A Better Way to Build: Lessons from an Angry Pastor

building house - bricks and project for construction industry

There is an age-old technique pastors have used to give their church a sense of unity and mission. It’s called the building campaign. Trust me. I have heard about it, read about, and have seen it. Now don’t get me wrong. This is not the case with all building campaigns. Even as I write this, my home church is doing a long overdue renovation and is engaging in a long-term building plan. In fact, they put off an expensive building plan for many years in order to support more missionaries on the field.

So What Exactly Does Compulsion Look Like?

We have visited a lot of churches. I will never forget the most awkward church service I have ever attended. It was immediately after we began our journey as missionaries. Up until that time, I only heard about such things, but that Sunday, we actually heard it with our own ears. It was a pastor chastising the congregation for not participating in a capital campaign. To be clear, he wasn’t chastising them for not fulfilling a pledge; he reprimanded all those who chose not to pledge to the campaign. He proceeded to tell his congregation that he was “angry, saddened, and vexed” when he thought of all those who didn’t give. More than that, he told them that he knew the names of everyone who didn’t pledge.

boss scolding his employees and these will run

This particular capital campaign was an effort to pay down the mortgage debt earlier than scheduled. The rationale for the quick retirement of the mortgage was so the church could increase its missions budget. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with that rationale. The backstory, according to a member, was that the congregation already heard that before while worshiping in their original building. Shortly after that mortgage burning, the decision was made to sell the church and embark on a new building campaign.

If that chastising were not bad enough on that Lord’s Day, the really strange part was that the pastor proceeded to preach on 2 Corinthians 9:7 only hours later at the evening service. Let’s remind ourselves of the passage:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (ESV)

I don’t know how that preacher handled this passage that evening, I wasn’t there. But I can assure you that what he did that morning was a betrayal of the passage. If that was not compulsion by the pastor, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident in the Lord’s church. As a follow up, I was there the following Sunday evening as he continued his series on 2 Corinthians 9, where he recognized his hearers may have thought he had a harsh tone, only to double down on his statement, without any hint of apology.

WWPD — What Would Peter Do?

Now I agree that pastors must admonish their congregation to give to the work of the kingdom. Of course, someone may call upon Acts 5:1-11 where Peter rebukes Ananias and Sapphira for not giving all they declared to have given. That was a pretty severe situation and ought to put the fear of God in us. But I don’t recall Peter expressing his personal anger to them (not that Peter was incapable of expressing his frustration with people). As far as we can tell from that passage, Peter dealt with them in a straightforward fashion declaring how the Spirit was going to deal with them. Yet even if Peter did indeed express deep vexation towards that lying couple, we have seen enough of Peter to not emulate him during his emotionally extreme moments.

According to studies most Christians don’t give anything that resembles a tithe, while so many give sacrificially. Our requests for support are turned down time and time again because churches have really tight budgets, or even more, they are operating over budget. Let me emphasize my appreciation for the pastors who give their all and encourage their flock to do the same for the kingdom. We know many of them.

Lesson Learned

Mood swings in a girl

This                                                                                        Not This

Like angry pastors, I, too, can get frustrated. I would much rather be serving on the field with all our funds raised right now rather than waiting for folks to cheerfully give to our ministry. But we are on the Lord’s timetable not mine. He moves the hearts of people, not me. And He doesn’t need me scolding His people for not giving to our ministry.

As painful as it was to watch, I am thankful that I was able to be there that particular Sunday. By God’s providence that year, I was able to witness something I wouldn’t have believed if you told me. The Lord used that occasion to remind me how not to raise funds even though that scolding worked–they ended up meeting their goal, and they never did decide to partner with us. All by God’s grace!

Are You a Cheerful Giver?

I don’t know who is reading this post. I don’t know your financial situation. I don’t know your heart condition. I don’t know who you are, and even if I did, I promise I won’t publicly expose you for not giving to our mission.

