Big Changes, No Problems

I haven’t posted for over two weeks. I apologize. When I first started blogging, I figured a few friends and my wife would read, and maybe on a good day, I could get my mom to read. As it turns out, there are more of you reading that I would have thought. And now I’ve let you down. Please forgive me.

In October 2010, we planted a satellite campus of Puyallup Foursquare Church. This was a thrill for us; planting the first out-of-state satellite for a church we helped plant in 1998. We faced challenges, we were personally stretched, and Cheryl and I were greatly fulfilled in our leadership roles. The Lord is doing an incredible work here.

Several months ago, the leadership team at Puyallup Foursquare began working with us to make some adjustments. Through our planning and prayers, we determined as a team to plant a church under the Southwest District of Foursquare. Roger Archer and team encouraged and supported our decision.

I never purposed to become a senior pastor, and I’ve been very reluctant to accept the role. The pastoral examples I’ve watched over the last dozen years are charisma-driven and animated. I would call myself neither. After two weeks of careful prayerful consideration, I have pledged to become the senior pastor of Desert Foursquare Church. (Our denomination will still have to appoint me to this position).

At the age of 18, at Northwest Foursquare Church, a woman prophetically shared that I would be a pastor. Worship, teaching and ministry are all passions, but the responsibility of shepherding feels simultaneously constricting and freeing. This is not my comfort zone. Here I am, a willing, joyful servant who loves to see Jesus work in people’s lives.

The last several weeks have presented many obstacles. Our equipment is heading back to the NW to serve Puyallup’s needs (they have a very busy summer), and we are not incorporated as a 501 (c) (3). There are many other details, but I shared those two with a visitor to our church on the Sunday we made the announcement that we are transitioning to a church plant. I didn’t know this when the silver-haired couple asked me about our church that Sunday morning, but they used to pastor a Foursquare Church in La Quinta.

Dale and Patti Downs are their names, and they offered to connect us with the resources we require. The most important resources was the gift of their friendship, and the relationships they have here in the desert. Within two weeks of their visit, they connected us with many people in the desert that are excited and encouraged that we are launching this fall.

So for the last few weeks, my pastoral duties have just about doubled. Now we are going through the process of incorporating and building a team of people who will launch Desert Foursquare Church. We are excited to spend this summer incubating our core team of staff and members (about 30 people in all). This is a critical time for praying and seeking God’s will for our church. If you’re reading this now, please take a moment to pray for us in this journey.

I could write a book about our adventure, but I’ll keep it short for now. I’m happy to respond to questions to this post, so feel free to ask any question. Thank you to all of my brothers and sisters who are praying with us.

“The Third Conversion” by Dr. R. Scott Rodin – Book Review

Dr. Scott Rodin writes about what financial development should be; joyful ministry. As a former development officer, seminary president and current leader in the stewardship movement, few people are as uniquely experienced to write such a profound story.

This Novelette follows the story of Walt, a VP at a medium-sized Christian nonprofit in Seattle, who is training Carl, his replacement. Carl is a capable fundraiser with a great track record. He is a competitor. He thrives on “closing the deal”. Walt is a real friend to the donors of Hands of Love International (HOLI). He views each interaction with constituents as an opportunity to bless them, not extract from them or financially transact with them.

In their short time together, Walt helps Carl to visit five donors to HOLI. Some donors are mature in their faith and far along in their steward’s journey. Others struggle to see beyond their ownership and control of all that they sit atop. Rodin masterfully paints a picture of how each individual struggles with two-kingdom living versus one-kingdom living. Do we recognize God as owning everything, or do we amass our kingdom and occasionally give to God’s? This fundamental question delves into our understand of our steward relationship with God, ourselves, others and our possessions.

“The conventional wisdom is that ministries need their supporters in order to operate, to exist. We go at our work with this ‘needy’ mindset and treat our supporters as if they only have things to give and we have all of the need. But from a biblical steward’s perspective, the truth is actually the opposite. As God’s people, we are given the privilege and calling to be faithful and wise stewards of what God has given to us. But to do that, we need credible places to give to, ways to invest God’s resources that are both efficient in using money and effective in employing it for kingdom purposes. Without well-run organizations and ministries, it is very hard to be a faithful steward of our funds. And we need people to encourage us in our journey as stewards. When we do our job well, we provide the places and means for God’s people to carry out their calling, to be obedient and faithful in an effective way. And we meet a need they have for someone to walk with them in this stewardship journey. So in truth, our supporters need us and the ministries we represent. That’s why this is ministry and not fundraising.” – Walt, from p.78

This is the seventh book I’ve read by Rodin. It is by far the easiest read; it finished in under two hours. The beauty in The Third Conversion is that it encapsulates rich stewardship theology for which Rodin is known in a practical, entertaining and engaging story. This book is for you if:

  1. You work for a Christian ministry
  2. You volunteer for a Christian ministry
  3. You donate to any organization

You can find more of Dr. Rodin’s works at www.kingdomlifepublishing.com.

