Opinion. Observation. Application.
Monthly Archives: February 2015
Marceil and I have had a bunch of interesting experiences over the last few months of a traveling ministry since her retirement from Goshen Schools.
Most recently was a trip to Haiti to do some teacher training (Marceil) and pastor training (Me). We were set up to meet in two different places and ended up doing training in three spots—from the deep in the Southern part of Haiti and way to the North. (At one time I think we must have been 90 miles from Cuba)!
Likely, I will share some of the experiences as we are able to process them mentally/spiritually and fully recover physically. It was great to meet up with Pastor Tim Fisher and the team he led from Crossroads Church. They built both a School and a Church in the Hinche Region—raising the money to do so before leaving on the mission trip. Pastor Tim, our wives, and Marc Dume all have some interesting stories about some things we faced together in our travels—but there is one thing I wanted to share on this Tuesday morning that shows us that people are the same everywhere on the planet.
On a bright and warm Monday morning we were set up to do Pastor and Teacher training in the country side about an hour outside of Hinche, Haiti down a practically impassable rutted path.
We showed up and the Pastor took us to the old school that was used for years. It was a grass hut with a dirt floor. Pastor Tim and his Crossroads Team were finishing up the new school while Marceil and I did our training.
There was one particular guy who spoke a little English. He explained that he was a Pastor in Hinche. He then proceeded to take a chair at a table in the very front of the grass hut. The table was obviously set up for Marceil and me but this Pastor pulled up a chair to the table, sitting directly in front of all the Pastors and Teachers and started writing on a sheet of paper.
I was thinking it must be their custom to have someone sit prominently in the front and keep notes (or minutes) of a meeting.
The problem was with the Pastor sitting at the table writing profusely and not looking up; he wasn’t able to anticipate my movements or Marc Dume (our translator, road manager, security, and trip advisor) as we moved in front. He was flat out IN THE WAY. Marc Dume couldn’t move, I couldn’t move and the Pastor writing profusely didn’t look up.
Finally I shook the table a little to get his attention. Marc Dume translated to him that we needed to move the large table to the side. I apologized for any inconvenience to his “note taking” but it would work better to get the table out of the way. Marc Dume translated back to me what the Pastor said, “I’m not taking notes, and I’m writing you a thank you note.” I expressed through Marc Dume my appreciation for his note and for allowing us to move the table. (There is no reason to offend others in a culture you don’t understand, especially if you are there to help equip).
At this point we are about 15 minutes into a four hour event and we have successfully moved the table and the Pastor sitting at it. About two minutes later the Pastor’s cell phone rang (LOUD), he answers it—stands up while talking—walks in front of me—continues to talk out loud on the cell phone down the center aisle of the grass hut—out the back opening and walks away. He never comes back the rest of the day.
I didn’t think about the guy until the next day. We are on a seven hour drive in the back roads to Cap Haitian when I remembered about the Pastor’s “thank you” letter. I remarked to Marc Dume—“It happened the way I thought? First, this guy is the first guy to greet us and tell us all about himself. Second, he pulls a chair up in the table, distracting everyone in the hut. Third, when we move the table so we can move and he became less prominent in the room his cell phone rang. Fourth, he answered his cell phone, talked all the way out the back and never came back. Did I understand that right, Marc? He was there for 20 minutes of a four hour training?”
Marc Dume said, “That’s right—he gave the letter to the Pastor of the Church—and the Pastor gave it to me. The letter is in my bag!”
I wanted to know what the fuss was all about so Marc Dume read and translated the letter. Marc’s translation from Creole is: He did thank us for coming, and then launches out on the fact he started the Church we were helping (Crossroads Church built a school building and a church building with funds raised by the people of Crossroads)—AND he named four other Churches he had started. He then went on to say that it was him that needed the help financially. He then clearly asked us in his letter for $90,000 US dollars for himself.
I realized at that moment that no matter what country, culture, socio/economic status, race, or creed—people are the same. Here was a guy who liked to have prominence, making a case to us of his prominence and then trying to advance his own position.
The great thing about the teachings of Christ is they aren’t from the United States culture, or Haitian culture. The teaching of Christ is for all cultures.
