James, most likely the half-brother of Jesus, wrote in the general epistle attributed to him:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin (NRSV, James 4:13-17).
The writer of Proverbs says our minds plan our ways but the Lord directs our steps. So it is whenever we talk about a year ahead. With this firmly planted in my heart I proceed to share something of the vision we have for ACT 3 in 2011. (There is also a special “Year-End Report” available on our web site that I encourage you to read as well: www.act3online.com. It can be found on the lower right side of the home page under publicity 2010.)
First, Tom and I begin 2011 humbly seeking God for the places and ministries that he wants us to serve as a team. We believe, based upon the vision that he gave to me and the work that Tom has been engaged in for several years, that we will assist several ministerial groups to pursue this vision of missional-ecumenism intentionally. If these efforts bear fruit then we will have living models to share with other groups and leaders near and far. Along with these city-transformation efforts we will work with partner missions to the same end. This includes seminaries and similar missions to ACT 3 that are uniting Christians in relational and missional ways. Some of these missions are directly involved in efforts that involve missional-ecumenism thus we believe our unique role is to teach, assist and coach these friends and partners. This will sometimes mean we will help one person. At other times it will mean being part of a larger network of ministries and churches. As we begin 2011 several such partners are on the near horizon and we are responding to them with thoughtful, prayerful intentionality.
Second, Tom will begin to build our ACT 3 network personally by being a representative champion and leader of the mission. He will help in both donor development and network building by using his considerable skills in service of our vision of “equipping leaders for unity in Christ’s mission.” We have some great ideas about how we can implement this vision in the lives of others but we will see which doors God actually opens to us as we go along. It is important that you understand that we are a decentralized mission that exists to give away a big idea and equip leaders to grasp and use this idea to transform ministries and churches. We have no design on building a program-centered mission that needs a large staff or the purchase of property.
Recently, I have been deeply impressed that we must target non-clergy to make a serious impact with this vision. Pastors, especially if they have been serving/managing a congregation for some time, are often resistant to our vision. I understand this having been a pastor for twenty years. The day-to-day life of the typical pastor is filled with expectations that do not (maybe at times cannot) include serious opportunities for building relationships with nearby churches and Christian leaders outside their own context. In some cases the best I can do is urge them to begin this effort with a small first step. Lay leaders grasp the importance of this vision more readily than most pastors and thus must be engaged and encouraged.
We must understand afresh that the leadership of the church is not limited to the clergy. I am actually working on a theology of the laity and will say more about this doctrinal emphasis in 2011. Unless we deeply and profoundly recover the role of the true leader (a Christ-centered servant who is male or female) we will never see a sea-change in the mission of the church in post-Christendom.
Third, I plan to write as much or more as ever. To this end I will travel less. I traveled less in 2010 than ever before since the birth of this mission in 1991. My health has played a role in this but so has the vision of the mission itself. Where I once traveled to speak to 10,000 people (sometimes more. often less) now I travel to see one person. I have learned that a well-conceived and prayed-through visit with the right person is strategic to the vision of ACT 3, the vision to which God has called me. Locally, we will have a regular ACT 3 Forum on the first Thursday of each month. I hope you will attend if you live in the Chicago area. I hope you will watch these events on the Web site when they are posted. But traveling here or there to conduct an active preaching itinerary is less likely in 2011. There are many fine preachers who can travel and speak, all of them much better than me. But with my experience and vision I can impact certain people who will then help change the landscape of the church in America. This is my passion.
Finally, we must find a way to gain more financial support in 2011. We get no funding from foundations or wealthy donors who give us large gifts. A big gift for us is $5,000, which we might get once or twice in a year. A normally large gift for us is $1,000. Our best monthly (regular) donor, for some years now, has given $500 a month. Most give $25, $50 or $100. We have less than ten churches that give us any support at all, much of it once or twice a year. Our total number of donor units (one time or more givers) is somewhere between 200-250.
Our budget is a little over $200,000 but we have not met it for three years in a row. Our salaries have been reduced by 30% and our bills are juggled as best we can. We have cut spending to the bone. We have added no new expenses and could only hire Tom Burns because he was able to work without a paycheck for now. Like so many small missions the Great Recession has deeply impacted us.
I need your help. I sincerely believe this might be the only time in 2010 when I have made a direct appeal for gifts on this blog site. Our policy is to make our needs known and then to ask God to provide for us as we pray and wait. We have no other way of securing your support.
Question: Has this mission ministered to you in 2010?
If you have profited in any way from what ACT 3 has done then would you prayerfully consider sharing with us in “the matter of giving and receiving” and “send [us] help for my (our) needs” (Philippians 4:15-16)? Paul calls such gifts “fragrant offerings” and says such a sacrifice is “acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). There is a promise actually attached to his words as well: “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4;19).
One-time gifts of any amount, and regularly scheduled gifts, can both be given on our secure donation site at www.act3online.com. The tool bar is easy to see on the left hand side of this page. You can also send a check to ACT 3 at: P. O. Box 88216, Carol Stream, IL 60188.
Tomorrow: What I Hope to Write in 2011