No," replied Satan. "They won't buy that. They've seen too much evidence of his presence in their lives."
"Tell them Jesus never rose from the dead," another said.
"Just as bad. Besides the evidence from history and the martyrs, they see the evidence of it in the salvation God has already given them."
"Tell them there's no hurry."
"THAT'S what we need."

I think there is truth to that; we certainly lose our passion and opportunities through our tendency to procrastinate. And yet, I find also that I fall most readily into sin when I operate with a sense of urgency. I get tunnel vision, prioritizing the whatever must be done and thus ignoring the needs of those around me. Like just today when I lost my temper with my dog as I was trying to take the trash out to the dump. We've been working on teaching them not to run out in front of vehicles, but so far it's only associated with my Grand Prix, and I was using our new (to us) pickup. So both dogs were running to where I couldn't see them as I was backing out, and so after unsuccessfully trying to distract them with food and then inviting them to come with me, I decided to just shut them in the house. Well, since Diogenes knew I didn't want to let him out but I neglected to command him to "Stay," he bolted as I left. When I finally cornered him, I was harsh with him, even though the things I was upset with him about were the things I haven't put enough time in to teach him completely yet. He's very good about staying when I tell him to stay, so I should have remembered to tell him instead of assuming he would. And he hasn't had enough time to learn yet that NO car should be crossed paths with. But I was caught up too much in the task at hand to be patient enough to take a teaching opportunity. Terribly ironic for someone whose ministry is supposed to be teaching.

That made me very thankful that the Lord is "compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." He knows where we're at, when we know better and when we're still learning, and knows He will get His purposes done in spite of our weaknesses, and so is always patient enough to teach us.

Maybe that's part of why, even as we've seen the real urgency for our ministry increase in the last few years, seen Satan build up ways to trap people's minds, God has concurrently given me this sense of--hard to describe--helplessness? A realization that this task of growing transformational education in Africa is far too big for me or our small team to accomplish, that it will have to be His mighty work through our simple obedience. If I fell for the "have-to-get-it-done" drive I tend towards, I would probably lose patience with people and miss the real point of ministry, which is to grow us all into Christlikeness.

Lord, forgive me and change me. And thank You for my colleagues who exemplified that patient teaching for me.