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Happy Birthday John Stott

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Today is the 100th birthday of John Stott.  I wish that everybody could have known him!

John was one of the most outstanding, influential Christian leaders of the last century.  I worked closely with him in the Lausanne Movement, where he was the principal author of the Lausanne Covenant.  My brother-in-law, Billy Graham, called John “the most respected evangelical clergyman in the world.”  There are many younger leaders worldwide with personal stories of his mentoring and influence on their ministries.

There will be a special livestream today at 11 a.m. ET to celebrate John’s life and legacy.  I’ll be watching … and I hope you can join me!

Maundy Thursday

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You probably know where it fits into the Holy Week calendar, but it is an unusual word.  “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, because it was on Thursday evening at the Last Supper when Jesus gave you and me a new commandment:

“…That you love one another:  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, ESV).

I invite you to join me via Zoom for a special Maundy Thursday chapel service hosted by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  We’ll gather virtually from noon to 1 p.m. ET (Thursday, April 1st).  You can watch it live via Zoom or find a recording later on the Gordon-Conwell YouTube channel.

ZOOM:  https://gordonconwell.zoom.us/j/97118764357

 

-Leighton Ford

Join Me in Prayer

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Please join me for a virtual prayer service on Thursday, March 25th, at 7:30 a.m., hosted by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

I’ll be joined as hosts by my friends Jason Smith of Forest Hill South Park, Dr. Clifford Jones of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and Victor Nicholson, Vice President of Christian Mission for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

Our theme verse for the morning comes from Jeremiah 18:6 … “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.” In these challenging times, we will focus on how prayer allows us to surrender in a way that honors God.

The service will be streamed live on the YMCA of Greater Charlotte Facebook page (where you can fellowship and pray with other participants) or available to watch later at YMCACharlotte.org.

I hope you can join us … and share with a friend!

-Leighton Ford

Remembering Luis Palau

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Luis Palau, who died this past week, was one of the most influential evangelists of our time. I remember him for his passion and his exuberant spirit! And for his faithfulness to the end.

I am moved by these words from one of his last letters:

“If I could challenge you in one way right now … as I face eternity and you continue on … it would be this: Never let the fire of evangelism fade. Stand strong for the Gospel!! There is nothing better to put your life toward. A life poured out for the Gospel. For His glory.”

My Jeanie is always reminding us: “Don’t forget the evangelists!” We will not forget Luis. And as LFM mentors younger pastors and supports churches in strengthening their vision for a fresh season of ministry, we will keep true evangelism at the point of our ministry.

These pictures are from the Second International Congress on World Evangelization (Lausanne II), held in Manila in 1989. I served as Chair and Luis was a plenary speaker.

-Leighton Ford

Thank You, Luis

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Luis Palau lived a faithful life of integrity and passion for proclaiming to millions around the world the true hope found in the Good News of Jesus Christ … but perhaps his greatest impact was intentionally mentoring and raising up the next generation of evangelists … an “Aspen Tree” leader, as we say at Leighton Ford Ministries.

A stand of aspen trees is actually one single organism … multiple trees (and sometimes multiple generations of trees) connected to the same, massive root system.

In contrast, a banyan tree is so huge and its foliage so thick that, according to the Indian proverb, “nothing grows under the banyan tree.” It “demands” all the attention and resources.

As an aspen, Luis Palau in 1998 launched the Global Network of Evangelists to identify and equip newer evangelists, now with 800 worldwide. As a member of this group, I personally witnessed Luis and his team freely invest their wisdom, experience, and resources into hundreds of younger evangelists. Unlike a banyan tree, Luis did not demand all the attention. A new generation of leaders grew around him, strengthened by his roots.

This image is a thank you card I sent Luis Palau in 2018. The picture on the left is Luis investing in me at Amsterdam ’83 (an international conference for evangelists sponsored by Billy Graham and directed by Leighton Ford. Kevin Ford helped with logistics). The picture on the right is Luis and me in 2016 as his investment continued!

Integrity to the end … a great passion for Jesus and his Good News … may we be “aspens!”

