A Bound Woman, An Indignant Leader

I was reading this morning and came upon one of my favorite stories as told by Luke:
 
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for Screen Shot 2021-03-28 at 8.05.19 AMeighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
 
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
 
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
 
When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing (Luke 13:10-17).
 
Here are ten lessons I see in this story. If you see more, please leave a comment and share them with me and others.
 
1. Jesus touched a woman, a direct violation of Jewish custom for He risked becoming "unclean."
2. He knew how long she had been bound. He called her to come forward; she didn't come on her own.
3. Her problem was a devilish one: "Satan had bound her."
4. The religious leader was 'indignant.'
5. The religious leader was, according to Jesus, a hypocrite. In fact, the leader was more bound than the woman.
6. Jesus was courageous and initiated this healing on the Sabbath, knowing it was going to cause trouble.
7. Jesus worked on the Sabbath doing good deeds. We should do the same.
8. The people knew what Jesus was doing, the leaders did not. Leadership is no guarantee of a superior spirituality.
9. Jesus did 'wonderful things'; we should be doing the same.
10. Jesus used simple logic to justify what He did; we should also use Holy Spirit logic to act on God's behalf.

Something to Publish?

I am trying something new through my publishing company. I have an idea to publish poems, short stories, song lyrics, essays, Screen Shot 2021-03-20 at 5.25.35 PM or anything else that's publishable in my first annual collection. My thinking is that you or those you know may have pieces that are worthy of publishing but don't have enough to publish a book. This project will allow you to submit them to me and once they are accepted, they will be in a book in which your name and material will be included.

This is my first effort for something like this so here are the guidelines I have come up with so far:

Project: Solicit poems, song lyrics, essays of a non-offensive nature, and short stories from authors to publish in one anthology.

Deadline for author’s submission: May 1, 2021. All work is to be submitted as a Word document - no exceptions.

Procedure: Urban Press will screen, accept, edit, and publish submissions. Author’s will have final approval on any edits done before publishing.

Stipulation: Author gives Urban Press permission for one-time usage and unlimited print copies, but author maintains the copyright on their material (you will sign a contract). No royalties will be paid on any sales and all sales proceeds will benefit the Stanko Orphanage in Kenya. Authors will be given full disclosure on annual sales. Author’s bio and contact info will be included in the book. Authors will receive one free copy of the book with their work and an opportunity to buy additional copies at 60-70% off retail to be sold or given away at the author’s discretion.

Parameters: Poets may submit up to five poems; short stories are 2,500 words max

Publishing goal: October 31, 2021 (in time for Christmas)

There may be things I haven't thought of so feel free to write me at johnstanko@purposequest.com and I will try to answer them as best I can. Also, you can submit your work at any time to that email as well. Since I have no idea how many submissions I will receive, I reserve the right to adjust the deadline if I deem I have enough for volume one. Then we will begin work on volume two. The title of the book will be The Blue Guitar, which will be explained in the book's introduction. Don't delay, send me your work today!


Trip to Kenya 2022

Screen Shot 2021-04-01 at 9.21.00 AMMy first trip to Kenya was in 1997 when I visited Pastor Don Matheny at Nairobi Lighthouse Church. I returned off and on for a few years and then didn't go for about four years until my now good friend, Kentice Tikolo, wrote me in 2003 asking me if I ever came to Kenya. She felt like Kenya needed the purpose message and she was opening the door to do what she could to facilitate a visit.

It worked out for me to return in 2004 and I have been going back every GroupShotyear, often making multiple visits. In 2008, the Lord spoke to me once when I was there that I was nothing but a "hired gun" and I knew exactly what He meant. I was touring and speaking while I was there but I was not really benefiting the people or building close relationships with those who had needs. I 2009, I brought a team over with me and this time the team did not just follow me around to hear me speak. We began to go out into the communities and I had those with me doing more. In 2010, I took another team and it was then that we formulated our strategy of building relationships with a few ministries with whom we felt the Lord join us and where we could make a difference. I knew that we could not help most of the people so why not concentrate on really helping a few.