I cannot tell you that the Lord of the Harvest requires you to give to our mission, but I can tell you that He requires you to give to the Great Commission. We can only hope He moves on your heart to give in our direction.

hand nurturing and watering young baby plants growing in germination sequence on fertile soil with natural green background

We don’t have anything to offer you except our prayers and reports from the field of what Jesus is doing in Indian country. We don’t have any forecasts or projections of how Jesus will give you a really good ROI (return on investment).  But God’s word tells us that we should not despise small beginnings (Zach 4:10). Some plant, some water, but we are assured that it is the Lord who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:7). Our ministry does the watering. Please consider our small beginning and see how the Lord increases the fruit of our labors.

If you would like to talk to us about our ministry and how you can be part of our support team, please contact us. We are always available to talk to you.

A Blessed Burden

New Opportunities
Years ago I was given an open invitation to speak at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, by my former professor, Dr. Elias Medeiros. While teaching in Orlando one summer, the Lord used him in a big way to get me onto the mission field. This past October, I took him up on his offer to teach in his missions class. What a privilege to teach in his class on a subject we love so much! We also were able to speak at a lunch the next day on campus. [excerpt from Lennox Letters Fall Report 2016 newsletter. Click here to read the full newsletter.]

I remember my first day of Missions class in seminary. It was one of those week-intensive courses during the summer with a visiting professor. That year RTS Orlando invited Dr. Elias Medeiros from the Jackson campus to teach us everything we needed to know in five fast days. For many of us, this class was the most memorable, and for me in particular, the most life-changing.

On the first day I realized that I couldn’t enjoy this class without Regina. I told Regina that she would have break from the kids at home and sit in on the class for at least one session. Regina and I met in Bible college, and missions was the original passion that drove us there, but it seemed like a distant memory at this stage in our lives.

Dr. Medeiros gave us four eight-hour days of preaching through missional passages of Scripture (I was not exaggerating about being taught everything we needed to know). On the fifth day we took a field trip to the largest mosque in Orlando. By the time we got to the mosque and parked the cars, Dr. Medeiros was already making friends and giving out gospel tracts in the parking lot. He is the real deal.

During that unforgettable week, the Lord reminded me of why I started out in went to Bible college in the first place. I wanted to be a missionary. Serving on church staff was a good experience in many ways, but my heart was always longing to serve as a missionary. There was a reason I kept bringing my youth group to Cherokee, NC every year. The Lord blessed me with that burden to serve among Native American/First Nations peoples. He has been faithful to give us the desires of our hearts, and he will do the same for you.

To help us serve among Native American/First Nations people, click here to GIVE.

To talk with or contact Patrick and Regina, click here.

Who Needs Fixing?: A New Perspective on Native American Missions

Jonathan_Edwards

Jonathan Edwards (1703 -1758), Puritan pastor and missionary to the Mohawk and Mohican Indians, and author of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Are the best days behind us? Have we missed out on a golden age of missions to Native America? The history of missions to Indigenous peoples of North America is extremely complicated with much to rejoice and lament about.  One particular lamentable observation came from the revered Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century while reflecting on his predecessors. He said, “The English of Massachusetts were too interested in fixing the Indians…than giving them the gospel.” How true that was then, and sadly, that sentiment was an underlying motivation for many churches all throughout the history of missions in the U.S. And where has that actually brought us?

Why bother?

I’ve been reading Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life lately. It is truly one of those books that makes you want to pray. Really. I have been recognizing my own personal shortcomings in prayer. One thing in particular that Miller points out is that many of us have become cynical regarding prayer. After pondering that idea, it hit me. I realized that I was able to identify something I have been sensing over the years regarding a common attitude toward Native American missions. I just could not put a name on it, but now it is clear — cynicism.

Too often when I bring up the topic of Native American missions, I continually hear the predictable mentions of casinos, animism, alcoholism, and government handouts. When folks hear of the plagues in Native America such as alcoholism, addictions, violence, and suicide, they are so quick to attribute it all to government handouts that are keeping Native Americans lazy, which in turn causes them to drink because of all the time on their hands, and so goes the vicious cycle.

With that as the accepted backdrop, the shrewd potential donor would ask, “What is the point in sending missionaries to Native America? They are not really poor, just lazy.” I don’t have enough space to address that position, but if I am reading the tone correctly, it seems that many Christians simply have become cynical regarding Native American missions. Why do we keep giving to them? Is it really helping? We will never fix them.

