Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Imagine... An Update


Several are wondering where Imagine Network has been ... we've been silent and off-line for some time, but so much is going on!  Let me give you some updates:

On the down side
- We're STILL in process of applying for our 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.  We submitted it June 18, and have diligently filed follow-up responses to questions asked of us. I've learned a lot about non-profits, and we're not even one yet!  So leaving that in the Lord's hands...
-  Our personal support level has plateaued at about 62%.  The statement above has something to do with that, as we've been hesitant to ask more supporters to join us not knowing what our status will be.  So personal finances have become an increasing distraction ... and yet God has shown His faithfulness over and over again in taking care of us.
- While I love seeing God's miraculous provision, it's not a good way to plan for the future (dependence on God, yes; not pursuing stable funding, no).  So I'm constantly looking for extra part-time work, which of course can take away from the building of the ministry but is a growing point as well.
- We've had little public emphasis on our international partners, but projects, ministry, and trips are always being worked on.  It's been a challenge getting these opportunities to participate in front of others. 
- "Plan A" for funding Imagine beyond our personal support raising is supposed to come through churches participating in the Network.  So far, only one church has "signed up" with a financial commitment.  Not certain what this means, but still trying to position Imagine to help local churches link to our world mission partnerships.  

On the up side:
+ We've grown in our faith and as a family!  Priorities have come into better focus for us and we can resonate with more family in Christ around the world than we could before. 
+ We've deepened our desire for, and understanding of, the Great Commission.  It is so easy to get distracted from it, even by 'good things that are challengers of the best'. 
+ We've gained more contact with the Global Church and have new perspectives into God's amazing work around the world, among the poor, the oppressed, and the unreached.
+ We've been busy with Kingdom things, even if not always 'gainfully employed' by them!  Here are some highlights:

a) Sent Kenya partners through Biblical community development training by C.H.E. (levels 1 and 2).
b) Recruited a local church to participate in Oasis, a conference for Muslim evangelism.
c) Put together a global missions awareness event with 6 mission leaders, sharing to over 170 people in attendance, raising over $15,000 in support for their work.
d) Shared with some U.T. Pan American students about Islam and how to reach Muslims.
e) Preparing to go to the Middle East in November on a prayer team that will meet Christian workers from all over the region who are creatively extending the Kingdom in some of the most "closed" countries to the Gospel.  I look forward to becoming an advocate for some of these back here in the west.
f) Preaching and speaking opportunities, as well as informal conversations with several pastors about directing their churches on a missional course.  I need to learn to bill them like an attorney!  : ) 
g) Organizing Crescent Project's first international training event (Sahara Challenge - Europe) to provide training to workers in Europe and North Africa striving to reach Muslim communities with the hope of Jesus. 
h) And starting plans for a young man to return to Germany as a "baseball missionary" for most of 2011, and getting ready to host our German partnership pastor for some planning and recruiting here in Texas later next month.

So as you can see, a lot (and more) is going on!  Whether Imagine becomes a self-sustaining non-profit is yet to be seen, but it has been a joy to focus on these things.  If you are considering helping out financially (and right now would be a GREAT time to do that!), serving an international partner with your time and talent, or would like to know more about anything I mentioned, please contact us.  Always available by email at 1040chans@sbcglobal.net or by phone at (956) 369-4951.

For a list of Imagine's 2011 Global Impact trips, please see our facebook page, The Imagine Network.


Monday, September 20, 2010

In pursuit of significant insignificance

Hi.  It's been a while, I know, and I am hoping some of you are "still out there".

I was asked today by a good friend and mentor why I had not blogged in a while.  The two main reasons have been plain busy-ness and plain discouragement.  And yet I am learning how precious the lessons are when we are facing our own incapability.  Some of those lessons are just too personal to share out loud; some are too dear; but all are worth declaring: To God be the glory!

One such lesson was summarized in a powerful teaching session by Jerrell Jobe of Palm Valley Church last Wednesday, September 15 ( http://www.palmvalleychurch.com/experience/newcommunity/).  He masterfully described how God has designed the cosmos and then uniquely prepared earth so it could uniquely sustain life.  Think about the originality of our planet!  And the application point:  He designed you and I for a specific purpose as well....

In my own pursuit for that God-designed purpose, I have made one or two radical moves lately.  Leaving a salaried position to pursue a call to "a place I will show you" (see Abram in Genesis 12) is not usually the way to earn social admiration points.  No doubt some have thought something to the degree of, "why would he jeopardize his family like that?"  It's one thing to think that and not know the circumstances of our calling, but if one does know and still asks, it reveals how deeply ingrained our Biblical worldview has been tainted by our cultural prejudices.  What do I mean?

