14) The BackPage: Teaching our Dog a New Trick

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to teach our dog, Gabby, a new trick. Whenever I take her out for a walk, I offer her a tiny dog treat when we come back into the house. So each time, I’ve just been holding the treat up in the air above her head, then gently applying pressure on her rump until she sits, then I’ll say, “Gabby, Sit.” Time after time, she just never really got it. She’s gently resist having her rump pushed to the floor. She’d even move her head around behind her body, as if she were going to bite my hand. (She never tried, by the way. Good thing.) But I could tell, she was just a bit annoyed by all this pressure. Finally, I’d get her into the right position, and just pause everything and say — “Gabby, Stay.” And for that moment, she’d look up into my eyes, as if to say, “You know — I just don’t get this.” I’d say to my wife, “You know, she just doesn’t get it, does she.”

This morning, just a few minutes ago, we came in from her walk and I started to go through the whole routine again. I held up the treat and sighed, knowing I was going to have to go through all those weary steps again, and suddenly, right there in front of my eyes, I could see her little mind steaming. She dipped in front a bit… like she was going to bow in submission. It was as if she was saying, “Now was this the position he wanted me to take in order to get that tasty treat?” But then I could see that she was pondering, “Nope — that wasn’t it.”   And then, all of a sudden, she lowered her rump, all by herself, and just sat there, then looked away for a moment, then looked back into my eyes, as if to say, “Was this it?”

I nearly fell over. She got it. I gave her the treat and we repeated the whole thing twice more, and two more times, with no assistance at all, she did it. I rolled in the floor laughing. (I think my wife got a bigger kick out of my reaction than I did out of the dog’s.) I just couldn’t get it out of my mind, the way she started to bow in front, … trying to think through, “Now what was that pose again?”

You know, God isn’t a dog trainer, … and we aren’t dogs. But I began to think — there was a ton of joy, just with the respect that Gabby showed me this morning — and it was really all about a dog treat for her. But she still sowed that submission. And I just loved on her to the point that she was nearly beside herself with joy. Her tail was wagging a mile a minute. She KNEW she had done something right. (I just hope she remembers next time!)

I’m thinking… if we could just figure out what behavior God wants us to live out… What’s that pose again. We start to bow, then — we ponder — “What is it he wants us to do?” If we could just get it, I have a feeling He’d be so pleased. And the funny thing is, we’d not only get the treat (Heaven), but more importantly, by finding our purpose in submission, we’d find true joy and meaning for life as well.

What behavior is God hoping YOU will learn today? … this year? … for life?

14) The BackPage: Replacement Referees in NFL, A Valuable Lesson

Brigada participant, Chris, wrote this past week, steamed about American football. Now I had to confess — This entire series of events has completely passed me by (I don’t follow American football — and I now regret that, because this entire snafu sounds incredibly engaging. Chris wrote, “The final play in an U.S NFL match-up between the Packers and Seahawks seemed to expose to the nation why the real referees are so important to maintain the integrity of the game from an officiating perspective.  Just ask Roger Goodell who reportedly received 70,000 voicemails overnight as a result of the decision to award the Seahawks the touchdown and win.  I challenge all followers of Christ reading this article to first rid themselves of this ‘replacement god’ and to put the real God in His rightful place.  I also encourage readers to take action and let your family, friends and churches know that you will not tolerate this compromise of integrity to the Christian faith. Read the full article here…

Now I still have to confess, I don’t know what the fuss was all about. Apparently, my American football-loving friends are going to tell me that the replacement ref missed a critical call. But Chris’ point is — we’ve replaced the “real” God with a God of wealth. Perhaps you see other parallels. Perhaps you’ll tell us what the missed call was all about? :-) Perhaps you’ll draw your own lesson here. Either way, please click “Comment” and help the rest of us get on the same page with the “other” football-loving friends. And thanks for being part of a global Brigada audience that can pick up on this kind of thing when the rest of us miss it! :-)