BometLeaderGroupMy last trip on 2020 before the pandemic was to Kenya with another team but this one was different. The Lord was showing me that we needed to do some things differently and now that I have had a year to think about it, I am announcing a return to Kenya in February 2022 and I am inviting you to come along for a two-week tour that will change your life and the way you relate to poverty.

What will be different about 2022? For one thing, I hope we can dedicate the new Dr. Stanko Academy and Orphanage grounds and facilities while we are there. Then I plan on returning with the team to the Academy for consecutive days to build better relationships with the students, orphans, and staff. Then I hope to have some medical personnel along so that we can tend to the medical needs of the children, the staff, and their families. Then we will visit our partners in Bomet to do the same thing. Of course, there is always time for a safari when we go and that will continue in 2022.

I don't have the exact dates yet (I want to visit the country before I take a team to assess how things are), but I am thinking it will GiraffesFeeding be the last two weeks of February. Right now, I am asking for you to let me know if you would like to go. That isn't a commitment and you don't have to pay anything right now, you just have to write and say, "I want to go to Kenya with you in 2022." Then as information becomes available, I will share it with you.

JSdavidSarahRight now, I already have 12 people who have said "I'm in." Why not add your name to their list and begin to prepare now for what's ahead. If you have any other questions, just write me at johnstanko@gmail.com and I will get right back to you. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that the world can change in a moment's notice. Don't put it off if it's in your heart to do. Faith would dictate that your faith action at this moment is to say, "By God's grace, I'm going." I look forward to hearing from you.


Trip to Israel 2022

JSDomeOfTheRockIn 1994, I made my first trip to Israel as part of a team from Integrity Music by whom I was employed at the time. We were there to produce a worship recording but we also took the opportunity to do a nine-day tour under the leadership of Pastor Jack Hayford with 435 people. Pastor Jack has been to Israel more than 100 times so I learned from the best as I observed how and what he taught as we traveled the countryside. I was watching because the Lord spoke to me that I would one day be leading my own tours, which I am now doing.

I haven't been to Israel 100 times. I have been there 16 times (the picture to the right is my 2018 group) and I am returning in March 2022 IsraelGroupShot so I am inviting you to come with me for the tour of a lifetime. The dates are March 29 to April 8 and I will also sponsor an optional after-trip to Jordan where we will take a bus from Israel across the border to visit Petra and other sites in that fascinating country. Along the way I will interject my own teaching and will lead morning devotions and Sunday worship, but we will have an Israeli guide to lead the tour for us. We stay in good hotels, have good guides and drivers, and will explore Galilee (where you can be baptized in the Jordan River), Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea area (the picture below shows people on my last tour floating in the Dead Sea). By now, I know where to take you to ensure you maximize your trip experience.

BaptismMy friends at Inspiration Cruises and Tours are my company of choice to organize our trip and I am attaching the flier they have produced with all the information you will need to know and go. If you have any questions that are not answered on the brochure, then by all means call them or write me. We will also DeadSeado some things during the next year to prepare you for the trip both spiritually and practically for your time in Israeland hopefully Jordan.

If your desire has been to see the Holy Land, then I urge you to make plans now to come with us in 2022. Your trip will change the way you read the Bible and understand current events in the Middle East. And, we will have a lot of fun and fellowship along the way. Next year in Jerusalem!

Download Israel2022


An Update

Four times every year I send out a fundraising letter to my donor list of a few friends and ministry partners. This year, i thought I would share what I send with you so you know what I am up to and what the needs of my ministry are. Please enjoy the pictures, which have gotten a lot of feedback from those who have received them so far.

*****

Dear Friend,

This is my first letter of the year and I hope it finds you well and prospering in the Lord. I continue to stay busy but before I tell Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 3.21.06 PMyou about that, I thought I would personalize this letter a bit more by showing you pictures of some of those you help through your generous gifts to my ministry. Let me explain what you see.