Today Kristi and I talked briefly at lunch about the "prosperity gospel".  Are you familiar with it?  You probably are, and the immediate thing that comes to mind is typically something along the lines of, "If you pray and believe enough, you can claim any possession as yours and, eventually, it will be yours."  Most of us sneer at this so-called Christian teaching; some positivists see the silver lining and are encouraged by the absolute-faith-in-God it can inspire, but regardless, this is typically what we consider to be the "prosperity gospel":  Believe God for all things happy and you will see the day!

But what if that definition is FAR too narrow?  What if, just maybe, most of us in the West are ensnared by the prosperity gospel and don't even know it?  What if the un-Biblical teaching of prosperity-for-all has unwittingly defined the course of our own lives?  Let me give you a few examples:

- When you are a one-car family, has God promised you will have a second car?  Did God promise you a car that would never break down?   Or even owning a car at all? 

- When space is getting tight in your 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1280 square foot house, has God promised more space?  If so, what is an adequate but not extravagant spiritually acceptable size?  Has God even promised you will keep the house you have??

- When we begin to unpack the contents of what we were created for, and see some major changes need to be made, are we guided by bottom-line thinking or by a process of call and obedience?

- When that step of obedience means we may never see our name in lights, do we question the wisdom of it?

- And have we inoculated ourselves by the 10% Rule in terms of our time, passions, energy, and finances (with a little extra giving added on top from time to time), to the point where we become sole masters of the other 90%? 

I recently read a fascinating, and challenging, take on the Tithe being an Old Testament rule that has been manipulated and used as a tool that actually dilutes our New Testament covenant, but that will serve as content for a later post....

So what am I getting at?  To you, to me, to anyone wanting to follow and demonstrate the way of Christ, let's be careful that we're not sneering at prosperity gospel false-doctrines while living one out right under our very noses.  Let's be sure we're asking GOD what He has promised, specifically, to us and what He has not.  Let's make sure we're asking GOD to direct our steps - if you signed up for that journey - and to repent for any self-direction we have imposed upon our destiny and slapped the label, God willed-it on it ourselves.

The ultimate error in prosperity-gospel thinking is that we become the determiners of what is good and best for us and for, in our own minds, the Kingdom.  ALL of that is being challenged right now.  And while it's not a very pretty place to be sometimes, it is a very necessary stop along the Journey. 

I join in the words of Jeremiah the prophet, lamenting for his and his people's rebellion:

"I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own;
it is not for man to direct his steps.
Correct me, LORD, but only in justice -
not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing."      

May we find significance in God's very real, and very specific purposes for us, even though we are truly in the grand scheme of things, insignificant.  And if we have made the mistake of calling some of our own shots and labeling them "the will of God", may He correct us in justice, not in wrath, lest He reduce us to nothing.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Smudges and fingerprints

I wake up grateful.  Excited to be in Germany with our friends from Detmold-Nord Free Evangelical Church; anticipating a great week of baseball camp with a great team from Texas; blessed to live in fellowship with God and His global purposes.

Yet every time I get to do this, I miss my family more and more.  Kristi, who had a call to the nations long before I did, so often stays behind and "holds down the fort" while I get to enjoy the richness of God's creation of culture.  Our kids, too, don't usually get to join me, although we want to change that soon so our prayers for them to be gifts of love, faith, and hope to the nations can begin to find fulfillment.

So as I wake up to an early, bright sunrise in Detmold, I pray for God's Spirit to fill me, for His word to be my guide, and for my life to be offered in service to Him, His people, and His purposes today.  Yet I am gratefully aware that my family stands behind me and with me, even if not physically next to me. 

This morning I noticed smudges on my laptop, probably remnants of Andrew's clicking-while-licking, most likely checking baseball scores a few nights ago with a snack at his right hand (as usual!).  But instead of wiping them off in frustration, I am leaving them here as a loving reminder - the smudges and fingeprints of my incredible family are all over me, and I want them to show.  My wife and kids have filled my life with goodness and joy; I have all I want!  Thank you, Kristi, Anna, Elisa, and Andrew, for making my joy complete.  And I can't wait to share these moments with you on future trips I hope you can join me on.

In the meantime, may the smudges of the Chan family sharing life together be evidence of our love for each other; and may the fingerprints of God - His unique design and plan for our lives - be evidence of grace, mercy, and hope to all we encounter this week. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Back in School!

