Category Archives: SeedLead
What an experience it was to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. By now, the staff at the Hilton have long since cleared off the tables and stacked up the chairs. The event is over but hopefully, the impact will remain upon a few hearts. I know it will for Andrea Boccelli.
He was there to sing but he wanted to speak. The man, this amazingly talented man, who has stirred so many people through his music, was visibly and deeply moved. This will sound trite to the critic and overly simplistic to the sophisticated ear―He was moved to see political opponents praying together.
After requesting the microphone, he said that the political parties in Italy don’t speak to one another. Our praying people gave him hope. He is going home with a dream to bring national leaders together to pray. It was a humble moment and fitting because President Obama spoke on humility. His speech is worth reading (click here). At one moment, he reflected on President Lincoln’s troubled life. He said, “And we know that he surely found solace in Scripture; that he could acknowledge his own doubts, that he was humbled in the face of the Lord.”
Like Andrea Boccelli, I was moved to see men and women―so full of passion, belief, and contention―bowing their heads as one to the One. I left with a dream too. Laying aside political differences for a moment, it was good to hear Scripture verses spoken by our President. I want to hear more.
I want to hear Bible passages from Hebrews and Isaiah shared by more presidents and citizens alike. I want to hear the Word being shared in my heart language and in thousands of heart languages. I want to hear about more people being “humbled in the face of the Lord”―like Lincoln and Boccelli and Obama.
Because, as our President humbly acknowledged, this changes everything! Spread the Word. In doing so, you will spread hope.
“For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
Our partners are world changers. Evidence of that fills our newly released Annual Report. God has accomplished so much through people who invest in Bible translation. It’s an exciting time to be alive, to be a part of what He’s doing through partnerships worldwide, and to see how mother tongue Scripture is impacting the people groups He created!
In this 2012 Annual Report, you’ll see a number of highlights including:
- Starting 115 new translation projects; 70 of which were first Scripture.
- Cutting the translation time of the “JESUS” film by 50% during a pilot project.
- Connecting 103 churches with “Least of These” people groups, doubling their missions giving.
- Setting a new record of national translators in the Consultant Development Program.
- Serving more than 1 billion people with translation in process.
I invite you to read through this report and pray for our amazing colleagues; men and women who are committed to sharing the Scriptures with their family, friends, and even strangers. As they lead, I invite you to join us as we move toward finishing the task.
We borrow the Apostle Paul’s words here:
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT).
Until all have heard.
Just today, four thousand Mobile Motorola employees received sobering news. They became the newest casualties of marketplace change. A mere ten years ago, they had such momentum. Do you remember when the Motorola Razr was the mobile phone to have? What happened?
The same is true for Nokia. They were once leaders in the wireless marketplace. Today’s news reminded me of a Wall Street Journal article that detailed “Nokia’s Bad Call on Smartphones”. While the momentum enjoyed by Motorola and Nokia fizzled out for different reasons, they both fizzled.
Nokia’s sobering tale really hit me between the eyes. The Seed Company is founded upon “encouraging creativity and innovation.” It’s a core value that challenges us to meet people groups where they are. For example, we launched a website that functions as an online tool for crowd sourced translation (we fondly call this CrowdSeed). Sounds exciting right? But, what’s so sobering? Here are a few reflections:
- “Nokia secretly developed…a tablet computer with a wireless connection and touch screen—all features today of the hot-selling Apple iPad.” History is littered with would-have-been success stories. Innovation without implementation results in a tragic waste of talent and resources. With respect to Bible translation, we have to press forward with an understanding of the urgency of the times we live in. Seven years before the iPhone launch, Nokia previewed an interactive color touch screen phone. Seven years! We must steward innovation better.
- “Casualties of a corporate culture that lavished funds on research but squandered opportunities to bring innovations it produced to market.” In the ministry world, we talk a lot. We attend congresses and vote on proper protocol. These systems are designed as measures of governance, which is good. However, research and development casualties occur all too frequently. Innovations, ideas, and inspiration must be translated into reality.