  1. The “Watercycle.” This motorcycle is used to transport water for 52 orphans from a well three miles away over treacherous, muddy, mountainous roads. The yellow cans are what the driver uses to carry the water. He does this all day every day so the children have water to drink and bath. We purchased this vehicle I have named the Watercycle for $1,200.
  2. The Faculty. I send the teachers $100 each per month. That is their income to live on. Classes are back in session and they are doing a fantastic job.
  3. The Young Ladies. Every month, we send $700 so 500+ young ladies can receive the sanitary products they need to Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 3.21.20 PMstay in school. I received a communication this week asking if we can increase the money we send because the number of girls needing help has increased due to the pandemic (those students cannot go back to their boarding schools so are attending local schools).
  4. Staff, students, and orphans. There are 120 students attending the Stanko Academy and 20 of them are orphans. These orphans live at the school where their bunk beds are set up in the classrooms. I have included pictures of only two of the orphans with their names and ages: Joy (6) and Moses (11). We send food money every month.

Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 3.21.40 PMSpeaking of the Stanko Academy, I thank God that our campaign for the land purchase was a fabulous success. Our goal was $50,000 and it looks like we will have about $61,000 when all the pledges are paid. That’s good because the land will cost around $55,000 (we are still negotiating) and then we will have to fence it off and do some other land prep work. My thanks to you if you gave or prayed.

I hope to return to Kenya this year. I am also planning on taking a team over in February 2022 when we will follow a new format when we visit. This will include a medical team and much more concentrated daily effort at the Stanko Academy, which I hope we will be able to dedicate during that visit. I also plan on releasing my book with co-author Irene Mureithi on that trip. Let me know if you are interested in going with me in 2022.

MY WORK

My work continues to be non-stop as I make the most of my time at home. I feel like I have a full-time online flock as I write, counsel, coach, and pray for people who write me through my various social media platforms. I am teaching weekly online Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 3.24.24 PMclasses on creativity, purpose, the gospels, and Christian thought and I connect on a daily basis with people all over the world. I have produced 100 blog radio shows and 150 Facebook Live sessions during the pandemic and the ministry feedback has been gratifying.

Right now, I am also working on books for authors in Australia, South Africa, the UK, and Kenya—as well as many in the U.S. Some can pay something, others can pay nothing, but that is not the basis I use to decide with whom I work. That is up to the Lord’s direction and it is always fascinating how He shows me who my partners are to be.

I have only included pictures of a few of our ministry partners, but rest assured there are many more who throughout the month benefit from your generosity. You are truly helping to feed and clothe the hungry and the poor. If your heart is moved by what you read or see, you can give online at my website or mail your check payable to PurposeQuest International, P.O. Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA, 15221-0882. PQI is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization so your contribution is tax-deductible. You can also give through my mobile app, the Cash App, PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle.

Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 3.20.44 PMAs I close, I think of Paul’s words to the Corinthian church as they pertain to you and what I am asking you to do:

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:12-15).

I know the orphans and their caretakers will thank God for your generous support, and it is a special thing to be commended to God by those who have nothing with which to repay your generosity except with their prayers and thanks to Him. I urge you to be generous in your giving and I promise to be a good steward of your resources and the opportunities before us. May God richly bless you and our Kenya partners.

Yours in the faith,

Dr. John W. Stanko

President


$10,000 Matching Grant!

I wrote you about our need to purchase land for the Dr. Stanko last August in this post. Since I wrote back then, I have raised StankoAcademy$38,500 of what is now the $55,000 we will need to purchase the land. I had arbitrarily chosen January 31 as a date to have the money raised and lo and behold, without announcing the deadline, today someone wrote to make a $10,000 matching grant challenge.
 
They will match every gift given up to a grand total of $10,000, which will help us reach our goal with a little left over. How fantastic is that?! Thank You, Lord, and thank you to the faithful donor who wrote that God has impressed them that "this is an eternal investment of His money" in a worthy project.
 
JSAcademyThe challenge expires on February 7 so now is the time to give and double your gift!  You can give through the Cash App ($stankojohn), Venmo (@John-Stanko-10), my mobile app, my website www.purposequest.com/donate, or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. I am overwhelmed by God's faithfulness on behalf of my partners in Kenya. Now let's finish the job He has started.