Discerning God’s Will

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian. I am just a believer, working out my faith. Your rebuttals are always welcome in the comments section.

Back in high school, I got into a conversation with my friend Luke Draeger about whether or not we need to pray about everything we do. On one hand, we are told to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17) and on the other hand we are admonished to use scripture as our guide (Psalm 119:105).  As high school students are prone to do, we threw out our best semi-educated guesses and left it at that. It is a question that, for me, needs continuous attention.

J.I. Packer writes in Knowing God, Chapter 20, “Thou Our Guide”, that there is a hyper-spiritualism in believing that God speaks directly to us more than he uses his Word. Why would he continue to whisper in your ear when he’s written down what He has for us? Our lives are best when guided by the Word of God. Packer shares some pitfalls that await those who pursue signs, supernatural insights and “open doors” in order to guide our lives. For the sake of brevity, here are four of those pitfalls:

  1. Unwillingness to think. There is a pseudo-spiritual persona lived by those who refuse to be wise and discern facts. So much of scripture guides us to sharpen our minds and get wisdom. Why? Because with wisdom, we make wise choices.
  2. Unwillingness to suspect ourselves. I had a wise teacher years ago who helped me to understand the importance of not trusting myself. My problem is that nobody can lie to me as well as I can. That’s where I have to constantly align my actions with Scripture in order to defeat deception that may exist internally. My senses and instincts seek gratification, sometimes at the expense of other senses and instincts. Psalm 139:23-24
  3. Unwillingness to discount personal magnetism. The more I depend on my own charisma to sell the Gospel, the less Gospel I am selling. Humility is the only way to counterbalance the pull of power and fame in a Christian’s life… especially a pastor.
  4. Unwillingness to wait. Prophets and evangelists have a very difficult time not saying anything. What happens when the Lord doesn’t answer? What do you say when there is spiritual silence? The human temptation is to fill in the dead air with a person’s educated guess. If God isn’t in a hurry, then neither should we make haste.

On several occasions, I have had visions or direct revelations from God about his will. When these insights come, they have to run through my filter:

Does it contradict the Word? If so, it’s more likely indigestion than revelation.

The concept of living life wholly dependent upon God to direct your every step distances us from the reality that we are called to live wise, disciplined and discerning lives. Hyper-spiritualism would have us believe that we are paralyzed until we hear from the Lord. This paradigm is sometimes evidenced within Pentecostals. On the other hand, we are completely dependent upon God for our every breath… he is the sustainer of life and the ultimate authority.

Vocational and familial choices can be difficult to discern because the Scripture doesn’t tell each reader which job to choose or which spouse to marry. These are decisions we make based on our understanding of God’s written will; His principled desires for our lives. He created us with a certain personality, at a specific time in a geographic location in order to pick our life choices, with the Holy Spirit working through us, and the Scripture in front of us. Our personality is who we are; character is what we do with it. If there is anything good in our character, it is because the Bible is working that good within us.

Our Greatest Social Problem

I posted the question on my facebook page recently, “What do you think is our greatest social problem in the world?” It seemed a rather lively topic, so I thought I would share my thoughts in my blog rather than attempt to nudge in one more soundbite-type response. My thanks in advance to all who posted.

I believe the single greatest social ill is our fractured relationships. Humans, in my experience, are terrible at prioritizing, communicating, focusing and nurturing healthy relationships with God, self, others and creation. When most people look at a social ill, they stare at the stalk and say, “Let’s come up with a cleaver way to pull that weed!”

A recent conversation with a dear friend about pornography is a perfect example. He and another friend had come up with a way to significantly hinder the porn industry’s ability to process credit cards. It seemed legal and ethical in the way they proposed it, and I believe it would have cost MasterCard and Visa financially to continue to do business with pornographers, not to mention a terrible headache for smut peddlers. I advised my friend not to proceed because I believe that the roots of the industry would have only dug deeper in the midst of an assault.

The reason porn exists is because of broken relationships. The industry depends on broken parent-daughter relationships, parent-son relationships, and primarily, because of a brokenness in our ability to serve the Lord and follow His ways. Because we also have a broken relationship with financial resources, we monetarily incentivize, to the tune of billions of dollars, the further degradation of the family through porn.

This isn’t a diatribe about one industry, so let’s move on. One response to my facebook post was that “intolerance” is our greatest social problem. This is absurd (my apologies to the author), because you simply cannot tolerate everything. Alexander Hamilton is credited with telling us that, “Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” The idea that you can allow everything to exist in harmony denies the fact that, when left to our own devices and desires, sin ensues. The primary Wiccan/Pagan tenet, “…do what ye will, harm none.”, is ridiculous when followed to it’s natural end. Can any social ill be done in private that does not hurt another person? At the very best, we use sin to isolate ourselves from necessary relationships, and at the very worst, we grieve the heart of God.

