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Monthly Archives: November 2008

May 19, 2007.  My friend’s mother passed away last month.  She was 91 and one of the most amazing women you would ever know.  Her name was Josephine but she went by Joy.  There was no more perfect name for her.  She was joy personified!  And her joy came from an abundant joy-filled life in Jesus Christ.

 

Maybe the most important thing about Joy was her confidence in who she was. She understood that her identity was found in Jesus Christ.  You just had to know her to realize how intimately she knew Jesus.

 

Through the years I have had the opportunity to read several Last Wills and Testaments.  I can honestly say that I have never read one that testified more clearly to the presence of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as does Joy’s.  As illustrated in the first paragraph of Joy’s will, one can see how well she understood the depth of her spiritual identity:

 

I, Josephine G. Jefferies, residing in Xenia, Greene County, Ohio, realizing the uncertainty of this life, and with full confidence and trust in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in His death for my sins on the cross, and in His shed blood as an atonement for my soul, and knowing that by faith in His sacrifice on the cross for me I have eternal life, do hereby publish and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all Wills and Codicils by me heretofore made.

 

Joy enjoyed Jesus in a way that all of us should.  He was her friend and Savior, her protector and provider.  She was a faithful mother who blessed her children with her faith in God and blessed the children of others as their loving teacher and friend. 

 

Perhaps the most telling observation I made when Joy passed away was my friend’s response to his mother’s death.  In the midst of his loss he found great joy!  Weeks later, reading his mother’s will there was a wonderful smile on his face…and it looked just like Joy!

May, 2007.  As long as I can remember I have heard preachers, evangelists, and missionaries stand before congregations and challenge them to do their part in winning the world for Christ!  Actually it always sounded like something that could be accomplished if each of us would just do our part. 

 

For the last twelve years I have tried to gain what I have called a Kingdom mentality.  I have worked at viewing God’s Kingdom as something beyond the walls of a local church, any particular denomination or other organization.  For someone like me who has grown up on the inside of church life gaining such a view has been a challenge. 

 

I have not traveled extensively, but I have traveled more than most people.  God has used time in England, Viet Nam, Thailand, India, Mexico and the Philippines to initiate in my heart and mind the beginning of a global mindset.  Without international travel I am not sure it is possible for a person to accurately view the world globally. 

 

Recently, during a two week stay in India God showed me that actually seeing the world come to Christ is something only God can accomplish.  It is ridiculously far beyond the ability of Christian mankind.  Visiting a nation of a billion people where 82 percent of the population is Hindu, 14 percent is Muslim, and only four percent is Christian, drives home the fact that winning even India is God’s project.  However, his method is to use each of us to accomplish the task.

 

To think we can accomplish such a task in our own strength is absurd.  Even trying to consider the task through God’s strength is beyond my ability to grasp.  Yet God always seems to take me back to the value of relationships.  Everywhere I go I seem to meet people who understand that Jesus is best shared through relationships.

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Christiaan Bosman is a South African businessman living in New Delhi buying, selling, and exporting fabric.  He influences Hindu and Muslim relationships by quietly reflecting the character of God and putting off that sweet fragrance of Jesus (2 Cor 2:14-16) so those around him can feel at ease beside this gentle Christian businessman.  Christiaan does what all of us should do; he reaches out gently representing Jesus to those who do not know him.  He does not judge.  He does not rant and rave.  He loves others as Jesus loves them.  I think that is how God intends to win the world!

fccibangalore042307-058Bangalore, India, April 22, 2007,.    I awoke this morning to the sounds of the “Garden City” of India.  I am staying in a guesthouse in the middle of this city of eight million people.  My room is on the top floor with a beautiful terrace that looks out over the neighborhood and surrounding city.  Daylight is just a glimmer at 5:45 a.m. and it is windless and cool.  Daily rain showers the past week have made the air humid. 

 

Hundreds of birds circle in the nearby sky and I hear others calling sounds I have never heard at home.  Horns sound in the distance as people stir to begin their day.  They say in India a driver can get along without brakes but never his horn! 

 

The family next door who slept out on their roof last night begin to awaken.  I look down on them and see how content they seem with just basic comforts and how adequate it was to sleep outside and go without “air conditioning.”  They begin to wash and prepare for the day.  I look away.  It is their home and they deserve their privacy.