14) The BackPage: Reflections on a Season of Soccer —

On July 15, my wife almost always jokes, “See you in November.” You see, in addition to doing mission work at Team Expansion, I coach high school boys’ (men’s?) soccer on the side. Tomorrow (Monday), we open District Tournaments. It’s usually a great time to stop and take stock of the season. And so, because it’s happening “right now,” let’s see what lessons we can draw so far from coaching this particular team through the summer and fall:

*** Leadership finds its headwaters in a serving heart — Our two all-time senior captains aren’t bossy. They aren’t flamboyant nor do they constantly impress you with chatter about English footballers. What they DO have is a quiet strength that inspires confidence, stability, and consistency. The secret is to serve! It’s all about serving.

*** There is no “I” in Team — We were blessed this year to have TWO good goalkeepers, one a senior and the other a junior. As I tried to size them up in real competitions, I got into a habit of rotating them often (not always, but often). I’d play the junior keeper every third game or so, just to see how he did. In fact, I finally began alternating them evenly. The senior keeper didn’t like it a bit and, because he wasn’t dominating the playing time, he actually quit the team all together. I won’t try to pick apart his motives. I’ll only observe that, at the end of the day, even if he DID think he was better, if you ask me, he still needed to stay on the team. If it’s “all about the team,” then your concern isn’t for individual playing time. Rather, it’s focused on “how can we get the outcome we desire (which, in soccer, usually means to score goals).”

*** There is strength in multiple volunteers — Because I have a full-time job away from the high school where I coach, I simply couldn’t do this job were it not for a handful of extremely engaged parents who volunteer and “make the world go round.” I’ve become convinced that volunteers are the coolest people on earth. They don’t work for money; their only satisfaction is the internal, intangible fulfillment they get by knowing that they helped bring about the end-goal. If we had more people like them around the world, the earth might actually spin faster!

There are other conclusions too numerous to mention. But these 3 at least get you started. In one way or another, they all seem to focus on leadership and how it happens best, perhaps.

But what about you? What lessons have you learned from sport? How does soccer (or your favorite pastime) help YOU understand reality. When is the athletic field most like the world in which you live and how does it help you cope? Just click “Comment” in the comments below to pitch in. Thank you in advance for any comments you can share.

11) What’s your Greatest Fear? —

I’m traveling this week in the 4th-most dangerous country in the world for traffic fatalities, as tabulated by our good friends at the World Health Organization (Who???). (See their report at )

The thing is, when you’re riding in it, you don’t really notice it being all that bad. (Is that something like saying, “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.”) I guess we don’t really notice it being that bad until a bus plows into the side of the SUV in which we’re riding, you know?

So I figured it’s worth asking… What’s YOUR greatest fear???? What haunting concern causes you to toss and turn sometimes at night. If you’re ashamed to admit that you’re anxious about it, comment anonymously. It’s easy! Just click “Comment” below. Thanks in advance for sharing the thing that causes you the most angst.


12) The Backpage: Back Up, Sync, And/Or Share Files Securely —

I asked Greg, our I.T. guy at Team Expansion, if he had any good recommendations for sharing files securely across the miles. Without hesitation, he referred me to SpiderOak…


After trying it out, I can see why. It’s the simplest, most secure file-sharing solution I’ve ever seen. What’s more, you can also use it like Dropbox, only it’s more secure than that as well. (Dropbox doesn’t give you https: secure sockets encryption; SpiderOak does.) When I say “use it like Dropbox,” I mean — you and your teammate can keep file “in sync” across the miles, transparently and without delay. Finally, if you’ve heard of those online backup services like Carbonite, it’ll work for that too. Amazing. Give it a try. No referral fee here. Just one beggar telling another where to find bread. This is such a great find, we’re currently studying it to see if it would work as a full-out document-sharing solution for our entire organization, too. It was such a promising find, we thought it was worth mentioning here in the Back Page. Try it. It’ll surprise you.

