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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.”

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.

 

Happy Birthday, Dr. Leighton Ford!

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You know him as Leighton, I know him as Dad.  And today is his birthday!  We are so thankful for his ongoing ministry of mentoring and encouragement.  In the midst of a global pandemic, he’s pivoted to Zoom and continues to invest in the next generation of missional leadership.

This morning, I started remembering all the happy times as a kid, playing basketball in our driveway or going on after dinner strolls with my mom and dad down Coltsgate Road.  At the time, he was still a globe-trotting evangelist with a phenomenally busy schedule, but he made time to listen and journey with his younger son.  Now, as Chief Catalyst of the ministry that he founded, I’m even more proud as I see over and over again his exponential impact through mentoring young ministry leaders.

Do you have a Leighton Ford story?  In honor of his birthday, join me in sharing!

-Kevin Ford

 

A New Justice League!

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There’s a new “Justice League” and it’s part of Leighton Ford Ministries! Last month we were privileged to partner with a dear friend to launch a new mentoring community for women who minister and serve in the area of justice. Each participant drew her Spiritual Life Map and then shared with the group. This was followed by a time of silence when the group listened to God, then shared what they heard and prayed for the individual.

One woman shared, “I am going home renewed and inspired in a way I haven’t been recently.”

We thank Jesus for this “Justice League” of Christian women who choose to serve in very challenging contexts. Please join us in praying for their ministries, their safety, and their continued spiritual renewal.

50 years after decrying ‘racial strife,’ Leighton Ford says ‘we didn’t follow through’

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A story from The Charlotte Observer:

 

When a group of clergy approached evangelist Leighton Ford asking him to sign a letter to Charlotte’s black community after the death of George Floyd, he didn’t hesitate. Ford, a white man and brother-in-law of the late evangelist Billy Graham, has been urging Christians to meet the “demands of the Gospel” in the racial revolution for more than half a century.