 

This morning my breakfast is simple, unlike the monstrous meals I have enjoyed in the five star hotels in Mumbai and Hyderabad.  Today I eat dried cranberries, almonds, raisins, sunflower seeds, pepitas, and drink bottled water.  I made chickaree coffee, taking a chance the tap water wouldn’t make me sick.  And everything is just great.

 

The streets below are getting noisier as vendors walk their carts up the street with each making their distinctive call or whistle that identifies who they are and what they are selling.  It strikes me again that I am hearing sounds I don’t hear at home.  And I am reminded how far away from home I am. 

 

Yet today I will speak to Christian men and women about God’s Kingdom and we will all enjoy what we most have in common…our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We will worship him together and read from his Word.  I will speak of things that will hopefully encourage them to reach others for Christ in this spiritually dark country.  And we will enjoy one another as if we have been friends for a long time.

 

I am blessed.  Thank you God for allowing me to experience more than I deserve.

fccidelhi042807-102Mumbai, India, April, 2007.  I’ve been here for three days; this city of 20 million people where more than 70 per cent of the population is incredibly poor.  While I have enjoyed the five-star hotel these past days it has been a lesson in how God gives me opportunities to love his people.  India is vastly Hindu and Muslim.  Only a small percentage of its population is Christian.  So when I have the opportunity to speak kindly to the man who sweeps the front drive with a broom of crude straw, his response is awkward to nonexistent.  It is as if he does not know how to respond to kindness.  His lower standing in this caste driven society leaves him with little or no opportunity to advance.  He is invisible.  So when he is noticed and spoken to, he does not know how to respond.  Perhaps he not supposed to respond. 

 

When I travel internationally I seek to put down the “ugly American” image and do everything I can to be kind to people and reflect the character of my heavenly Father.  I want others to smell Jesus on me and wonder what is different about this American.  As I got on the elevator just a few moments ago another hotel employee was cleaning the walls.  I said hello and asked if he was well.  His stare made me think he was afraid to respond.  I smiled and wished him well as I got off the elevator.  But it is sad to think these people are not comfortable with another’s kindness.

 

The hotel bellhops, waiters and desk clerks all smile and speak when spoken to.  But the housekeeping staff and the old man sweeping the front drive seem trapped in their place in life.  I want to tell them how much Jesus loves them and how, if he was here in a physical way, not only would he tell them so, he would probably reach with a hug.  Then I realize that he is here in a physical way…and he looks a lot like me.

I was in Stillwater seeing my son who is a sophomore at Oklahoma State.  Its only 45 minutes north up I-35, but on the way home last night it occurred to me while listening to Phillips, Craig and Dean sing, “I Am a Friend of God,” that I actually am a friend of God!  Wow! 

 

I am a friend to a lot of people.  I have one friend who tells me that I am “relationship rich.”  What he means is I have a wealth of personal relationships; I know a lot of people.  I value people.  Relationships are important to me.  My wife says that I have friends because I am such a good friend to have.  Friendship is something I work at.  If you want a friend, be a friend.  Whatever the case, I truly believe that all of life boils down to relationships, ultimately one’s relationship with God. 

 

An incredible thing about having a personal relationship with God is that he actually considers you his friend!  If you asked people what they want most in life I think (if they were absolutely honest) they would tell you that they want to belong.  God made us to enjoy relationships.  We want to belong to a group of people who love and value us.  That group may be our family, fraternity, club, church, prayer group, or Rotary.  Whatever the case, we go to great lengths to meet our need to belong to something.  And in the end we should realize that what is most important is to belong to God; to be considered his friend.

 

“Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous.  He was even called ‘the friend of God.’”  (James 2:23b)  What was it about Abraham that made God want to call him “friend?”  Nothing.  Whether or not Abraham was God’s friend was never about Abraham, it was always about God.  It is the same way with us.  What does it mean to be God’s friend?   It means he chose you.  God chooses us as his friends.  “You are my friends if you obey me…You didn’t choose me.  I chose you.  I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last,…”

In an article in Outreach magazine pastor/author Dan Kimball shares the results from interviews with non-Christian 20- and 30-somethings.  He discovers they are “big fans of Jesus but are less thrilled with His followers and the churches where they worship.”