- “…Nokia clearly saw where the industry it dominated was heading. But its research effort was fragmented by internal rivalries and disconnected from the operations that actually brought phones to market.” Great Commission organizations are focused on that glorious day when Jesus is known by the nations. We see that bright future. Like Nokia, we know where we are headed. We have already won and yet we have so many connections to make. We have so much to give to those who have so little. Will we continue to be fragmented by internal rivalries? As Paul so often said, “may it never be” (Galatians 6:14).
My heart is with those that have become causalities of the marketplace. My heart is burdened for ministry leaders who are feeling the potentially paralyzing weight of change (myself included). How will our legacy models survive the 21st Century? In the world of Bible translation, we can’t afford casualties. We can’t afford to become the next Motorola or Nokia. Eternal decisions are made with every partnership, every contract, and every keystroke. Join us in our relentless pursuit to bring translation innovations to scalable implementation!
“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” (Habbakuk 1:5, NLT)
My inbox has been flooded with emails in the wake of the Lausanne Movement’s international leadership meetings. It’s exciting to be connected with so many diverse Christ-followers. Perhaps that was my greatest takeaway from our week at Belhaven. It sounds so simple, yet, the idea of connection is deeply complex — especially in the context of ministry.
Believers are some of the most creative people in the world. We have ideas, and lots of them. We are solution-orientated versus problem-orientated. After all, we have found our personal Savior, our personal “Solution.” It’s no wonder that we are an inspired-idea-generating people.
At the same time, nebulous ideas are tough to process into tangible solutions with real-life results. There are thousands of choices that determine the health of an organization. It would be impossible to navigate them alone. Yet, I have witnessed ministries of all sizes and forms suffer from a lack of connectedness.
That is why I immediately began investing in a board to which I could be accountable as president of The Seed Company. Moreover, our organization as a whole always works in relationship with other partners with a Great Commission focus. At our inception, we made a commitment to never walk alone. It’s a core value.
Just this week we were honored to host a national colleague in our offices. Pedro Sumac traveled from Guatemala, specifically the Tzutujil region. You can Google his name but I doubt your research will be fruitful. Pedro is a humble and quiet man … unless he is sharing about his beloved Scriptures in his Mayan heart language. He believes it will be the national language of heaven! Pedro led us into our morning devotions with John 17:3: “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (NLT).
Pedro had the unique experience of studying 7,000 verses while translating them into his heart language. That particular verse deeply impacted him. He learned that “to know” involves a process that can only be walked out in community. This man is passionate about community because in his nation, many believers are isolated. Some are illiterate. Others have been denied an education. This is what motivates him, one verse at a time.
Why has it taken more than 2,000 years to fulfill the Great Commission? Might it have a lot to do with connectedness? Is it a coincidence that these last days are some of the most “connected” in human history? In 20 years, the humble hyperlink has become the most powerful conduit for change. Is the Lord saying something to us?
You might be the humble link that will connect people like Pedro with the resources needed to transform an idea into reality. Whisper a prayer for the Lausanne Movement as we focus on global evangelism, one link at a time. Whisper a prayer for The Seed Company as we continue to walk in partnership with people like Pedro Sumac.
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10, NLT).
After years of serving missions-minded organizations, I am suddenly asking “What do I know about leading a movement?” As the new chairman of the Strategic Working Group of the Lausanne Movement, I find myself participating in the international leadership meetings taking place this week at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. Our week will be full of reports, workshops, and networking — classic board member activities I am familiar with. Yet, I feel unprepared to be a board member of an international movement.
Leading a movement takes a unique philosophical framework. Organizations are organized with systems and structures. For the most part, organizations are built upon predictable and measurable units: positions, wages, and time. These basic building blocks are not as clear-cut in movements. Birthed with passion, healthy movements continue to grow through persuasion and prayer. This is how the Lausanne Movement has continued to impact global evangelization after many years of service.
