Three Dimensional Ministry


Recently, while meditating on Matthew 9:35-38 something quite unexpectedly jumped off the page.

I spent a week at the beginning of this month sitting with these 4 verses at first because I wanted to get inspired and hear what God has to say about evangelism, after all the workers are few as the passage says and we must ask the Lord to send us out.

Here’s the passage as it reads in the NIV:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” [Matthew 9:35-38]

Did you see what I saw?

I’ll narrow it down.  It’s right at the beginning in verse 35.

Jesus’ ministry was three dimensional. He went through the land teaching, proclaiming and healing.  Some translations render proclaiming as preaching, but the general meaning remains the same.  Throughout seven days of deep meditation on this passage I came to realize that effective evangelism should always contain these three elements.

Teaching

A little over two years ago I wrote a post that that broke down my mission as a writer which said that I am a disciple of Christ – always learning, always growing and always teaching.  While Jesus didn’t need to learn or grow, at least not by the time he started his ministry he was a teacher first and foremost.  He taught what it truly meant to not just follow but to fulfill the law and how to live a just and moral life.

Proclaiming (Preaching)

While teaching digs in to meaning and application and invites debate to further understanding, proclamation does not.  Proclamation is a take it or leave it a statement of fact.  Where proclamation says, “it’s raining”, teaching says rain is necessary for the healthy development of crops and invites debate regarding how much rain is too little or too much for optimal growth.  When Jesus preached he left no room for debate.  That offended many, especially when his preaching flew in the face of tradition and challenged the norms of society.

Just two chapters before this we learn that both his teaching and preaching were regarded by the people as somewhat of a curiosity because he spoke as “one who had authority”.  In other words, he knew what he was talking about.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. [Matthew 7:27,28]

Healing

Teaching and preaching are worthless unless they are accompanied by action.   People who are hungry, people who are sick and people who are oppressed by an evil system of government don’t need to be taught morality or preached to about correct doctrine.  They need food, medicine and political advocacy.

Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” [Mark 2:9-12]

Three dimensional ministry must therefore have a practical component.  Saint Teresa of Avila said:

Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

What’s your three dimensional ministry?  How are you discipling others through teaching, preaching and healing?  Let me know in the comments or via email.

PS – On a personal note, I just learned on the weekend that my High-school English teacher passed away of breast cancer.  She was only in her mid 50s.  As a 20 something teacher on her first assignment she was the first person to see in me a potential for writing.  She encouraged me to journal and hone my voice, that journal evolved into this blog.  It’s been more than 30 years since I was her student, and, in that time, I have written almost every day and completed 2 books.  I skipped my High-school reunion, so I never got a chance to thank her or to show her what that simple encouragement, which she’d likely forgot, has wrought.  RIP Mrs. Favro; a good teacher never fully knows how they quietly shape the future and bring context to the past.

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Either Way, You Win


Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you’re going to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi

I recently told a business associate that I tend to read a book a week.

To say that they were impressed is a bit of an understatement.  Shocked is more like it.  How on earth can anyone find time to read a book a week?

Well to be perfectly honest it’s not exactly a book a week.  More like 50 pages a day.  That works out to between 250 and 350 pages every seven days.  We aren’t talking about War & Peace here.  Or Adam Smith’s 900 page opus, The Wealth of Nations. I’ve found that the average hard cover non-fiction book on just about any topic runs between 200 and 400 pages.  50 pages a day therefore is about a book a week.

I have learned that in order to be successful in life and business you need to be a life long learner. The world is changing so rapidly that we need to be constantly learning new things to keep up.  My chosen field of work, the financial services industry, is no exception.  But when you strip it all down just about every business is a people business.  And I can’t seem to get away from spirituality either.

I read everything I can get my hands on that even remotely applies to these areas.  My bookshelf is lined with the latest and classic works of, Business Management, Personal Finance, Sales Theory, Marketing, Behavioral Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Spirituality, and Theology.

Where do I find the time?  It’s not that hard to read 50 pages in a day.  Unless the typeset is super small it takes me a about an hour.  Turn off the TV for an hour and you’re there – it’s that easy.

An hour a day is all it takes to read a book a week and be a life long learner.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was in the Life Insurance business, in the 1960s.  He was a top associate by the time he was 23 years old and in 1965 he founded Life Management Services and all but invented the Life Coaching industry.  Millions of people have read his books and attended his seminars on navigating life’s most challenging situations.  Most people know him for his famous inspirational quote:

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Nothing has a bigger impact on your life than what you learn from books and people.  That’s why I really like that quote from Gandhi as well.  If I continue learning at the pace of a book a week, and I live forever, I will eventually know everything there is to know.

That’s my plan.

But the first half of the Gandhi quote is important as well.  It’s important to live for today, don’t put things off, enjoy each moment as it comes and be content in whatever your circumstance.  Tomorrow might not come so live for today but if you do wake up in the morning, keep learning and make every day better than the last.  You can’t go wrong.

Live today or die tomorrow – either way you win!

How do you live for today and learn for tomorrow?  Tell me in the comments below.