Kimball said, “Something important to note is that only two of the 16 students interviewed even knew any Christians personally. So, most of those students had based their impressions of the Church on church leaders they saw in the media, or on the more aggressive street evangelists passing out tracts and holding up signs. They hadn’t been in a friendship or relationship with a Christian to know any different.

Kimball continued, “As I thought about it even more, I had another pretty horrifying revelation. I looked at my own life and schedule and realized I, too, wasn’t building friendships with those outside the church. My schedule had become consumed with church meetings, and when I wasn’t in a meeting, I was in my office or at home preparing for the Sunday sermon. Even my social time was spent only with Christians, usually key leaders in the church. Yes, I had casual acquaintances with non-Christians, like the auto mechanic I saw on occasion. And yes, I was involved in local compassion projects our church did when we went out and fed the homeless. But those weren’t actual friendships. I wasn’t hanging out with them on a regular basis. I wasn’t having them over for dinner or going to movies with them like I did in my friendships with Christians.

“And as I talked with numerous other pastors and our church staff, as well as Christians who worked outside the church, I realized that we were all doing the same thing. We were all immersed in this strange Christian Bubble.”

Frustrated Pastors

 

Tom pastors a “growing” church.  Things look pretty good.  His church has a wide variety of programs for children, youth, and adults.  The Sunday School organization does a good job presenting God’s Word to all ages.  There are specialized programs for members dealing with specific issues in their lives.  Several members even go through evangelism training each year.  Tom is encouraged…and frustrated.

Recently after a long telephone conversation with Tom I hung up the phone thinking how difficult it is today to keep the wheels rolling and all the plates spinning in a comprehensively programmed church.  Our culture is at the point where we demand a cafeteria approach to church.  There must be “something for everyone.”  But in the process of providing something for everyone we seem to have forgotten someone; the unbeliever; the man who will not walk through the doors of the church building no matter what it provides him.  He just won’t do it. 

Tom is frustrated that while his church seems to be “growing,” it is failing to reach unbelievers in significant numbers.  In the phone conversation with Tom I asked him, “Can you tell me about your relationships with unbelievers?”  After awkward moments of silence, Tom confessed he could not think of a single unbeliever with whom he was building a relationship.  I ask every pastor I speak with that same question: “Can you tell me about your relationships with unbelievers?”  Nearly every time the answer is the same: A pastor has few, if any, real relationships with unbelievers.

Why?  Should we not consider the absence of those relationships as the most negative indictment that we could possibly imagine?  Most of us excuse it by reminding ourselves that it is the pastor’s responsibility to equip the rest of us to relate to the lost.  An elderly pastor I know once said to me, “Don’t preach what you don’t model in your own life!”  How can we, as pastors, continue to excuse ourselves from not relating in a personal way to unbelievers?  How can we continue to do the work of the ministry and not build personal relationships with people who do not know Christ? 

 

A New Paradigm for Ministry

 

A new ministry paradigm has to be adopted in the church today.  We must move from seeing our work as relating primarily to church members, administering the programs of the church, and preparing three sermons or Bible studies each week, to getting out into the workplace and building relationships with unbelievers.

By now, if you are a pastor, you are screaming, “I don’t have time to do what I do now, much less find the time to get out into the workplace to build relationships with people I don’t know!”

Joe McKinney, a former pastor now working and ministering effectively in the workplace said, “The pastor who feels he doesn’t have enough time needs to meet with a bold, wise businessman and ask him to look at his schedule.  They should list all of the pastor’s activities and then decide together to strike through the activities that don’t need to be done at all and circle the activities that can be delegated to another staff member or layman.  I am convinced that if we aren’t going into the workplace and building relationships with business people because of a lack of time then we are doing things that God doesn’t intend for us to do.”

 

Evangelism with Results

 

Evangelism must be proactive.  In our culture today, evangelism is building relationships with unbelievers.  It is loving, caring, and serving.  It is investing time.  It is patience while waiting on the Holy Spirit to woo an unbeliever, through a relationship with a believer, to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is proactive.  And it happens in the workplace.

The department manager in the manufacturing plant where I work every Tuesday afternoon as a corporate chaplain said, “Jon, I have a new employee whose mother died a couple of days ago.  Is that the kind of thing you need to know about?” 