12) Backpage: Portrait of a Leader

I’ve been asking a number of folks… and now I should ask you: What qualities do you look for when you’re trying to find a leader for a new mission team? In other words — what are the traits, characteristics, and personality types? Here are some factors I’ve heard so far:

* Faith – Strong trust in God       * Grounded in Scripture       * Focused       * Empowering       * Servant leader — humble       * People are drawn to his dreams. In short, he/she has followers.       * Ability to cast a vision for a dream that hasn’t happened yet — Articulate, innovative, creative, a positive life force and a positive thinker, “can do” mentality       * Possesses an enduring spirit. Doesn’t give up easily. Exudes determination.       * Empathy: Creating a legitimate rapport with your staff makes it less likely that personal issues and resentment can creep in and derail the group. When your team knows that you are empathetic to their concerns, they will be more likely to work with you and share in your vision, rather than foster negative feelings.       * Consistency: Being a consistent leader will gain you respect and credibility, which is essential to getting buy-in from the group. By setting an example of fairness and credibility, the team will want to act the same way.       * Honesty: Another characteristic of leadership that lends itself to credibility. Those who are honest, especially about concerns, make it far more likely that obstacles will be addressed rather than avoided. Honesty also allows for better assessment and growth.       * Direction: Having the vision to break out of the norm and aim for great things –then the wherewithal to set the steps necessary to get there– is an essential characteristic of good leadership. By seeing what can be and managing the goals on how to get there, a good leader can create impressive change.       * Communication: Effective communication helps keep the team working on the right projects with the right attitude. If you communicate effectively about expectations, issues and advice, your staff will be more likely to react and meet your goals.       * Flexibility: Not every problem demands the same solution. By being flexible to new ideas and open-minded enough to consider them, you increase the likelihood that you will find the best possible answer. You will set a good example for your team and reward good ideas.       * Conviction: A strong vision and the willingness to see it through is one of the most important characterizes of leadership. The leader who believes in the mission and works toward it will be an inspiration and a resource to their followers.       * Committed and growing relationship with God.       * Sensitivity, ability and willingness to deal with the challenges and issues full-time missionaries encounter.       * Compassionate heart for missions and world evangelism.       * Ability and commitment to work well in teams and with other people.       * Ability to coach, mentor, and empower other workers toward effective ministry.       * Ability to lead in the establishment and implementation of team vision, values, and a strategic ministry plan.

Now, using the comment box below, what attributes would you add? Thanks for your help!


12) The BackPage: The State of “CHE”

If you found this item via Google and you were actually searching for material about Che Guevara, you’d be better off looking at…

THIS article deals with the kind of CHE associated with Community Health Evangelism. Regular Brigada readers will recall that, earlier in the year, I participated in a CHE “Vision Seminar.” Now, this past week, I took the full-on “Training of Trainers” or TOT. It definitely makes for a full week. The average CHE TOT 1 course lasts 4 1/2 days. I’ll have to say, there were times that I became just a tad discouraged. Seems to me, it would be possible for a CHE trainer to push the “Great Commission” to the back burner while working on other, more visible and tangible community issues. However, in our particular course, around Wednesday, the presenters became much more detailed about the link to spiritual dimensions.

When I wrote about CHE earlier in the year (see the Brigada at…

I presented several sets of bullet points that rang true throughout the week. We looked at the goal, the Biblical Basis, the Need, the Approach, the Core Elements, the characteristics of the “CHE’s” themselves, the Steps, the Phases, Committee Training, CHE Training, and “How to integrate the physical and spiritual.” It was a fairly thorough intro. And I’m excited to say that, after having taken the TOT 1 course, I’m now more excited than ever. The 6000 lessons on the DVD are excellent. Who would have imagined the core of material that I now possess, and all the lessons we can now teach!? There are lessons on:
*** Entering the Community
*** Training the community
*** Training the CHE’s
*** Agriculture
*** Health Promotion
*** Economic Development
*** Children’s CHE
*** Disabilities
*** Women’ cyckd of Life
*** Animal Care
*** Evangelism and Discipleship
*** Bible Storying
*** Moral Values
And much, much more. Many of these lessons will scratch an itch I already had. They also taught the MODE of training in such a way that it’s incredibly transferable.

