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Thirty years ago, three men (Larry Burkett, Terry Parker and Ron Blue) started the National Christian Charitable Foundation (NCF). This year the foundation is recognizing making billions of dollars of gifts here in the United States and around the world. NCF serves more than 9,000 donors. They recently hosted a 30-year celebration in Atlanta, Ga., and I attended as a friend of Terry Parker and NCF.
In the morning session, the moderator (David Wills, president of NCF) used texting to ask the 400 people in the room to describe their giving in one of three categories: local, national or international. The results were immediate and interesting.
Sixty percent of all giving was directed to local. International giving came in second with 27 percent; last was national giving with 14 percent. I was a little surprised by the numbers. I know most giving is local, and evangelicals are strong on international giving, but why was national giving so low? I talked with a number of people at the NCF conference about that and heard some interesting perspectives.
"There have been few nationally focused initiatives or ministries since Campus Crusade did ‘Here's Life’ 40 years ago. While that has morphed into ‘Here's Life Inner City' it is almost invisible."
"We have been trained by our local churches to almost skip over U.S. ministries and support the local church and/or international ministries. With the demise of denominations there have been very few national initiatives to support, and short-term missions overseas seem to be the hot ticket for local churches."
"Issues like pro-life and marriage have been around a long time but they have a hard time competing with the appeal of trafficking, orphans, and poverty and justice issues outside the U.S. It may be that trafficking here in the US is gaining some attention and could become one of the few national issues on the horizon."
"We are practical people and while we think the solutions for Africa and India are spiritual, we have put our energy and resources into public policy, think-tanks and political movements to make change here. We still believe in the local church, local organizations and international missions but we have concluded political/economic power and influence are the answers for the U.S."
"We have connections and relationships with both local organizations and international organizations but are fairly unconnected with ministries having a national focus and outreach. I don't think I could name one right now."
I think all this is true and, of course, it makes me wonder if we have, in fact, been influenced by the image of that territory between the coasts as "flyover country.” Maybe we have begun to see our own country as either in pretty good shape or only responsive to political and economic influence.Comments
Almost every time we come back from a trip to Africa at least one person talks about selling all they have and giving it to the poor. It weighs on them when they compare what they have to what they have seen in the slums of Nairobi and South Africa. They cannot get comfortable with the gap between the rich and the poor. Africa – like the Law for Paul – generates disabling guilt.
My daughter, Haley, is a student at Fuller Seminary and was part of a group recently that sponsored a panel of professors talking about money and stewardship. I asked her afterward for the three or four topics that were of greatest interest to those attending. “Guilt for what we have compared to the rest of the world” was near the top of the list.
A close friend of mine told me in response to a Sunday School lesson on gratitude that he was afraid to be grateful. Afraid to be grateful?
“I would love to be truly grateful to God for His blessings in my life. Instead, I am grateful in the same way I used to read books by flashlight under my covers when I was a kid. I murmur in my heart but secretly and quietly. I am afraid if I openly tell God how grateful I am He will say, ‘I had not noticed how much you have and how little others have. Thank you for raising your hand and reminding me. I might need to even things up now.’”
Finally, another friend says he cannot be grateful without wanting to give more. Whatever he is giving is not enough to offset his feeling that God is somehow unsatisfied with whatever he is doing. He’s grateful but always with a qualifier.
Remember Oscar Schindler in Schindler’s List? “I could have done more.” It haunts him…and my friend as well.
Fear. Guilt. Secrecy. Inadequacy. I don’t think that is what God desires.
Today is an opportunity to be merely grateful. Not guilty or fearful or concerned about doing more. Just grateful. Just content. Just blessed.Comments
What is your criteria for choosing a mentor? Today’s blog is written by Fred Smith, Sr. the father of The Gathering President Fred Smith.
Smith, Sr. continued mentoring through www.breakfastwithfred.com into his late 80s, giving great insight into the selection process of mentoring. He passed away in 2007, leaving a legacy of wisdom, integrity, strength, and thought.
It's important to find the right mentor. Over the years I have identified seven qualities I look for:
1. Do they have wisdom from experience? Scripture says young men are for strength, old men for wisdom. A mentor must understand the principles of life, which I think are the principles of Scripture. A mentor needs depth of experience—and to have synthesized those experiences into teachable lessons. A good mentor has lived long enough to understand cause and effect. Many of us have not lived long enough to see that what looks great starting out isn't always great later on. I'm interested in "vector decisions." At the time of decision there's little difference between two options, but over time, their results diverge widely. It takes wisdom to see where that vector is going to go.
2. Do they feel noncompetitive toward younger people? You need a mentor who is able to relax and say, "This person is a race horse, and I'm just the trainer now. He's going to go to the winner's circle. He's the one who's going to win the money. I'll feel good just making a contribution to that." Mentoring is vicarious accomplishment.
A good mentor must know when to say, "I've taken you as far as I can," then turn you over to someone more skilled. That's integrity.
3. Can they spot talent? Part of the ability to mentor is the ability to judge talent. A real mentor is looking for championship quality. In my first meeting with someone, I look for "an unstretchable itch" for excellence. If I see that, I know the person will persevere beyond the plateau of comfort.