Then there others who, although seemingly hopeful, speak very fondly of a short-term mission trip to a reservation where they helped build a porch, paint a house, or met some other material need. I hear those stories again and again, and I rejoice with them.

As much as I wholeheartedly believe in those outreach efforts, I am afraid that that is all those people imagine Native American missions to be about. I am proposing that they, too, are affected by cynicism without knowing it. They don’t really think there is anything else to do but to ease the pain in Indian Country with mercy ministry efforts. Is it that these folks don’t really expect anything more out of Native Americans other than to be passive recipients of a generous church group?

Let’s fix our perspectives

How about this? Let’s stop trying to “fix” people. Let us not be condescending or paternalistic. Let’s come along side our Native American brothers and sisters and walk with them. Let’s expect great things from the Native Christian church. Is it possible that such a suffering people empowered by grace can display and proclaim God’s kingdom in ways that we have not witnessed in a long time? Let’s believe that God can heal the brokenness in Native America.  Let’s believe that the Native Christian church can strengthen the rest of the body of Christ and teach us something about forgiveness and perseverance. Let’s actually believe that the best years are ahead of us starting today.

To learn more about how can help serve Native America, click Five Things You Can Do.

To learn how best to give to our mission and support us, click GIVING.

Footnotes:

*Source: Jonathan Edwards DVD series by Dr. Stephon Nichols, Ligonier Ministries.

**Tribal sponsored sign in the Crow Nation. Source: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com

What Does the Constitution Have to Do with It?

us-constitutionAre you an American who loves your country? Do you believe in a nation of law rather than a dictatorship or the tyranny of the majority? Do you love your Constitution? What part of the Constitution are we allowed to ignore?

I ask these questions because I have spoken to so many Christian voters over the years who have wondered, how much is enough — when will we stop giving the Indians government money? They have their casinos, don’t they? In a world where people are conquered though out history, how can we be expected to keep paying for our sins as a country? Can’t we just say that bad things happen in this world, and they are lucky they were not completely annihilated?

Worldview Adjustment

From the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian

From the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian

I hope the following will help folks answer those questions for themselves. As Christians, especially those who defend the premise that our country is built on Judeo-Christian principles, we ought never argue from a “bad-things-happen-in-this-world-therefore-get-over-it” perspective. As Christians we know that God holds governments, i.e. ministers of justice (Rom 13), accountable for the upholding and the maintaining of justice. As such earthly governments represent our covenant-keeping, law-giving God. The “bad-things-happen” view is simply not the premise we should begin with when considering Native American relations, or any other people group.  Most American Christians I know would never accept this premise when their opposing political parties ignore the Constitution.

What About the Constitution?

Recently I was reading the new book, Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, by Suzan Show Harjo. As the title suggests it traces the history of Native American treaties. I would like to commend it to any Constitution-loving Christian. The first thing that struck me at the very outset of the book was this clause from our Constitution:

The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States, which shall be made in Pursuance thereof: and all treaties made, which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” –United States Constitution, article 6, clause 2

Glen Douglas, Lakes-Okanogan Indian, (February 1, 1927 - May 23, 2011) joined the U.S. Army when he was just 17, the start of a long and distinguished career that saw him take part in three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He was with the 101st Airborne in Belgium in 1945, was injured by a grenade in 1953 during the Korean War. During his first tour in Vietnam he was an intelligence analyst with a Special Forces team...

Glen Douglas, Lakes-Okanogan Indian, (February 1, 1927 – May 23, 2011) joined the U.S. Army when he was just 17.

This is the same Constitution that so many Americans died defending, including thousands of Native Americans. The treaties with Native nations were made in perpetuity. The U.S. government has broken its treaties again and again. But breaking a treaty does not dissolve it, and time does not forgive. The treaties are still legally binding today. If you are a Christian who loves the Constitution, you should be all the more eager to recognize these things and even demand those who represent us in Washington do so as well.