A Theology of Writing

Here are some notes from a study I did on the concept of writing and creating in the Bible. For some I added comments, for others I did Screen Shot 2021-01-10 at 10.44.23 AMnot. I present these as an encouragement and instruction for those who write or those thinking about writing more as your ministry. Feel free to comment or add to this list where this entry is posted.

  1. “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them” – Deuteronomy 31:19. – God had Israel compose a song to remember, but in this case, it was to commemorate their unfaithfulness. We compose and write to help people remember, including ourselves, about God’s faithfulness, even when we are unfaithful to Him and His ways.
  1. Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. - Joshua 18:4. God asked the scouts to submit a report of what they saw in writing. I am not sure why he required it in writing, but perhaps so they could keep the vision alive of what God had promised them. We write what we see in faith and that may be something that cannot be seen yet without faith.
  1. As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it” – Joshua 18:8. Notice that the men could write at this early stage of history.
  1. Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness” – Isaiah 30:8. We are not writing anything that compares to the inspired word of God, yet we do want to write down what we believe God is showing us – about His word, His promises, my experiences, my creative expressions – all with a view toward providing a witness for future generations about God’s love and acts in my generation. Think of those who did this – Wesley, Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, John Calvin, D. L. Moody, A. B. Simpson, G. Campbell Morgan
  1. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you” – Jeremiah 30:2
  1. “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now” - Jeremiah 36:2.
  1. “Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up” – Jeremiah 36:28.
  1. “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” – Psalm 45:1.
  1. “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe” – Psalm 107:2.
  1. “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness” – Psalm 145:4-7.
  1. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs” – Matthew 10:27.
  1. “With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” – Luke 1:3. Notice that Luke did not claim that the Lord directed him to write; it was a natural decision based on the request from Theophilus for more information about the life and times of Jesus.
  1. “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” – Philippians 3:1. Don’t wait until you have a thought or idea that no one else in the universe has ever had. Don’t be concerned that you are writing something that has already been said or written by someone else. There is nothing new under the sun.
  1. “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” – 2 Peter 3:1
  1. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” – 1 John 1:3-4.
  1. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth” – 1 John 2:21.
  1. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” – Revelation 12:11.

They Need Water - Please Help

The pandemic has caused difficulties the world over and our partners in Kenya are no exception. One of our partners is an Screen Shot 2021-01-08 at 9.51.55 AMorphanage of 72 (18 are high school age, the rest live in a group home led by our brother and friend, Pastor David Koech). I received this email from Rev. Koech this morning:

Hi Brother Stanko,

We thank God for we have started well with all our 54 kids reporting back. We were a bit worried especially for the teenage girls who had gone home [the orphanage sent as many children as they could back to their village with even distant relatives during the holiday break; now school has begun again].

Our current water situation is dire. During dry times and over corona time, we used a lot of money hiring motor bikes to bring water to support our work, but still our water source is not very clean water. Kiromwok High School (Pastor Amos' church) drilled a water well and we have talked with them. They are willing  to give us free water. The easiest way is use of motor bike since the school is 3 kms away (2 miles). This is clean water and it will be easy to hire a young man at 200 shillings/per day [$2 per day) instead of paying 20 shillings per 20 liter. A new bike is khs 120,000 [$1,200]. The same bike will assist us to transport our tea harvest at a later time. That's our current prayer need in order to serve clean water to the orphanage and the school  especially during this corona time when a lot of water is needed.
 
God bless you.
Rev. Koech

This process of transporting the water will be an all day every day event but is vital for the health and well-being of the children and their caregivers. Will you help me help the children have access to fresh water by helping purchase the motorcycle they need (yes, the picture here is an actual one from Kenya, which shows how important any transport is, especially in rural areas)? Please give a special gift today using Paypal on my website, the Cash App ($stankojohn), Venmo@John-Stanko-10, or my mobile app (designate Bomet Motorcycle). Of course, you can also send a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for your help in getting much-needed water to much-needy children.


