Melodious Birds or Deafening Fire Crackers

Sitting here writing on a verandah in Guatemala, the land of eternal spring, with early morning birds chirping in God’s heavenly and majestic orchestra in the background. Green is everywhere: plants, lawn, shrubs, trees of all shapes and sizes.

The solitude is interrupted by distant fire crackers. I have been here for less than twelve hours and I have heard those sounds several times. Holidays magnify the sounds. Loud. Roaring. Boisterous. Irritating. The problem, or perhaps, the blessing is you get used to it. You learn to ignore.


Some people are like that; complaining constantly. The result is they are seldom heard. They may even label themselves as missions’ or organizational activists or even leadership change agents. That approach may work at least in the beginning. I guess that is one of the key words: “approach.” Take a reality check. Does your approach turn people off or motivate them in a positive way? Your answer makes all the difference in the world. It’s all a manner of approach: the birds chirping or the firecracker approach? One is pleasing and attracting; the other antagonizing and alienating. One approach opens doors; the other, quite frankly, closes them and slaps you right in the face while closing. One opens the ears. The other closes them. Quickly!

“Wikipedia” is complimentary when it refers to “activists” as “watchdogs and whistle-blowers.” I’m not overly impressed with either. They “promote, impede, or direct change.” Honorable motivations. Sounds great. Again, it is all in the manner of approach. The word “activist” carries with it a contentious feeling and is a close cousin to antagonistic. I presume activists are after a revolution. Problem is revolutions do not frequently effectively take place in the church. It is one place where incremental change and evolution is preferred and safest. Revolutions produce leaders and no followers. So, is it even leadership at all? Not if you buy into the concept that all leaders have followers. Or you can tell a leader by the number of followers trailing behind.

It is certainly noteworthy when people—like the old saying goes—look at things and ask, “Why not?” Remember what is oft quoted. There are three types of people in the world: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that sit around wondering what happened. I want to, with the Lord’s help, make things happen. I do not want to sit idly by while the world happens. But, neither do I want to cause an explosion with my approach.

Activist: does your approach hinder, hurt, or heal, help your level of influence? Does it bless or blister? Strengthen or splinter? Aggravate or advance?

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Becoming a Missions or Leadership Engineer

What term really fits the need of today’s changing society, or society that needs to change? What word is best within the mission’s or spiritual leadership cause? Maybe missions or leadership “engineer” fits the bill. People add value not when they identify problems but when they come up with effective solutions. Last time I checked faultfinding is not a spiritual gift. Anyone and everyone can do that and many attempt to fulfill that role. Those that stand out identify problems, forge solutions, and go beyond the expectations of others. It doesn’t require gifting to see problems. The real gift is envisioning the answers. One can increase his personal usefulness by finding solutions and working toward them.


Bruce Howell wrote, “One early morning I rolled out of bed in Manila, Philippines. I needed to get out for a bit of exercise. I considered jogging, but lacked zeal, or the needed strength or speed. A walk would suffice. I launched into Ayala Street; Manila’s Wall Street equivalent. I quickly admired the stunning structures awed by how they painted such a dramatic contrast to what is found in the ghetto areas of every metropolis. Walking briskly through a tunnel I noticed a bank sign. I was captivated by the words, “See challenges, not barriers; see solutions, not differences; and see horizons, not borders.” There I stood gazing at the sign quietly memorizing the motto written there. People detoured around me, giving me a suspicious glance. I had found a gem; a bit of signboard theology. It’s amazing, a nugget for a sermon by merely paying attention to the world around you…Thank you for doing your part in taking the whole Gospel, to the whole world, by the whole church. Your sacrifice equals souls added to the kingdom. You have stepped forward, many times with limited finances, but armed with a desire and a vision. You see challenges as opportunities, not barriers. You find solutions when faced with problems, not differences. You envision horizons to be conquered, not borders to be restricted.”

Recently, I read a book, a biography of sorts, entitled, The Ralph D. Winter Story: How One Man Dared to Shake up World Missions by Harold Fickett. You may have heard of Winters; the guy that advocated thinking of people groups rather than geographical nations. He had the ability to see right through situations and problems to basic principles. He always looked for a better way to do something. He sought to improve. He fostered the Guatemala experiment that led to the global concept of “education by extension.” He founded TEE (Theological Education by Extension) in 1963. It opened brand new opportunities for what he called “missions engineering.” He developed the widely used course called Perspectives in the World Christian Movement (a small book of over 800 pages). He also founded the U. S. Center for World Mission.

He is described as a, “Great innovator, but he also knew from his anthropological studies that 90 percent of all innovation in human society is copied from somewhere else. He was smart enough to learn as much as possible from what had already been done” (Pg. 72). His wife, Roberta, said of him, his “main concern (and his gifting) was discovering the missing link in what is necessary for missionary advance and then working to produce what is necessary to fill that need” (Page 83).

He was able to see needs others did not and then gave his energy to invent solutions to meet those needs. He had a gift of seeing the unseen challenges in the myriad of missions’ undertakings and found ways to address these challenges.

In a book entitled Pressure Points, our strategic planning is a prayerfully discerned, Spirit-guided process of preparation, development, implementation, and evaluation of the necessary steps involved for global disciple making. This process can be developed by:

  • Asking good questions
  • Responding with healthy answers
  • Applying wise action steps
  • Evaluating everything
  • Praying with diligence

Bill Allen, quoted in the blockbuster book, Built to Last said: We are “always reaching out to tomorrow. This can only be accomplished by people who live, breathe, eat and sleep what they are doing.” May the Lord bless as you endeavor to become a better missions and leadership engineer.

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Regret and What to Do about It


Neil Roese in If Only makes a profound distinction of two kinds of regret:

  • Regret of action.
  • Regret of inaction.

Simply put:

  • Wish I had not done something (action).
  • Wish I had done something (inaction).


  • Wish I hadn’t (action).
  • Wish I had (inaction).


  • Things I should not have done (action).
  • Things I should have done (inaction).

Whichever, ouch!

  • Mistakes made (action).
  • Opportunities missed (inaction).

That translates theologically into:

  • Sins of commission (action)
  • Sins of omission (inaction)

But, there doesn’t have to be regret. Flip things around.

Opportunities abound:

  • Past opportunities: What might have been?
  • Future opportunities: What can be?

Jim Rohn speaks of two types of pain in life:

  • Pain of regret.
  • Pain of discipline.


  • Regret weighs tons.
  • Discipline weighs ounces.


  • Pain now (discipline)
  • Pain later (regret)


  • Repent over regrets.
  • Throw off the weights.
  • See and cease the opportunity.
  • Run after it with patience and persistence.
  • Look to Jesus. He will help! (Hebrews 12:1-2)


  • Forget the past.
  • Make the best of the future (Philippians 3:13).

Live life to God’s fullest potential with a determination of no regrets in mind.

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