More than a Political Issue

But lest you think this is political-activist post, let me assure you that I don’t wish to spend too much time in the political arena. My place is in gospel ministry. I bring it up only because I believe that false assumptions, ill-informed political opinions, and basic ignorance in our churches are dampening our missionary zeal to Native America. These ideas are prohibiting our mission efforts to the 567 Native American nations within our borders. And yes, they are real nations, and are part of the “all nations” to whom the Lord has sent us (Mt. 28:18-20). It just doesn’t seem fitting to me that so many churches who worship on land that was once Indian country do not have a line item in their missions budget for Native America.

I hope to awaken as many people as possible to the need in Native America, and how we as Christians should put the kingdom of Christ far above our earthly kingdoms.  Please prayerfully consider being part what we are doing in Native America. The harvest is ripe and the doors are open. Please read About our mission to Native America here.  All for His Kingdom!

Is Jesus Calling You?

Is Jesus Calling You?

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He had no place to call His own (Lk 9:58). He stayed in various people’s homes, like Zacchaeus’s, and oftentimes under the stars (Lk 19-10, Lk 6:12). Perhaps someone today would call Jesus homeless. His critics may be tempted to label Him a free-loader. But as in the case of Zacchaeus and others (Lk 22:7ff), we know that the Lord of Creation has divine prerogative to use whoever and whatever for His purposes. And He still exercises His authority today. Now He is moving on people’s hearts and minds by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Please take a few moments to see if Jesus is calling you to help us get to Cherokee. Continue reading

October Update

Photo by Rey Villavicencio

Change of Season

Fall is here. Facebook and Instagram are lit up with beautiful pics from our friends who are beholding the glorious autumn displays of the Northern states. I love the four seasons. Our memories are better cataloged using them as reference points to measure this short fleeting life. I will never forget my first broken arm the summer before fourth grade or the February snowstorm that first Sunday morning I went to church as a new believer.

Seasons change with predictable segues punctuated with defining moments that don’t submit to the calendar. When I lived in New England, the defining moment when I knew summer was over was when I stepped outside and felt that first real chill on a late August/early September morning . Even though it would warm up later in the day, you just knew that the summer was fading into the past, another chapter closing.

Yet there are other seasons of life that are not measured by changing temps and foliage.  I not referring to the four-fold division we use to measure our stages of life, e.g. young years = spring, young adult = summer, etc., but rather the different places we find ourselves that are measured by emotional, spiritual, situational, relational, and even vocational influences. Unlike the four seasons of the natural world, these seasons are not so easily predicted and never truly repeated, yet there are segues and defining moments that are written in to our story by the One who orders our steps by the loving hand of providence.

New Beginnings

Currently our family is experiencing another transition into a new season. After a fast summer of life changes and significant milestones, the Lord is moving us forward. After hundreds of phone calls and letters, along with blog posts and newsletters, the phone is starting to ring. The Lord is bringing forth fruit from our labors. We are now at 30% of our pledged giving. We have had many friends, family, and churches join us on our journey to Cherokee. Yet we have a long way to go, but I truly believe that if everyone we knew pledged just a little right now, we would be in Cherokee at by spring of 2015. Pray for that if you dare.

No Turning Back

Now we are about to embark on our first road trip. We have received numerous invitations to churches in New England and Virginia. Although the full glory of the New England autumn will be gone by the time we get there, we are rejoicing in this new season of life for us. We leave October 28th and return November 6th. We then return to a home gathering on November 7th in Longwood, FL. If you live in the area you are invited. Please pray for a successful and safe trip, that we would be able to awaken people to the need on the Native American reservations that only Christ can solve.

We are also praying that the Lord will enable us to sell or rent our house and live in an RV for the duration of our fundraising effort.  We have a lot of traveling to do, not just this year, but as missionary life requires, we will continually be traveling throughout the years. We have a lot of work to do on our house and a lot of money to raise for an RV.  If you or someone you know has a class C  motor home to give or loan us, please let us know. Does this sound impossible? Yes? Good, even better. We would hate to have you waste time praying for things we could accomplish with our own power.

In the meantime, please venture around our pages to learn more about the Cherokee, what we are hoping to do, and how you can help. We will be posting on our usual social media outlets during our trip. Stay tuned…

www.facebook.com/patrick.r.lennox
Twitter.com/patricklennox
Instagram.com/patrick_lennoxletters

All for His Kingdom!

The Lennoxes

The Lennoxes