Vlog Ep 11 – The Value of a Financial Planner


Did you know that the average annual return of the stock market over the last 50 years has been over 7% while the average individual investor has achieved only 2.3% over the same period?

Ever wonder why that is?

It has nothing to do with fees, or institutional investors taking all the good opportunities.  It’s much simpler than that.

In Today’s VLOG I’ll tell you why most individuals can’t achieve those kinds of returns consistently and how to give yourself a fighting chance.  The answer is simpler than you might think…

Brotherhood – a reflection on formation of spiritual family


The following is an excerpt from my current book-length project tentatively titled “Prometheus Rising:  Philanthropy, Altruism and Self-Interest in a Socially Connected World”.  I’m currently working on the first draft of this work and have no projected release date.  In the past book projects have taken about 2 years to complete so stay tuned but expect a release sometime in late 2019 or early 2020.

I never had a brother.  I have two older sisters but no brothers so understanding the nature of brotherhood has been a bit of a journey for me.  And it’s only really been in the last few years that I’ve come to embrace the whole concept of Christian Brotherhood.  My friend Jeff has been a tremendous teacher for me here.

In the fall of 2013 about 18 months after having uprooted my entire life and moved to Ottawa from suburban Toronto so that we could help take care of my wife’s aging family, I was at the end of my rope.

Dealing with aging parents is one thing, doing it while your spouse is going through a major bout of depression and anxiety, your brother-in-law is dealing with the situation through anger and your mother-in-law is just needy and can’t express herself without making demands is quite another.  Add to all that the fact that I was trying to start a new business, I was constantly running on empty.

I’m a people-pleaser by nature.  I want everyone around me to be happy all the time.  I’m also very task oriented so if there is any kind of physical work to be done I am the first person to pick up a mop or offer to drive you to an appointment.  But there was just so much to do and neither my wife nor my brother-in-law seemed capable of putting aside their own anxieties and stepping up to get it done, as a result most of the “heavy lifting” fell to me.

The stress of keeping it all together while my wife fell apart eventually got to be too much to handle.  Oh, and in case you missed it, the sick and aging parents aren’t even mine.

One night, in a fit of anxiety of my own I reached out our church for help.

Two days later I was introduced to Jeff.  Jeff is a few years my junior but in many ways, he is far more mature than myself in dealing with the stresses of being a caregiver to the sick and needy.  Although not a professional psychologist by any stretch Jeff quickly diagnosed my situation as a textbook case of caregiver fatigue.  He was able to do so because he too was a caregiver to an anxious and depressed spouse.  A few years before, his wife had gone through a similar breakdown to the one my wife was experiencing.  As a result he could relate to me in a way no other person could.

Jeff was able to come along side me in my time of need and guide me down a pathway he had traveled himself not so long ago.

I like to describe my relationship with Jeff as similar to two men who find themselves mired in a swamp.  Many people had tried show me the way out of that particular swamp before, but they had flown by in helicopters high above the muck and the mire, or sped by in boats.  These people had pointed in a direction that I should go and then sped off leaving me alone to figure it out for myself.  Jeff on the other hand showed up deep in the muck himself, wearing hip waders and said; “come with me, I know the way.”

The Christian propensity to call each other brother and sister had, until I met Jeff, always seemed hollow and forced.  But in him I found a true brother, someone who demonstrated philia (brotherly love) in a way I had never before experienced.

Over the course of several months we would meet for coffee in a quite downtown shop, slightly off the beaten path and talk about our experience.  As often as not we would sit shoulder to shoulder at the bar, rather than face to face at a table.  Jeff would say that men tend to be more willing to speak honestly when we didn’t have to look directly at each other. He said it had something to do with centuries of evolution working side by side in the forests and the fields rather than face to face in the home that had made it easier for men to forge bonds “shoulder to shoulder”.

Whatever, I didn’t care, all I cared about was that I finally found someone who could not only listen to my struggles but with whom I could share an experience without wondering if he was silently judging me.  What I learned from Jeff and how my wife and I started to put our lives back together while forging a new path isn’t the subject of this book.  But the compassion that I felt while living through some of those darkest days has helped form the basis of my research into philanthropy.

We get the word philanthropy from philia – brotherly love.  It is a recognition of the fact that we are all in is together.  Your burdens are my burdens.  As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians;

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2]

I never would have learned that lesson if I hadn’t found a brother in Jeff.

 

“Cementing” the Past


When I was four years old my father taught me an object lesson in choice making.

My dad was a jack of trades, he loved to work with his hands.  From a very early age I was exposed to organic gardening, alternative energy sources and all around clean country living.  My sister likes to say that our dad was an organic hippie before being an organic hippie was hip.

In the spring and summer of 1976 my parents bought a small acreage in Southwestern Ontario and built a house on it themselves.  We moved in August and one warm fall day while dad was mixing concrete and pouring a slab for our front step I learned a lesson that would stick with me to this day.

A Cement Mixer similar to the one my dad used to build our house. He actually had two for some reason…

How did I learn this life lesson at the ripe old age of four?  My dad showed me while pouring concrete.