Stop To-Do

          When Peter F. Drucker was alive, I tried to attend his Foundation’s annual leadership conference every year.  For me, it Screen Shot 2021-01-04 at 11.47.39 AMwas always a time to reflect and refocus on the coming year.  In 1998, Jim Collins, author of Built to Last, was on the conference program. During his presentation, he talked of his goal to read 70 books annually.  Up to that point in his life, he had read about 35 books in a year’s time.  Collins told us how he bought a new chair and lamp to facilitate his anticipated increase in reading.  At the end of the year, however, he hadn’t reached his goal – he still read “only” 35 books.

            Collins and his wife tried to determine why they hadn’t increased their reading and they came to the realization that they would have to make some serious adjustments to do so. They got rid of the cable television hookup in their home—and every year after that they consistently reached their goal.  “Most of us have a to-do list,” Collins said,  “but I think as leaders we also need a ‘stop to-do list.’ We can’t keep adding to what we do without at some point taking away something we’re already doing to make room for the new activity.”

            A “stop-to-do” list.  What a novel idea!  Imagine if you and I and the organizations that we serve began to evaluate our activities with a view toward eliminating those that were outdated. Or stopped doing some things because there were other opportunities that would or could produce greater results. Or had some mechanism that helped us recognize when an activity, even a good activity, no longer served the vision or mission of the organization. 

            Peter Drucker speaks the concept behind a stop-to-do list in several of his publications. I quote here from his book, Managing in a Time of Great Change:

What, then, needs to be done?  There is a need for preventive care—that is, for building into the organization systematic monitoring and testing of its theory of the business.  There is a need for early diagnosis.  Finally, there is a need to rethink a theory that is stagnating and to take effective action in order to change policies and practices, bringing the organization’s behavior in line with the new realities of its environment, with a new definition of its mission, and with new core competencies to be developed and acquired.

There are only two preventive measures. But if used consistently, they should keep an organization alert and capable of rapidly changing itself and its theory. The first measure is what I call abandonment. Every three years an organization should challenge every product, every service, every policy, every distribution channel with the question, If we were not in it already, would we be going into it now? By questioning accepted policies and routines, the organization forces itself to think about its theory. It forces itself to test assumptions. It forces itself to ask: Why didn’t this work, even though it looked so promising when we went into it five years ago? Is it because we made a mistake?  Is it because we did the wrong things?  Or is it because the right things didn’t work?

Without systematic and purposeful abandonment, an organization will be overtaken by events. It will squander its best resources on things it should never have been doing or should no longer do. As a result, it will lack the resources, especially capable people, needed to exploit the opportunities that arise when markets, technologies, and core competencies change. In other words, it will be unable to respond constructively to the opportunities that are created when its theory of the business becomes obsolete.[i]

            It’s the job of the board of directors or leadership team in any organization to see to it that the limited resources of that entity are directed to activities that are most consistent with the purpose of that entity. Leaders must make sure that the money and people are devoted to the right cause. But often the day-to-day leaders are more in touch with the pulse of the business than the board members and need to help the board understand reality. They need to educate the board members that just because the organization can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that it should do something. It’s at that point that leadership has to make the hard decisions, and that too constitutes the price of leadership.

            At other times, the founder or long-standing leaders have favorite, “pet” projects. They want these projects to continue because they like them, not because they’re effective or productive. What’s needed is some mechanism to evaluate activities that will clearly identify those that have outlived their usefulness. Leaders must also do this on a personal basis and learn to say “no.” It’s hard to say “no,” however, if you’re not sure what your “yes” is. One of my favorite stories is found in Acts 6.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-3).

            There are three lessons in this passage that will help you or your organization to stop doing one thing in order to do something new.

1. Face reality – As a leader, you must look at reality.  Often the phrase “facing reality” is used to refer to the downside of something.  But it can also be used for the positive.  The apostles faced reality.  The early church was growing, and that was good.  Growth brought problems, however, and this gave rise to a significant complaint from one of the groups in the church.