What do YOU think of CHE? Are you using it currently? If so, what have been the strong points and not-so-strong points for you? If you’re courageous enough to share your opinion, we’d love to hear. Just click the link below (“comments”), You can even comment anonymously if need be. Thanks in advance for your frankness, time and investment in others!

11) The Back Page: One Church’s Approach to Unreached Peoples —

Fern Creek Christian Church is a congregation of about 800 people in southeastern Louisville, Kentucky. On Wednesday evening at 6:30pm, they pulled together nearly 100 people to study Nicholaus Zinzendorf and the Moravians, as they launched a prayer vigil on May 12, 1727. The congregation was astounded at the way the prayers went on for hours, then days, then weeks, then months, then YEARS. Exactly 74 years later, with Moravians still praying 24/7, a group of believers gathered in a hayfield near Paris, Kentucky. Men like Barton W. Stone preached a very simple gospel, directly from the Bible. Thousands joined them in the next few days. In fact, authorities were so nervous about the crowds, they actually called in the military to try to maintain order. The military, who were trained to make accurate assessments of crowds (for example, when the crowds were enemies), estimated a total of 30,000 people took part. It was an amazing development, to say the least. Fern Creek studied these events which have later been identified as the genesis of the Christian Churches, the Disciples of Christ, and the Churches of Christ. So Fern Creek decided to pray too. As of today, August 19, they’ve been praying for 88 hours. For their part, Fern Creek is praying for something very specific: the 6900 unreached people groups found in the world today. As they pray, they’ve been covering a giant “Wall” of unreached peoples, constructed in a form not unlike the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. The wall panels stretch for over 130 feet. The names of those nearly-7000 unreached peoples are etched on the Wall. And both day and night, for the past 88 hours, members of the church have been praying by name for each unreached people group, about one per minute. It’s been an exciting week — and it’s highly likely that the church will never forget it. Learn more by checking out the website at..


If you’d like to try to sign up to use the Wall, learn more at


In the meantime, if you have a moment, join Fern Creek in praying for unreached peoples by browsing them at…


11) The BackPage: Like a Frog in a Kettle —

In national emergencies like the tsunami in northeastern Japan, we can see and understand the urgency. Huge waves overturning three-story buildings have a way of getting our attention. But more subtle changes can sneak up on us. Are we sometimes like the frog in a kettle, who doesn’t notice that the water temperature is little-by-little rising to a boil?


It’s an important question these days. Some would say that tsunami-like waves are swelling around us. Families which formerly gathered to pray and worship now meet to play and pretend. And although we all believe in a healthy amount of tolerance, I cringe at the thought that we might bite our tongue rather than share the honest truth about our testimony and answered prayer.


We celebrate the exceptional churches and individuals who are choosing to stand strong in the midst of this cultural sea change. We pray for the ability to help sound a wake-up call. Waves of apathy are often followed by moldy inaction. May our generation not be remembered as people who had “The Book” but did nothing with it.

11) The BackPage: What Characterized your Calling? —

When you were “called” to the mission field (if you were), how did you know? I remember once in Bible college, our missions professor said, “The missionary call is as simple as this: If you see a need, and you believe you have the ability to meet that need — you are already called.” (I believe that might have been a quote from W.D. Cunningham, but I can’t actually locate it right now.) So nothing very dramatic there. But how ’bout you? What constituted YOUR calling? How did you know for SURE that you were meant for the field? And … were you correct? Has it seemingly worked? In other words, does it serve to remind you, like a stake in the ground, that you’re in the right place, even when the chips are down??