Occasionally, I see a parent spend an awful lot of time trying to make a race horse out of a fine mule. They're educating him and grooming him and putting him in races that he never wins. That's damaging. A mule is valuable but not as a racehorse. Good mentors can assess your current skills and take a good guess at your potential. A good mentor wants to contribute to accomplishment.
4. Is there chemistry between us? I want to be around a potential mentor to evaluate our chemistry. I want a mentor to be able to hear me, and I want to be able to hear him. This is personal chemistry.
One way I check chemistry is to stop and say, "Please repeat to me what I just said." Sometimes you hear the darnedest things. But if a person isn't listening well, there probably won't be a profitable chemistry.
5. Will they take the responsibility seriously? I don't want to spend my time with anybody who won't take the occasion seriously. I don't mean without humor, but as something important. Does it have meaning to them? Does the relationship count? Can they feel hope? Most of the time, solving a problem takes more time than we think. Is the person willing to put that time into it? To think about it between visits?
6. Are they willing and able to confront? I need to be close enough to somebody to say, "If I read the situation right, you are going toward trouble." That's all I owe you. I don't need to spy on you or to stay after you. But I owe you that sincere confrontation.
The person may say, "Well, you're wrong." If I am, I'll be delighted to find out. But if I genuinely believe someone is headed toward trouble, I must confront. Some people might say, "He wouldn't like me if I said that." I am no friend if I will not risk the friendship for your good.
Confrontation is surgical. If you're afraid of blood, you should not be in the operating room. And if you primarily want people to like you, you're not good at confrontation.
On the other hand, you want a mentor who will pause before the confrontation, to consider: Am I fairly convinced I'm right? How much can I say to correct without immobilizing the person? How can I say it in love—"willing the ultimate good for the other"?
7. Do they ask good questions? Maxey Jarman, former chairman of Genesco, used to say, "A board member's chief function is the questions he or she asks." Management is supposed to know the answer, but the director is supposed to know the question. So a mentor ought to be able to ask good questions.
I said to a woman the other night, "I wish you could see yourself like I see you. You've got potential in my eyes that I don't think is in your eyes." The natural thing for her to say is, "Well, what do you see?" If she doesn't say that, then I don't answer. But I open the gate for her to explore more. I might say, "Would seeing yourself this way appeal to you?" Asking the question gives her an opportunity to grow.
To a young executive, I might say, "You work in the corporation. How would you look at yourself if you owned the company? Would you feel better about yourself?" If he says, "Oh, man, I'd be scared to death," that's important to know. But I don't start arguing with him. The job of a mentor is to open a window, the right window. And then point to the best path.Comments
One of the best five books I've read on business management was written by marketing consultant Al Ries. The book is “Focus,” and right from the start Ries states a premise that he repeats throughout:
"The key to results is concentration. Economic results require that managers concentrate their efforts on the smallest number of activities that will produce the largest amount of revenue. No other principle is violated as constantly today as the basic principle of concentration. Our motto seems to be: let's do a little bit of everything."
It's not just true for business. It's true for the rest of life and just as hard to manage. Our tendency is to be distracted by dilutions disguised as opportunities.
Last Sunday, I taught on a passage from 1 Peter 5: "Cast your anxieties on him because he cares for you."
The word “anxieties” got my attention. We all have them. Polls show that most of our anxieties are related to money, health, aging, work and relationships. Even more interesting to me is the poll showing that 43 percent of people asked actually admit to manufacturing reasons to worry. They make up scenarios that are unlikely ever to happen, but they live in a constant anticipation of trouble. How can you focus when part of your brain is generating unlikely scenarios?
So, it's appropriate that the word for anxieties means “that which divides us.” It's not immobilizing fear but those things that distract us and cause us to be in two places at once. How many of us have had a spouse or a child say, "I'm talking to you but you're not listening." Most of us, I imagine. Anxieties make us unfocused and separate us from what matters most. That which divides us keeps us from being fully present with anyone.
In Psalm 86 David says, "Give me an undivided heart" and that is what Al Ries is saying in a way. Give us the ability to concentrate. Eliminate the distractions and the things that divide us and keep us from doing a little bit of everything and not much of anything.Comments
I had dinner with a friend who creates electronic games, and he patiently explained the rules of successful game design to me. I knew from previous conversations with others that gaming is an enormous and growing industry. One company alone, Electronic Arts, had revenues this year of $4.1 billion, and one of their many games, SimCity, has 16.3 million monthly active users.
I asked him what the basic principles are for games and what he told me sounded much like our advice to new donors – young or old.
First, a game must be easy to play but hard to master. To be successful – even addictive – it must be fun to get started but always stepping up the challenge.
The best games always draw you into a story. They are not mechanical or technical, but they tell a story that keeps the gamer going further and further in.
There is ideally an emotional connection with the character. You are not dispassionate but engaged with the person.
There is always something – like a bell or similar sound – that tells you how you are doing. You don’t have to wait to know. People love to hear from the game.
Finally, once you start getting good you want to get better. The game not only draws you in, but it draws you up a level at a time toward mastery.
I know most of us don’t think of giving as a game, per se. However, aren’t there some aspects of it that are not unlike these games? Giving can have the same dynamics with challenges and excitement. True, it’s not always fun or even exciting. Sometimes it is a discipline but, in the end, I like to think there is something about it that, like a game, makes us want to get good….and then get better.Comments