As our meetings commence, whisper a prayer for the meetings. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what I may, or may not know, about leading a movement. There is only one question that matters — “Lord, what do You know about leading a movement?” I will be listening for His response and learning to lead.
“But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it” (1 Corinthians 12:18, NLT).
This has been a special week, a historic week, here at the Wycliffe Discovery Center in Orlando, Florida. I flew in to host a pivotal meeting for the Strategy Working Group of the Lausanne Movement. Back in 1996, long before iPads and iClouds, Paul Eshleman was invited to serve as board chairman. This week, as Steve Douglass and Doug Birdsall stood with him, Paul laid his hands on my shoulders while praying blessings over the future of the Strategy Working Group. As Paul relinquished his duties to me, I couldn’t help but to be humbled by the great journey ahead.
Our meetings were intense. We worked. We planned. We strategized. I have a bulging notepad to decipher during my flight home. My journey will be short compared to those that traveled from Hong Kong, India, Korea, Lebanon, Nigeria and the U.K. For all of our diversity, we shared such a sense of connectedness.
Before releasing the group, I decided to lead them outside and onto the patio behind the Wycliffe conference rooms. There, we posed for a picture in front of the Wycliffe lake. I felt a quickening of the Holy Spirit to share a story with them.
If you have never heard of John Wycliffe, I encourage you to learn about this great man of God. He was hated by the Church for creating the first English translation of the Bible. Not only did his enemies seek to burn his writings — after his death, they issued a decree to dig up his bones in order to burn them as well. His ashes were thrown into the River Swift that ran by Lutterworth. As the last remnants of his physical body disappeared, one of his followers, known as the Lollards, wrote that John Wycliffe would flow down that river and end up touching the ends of the Earth.
With the same sentiment, English poet, William Wordsworth penned this poem:ONCE more the Church is seized with sudden fear,
And at her call is Wicliffe disinhumed:
Yea, his dry bones to ashes are consumed
And flung into the brook that travels near;
Forthwith, that ancient Voice which Streams can hear
Thus speaks (that Voice which walks upon the wind,
Though seldom heard by busy human kind)
“As thou these ashes, little Brook! wilt bear
“Into the Avon, Avon to the tide
“Of Severn, Severn to the narrow seas,
“Into main Ocean they, this deed accursed
“An emblem yields to friends and enemies
“How the bold Teacher’s Doctrine, sanctified
“By truth, shall spread, throughout the world dispersed.”
When Wycliffe Bible Translators acquired this property, the State of Florida required us to dig a large hole in order to collect rainwater runoff. Since we had to dig an enormous hole, we decided we might as well dig a lake. Imagine our surprise when the lake miraculously filled up in just hours. Unknown to us, we had tapped into an underground river that connects the Wycliffe property with the Atlantic Ocean that Wycliffe’s ashes flowed into 400 years ago. I get chills when I tell that story.
Generations later, and thousands of miles from the origin of the first English Bible, I couldn’t help but wonder “Where do we go from here?” I have often whispered a prayer in front of that special lake asking “What’s next God?” This week, I have been given an answer.
We live in a world that is hungry for connection. Our words reflect our culture. We are linking and “friending” around the globe. It’s the hip and fashionable lifestyle; yet God has been linking and friending His people for generations. In this generation, in this historical time for global evangelization … God is connecting His global Church like never before. The tides have turned.
I am so grateful for the men and women that He brought to our meetings this week. I am in awe of the diversity represented in our small group. Whisper a prayer with me for them as the Lord leads us into a brand new chapter of the Great Commission.
“For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord” (Habakkuk 2:14, NLT).
As an advocate for the Bibleless, I often hear the question “How can I pray?” Those four simple words are invaluable to the work of Bible translation—they are invaluable to all believers. Yet, understanding how to pray can be a challenge when there is so much to pray about. This sentiment must have weighed heavily on the disciples, as one of them posed the simple request, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Or, in other words, “Lord, where do we start?”