–Mark Slaughter, Director of LFM’s Thriving in Ministry Program

 

(Mark serves full-time as an evangelist with InterVarsity USA. In his unique role, he focuses on partnering with other organizations, including LFM and Luis Palau, to mentor and encourage the next generation of missional leaders).

Remembering Billy Graham

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My brother-in-law, Billy Graham, was laid to rest three years ago today. Of all the memories of that day, three memories stay with me.

  • The crowds who lined the roads and bridges, waiting as his body passed on the way to Charlotte to call out his name with great respect and love.
  • The cross shining on the casket (see my picture!).
  • My Jeanie, the first of the family to speak, bringing laughter as she said how strange it was to be standing at the podium looking back at her old family house! And then, softly quoting the old hymn, “Heaven came down and glory filled by soul,” she said, “And I know he would want me to say, when heaven comes down for you may you be ready.”

Eternal purpose drives excellence

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“Eternal purpose drives excellence.” A famous missions leader? No, it’s the tagline for Refined Technologies, a Kingdom-focused company based near Houston with a mission of honoring God and earning a profit.

LFM typically works with missional churches and parachurch ministries, but we also partner with missional companies to provide organizational consulting.

Why? William Wilberforce realized he couldn’t end slavery in England unless he got government, church, and commercial interests working together. I believe the same holds true for modern Christians … we can have our greatest impact through partnership. For example, Refined Technologies partners with World Vision USA and local government leaders to maximize clean water projects in developing countries.

This picture is from my recent visit to Refined Technologies HQ.

-Kevin Graham Ford, Chief Catalyst, LFM

LFM Receives Nearly $1 Million from Lilly Endowment, Inc.

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CHARLOTTE – Leighton Ford Ministries has received a grant of $999,748 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Mentoring Communities for Thriving Pastors program.

Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry initiative helps organizations create or strengthen programs that support local pastors by helping them build relationships with other clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in church ministry.

The grant will support Leighton Ford Ministries in training approximately fifty experienced pastors to serve as mentors and launching approximately 40 new mentoring communities supporting 320-400 pastors of smaller churches, congregations of color, and new churches (church plants).  Leighton Ford Ministries will also gather and engage senior advisors to provide additional coaching, resources, and counsel.

“Pastoral ministry is currently marked by change,” said Kevin Ford, Chief Catalyst for Leighton Ford Ministries.  “Pastors in the United States are dealing with immediate change forced by COVID-19 and systemic change in a deeply divided society.  The stress, even for the healthiest pastor, is enormous.  Our ministry is focused on providing pastors with an experienced ‘friend on the journey’ to help navigate common challenges, triumphs, and transitions.”

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States.  This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion.  “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives.  These promising programs, including the Mentoring Communities for Thriving Pastors program from Leighton Ford Ministries, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

Lilly Endowment will provide seed money to launch the new mentoring program.  Leighton Ford Ministries will work with other community partners and interested individuals to raise additional funds to continue the program beyond the grant window.

“More than thirty years ago, God called me from the bright lights of the Billy Graham association to a behind-the-scenes ministry of mentoring young ministry leaders, said Leighton Ford, Founding President of Leighton Ford Ministries.  “Thanks to the generosity of Lilly Endowment and the fresh leadership of my son, Kevin, I am grateful to see this unique vision of safe times, safe places, and safe friends for ministry leaders grow to strengthen and impact so many more pastors … and through these pastors, their churches and communities.  To God be the glory!”

 

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company.  While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location.  In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion.  The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state of Indiana.  Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.

 

Leighton Ford Ministries is a Charlotte-based, international ministry focused on mentoring healthy leaders who support thriving ministries for the sake of the Gospel.  Founded by Leighton Ford, brother-in-law of Billy Graham and former Chair of the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization, LFM supports more than 30 mentoring communities worldwide impacting nearly 500 ministry leaders, including local church pastors, women ministering in the inner city, leaders of internationally-known ministries, and former inmates now involved in prison ministry.  LFM also provides visioning, strategic planning, governance, and transition consulting services for churches throughout the United States.  Leighton’s son, Kevin Ford, author of Transforming Church and The Leadership Triangle, joined LFM as Chief Catalyst in 2019.

