Business as Missions in Japan

Map of Touhoku - North East JapanNext week I’ll be traveling to Japan for with a small team to provide business training and help with recovery efforts in Ishinomaki.  I plan to use this blog as a way to keep in touch with family and friends. Here is a link to a flier with an overview of our mission and team members. Your prayers for this work and our team would be greatly appreciated. I will try to post to this blog some stories and pictures of our experiences.

One of our team members is Pat Jones, my nephew, who is a senior undergrad student at the University of Washington in Seattle. This will be Pat’s first time to visit Japan, and I hope that he will enjoy the experience!

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Me, Pat and his Mom Elizabeth a couple of years ago in Seattle.

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Thoughts on Haggai

The book of Haggai is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament, but I find that it contains a powerful message for my life as a marketplace believer in contemporary society despite being written thousands of years from our present era.

Haggai was a prophet who spoke God’s words to the people of Israel 16 years after the return from exhile in Babylon. It contains very specific references allowing it to be dated during Sept. to Dec. in 520 BC. At this time, the nation of Israel was at an important junture. The returning exiles had prospered, leveraging their trading relationships in the Persian empire to build themselves luxury homes, and living well for that time. But God used Haggai to rebuke the people for not making the effort to complete the rebuilding of the temple:

  • Haggai 1:4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”

How may we apply these words today? First, despite our current economic worries, we need to recognize that contemporary American society is one of the most affluent both in the world today and which has ever existed in all of history. Today dual-income families, and even the working middle class, live in luxurious homes filled with gadgets that provide convenience and entertainment previous generations could hardly have imagined. Travel in private vehicles is easily available to most, and we can instantly communicate electronically worldwide at the touch of a button.

Yet these blessings of God have often become our masters — taking up way too much of our time from relationships with our families and friends, and encouraging excess debt to compete with “the Jones.” Even electronic devices can be misused to waste our lives with mindless entertainment or enslave our minds with sexual images or violent video games. Similar to our current economic and social confusion, as a consequence of the people’s misplaced priorities, Haggai told them that God was limiting their economic prosperity:

  • Haggai 1:6 You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

With our resources tied up to feed our excessive debt, giving by church-goers to the cause of Christ has declined to an average of less than 3 percent of income. In fact, the report “The State of Church Giving through 2009” (see Figure 1) noted:

Giving has not kept up with income… In 1916, Protestants were giving 2.9% of their incomes to their churches. In 1933, the depth of the Great Depression, it was 3.2%. In 1955, just after affluence began spreading through our culture, it was still 3.2%. By 2007, when Americans were over 582% richer, after taxes and inflation, than in the Great Depression, Protestants were giving 2.5% of their incomes to their churches.

As a consequence, churches often lack the resources to reach outside their own congregation or fund mercy ministries. Instead, church resources are mostly locked up in maintenance of their buildings and staff salaries. Without resources to convey biblical teaching to those outside the church, society is following the downward spiral outlined in Romans 1 — family structures degrade, and selfish greed becomes normative. What is the solution to this crisis? I suggest that Christian men and women in the marketplace need to be mobilized to provide both economic resources and courageous spiritual leadership.

Now, in our current era, we no longer have a physical temple to build, but a spiritual one. The founding Apostles of Jesus Christ, even before the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by a Roman army in 70 AD, saw the people of God as the true Temple that God was building. The Apostle Paul wrote:

  • Eph. 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

To address the resource deficiency of his day, Haggai called the people to rethink their priorities, and make the investments of time and resources necessary to complete the task:

  • Haggai 1:7-8 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord.

We would do well to heed Haggai’s word today. First, we need to revise our way of thinking about the purpose of our lives. The reason we work is to bring glory to God’s kingdom and not our own. The Westminster confession well defines reason for our life: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Haggai calls each of us to use our time and resources to build the church – a unified body of believers that transcend denominational differences and distinctions. Some of us can do more than others, but no one is exempt.

The Christian Business Man’s Connection (CBMC) in Montgomery County MD is seeking men whose hearts respond to Haggai’s call:

1. “Go up to the mountain” — Take the time to seek God and His will for your life. Is He calling you to use your business experience to serve Him? What place of influence do you have in the marketplace where the church will never reach?

2. “Bring wood” — Wood may have been the basic building material in Haggai’s day, but in today’s temple it is people. We all touch people in the marketplace daily that might never venture to visit a church on Sunday morning. Ask God to show you how to bring them to consider the gospel of Jesus Christ. Join with fellow Christian business men to pray for our lost friends and create outreach events that would attract their interest. The Apostle Peter called believers “livings stones” for a spiritual house:

  • 1 Peter 2:4-5 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

3. “Rebuild the Temple” — Using basic small group bible study and discipleship material like CBMC’s “Operation Timothy” curriculum, encourage marketplace believers to grow in the Lord. Develop your own understanding so that you will “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2Tim. 2:15).