Obviously it was, and I called Vincent as I drove out of the parking lot late that afternoon.  “Vincent, I’m Jon Cook, the company chaplain where you work.  I understand your mother passed away a couple of days ago.  What can I do to help?”  The only sound on the other end of the phone was sobbing and I wondered what Vincent needed most.  Finally, he said, “Mr. Cook, could you stand up for my mama at her funeral?”   In my part of the world that was a request for me to officiate the funeral service.  I told Vincent I would be happy to do so and then he said, “Well, what do you charge?”  I replied, “Vincent, the owner of the company you work for values you enough to invest in a company chaplain.  Helping with your mother’s funeral is part of what I do.  There’s no charge.  You are important to the company!”

            Two days later I was speaking at the grave of Vincent’s mother.  After visiting with family and friends the day before it was obvious the family had no church background and dealing with spiritual issues were not a regular part of their lives.  I shared a simple message of hope and the plan of salvation.  After the service Vincent hugged me as he wept and thanked me for “being so good to my family.” 

            Two weeks later, after giving Vincent a couple of simple things to read about having a relationship with Jesus, I stood in the middle of the manufacturing plant and led him in the sinner’s prayer! 

 

Go Out Pastor!

 

            Matthew 28: 19 says, “…go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”   English translations of the original Greek text of this verse begin with “Go,” which is the translation of an aorist participle conveying the sense of “having gone.”  The main verb of the verse is “make disciples,” or literally “disciple” all the nations.  Hence, what the command assumes is that Christians will go out for the express purpose of making the nations disciples of Jesus Christ.*

            Biblical evangelism today means reaching out to people, that is going out to build relationships that produce new disciples for Christ.  Many pastors have fallen into the error of thinking that if unbelievers want to be saved, they need to come to church on Sunday morning.  The greatest single reason the church is declining is that it has ceased to go out to the lost. For some reason, evangelism has become something to do in the church—within the walls of the church building.  Effective evangelism will take place when Christians realize that the starting point of the Great Commission is where they move from the comfort zones of ecclesiastical structures and into the lives of unbelievers around them.*

            Serving as a workplace chaplain gives a pastor a tremendous opportunity to “go out” and build relationships with lost men and women and make a difference in their lives, their workplace, and the lives of their family and friends.  There are business owners in every church who would love to have a chaplain’s presence in their business every week.

            Christ@Work president Kent Humphreys says, “I wish every pastor would

spend one day a week as a chaplain in the workplace!”  Here is why:

  • It would put the pastor in touch with unbelievers on a regular basis
  • It would help the pastor understand the issues his members face in their

workplace, and

  • It would help the pastor understand how to deal with those workplace

issues his members face on a weekly basis.

 

Your Plan for the Workplace

 

Adopt a plan to “go out” into the workplace of the business owners of your church. 

  • Establish a point of personal understanding where you realize the vast potential of ministry in the workplaces of your church family
  • Decide that a commitment to ministry in the workplace has to be a part of your ongoing weekly pastoral duties
  •  Pray.  Ask God to  identify business owners in your church who would welcome the presence of a chaplain in their workplace
  • Meet with those business owners and discuss how you will go about building relationships with their employees on a weekly basis
  • Plan, along with your church leadership, the commitment of time and effort each week to your chaplaincy opportunities
  • Make sure your church family understands that your weekly chaplaincy opportunity will  become a regular part of pastoral duties and has the endorsement of church leadership
  • Pray before you enter the workplace.  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct every conversation and encounter with employees. 
  • Be faithful and courageous as you enter the workplace that God has provided for you.  Know that you are preceded by the Holy Spirit and everything is prepared.
  • Don’t be a pastor!  Be a friend and use your first name.  Park your “pastor personality” at the door.  Refrain from using your church language and colloquialisms. 

 

Resources That Will Help

 

There are several books and other resources that will help you prepare to enter the workplace as a corporate chaplain and build relationships:

Humphreys, Kent.  Lasting Investments, A Pastor’s Guide for Equipping  Workplace Leaders to Leave a Spiritual Legacy.  Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS, 2004.

Cress, Mark.  C-Change, How to Transform Any Business Through Corporate Chaplaincy.  Wake Forest:  Lanphier Press, 2005.

Beckett, John.  The Marketplace and the Church.  Viewpoints Audio Journal.  Olmsted Falls:  Worldview International, 2004.

Silvoso, Ed.  Anointed For Business.  Ventura, CA.  Regal Books, 2002.