When Jesus said—“Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me”—he was meaning something that transcends culture, history, or time. We DON’T need prominence—but we NEED to deny ourselves. We DON’T need luxury (although nice once in a while)—but we NEED to take up the cross. We DON’T need a “following”—but we NEED to follow!
People are the same where ever we go—BUT—Jesus calls us to be different!
Marc Royer Ph.D.
Because I am a “commuter walker” I developed a phrase I was using around Goshen, Indiana when Marceil was still working at the Goshen Schools Central Office. I called it the “view from the sidewalk.” I invoked the phrase when I would observe something while walking by on the sidewalk. Taking in life at 3 mph on a sidewalk gives a person a completely different view of things. Walking by on a sidewalk is vastly different from how something looks going by in a car, or from an office, or reading about it in a paper, or even hearing someone else’s opinion.
There is a certain reality check from the sidewalk view.
You see things from the sidewalk at 3 mph you don’t see if you are in the inside looking out. Ministry Leaders are notorious for being out of touch with people because they have been on the inside looking out for so long they don’t realize their entire vantage point is coming from a limited view. (Jesus addressed the “inside looking out” idea a number of times in observing the Pharisees).
Since the first of the year our travel schedule has been heavy. We have been able to observe Ministry Leadership in many different situations, contexts, and complexities in both national and international settings. I was processing our ministry settings through the “sidewalk view.”
There are dozens of things to share, but for this time I want to narrow it down to three things:
1. When looking at your ministry—(how you do ministry)—look at it through the sidewalk view of things. Look at your Church Service the way someone would look at it who was visiting for the very first time. Explain why you do what you do—don’t assume people know why you have “open altar” or an “altar call.” When you are new to a Church there are many things to acclimate yourself to. If you have been going to a Church for a long time, there are many things that occur that you have grown accustomed. Many things make people feel like they are on the outside looking in—or even: they are missing out on the “inside joke.” It is easy to look around and think: these are all “regular” people, they understand. BUT, if you want new people in your Church you have to prepare for new people. The most impactful way for your ministry to experience the growth of new people is to have a vision for new people coming to Christ. Look at every single thing the happens in your ministry as if you were experiencing your Church for the very first time.
2. People are about “THE EXPERIENCE” in our culture today. What are they experiencing in your Church? Is the “experience” a spiritual experience that gives them a way to encounter God? Sometimes (and I mean no offense) we work so hard on what we want people to “think” about our Church and the experience of our Church that we forget the main thing is for the experience of encountering Christ! My sidewalk view is that Ministry Leaders spend a lot of time wanting people to develop relationship with others and not enough time helping people develop a relationship with God.
3. URGENCY! Starting with Acts chapter one, Jesus instills a sense of urgency into the Christians mission/message. In Acts chapter two, the Church as we know it is born on the Day of Pentecost. Urgency has always been the fruit of an encounter with Christ. “To know Christ and make Him known…” is urgent! There are several troubling things I have noticed in my sidewalk view of things with regard to urgency. I sincerely want to be challenging and prophetic, not judgmental and condemning. Think about a couple of things I have noticed and apply what you can (and I will too)–disregard if it doesn’t apply:
FIRST–I am amazed at the amount of Ministry Leaders who believe the book of Revelation is allegory and not really events we will literally face. I challenge Christians every where to “lift up your heads, your redemption draws nigh..” The Prophetic events of the Book of Revelation are coming to pass right before our eyes. ISIS and the beheading of Christians is just the very beginning of the direction of things. I don’t challenge this strongly to scare people, but for us to have a reality check.
SECOND–I want to challenge Ministry Leaders to get the ownership issue of their lives settled. We always have a choice: everything either belongs to God or belongs to you. It perplexes me how Ministry Leaders can teach others to tithe by bringing their first fruits to God in worship, and yet NOT be doing it themselves! Some where along the way, we have lost our way. We have begun to believe that “giving” is the responsibility of those who can “afford” to–and not a walk of faith for all of us to give the first 10% of our increase to God.
THIRD–Urgency has been replaced by all kinds of distractions. Hebrews 12 reminds us to “cast off any sin or distraction” and set our focus on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith walk. Ministry Leaders get terribly distracted at times.
I invite (challenge) you to take a “sidewalk view” of your life and ministry.