If we work together in this way, God “may be pleased with it and be glorified” — even in the midst of our broken and rebellious society.

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Speaking your audience’s language

Rusty Wright gives some good tips on how to avoid ‘Christianese’, when seeking to communicate the message of Jesus to those outside the faith. Too often we don’t speak their emotional and intellectual languages. We need to speak their language clearly so that they can see Jesus in a relevant and hopefully life-changing way.

Don’t speak ‘Christianese’? Check out this amazing free offer!!!

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The World Needs You – Right Now!

Many people have become disillusioned with the church … this frustration is understandable, but needs to be addressed. The Bible is clear that the Church is God’s chosen tool for hope and change. To truly obey Scripture means to turn this disillusionment and frustration into a labor of love as we each look for ways to carry out the mission of the church.

When Christian are sent out into the real world, they are on mission. They have potential to impact the world around them for Christ. Some are sent out to impact board rooms and cubicles. Others are sent out to impact neighborhoods and PTA meetings. Still others are sent out to impact classrooms and locker room. Here are four projects you can get involved in right now to make a difference.

To illustrate this further, check out this video from the RightNow Campaign: Are You a Trader?

The RightNow Campaign can help you or your church group find a mission opportunity to make a difference.

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Seven Days in Utopia

SEVEN DAYS IN UTOPIA follows the story of Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black), a talented young golfer set on making the pro tour. When his first big shot turns out to be a very public disaster, Luke escapes the pressures of the game and finds himself unexpectedly stranded in Utopia, Texas, home to eccentric rancher Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall). But Johnny’s more than meets the eye, and his profound ways of looking at life force Luke to question not only his past choices, but his direction for the future. In theaters August 12.

Based on David L. Cook’s best-selling book Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia. This powerful story of redemption reminds us all that we need to confront the lies we believe and bury them, that God pursues us no matter where we might run to avoid Him, and that in the end, faith – and golf – come down to simple choices.

Learn how you can purchase copies of this book to give away for under $1 each. See: http://golfbookgiveaway.org/

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Redefining Work as “Ministry”

There is a movement in Christian communities away from compartmentalizing one’s work as “secular” and church activities as “ministry” toward seeing all one’s life as missions. In these videos, produced by RightNow.org, we see the stories of two individuals who changed their perspective to see their work as ministry.

Christina – Ministry at a drive-in restaurant

Christina’s perpective of ministry changed because of an encounter at a fast food restaurant.

Jon – Ministry to Students

Jon traded in his perspective of missions to see his work as ministry.

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Making the Ten Commandments Relevant

Most people avoid attending church. Issues with God permeate our culture from all sectors. The reality is that hundreds of millions of people will continue living their lives content to never step inside a church again.

I AM is a movie intended to be a spiritual conversation starter, addressing and countering the bad experience that “religion” has left with so many. “I Am” is a compelling and intricately woven story that explores the consequences of ignoring the Ten Commandments and instead making up our own morality for life. Without preaching or didactic lessons, and with high production values and captivating characters, this movie illustrates why God’s commandments were intended for our benefit rather than to squelch our fun.

ONLY CHURCHES will be allowed to premiere this faith-based movie on their own campus in advance of the theater premier on 10/10/10. With a special opening message by author Lee Strobel, participating churches can show the film as an outreach event through the satellite-based Church Communication Network. This can create a powerful moment in your church that will generate conversation, excitement, outreach, and most importantly help us all better understand the heart of the great I AM, God Himself.

For a greater explanation of the heart behind the film, I AM, watch this video clip…

Empty Seat from Marcus Inc on Vimeo.

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Religious Restrictions Affect 2/3rds of Humanity

PEW Graph on Global Religious RestrictionsAlmost 70% of the globe’s population has limits on their expressions of their faith, according to a 72-page analysis based on 16 sources of information, including reports from the U.S. State Department and human rights groups as well as national constitutions (released by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life). Limits on expression of faith are found in roughly one-third of the world’s countries which evidence high or very high restrictions on religion as a result of either government rules or hostile acts by individuals and groups.

Religious minorities often feel the brunt of hostilities because they are perceived as a threat to the culture, politics or economy of a country’s majority population. “The highest overall levels of restrictions are found in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, where both the government and society at large impose numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices,” the report concluded. In some countries, such as China and Vietnam, government restrictions on religion were high, compared to moderate or low social hostilities. In contrast, nations such as Bangladesh and Nigeria had moderate level of government restrictions but ranked high in social hostilities. The findings were based on an investigation of 198 countries and territories, which represent 99.5% of the world’s population, from 2006 to 2008.