Here at The Seed Company we often face challenges that seem insurmountable. Every morning our staff gathers to begin the workday with devotion and prayer. During these times we pray for our translation partners who live in war-torn locations. We ask for the Lord to provide the funds so urgently needed to finance Scripture translations. Most of these prayers are planned and scheduled so all of our projects are covered in prayer. In fact, anyone can visit our website and download prayer materials specifically designed with a people group in mind. However, in addition to the planned prayers, there are many unplanned prayer requests. Those are the heart-wrenching ones that drive us to the feet of Jesus with the words, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Our prayer team has created a short video about a man who loves to pray. He’s been described as a prayer warrior. He is indeed fiercely passionate about wielding the sword of the Spirit. He has mobilized many to pray for the Bibleless, especially those living among the Bakossi people group. Yet, what strikes me most about Ernie is his humility.
It is the humble person who moves the heart of God. I believe Jesus had been waiting to hear the words, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Not only were the disciples confessing their lack of understanding, they confessed their trust in the One who could teach them. Like Ernie, the disciples were mere men. They were overwhelmed at times. They knew what defeat felt like. They didn’t even know where to begin — but they knew Jesus did!
Take the time to read our May issue of Seedlinks. You’ll be moved by Ernie’s story and his passion for the Bibleless. I pray you’ll be inspired to begin a new story, your story, with this question: “How can I pray?” I believe Jesus will teach you to pray with the discernment, passion, and understanding that only He can impart.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. — Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
Humility is a path we choose and perhaps best described as a series of choices. Webster defines humility as “the quality or condition of being humble.” Humility is a choice. The Scriptures call us to a life of discipleship and a path of dying to oneself. This path never truly ends. In fact, the desire to make humble choices should become more intense as we mature in our understanding of the high calling of following Jesus. We are called to pick up our cross. Humility is an expression of that process.
Developing humility has become more important to me in recent years and I’ve taken cues from several of our board members. Our founding board chairman, Peter Ochs, and current board chairman, Todd Peterson, have served as mentors that exemplify humility — for me and for our staff. Our board members give so much of themselves and sacrifice so much for the work of Bible translation, it is humbling.
During our recent board meetings I was able to share news from the World Prayer Assembly in Jakarta, Indonesia. I’ve been receiving emails and texts from our prayer team. We were able to send three of our prayer intercessors to represent The Seed Company. They are witnessing people groups — even those from nations historically at odds — come together to sing blessings over one another as an expression of unity. What a posture of humility! Go God!
We’re nearly halfway through the year and I can’t help but reflect over the great things God has done on behalf of the Bibleless. As an organization, we began the year with a 40-day devotion inspired by the writings of Andrew Murray. One of our investing partners had given me a copy of Murray’s book titled Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness. His words leapt off the page and convicted my heart.
Choosing humility is a daily battle. It‘s nonnegotiable for servants and all believers are servants. As leaders who value humility, we understand where our abilities come from. Jesus always glorified the Father. I want to follow His example. Humility is a path we choose.
“For the LORD delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory” (Psalm 149:4, NLT).
Today begins the second week of Look2012, an annual conference hosted by Wycliffe Global Alliance and SIL in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These hot and humid days have been filled with a flurry of activity. I’m so grateful that The Seed Company strategic leadership team is with me. Before arriving we felt an urging, a Spirit-led call, to approach Look2012 with a heart-posture of humility and service. Over the past few days, we have responded to that call and God has met us here in Chiang Mai.
Before breaking into focus groups, we meet for morning devotions, one of which, delivered by the newly appointed director of Wycliffe Hungary, has really stuck with me. After reading Genesis 12:1-3 and John 3:16-17, we shared what we believed God was saying to us personally through His Word. The director noted that God did not ask Abraham to do anything He was not willing to do himself. When God asked Abraham to move from Ur to serve His purposes, He too moved from heaven to Earth, even the same place on Earth, for the very same reason. What a God!