Look at all the things that are going well in your life or in your organization.  Are you making these things all that they can be?  Do you need to pay even more attention to these unexpected success stories.  And what about the things that are not going so well?  Do you need to keep pouring time and resources into these situations, or is it time to let them go gracefully?

2. Embrace change – Letting something go means that there will be change.  Up to this point in the life of the early church, the 12 apostles had been involved in everything.  But as the church grew, they could no longer be everything to everyone.  They had to delegate and focus on what it was that they did that no one else could do.  They didn’t personally help the widows, but rather came up with a plan to make sure that the widows were helped.

When I say “embrace” change, I mean just that – enthusiastically accept it as a part of life. While change is necessary for growth and for effective leadership, you can’t minimize its impact. As a leader, you must be personally involved in helping followers understand the need for the change. Remember how long it took you to get used to the idea of the change, then be patient and give followers the same time to consume and digest the implications of the change. You must also be accessible to develop the plans for change and to help talk out the implications for followers.  It’s during times of change that followers need to have their closest contact with those in leadership.

One thing that can help others embrace the change is when you embrace change as a way of life and leadership. Gandhi once said, “We must become the change that we seek.” Therefore, you must model the tendency and practice of embracing change before you start dumping change on others.

3. Feed your opportunities; starve your problems – Peter Drucker provided me with this phrase and it’s profound.  Too often we do the opposite – we feed our problems and starve our opportunities. Drucker also gave a good rule of thumb where this concept is concerned. He advised that every three years an organization (or an individual for that matter) should evaluate all their activities by asking this one question: “If we had known three years ago what we know today, would we have started to do, or kept doing, this particular activity?” If the answer is a resounding “No!”, then it’s time to stop doing that activity. If you had known three years ago, for example, that you were going to have spend so much money and time on a venture, would you do it all over again? If the answer is no, then it’s time to stop it – NOW!

The apostles in Acts 6 didn’t get personally involved in the widow problem; in that sense they “starved” it.  Instead they fed the opportunity to pray and preach the word.  The outcome of this strategy was a good one. Acts 6:7 tells us that “the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Robert Greenleaf also has something to say to leaders about the need to let go of something old in order to embrace the new. He called it “systematic neglect.” 

The ability to withdraw and reorient oneself, if only for a moment, presumes that one has learned the art of systematic neglect, to sort out the more important from the less important—and the important from the urgent—and attend to the more important, even though there may be penalties and censure for the neglect of something else.  One may govern one’s life by the law of the optimum (optimum being that pace and set of choices that give one the best performance over a lifespan)—bearing in mind that there are always emergencies and the optimum includes carrying an unused reserve of energy in all periods of normal demand so that one has the resilience to cope with the emergency.[ii]

How about you? What do you need to stop doing in order to undertake a new opportunity? What is no longer yielding the returns that it once did in your life? And how about in the organization you lead? What new opportunities are knocking at the door but can’t get in because the “waiting room” is filled with problems? Take out a sheet of paper and make a stop-to-do list and then have the courage to dialogue with yourself and others about the changes that need to take place.

[i] Peter F. Drucker, Managing in a Time of Great Change (New York: Truman Talley Books/Dutton, 1995), pages 32-33.

[ii] Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), page 19.


Secondary Worship

For the last two years, I have been gripped by the writings and sermons of G. Campbell Morgan, referred to as the prince of Screen Shot 2021-01-03 at 9.17.46 AMexpositors, who died in 1945 after a distinguished career as a pastor in London. I am currently working my way through the 10-volume series of his sermons titled The Westminster Pulpit, having already read his commentaries on the Gospels and Acts. My approach to the New Testament will never be the same after having read Pastor Morgan's work and I pray my writing and teaching can have half the impact his had and continues to have. (You can read more about Pastor Morgan and his many books here.)

In Volume Two of The Westminster Pulpit, I read this sermon on worship in which Pastor Morgan referred to worship in church as secondary worship while living out one's purpose as the primary human worship expression. Of course, you know I had to share it (in part) with you. Here it is.