 

A Request for Prayer

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PRAYER REQUEST: Dr. Wei-Han Kuan is Executive Director of Church Missionary Society – Victoria and a member of LFM’s “Resilience” mentoring community in Melbourne, Australia. His team is currently leading their annual “Summer Under the Son” cross-cultural missions conference, which obviously is a huge challenge in the age of COVID! Wei-Han specifically asks us to pray “that the Lord will work through our weaknesses to draw people to deeper commitment to Christ and his kingdom’s work.”

Would you join us in prayer right now?

If You Wanted to Read on Evangelism in 2021

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Dr. Jim Singleton
Executive Director of Missional Leadership

If you wanted to read on evangelism in 2021 . . . yes, I know that is a very large “if.” Most Christians are not wanting to read or take courses on evangelism. We like having people come into relationship with Jesus, but we wish God would use someone else to get them there!

One of the pillars of what we call the “missional church” is that it is going to take all of us investing in our social networks for evangelism to happen in today’s world. Thirty years ago, we could simply point friends to a great church and assume that the church itself and the preacher would draw them to Christ. That is not happening the way it once did.

Like it or not, younger generations are not apt to visit a church. Finding a church is just not on their to-do list. In the missional church emphasis there is the reality that most people will only consider Christ if someone they trust in their social network (work, neighborhood, school) is willing to cross the barrier and actually speak about Jesus.

Through classes or reading or modeling, we will all need to acquire a new (actually, ancient) skill. The early church did this kind of work within their social circles. In the early church, there were no buildings, worship was mostly hidden, and pastors were mostly bi-vocational. Evangelism happened relationally.

So, if you want to read on Evangelism in 2021, where would I send you?

Let’s start with our friend, Dr. Leighton Ford. Today, most of us know him for his books on listening and attentiveness, but Leighton started his ministry (and his writing) as an evangelist. His first book on evangelism is The Christian Persuader: The Urgency of Evangelism in Today’s World (first published in 1966, new edition available on Amazon). It is one of my favorite books on evangelism, and as timely today as when first written.

In 1977, Leighton wrote Good News is for Sharing: A Guide to Making Friends for God (new edition available on Amazon), which offers practical ways to get involved in the relational side of evangelism.

Leighton’s third book on evangelism is The Power of Story: Rediscovering the Oldest, Most Natural Way to Reach People for Christ (first published in 1994, new edition available on Amazon). In this book, Leighton helps us understand the vitality of learning to tell real faith stories as a way of doing evangelism. It is a gentle and wooing book … avoiding what we might call “pressured evangelism,” and highlighting the art of telling faith stories as a means of witness.

If I have now interested you in reading, let me tell you about two other more recent books which fit so well with what Leighton has written.

The Reluctant Witness: Discovering the Delight of Spiritual Conversations was written in 2019 by Don Everts, a Presbyterian pastor who also writes for The Lutheran Hour Ministries. As part of a major research project with Barna on spiritual conversations, Don discovered that most Christians are not talking much about their faith to anyone, much less unbelievers. Seventy-four percent of Christians are having fewer than ten spiritual conversations with anyone in a year.

Their data was not from the Zoom world of 2020 – but from 2018 where there was still coffee hour at church. The news is that coffee hour conversations were not of a spiritual nature.

In ways that will remind you of Leighton’s The Power of Story, Everts helps us learn to tell the stories of our faith. Everts followed up The Reluctant Witness with two others:

  • The Spiritually Vibrant Home: The Power of Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors (2020), which talks about faith in families.
  • The Hopeful Neighborhood: What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good (2020), which talks about sharing our faith stories in the neighborhood.

The final book to add to your list is Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable, by Sam Chan, an Australian who
writes for a world that thinks they have sniffed Christianity and found it wanting. This is a textbook-like resource that is amazing in its comprehension and accessibility. I use it
in my Evangelism classes at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Try not to get overwhelmed at all that is here … but please do pick one for 2021 and read it! To get the mission of Christ done in today’s world will require all of us to be ready.

Dr. Jim Singleton is Executive Director of Missional Leadership for Leighton Ford Ministries and Associate Professor of Pastor Leadership and Evangelism at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.