10) The BackPage: On Volunteerism —

Recently, I joined some 30 other Christian workers for a week-long course designed to help us learn how to work more effectively with volunteers. Now, granted, I’ve been trying to raise up volunteers since the mid-80’s. But I still feel I’m missing something. Why do they volunteer? And why do they keep volunteering? What kind of personality… What kind of service… and What kind of thought processes cause a person to decide to serve totally without regard to receiving anything in return? Those are questions I asked. I know that the workshop attempted to answer them. But I still remain somewhat perplexed — because, in my humble opinion, I didn’t discover any magic wands.


What about your organization, church, or agency? Is there any “magic wand” you’ve discovered for recruiting, retaining, and empowering the best volunteer base ever? If so, and if we promise not to interfere with your operation :-), would you mind sharing the best secrets you’ve learned? … or at least, the some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way? If so, we’d all be incredibly grateful. Just click “Comment” below — and you can comment anonymously or by name. Thank you for any help you can give.



10) The BackPage: Facing the Demons in the Storm —

I’ve just returned from a Prayer Journey to Japan. On a dark and stormy night, we hiked up to the Shinraku-ji Buddhist Temple near the town of Komoro. The gusty wind and dark shadows only served to accentuate the forces we imagined. Maybe we weren’t imagining. Eph. 6:12 reads, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I’ll never forget that prayer service as long as I live. It felt as if we were going up against dark forces — forces that had ruled Komoro for centuries.


I’m finding that this whole concept — that of facing the powers of the dark side, in the storms of life — can either build our faith (as we realize the opposing side is fairly powerless in the face of how great God is) or test it (if we’re convinced otherwise). So I’m wondering: Is there a possibility that you have a testimony of facing one of those dark forces in a prayer time, at one time or another? And if so, would you be willing to share it — in confidence, if you like? Just click “Comment” below and you’ll be guided through the sign-on process. We won’t distribute your address to ANYONE. But even better, if you work hard you should be able to write up your testimony as an anonymous contributor. Please write these as if they will be used for a national publication informing people of effective prayer-walking and “praying onsite with insight.” Just click Comment to get started. As readers share their testimonies, you’ll be able to read them along with the rest of us, instantly. (Note: Be careful about sharing URL’s in your answer (especially multiple ones). That tends to trip the alarm that maybe you’re a spammer.)

11) The BackPage: Remembering Ishinomaki —

These past few days, our prayer journey team has been praying and volunteering for residents of Ishinomaki, a city in the NE region highly impacted by the tsunami on March 11, 2011. Several issues have occurred to me as we’ve been at work here:


*** Disaster team advance preparation would be so cool, if we could just do it. In this region, one group had become gurus in disaster readiness. When the tsunami happened, everyone looked to them. I wish all our churches and agencies would invest more time, resources, and personnel in getting ready for “the big one” — or lots of little ones.


*** Once a disaster occurs, it really helps to have an entrepreneur that can envision, dream, and persuade others to come on board. But it also seems absolutely essential to have a natural administrative-type on the team too. The typical entrepreneur will be great at BELIEVING in the future, but not so great at covering all the details. Teaming them up together will create some great synergy for the future.


*** If you provide the infrastructure for volunteers to come help in a disaster, they will. Here we are, 15 months later, and dozens of short-termers are still coming here to serve local people in Ishinomaki. They’re still shoveling out drains, tearing out moldy walls, removing stained flooring, and more. And the impact they’re making here is unquestionable.


*** Connecting the dots between disaster relief and church-planting will always require lots of intentionality and long-term purposefulness. The immediacy of relief will want always to trump the long-term questions of how to birth a church from the relief work.


Have you managed to pull it off? (couple disaster relief with effective church-planting) If so, have you written anything about your experiences? If so, we’d love to read it. Please use the comment box below to tell us about what you’ve discovered so far in your ministry. And thanks in advance for helping!

11) The BackPage: The Starbucks Generation Seeks Community —

I noticed during a recent visit with my son (born 1986). He did almost NO homework at home (for the Ph.D. program upon which he’s working). Either he works at his college library — or he works at a Starbucks or similar environment. Is the same thing true in your own life?