I do not believe we have too few rules or values in society. We have millions of laws, and most people would tell you they believe that families ought to be more loving, ought to show respect, ought to, ought to …. ad nauseum. The values aren’t gone from society. They are being intentionally rejected. My belief is that people in Western societies are filling ourselves with what is comfortable and entertaining rather than what is relationally healthy. I could really get on my soapbox here, but I’ll summarize by saying that I only have one T.V. in my house, and that might be one too many.

My friend, Brian Fulthorp, wrote the following on my facebook post: “most problems are symptomatic of broken relationships: divorce, war, fighting, killing, all that…. and like others have noted, all of that is borne out of our alienation from God our maker.” I completely agree. To his list, I feel compelled to add my personal conviction that it pleases God when we care for creation. This was a primary request of the Lord in Genisis 2:15, and I believe he is pleased when we steward the earth well.

Also to the list, and of utmost urgency, is a realization that we have to steward our relationship with ourselves. We tend to be sentient organisims that are particularly cleaver at seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but humans were created very differently here. We should, at times, chase after the thing that causes us incredible discomfort. I believe the greatest human attribute it to boldly pursue something that inflicts tremendous pain in the act of serving the Lord and serving others in His name.

I love that someone on facebook finally asked for the solution. Although I am far from mastering the solution, I feel I am living it, to some degree. I tend to my relationships with God, self, others and creation, in that order, stewarding each and owning none.

Starting a Nonprofit Organization

I have a lot of experience in nonprofits. In my 36 years of life, I’ve volunteered over 10,000 hours and been employed over 13,000 in church and para-church organizations. Ten years ago I graduated from the University of Washington with a minor degree and a certificate in Nonprofit Administration (which I actually thought I wouldn’t use until I retired from Costco, but that’s another story). Hands down, the most common question I get from people who hear about what I do is, “What does it take to start a nonprofit?”

An email from a friend-of-a-friend recently arrived in my box with this very question. This man asked me the question because he is burdened with doing something that has a greater purpose than just making money. I am a little leery about anyone who wants to do something because it is the opposite of what they’re currently doing, but I took the time to answer his question, and I let him know that I would have a more complete answer in my blog. Here it is.

The U.S. doesn’t need another nonprofit (writes the guy who’s started three, and is currently working for a start-up). There are currently 1.6 million 501 (c) (3) organizations in the U.S. This does not account for all of the unregistered community organizations and churches. We have nearly every niche filled, in most cases, multiple times.

Everyone wants to live in their passions and values. I believe the best way to do this is to find an existing organization that matches the purpose you seek to serve, even if you merely volunteer to do so. Clothing banks, homeless ministry and all kinds of community service can typically be facilitated through a church or community organization. If you exhaust all possible opportunities to piggy back or serve within a current nonprofit, then consider my advice below.

If you’re new to nonprofits, you can take a crash-course in the 3rd Sector by watching this short video.

Starting a nonprofit requires more paperwork, collaboration and back-end office work than most people would think. It is idyllic to think that you can spend 90%, 80% or even 50% of your time doing the program you seek to serve. Running the operations is an incredible task, especially during the start-up process. Here is a checklist of things to do to start a nonprofit in the U.S.

You should budget at least $3000 to pay for your filing fees and legal fees. The IRS form 1023 alone costs $850 for most nonprofits. You will also need Directors’ and Officers’ insurance (D & O insurance) to protect the board and officers from personal liability. This can run anywhere from $1000 to several thousand dollars, depending on the amount of liability coverage you desire.

Nonprofits are businesses that are set up to receive donations and avoid paying certain taxes. It takes a business plan, including financial plan and/or proforma. Most nonprofits depend heavily on philanthropy. The difficulty in funding a nonprofit, especially a new nonprofit, is always underestimated. This is something I drive home with anyone who asks the question about starting a nonprofit. I have had several occasions to explain to people that their pyramid model fundraiser of “1000 people who give one hundred dollars” doesn’t work. People give to people. More accurately, people give to friends, then to experts, then to organizations. Peer-to-peer fundraising is the best form of engaging someone’s passions. The ability to develop a case statement and use your case to raise capital is both an incredible privilege and a daunting task.

I heard once that the higher a case is identified within the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the more difficult it is to fund. This seems very logical to me.

A side note, I actually met a nonprofit executive who told me that she was frequently over-funded. They had to find creative ways to use the money they were given, and they rarely solicited funds from the community they served. If you’re curious, send me an email at shawn@rooftop519.com and will share what type of organization this is.

There are a lot of great resources for people who are starting nonprofits, and I never want to be the Eeyore that stops someone from accomplishing their calling or purpose. The world is a much better place because of the nonprofits that allow people an avenue for service. If you must start a new organization, do your homework. Cover your relationships in prayer. Intently seek the Lord’s purpose to be lived through your ministry. Get sound counsel and know that it will take a much greater effort than most people could ever imagine.