You see, after you mix concrete and pour it out in the area you want to cover the next step is to take a large trowel and smooth it out as flat and cleanly as you can.  The trick is to mix the concrete with just the right amount of water so that you can manipulate it with the trowel but no so much that it takes too long to dry.

Once troweled you need to watch it carefully to make sure no imperfections arise from an air bubble or something landing on it.  If that happens you must quickly trowel out the imperfection again before it sets.  Once concrete sets it’s as hard as a rock and you’ll never get it smooth again after that.

After I watched my dad work for what seemed like hours mixing, spreading and troweling this slab of concrete to perfection, all the while explaining to me exactly what he was doing, he did something completely incomprehensible.  He took a stick, wrote his name in the corner of this perfectly troweled concrete slab and walked away!

Our family moved out of that house in 1989 but to this day, unless the new owners used a jack hammer, on the corner of the front step you can still clearly see. “A. Sheil, 1976”

When we make choices in life it’s as if the concrete of our past sets instantly.  You can’t go back and un-ring a bell as the old proverb says and you can’t trowel your name out of dry concrete.

Once you make a choice it’s fixed in the past.  The only thing left to do is figure out how to continue living moment to moment and that choice is binary.  You either do A or B.  There is no C because you can’t make two choices at once.  You may be able to return to C later, after the consequences of A or B have been experienced but the choice you make is always between two options.

So why am I telling you this?

This is a blog about life, business, personal finance and spirituality.  There is nothing more relevant to all four of those things than the way we make choices.  A lot of motivational gurus will tell you that your choices and options are always open and that’s true but once made your choices are fixed, like concrete.  You can’t go back.  All choices have consequences and like writing your name in concrete, the results of your choices will leave visible manifestations on your life forever.

So how do you make choices?  Once fixed, how do you deal with the results?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

#23


I’m not a basketball fan.

Truth be told I’m not really a rabid fan of any sport.  I watch the odd game here and there and I’m not above getting swept up in a bandwagon when my local teams go on a winning streak, but I wouldn’t call myself a loyal sports fan.

What I am a fan of is the relentless pursuit of excellence.

To many basketball fans the number twenty-three is the embodiment of these values.  Michael Jordan wore the number twenty-three from 1979 at Laney High School, all the way through college at North Carolina State and for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards of the NBA from 1984-2003.   He won the NCAA tournament with North Carolina, was the 1985 NBA rookie of the year, won 6 NBA championships and 2 Olympic Gold medals, was named to the NBA All-Star team 14 times, and was named to the NBA’s 50th anniversary all-star team in 1996.

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

However; in 1978 he was cut from his high school team because he was too short.   In the 1984 college draft he was selected 3rd overall having been passed over by both the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers for Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie respectively.  While Olajuwon had a respectable NBA career, playing 18 seasons for Houston and Toronto and winning two NBA championships, Bowie never lived up to his potential and retired after just 11 seasons with Portland, New Jersey and Los Angeles.

Jordan rarely led the league in any statistically category other than wins.  It is true that he was the scoring champion for 10 seasons but a closer look at that stat reveals that he also led the league in missed shots all 10 of those years as well.  His actually field goal percentage was only 30% over his entire career.

What made Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time wasn’t his innate ability as much as it was his drive to achieve greatness.  The way I see it we can all learn a thing or two from Michael Jordan.

1 – Don’t Give Up Too Easily

How different would his life, and indeed the history of both North Carolina State, the NBA and the city of Chicago have been had he given up when he was cut from the team in 1978?  No one will ever know.  And you don’t know what the future holds for you either.  Set-backs are a part of life.  Hold on to your dreams and don’t give up too easily.

2 – Listen to the Experts

Throughout his high school, college and early NBA career Michael Jordan was widely regarded as a coach’s dream.  His number one desire was to get better and he would listen to advise and apply lessons learned in every situation.  No one has reinvented the wheel in business, there is always someone who has been down this road before.  If you are willing to seek them out and learn from them chances are you will be better for it.

3 – Work Harder Than Anyone Else

Not only did Michael Jordan listen to and take direction from his coaches he also sought out and hired personal coaches and trainers to work with on the side.  Legend has it that the night he won his 4th NBA title Jordan saw his personal trainer in the stands, as he was walking off the court he looked up and said; “I’ll see you in the gym tomorrow.”  Not even winning could stop Jordan’s desire to be better.

Which brings me to the last point…

4 – Never Settle

Winning is fun.  We should all strive to win and achieve at whatever we set our minds to but once we’ve won this prize or achieved that goal there is always something more.  “What’s next?”, is the question most prevalent on the mind of winners.

I’m not a basketball fan but I am a Michael Jordan fan.  His number twenty-three hangs in the rafters of the United Center in Chicago for good reason but he’s still not done.  Even though his playing days are over, as the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, Jordan is in pursuit of his seventh NBA title.  I for one wouldn’t bet against him achieving that goal one day too.

What does your relentless pursuit of excellence look like?  Let me know in the comments below.