I thought I had graduated.  Going back to school is not something I had been considering, but God in His always-proven-to-be-better wisdom, has had other plans. 

It seems there are times we "insulate" ourselves from the pruning and stretching effects of the Spirit of God, the kind of work that hurts but eventually results in our good.  While God definitely allows us seasons of rest and joy, my insulation seems to have been totally man-made.  I was busy in "ministry", leading in missions, entrenched in the routines of church-staff life, ... while my spirit subtlely became malnourished.  Being insulated may feel good at first, but I am grateful God loves us too much to leave us there!

The school I am going back to is not one that awards degrees.  In fact, it may not even be one that we're intended to graduate from!  If the goal of our Christian lives is for "Christ to be formed in us" (Galatians 4:19), then I can see why long-time followers of Jesus call this a life-long journey, and by the end of our days, we're simply a little closer, but still not "there" yet....

So God in His once-more-proven-to-be-exceptional goodness is taking me back to school.  I am discovering basic truths in new light, like only the multi-dimensional Word of God can reveal.  Here are some 'basic training classes' that I'm taking right now, challenging, stretching, and encouraging me today:

* Bible 101:  Nowhere in Scripture does it say to "read the Bible".  It says to meditate, to study, to write it on, and hide it in, our hearts. When I come to the Scriptures, I need to come ready to dig in, meet Jesus, and go deep, not just to read it to have read it.

Educational Psychology 101:  We all know God made each of us unique, like snowflakes.  We all know we each have different learning styles.  Then why do we tell EVERY Christian the path to discipleship is to "read your Bible and pray" without showing them the distinct ways you can do these things so that they engage you in your own learning style?  So read the Word out loud, walk in the yard and pray out loud, touch things, draw pictures, journal thoughts and prayers, listen to audio recordings of Scripture, and engage multiple versions.... Could it be that our paths of discipleship are as unique as our distinct personalities?  I am learning to become a unique creation of God, having been a monochromatic clone far too long....

* Physical Ed 401:  There is a dramatic difference between trying and training when you apply it to athletics such as running a marathon.  We may TRY to run it the day of, and we'll quickly find we're not naturally suited for running 26.2 miles!  But if we TRAIN, it's a different story.  1 Timothy 4:7 says "train yourself in godliness."  Now really, if I were training for a marathon, it would be serious business.  What am I seriously and aggressively doing to train myself to be godly?  ALL try to be godly, but FEW train.

* Economics 101-301:  Level one:  It is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth (Deut. 8:18); Level two: Giving resources away instead of clutching them is the antidote to materialism (1 Tim. 6:17-19); Level three:  God can do more with our 90% than we can with our 100% and if we don't give Him this chance, we are robbing Him of the opportunity to be our Provider God! (Malachi 3:8-10)

* Theology (Infinity-0-1):  And finally, everything we learn about the character of God Himself is eternal, huge, mystifying, satisfying, and priceless.  Of late, God has been revealing His definition of faith:  "Trust Me"!  That's it.  My faith, as He is teaching me, is not in Him saying things He has NOT said such as, "I promise you will keep the house"; not "I promise you will have nice things"; not "If you have your quiet time I will pay your bills"; and definitely not "I promise to keep you and your family safe from every bad thing".  Life moves on around us and often hard things, even evil things, will come against us. 

God's promise is simply His presence.  "Trust me", he says, and when it seems right to Him we will receive, or we will lack, or we will rejoice, or we will hurt ... but in all things we will learn to glorify Him and say, "I can do all things thru Christ who give me the strength".

Hard lessons, but it's an even harder life without them!  

I'm thankful to Pastor Rick and Pastor Jerrell of Palm Valley Church for igniting these lessons in me.   


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Unlike hurricane Alex, Imagine Network is On Target

We're watching this thing wobble and clumsily drift closer to the Valley than they said it would yesterday.  These things are so unpredictable, best thing is to just BE Ready!  But how do you prepare for the unexpected?

Like hurricanes, global mission is unpredictable.  Churches increasingly want to engage but find the cross-cultural currents challenging to navigate and discouraging to even begin.

Here's an encouraging link.  900 mission leaders from 85 countries got together in Tokyo to affirm the past and agree on the future - what is unique in our day and what can be done as a response?  Each generation will be accountable to God for the stewardship of its mission, and this generation will have a LOT to account for if we don't get properly engaged.