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When does a man worship? A man worships when he is what God meant him to be. I may sing every song in the hymnbook and never worship. I may recite every creed that was ever prepared, and never worship. I may inflict all manner of scourging upon the body of mine and never worship. I may kneel in long lonely the vigils of the night and never worship; and the song, and the sacrifice, and the prayer are nothing unless I am, in this one lonely individual life of mine, what God Almighty meant me to be. When I am that, my whole life worships.

How can I be that? Only as I discover His law, only as I walk in His ways; and here is the difference between the flower and man. The supreme dignitary, the tremendous and overwhelming majesty of your life and mine is that of our power to choose, to elect, to decide, to will. Consequently, the worship of the soul that can choose and decide and elect and will is profounder, mightier, greater than any other worship could be. It is not in the antiphonal songs of choirs, or in the chanting of music to which we listen, or even in our own singing; it is in taking hold of our individual life, and the putting of it into such relationship with God that it becomes what he means it should be.

I do not worship God by going to China is a missionary. If God wants me to stay at home and do the work of a carpenter. I do not worship God by aspiring to some mighty and heroic thing for him if the capacity he has given me is for doing the quiet thing, and the simple thing, and the hidden thing, and the unknown thing. It would be very foolish for the hummingbird, instead of entering the tulip, to try to beat back the air and combat the eagle. It worships by staying where God puts it. It would be very wicked for the eagle to cultivate a mock modesty and say that it preferred to remain among the tulips when it ought to be soaring sunwards.

So that if I have spoken to you about the fact that God has foreordained works, that we should walk in them, I now remind you that if you worship when you find God’s appointment, and when you walk in the way God has appointed, you realize your own life. Worship consists in the finding of my own life, and the yielding of it wholly to God for the fulfillment of His purpose. That is worship! You say, would you tell us to find our life? Did not Jesus say we must lose it? Yes, “He that findeth life shall lose it,” but he did not finish there: “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it,” not another life, not a new life, not a new order of life, not an angel’s life, for instance, but his own life. The Cross is necessary, restraint is necessary, sacrifice is necessary, self-denial is necessary; but these things are all preliminary, and when Paul describes the Christian life at its fullest, he does not say I am crucified. That is the wicket gate. That is the pathway that leads out. That is the beginning. “I have been crucified with Christ: yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is the son of God.”

Or again, he says, speaking of Christ himself, “It is Christ that died,” but that is not the last thing, nor the final thing, “yea rather, that was raised from the dead.” And so if the cross be absolutely necessary, and it is-your cross, my cross, my individual dying to the ambitions of selfish desire, all that is necessary; but beyond it, life. What life? My life. The new birth is, but the passing into the possibility of the first birth, the new creation is but the finding of the meaning of, and the fulfillment of the purposes of the first creation. “Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Discover His law. Answer His law. Walk in the way of His appointing. Let Him who made you lead out all the facts of your life to the fulfillment of His purpose, and then your whole life is worship.

Then, brethren, you will see that worship does not begin when you come here [to church]. This is a very valuable part of worship, but it is secondary worship, symbolic worship. This is the day in which we cease the worship that perfectly glorifies him in order that in song in praise and prayer. We may remind ourselves of the perpetual and unending truth that life lived within His will, and according to His law, the life of holiness is the beauty that glorifies God. This service is but a pause in which, in word and attitude we give expression to life’s inner song. And if there be no such inner song, there is no worship here. Worship is the perpetual poetry of divine power and divine love expressed in human life.

Angels worship not merely when veiling their faces, they sing of His holiness, but when ceasing their singing at His bidding. They fly to catch the live coal from the altar and touch the lips of a penitent soul who sighs. It is true “they also serve who only stand and wait.” But it is equally true that they also worship who serve, and serve perpetually. And it is in the service of a life, not specific acts done as apart from the life, not because I teach in the Sabbath school, or preach here, that I worship. I may preach here today, and never worship, but because my life is found in His law, he is answering His call, responsive to His provision and arrangement, so almost, without knowing it, my life is become a song, appraise, and anthem. So I worship! I join the Angels, and all nature, in worship when I become what God intends I should be and in the blossoming of His ideal. We sing the song of His greatness in His love.