After devotions, the chairman of the board of Wycliffe Thailand greeted us with a warm welcome to his country, and with interactive language learning. Pointing to the logo, Look2012, he noted that the word “look” in Thai means to get up! He saw the branding as symbolic for us needing to get up, move and get going with urgency to serve the Bibleless peoples of the Earth. He had everyone getting up to their feet with each shout of the word Look.
Vision 2025 was declared at Wycliffe’s international conference in 1999, so on this date in 2012 we are very close to the half-way point to the goal, chronologically. This is an important time to stop, look, and listen to the Lord. And then … get up!
One of my personal highlights occurred during a partnership lunch meeting with the leadership of Deaf Opportunity OutReach. They are a prime example of what happens when believers get up. We partner with DOOR to create Scripture translations in Sign Languages in countries from Africa to India. These precious people are really the least, last and lost. No one has provided Scripture for them in their language — ever. And what an honor to have a small part in accelerating the translation, evangelism and church planting for entire nations of Deaf people. Right now, we are completing two to three years of work translating and recording onto video the set of 32 Bible stories for two Deaf people groups.
This trip, jet-lag and all, has certainly been worth the effort. I am so happy that we had the opportunity to LOOK — to get up! I feel a kinship to Abraham. God called us here and he met us here. What a God indeed!
The Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession ….” — Genesis 13:14-15 (NLT)
While in New York City to attend annual meetings hosted by the International Forum of Bible Agencies, I was assigned to be a “listener-reflector” on a panel about next-gen believers. The panel was hosted at a new church plant called Gallery Church. True to its name, the walls were covered with paintings and prints of every size and color. The young pastor, Freddy T, described his calling to minister to the unreached … people of lower Manhattan.
Quite honestly, I didn’t expect to meet someone so focused on reaching unreached people in New York. As a native New Yorker, Manhattan is not a strange place to me. New York has long been celebrated for its diversity. Yet, I was shocked to learn that there are 800 languages spoken in New York. There are 60,000 people living just in this one neighborhood in lower Manhattan. How did Freddy T plan on reaching this diverse population?
He answered my unspoken question by taking us on a walk through his neighborhood. He showed us a new coffee bar and tempted us with glimpses inside flavorful restaurants. Those public locations serve as places to build relationships and lead people to the Lord. We walked through a hotel lobby packed with people sitting in groups of two or three. It was like a Starbucks on steroids. I couldn’t believe how dense the crowd was. People spent their day in that lobby, chatting over coffee and networking on their laptops. Freddy T invests his life in these urban environments because they are places filled with people that he cares about.
Urban life is lived in tight quarters. Though it sounds backwards, people have to go to public places to get alone with God. They go to a coffee shop, put on headphones, and spend time in the Word. This devotion to time with God is admirable. However, I was struck with the level of strategic thinking described by several of the panel members. They shared a newfound conviction for reading the printed Word in public places. They can read the Bible on their cellphones but people around them don’t know what they are reading. In contrast, reading the printed Word in public places opens the door to conversations.
I often share the company of young pastors living on the edge. Many of them have the same zeal as Freddy T. Most of them are raising churches in hard to access locations around the globe. As I listened and reflected on the challenges facing next-gen believers, I suddenly realized that we are all living on the edge. As this global world becomes a small world, our neighborhoods are changing. The person who once lived on the edge may now be living next door. Our spaces and places are being redefined. As such, we have the chance to be Jesus in diverse neighborhoods. This is true even in my neighborhood.
What does this have to do with the Bibleless? Everything. In order to serve the Bibleless there, we have to serve the Bibleless here. It’s a matter of principle. We can invest our time there and fail to invest our time here. Likewise, we can share the Word there and neglect to share the Word here. It’s both/and, not either/or. In order to serve the global church we must serve the local church.
Apostle Paul told King Agrippa: “I started preaching this life-change—this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life—right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and from there to the whole world” (Acts 26:20, The Message Bible). Paul started right where he was.
Now, I am not saying anything new. We all know these principles, but sometimes it takes a Freddy T to remind us of our calling to minister both here and there.