The encouraging element is that Imagine Network is positioned to fulfill the vision and focus that these 900 leaders say is needed.  We are ready, we just need the churches and individuals who are ready to say, "Here am I, send me".  Are you ready?  Take up your part in God's global plan!  You have a role to play, and much to account for in this incredible age of global opportunity.....


Friday, June 25, 2010

Becoming One

I recently married another young couple and it was once again a privilege, a joy, and a timely reminder.  I have not performed dozens of weddings, but just enough to remember how significant each one has been and that so far, 100% of them remain married! 

I vary the wedding ceremony depending on the couple's wishes and on their personalities - what I know of them, to waht degrees, and what I believe the Lord is wanting to be said on their special day.

But all the weddings I've led - if I remember accurately - always include at least this one truth:  God calls marriage a mystery.  The world says two incomplete people become one; in other words 50% + 50% makes 100%.  It's the Jerry Maguire heartwarming moment, "You complete me."  Well that's all romantic and such, but it's not a mystery.  It's just good math.

A mystery is when two whole, real people, 100% each, come together to make ... 100%.  It's not 50+50 = 100, nor 100+100 = 200.  It's not math, it's mystery, and the mystery is that out of the two whole, one new whole emerges.  And this new whole is beautifully unique, a perfect blend of two complementing one another as they merge 2 wills, 2 backgrounds, 2 perspectives on everything ... into 1 mind, heart, and soul.

I am so glad Kristi came into my life.  I love who she has been and who she is becoming.  Check out her latest blogs, http://imaginehomelife.blogspot.com/ and you'll see a glimpse of how we are increasingly becoming one.

For the glory of God, and the good of mankind. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Purpose of Imagine

I recently posted a question on Facebook that generated many responses, "What is the purpose of your life?"  This is a serious question which can produce long answers, or simply honest 'I don't know's'.  It's a challenging question which compels me to ask it again of myself, and of Imagine.  While my life's response may focus more on the journey, the question posed to the ministry leads me to focus on desired outcomes.

SO what is the purpose of the Imagine Network?  What do I hope to see accomplished?  In no particular order, I believe Imagine can:

  • Build bridges of partnership between local churches and God's global mission movement
  • Specific Goals:  10 churches newly engaged by the end of 2010; 20 churches by the end of 2011.

  •  Be a rallying point for the unity of the world-wide Body of Christ
  • Specific Goals:  12 global partnerships by the end of 2010; 24 by the end of 2011, including at least one in each strategic region of East Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Europe, China, India, SE Asia, North America, Central America, South America, West Africa, and North Africa.  These partnerships will be based on common goals and vision - namely to be tools for the Spirit of God to bring holistic transformation to their communities and nations.

  • Catalyze awareness and opportunity that results in a greater number of Christians being mobilized to serve in global missions - part-time and full-time - using their skills, talents, and every day experiences.  
  • Specific goals:  To mobilize people from 8 different domains into short-term mission opportunities over the next 12 months, from the areas of Education, Health, Business, Agriculture, Social Services, Science & Technology, the Arts, & Sports, in addition to church-based ministries.  We desire to see 200 proffessionals serve short-term in 2010-2011, using their gifts and practical experiences on the global stage, and I believe we can see 3 churches begin to send their own long-term mission teams by the start of 2012.
  • Specific related goal:  To facilitate the mobilization of 100 Latinos, Africans, Asians, and others from the emerging "majority world" church as front-line missionaries in the hardest places remaining.  I believe God has raised them up for such a time as this and it is our role to help them GO.  Imagine could be one of the first truly Global mobilization agencies by focusing mission movements with Internationals and not just North Americans.   

  • Through these global partnerships, create change that will endure and see the "tide turned" against the global giant challenges of: 
  • HIV/AIDS - infection rates reduced to a mimimum;
  • Child-Orphans - rescued into homes and discipled into future leaders; 
  • Endemic poverty - solutions created and sustained through creative use of local resources; 
  • Islamization of the globe - training effective and genuine Christians to share the liberating message of the love of Christ for all people;
  • Unengaged people groups - targeting efforts to plant churches in places where no church exists using a wide range of creative entry points such as clean water projects, health development, etc.  
We'd love to have a team of 50 prayer-partners and 50 regular financial contributors to launch Imagine to the place it can be.  For two and a half years we had no overhead costs so 100% of funds raised went to our projects.  Even though we now have personnel, we still aim for 90% and above to go towards projects and partnerships. 

Well, those are some of our aspirations.  So much can happen if we can build our organizational and spiritual structures on a solid foundation.  Imagine ... the global church united, changing the world.

Will you join us?


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