Marshall, Rich. God@Work.  Shippensburg, PA.  Destiny Image Publishing, 2000.

Green, Mark.  Thank God It’s Monday: Ministry in The Workplace. 

Buckinghamshire, UK.  Scripture Union, 2003.

Hillman, Os.  The 9 to 5 Window.  Ventura, CA.  Regal Books, 2005.

Hillman, Os.  Faith@Work.  Fairfield, CT.  Aslan Publishing, 2004.

 

*Montoya, Alex D.  “Outreaching” (Chapter 18), Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, MacArthur,  John Jr., and Master’s Seminary Faculty, Dallas:  Word, Inc., 1995.

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi states, “…a simple, but profound, lesson about the power of generosity…is when you help others, they often help you.”  Ferrazzi is not talking about being generous with your money.  He is encouraging people to take on a lifestyle that is defined by a generous spirit.  A tendency that defines one’s life by giving and sharing one’s resources, talents, abilities, and relationships.

 

He continues, “I have come to see reaching out to people as a way to make a difference in people’s lives as well as a way to explore and learn and enrich my own; it has become a conscious construction of my life’s path.”

 

Ferrazzi encourages us to “connect” with others.  Some people call “networking” what Ferrazzi calls “connecting.”  He invests in others by sharing his knowledge, resources, time and energy, friends and associates, empathy and compassion in an ongoing effort to provide value in his relationships. 

 

Remember, all of life boils down to relationships, ultimately one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.  Ferrazzi is saying that life’s relationships, when characterized by a generous spirit, are more meaningful and valuable to everyone.  Focus on your opportunities to invest in others, whether they are family, friends, neighbors, or work associates.  Develop a generous spirit that characterizes and defines your life.

The sermon at church Sunday was about “living intentionally.”  It motivated me to be more aggressive in my daily life with the things and people that are important to me.  I was reminded of how much time I waste and how little I often accomplish in a day. 

 

Consultant Larry Barkan says, “There is no such thing as ‘time management.’  I hope that statement doesn’t shock you who have attended time management seminars, read time management books or tried somehow to reduce your hopelessly overburdened work schedule. 

 

We cannot manage time, but we can manage ourselves with respect to time.  Work always expands to meet the time available.”  There is a Bible verse that says, “Make the best possible use of your time.”

 

Here are some simple things you can begin doing to live more intentionally:

  • First, do one thing at a time.  Multi-tasking is a good thing but often we get distracted by one thing while trying to accomplish another.  Focus on what is most important at the moment and get it done!
  • Second, if you feel pressured throughout your work day, then try to slow down.  Often we cannot focus because we are trying to work at a pace that prevents us from being effective and productive. 
  • Third, evaluate how you are performing your work.  Take time to consider steps that might improve your productivity.

 

Michael Duckett says, “Only two percent of the population in any industrialized nation seriously makes significant improvement toward what they want.  In other words, most people are walking, talking and breathing, but are dead mentally and spiritually.”

What does it mean to be truthful?  Some say it is “earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts.”  http://www.characterfirst.com

 

The truth.  We never seem to appreciate it until we are lied to.  Then the result is often so devastating that we realize that truthfulness is actually a treasure.  Relationships are built on the truth.  Being truthful is like making deposits into your bank account.  The balance grows and grows until the truthful person is known by his truthfulness.  We realize that person can be counted on.  He is a individual who has character and personal integrity. 

 

So often we choose not to be truthful because we think it is easier to lie.  Now, it sounds nicer to say we misrepresent the truth.  Whatever we call it, we lie because we think the lie puts us in a better light.  We lie because we are not sure people will accept us the way we are.  We have a need to make ourselves appear more significant and do so by not telling the truth.

 

Think of a time someone lied to you.  How did it make you feel?  You probably felt betrayed and deceived.  You felt like they had taken advantage of you.  You trusted them and they abused that trust by lying to you.  We need to remember how we feel when someone lies to us.  That feeling can go a long way in keeping us from doing the same.  Strive to be truthful in all that you say, whether it is to a fellow employee, family member, or friend.  You will gradually build a reputation for being truthful and enjoy having the trust of others. 

 

Remember how you feel when someone lies to you and how difficult it is to ever believe them again.  Build your account balance by continually being truthful in all that you say and do.  You will earn the trust of everyone around you.