Read the Full Report

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Evangelism with Style

Got Style book cover Based on his popular “Got Style?” workshops, pastor and evangelist Jeffrey Johnson’s new book “Got Style? Personality-based Evangelism” (ISBN 978-0-8170-1555-8, Judson Press) offers churches and individuals an understanding of evangelism based on the following six personality types:

1. Assertive
2. Analytical
3. Storytelling
4. Relational
5. Invitational
6. Incarnational

Johnson’s new book will come as a huge relief to those who have felt pressured into styles or systems of evangelism that did not match their personality, or who retreated from any sort of faith sharing because a particular and uncomfortable method was presented to them as ‘the only way’. Many would rather chew off their own ear than do door-to-door evangelism, for instance.

‘Got style?’ proposes that there are six very different methods of evangelism, based on six personality types. A simple self-assessment questionnaire enables you to find the one or two styles that especially match your personality. Johnson goes on to unpack each style, showing how it works and fits the way you think and communicate best. For each style, he explains its strength and weakness, gives biblical and contemporary case studies, and makes outreach suggestions.

Download the Got Style? PowerPoint presentation from Jeff’s webinar.

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Ministry in the Marketplace?

Coming alongsideDo you find satisfaction in your work? The vast majority of adults spend more time working than any other activity. To many, work is a toilsome necessity that must be done to survive but does not satisfy. For others, especially men, the workplace can fulfill our need for a feeling of accomplishment and tangible rewards. Frequently one’s perceived value as a man is often derived by his success or failure at work – in the present day a dangerously false foundation for one’s self-esteem!

In many churches people feel a ‘disconnect’ between the world of faith and their work. We tend to speak of work done in the church or for the church as “sacred” and of being “called” to the ministry. Work not directly associated with the church is often referred to as “secular” and perceived not to have much intrinsic value. This sacred-secular divide is contrary to the teaching of scripture. In Genesis 2, God placed Adam in the garden to “to cultivate it and keep it” giving purpose and value to his labor before the fall into sin. It was Bezalel, the divinely-inspired mechanic and master workman who built the tabernacle, that was the first one that scripture says God “called” for a sacred purpose (Exodus 31:2, 35:30-35). And Solomon wrote that “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Eccl. 2:24-25).

During his time on earth, Jesus spent a surprising amount of time in the marketplace. In the New Testament, out of 132 public appearances, 122 were in the marketplace. Out of 52 parables, 45 had a workplace context. And out of 40 miracles in the book of Acts, 39 were in the marketplace. The twelve disciples were all men Jesus equipped from the workplace. The Apostle Paul also told believers not to leave their workplace (in some cases slavery!), but commanded that “each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him” (1Cor. 7:20). Paul also “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17).

The concept of work as ministry was forcefully taught during the Reformation. The Apostle Paul had written that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24). Based on this instruction, Martin Luther transformed the Roman Catholic idea of “good works” into an obligation to work diligently as a sign of grace. He removed “vocation” or “calling” from the religious realm where it applied only to the few and declared that ALL Christians already had “vocations” or “callings.”

God has placed each one of us in the workplace to be “salt and light” and a “city on a hill” to those in our sphere of influence (Matthew 5:13-14), and wants us to partner with Him to build up the “father and son” business we have inherited in Christ (Galatians 4:6-7). His goal is that His kingdom will come, His will be done, on earth (your workplace) as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). So workplace ministry more than just evangelism, but encompasses our total life at work, including the management of all our activities, relationships and responsibilities for God’s glory.

Doug Sherman, author of “Your Work Matters to God”, wrote that “Our day-to-day work is not “secular.” It has intrinsic value. God has ordained work as a means of supporting our families. He established it as a way for us to earn money to help those in need. Through our work we meet the market needs of our community. And, it is a form of worship because in working with all our strength for him, we demonstrate our love for God.” For links to books on ministry in the marketplace, please visit the Marketplace Ministry resources page.

Marketplace Ministry Small Group Launch

Recently we launched a workplace ministry small group for mutual encouragement, support, and discipleship training in developing each one’s workplace ministry. The group is based on the Christian Business Mens Connection (CBMC), a men’s ministry founded during the Great Depression, whose mission is to present Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord to business and professional men and to develop Christian businessmen to carry out the Great Commission. CBMC groups welcome men from different church backgrounds and economic strata who are called to represent Christ and His kingdom in the workplace.

Our meetings will be held on the 2nd & 4th Tuesdays (beginning July 14th) at the Einstein Bagel at 531 Firstfield Road and Quince Orchard Blvd in Gaithersburg from 6:45 to 8:00 AM sharp. If your soul is hungry to find some new friends, to develop a closer walk with Christ, or to build up your personal ministry, you are welcome to join us. Please contact Paul Schomburg, 301-330-4999 (home) or [Paul at mccmm.org] for more information.

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