If so, I’m wondering, what are the implications for the local church, both at home and abroad? Should we be providing more community environments for study and friendship? Plenty of churches have coffee bars open on Sunday morning. Should we be opening those up during the week? (If yours is already open during the week, would you please tell us about it briefly in the comment box immediately under this item?)


What are the implications for outreach? Do you use community-based approaches in your own outreach? If so, would you mind giving us examples? Thanks for any help you can give in helping us sort out this possible cultural tidal change.


10) The BackPage: David Allen’s Gift to Your Workplace —

Just over a decade ago, David Allen burst on the scene with a simple yet effective set of work principles that somewhat revolutionized workflow in businesses across the USA and around the world. A decade is a long time. Maybe now and then, it’s worth unearthing a few of these simple “Getting Things Done” principles and bubbling them back into our consciousness. Here were some of his primary beliefs and teachings about getting things done:


*** Our jobs train us do accomplish certain work-related skills. But often, nobody trains us how to fashion and execute our workload. So we know how to do one job at a time, once we engage in it. We sometimes have completely missed how to move through our work flow.


*** “Collect” — The first key is to quickly move through the stacks of random ideas or “things” and make a complete list of everything we have to do. This stage is designed to help us assemble a laundry list, so to speak. Allen’s theory was, in summary, if we get the whole list out of our heads and into our collection basket (whatever that is), we won’t have to feel bad about it anymore.


*** “Process” — Allen then gave us a set of steps for taking care of these items. We needed to ask if it was something we could actually process. If it wasn’t, we either throw it away, put it in a “someday/maybe” stack, or throw it into a reference tool. If it was actionable, we ask ourselves “What’s the next action?” In this major step, we either just do it (if it will take less than 2 minutes to accomplish) or we associate it with a “project” (something that is multi-step or something requiring longer than 2 minutes). Other options here include delegate it or defer it.


*** “Organize” — Allen taught that we should view most of life through a stack of “projects,” or modules that make up our work.


*** “Review” — On a weekly basis, we review all our projects to make sure we’re picking up on the “next actions” that need attention.


*** “Do” — Executing the work is the big deal. In fact, it’s the part we most need to accomplish.


Depending on the kind of job you have, Allen’s philosophies might be like a revelation, enlightening your way, or, alternatively, they might seem superficial and too “engineering-like.” But either way, if you manage a lot of “stuff” in your life, you probably do it according to a certain pattern. What Allen did for many was to help them regulate and fine-tune that pattern. And to many of us, that’s a very helpful function.


Learn more about Allen’s teaching by reading the tried-and-tested book, “Getting Things Done,” available from and just about every other bookseller in the world.

12) The BackPage: Final Call for Prayerwalking Helps —

Thanks to the couple of responses I received from those who offered prayerwalking input. David offered a personal testimony, and Marti offered a couple of resources:


“Prayerwalking: Praying On-site with Insight” (Hawthorne and Kendrick)


“Follow Me: Becoming a Lifestyle Prayerwalker” by Randy Sprinkle


The resource CD that comes with the integrated short-term mission program, The Next Mile includes a nine-page handout on prayerwalking to use in equipping short-term teams. It’s part of The Next Mile Leader Kit.


Those are the only 4 that came out. Is that it? Yikes. In the 90’s, Luis Bush called for prayer walks to all 1739 of the then-JoshuaProject list of Unreached peoples in the AD2000 & Beyond Movement. Of the hundreds of prayer walks, are those the only 4 resources that remain?


I remember a pamphlet-length booklet I have in my library. So that makes 1 website, 2 books and a booklet, and 1 CD. Gulp. I have to co-lead (with our VP of Prayer, Ops, and Personnel) a prayer journey to Asia in June. I was kind of hoping our bibliography could be bigger than that. Any other options besides the Bible????

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