Sponsorship and Apostles My Personal Testimony

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1 Sponsorship and Apostles My Personal Testimony Looking back at my life I can see that without the sponsorship of other leaders and apostles, I would never have been able to get to the place in ministry to which God has mercifully brought me through my sponsors. There is no way that talent, ability and ambition could have resulted in the lasting fruit I ve been graced to bear. Other leaders along the way have taken me under their wing, trained me, invited me into ministry with them, prepared platforms for me to minister from, and supported me financially, spiritually and emotionally. In this paper I will recount the most significant of those relationships and ways in which these leaders sponsored me into my apostolic calling. At the end I will summarize the ways people have sponsored me over my 37 years. From the beginning: Russ I was fortunate that when I entered the Kingdom of God, I started attending a good church which focused on close, personal discipleship. The man who led me to the Lord (Hank) introduced me to the older man who was discipling him, Russ. Russ began to meet with me weekly orienting me in my walk with God. Soon he encouraged me to go out on visits with him to visit other new people who had visited the church the same way he had visited me with Hank. I was still very young in my faith only a few months, but Russ recognized that I needed to grow by doing, not merely by studying the Word. I started by going out with him weekly to visit people who had visited the church. He started several Bible studies during the 6 months I made these visits with him. A few months later he encouraged me to start a Bible study on the campus of Brown University where I was a football coach and had been a graduate student. That ministry went on for nearly a decade several years after I moved on. Scores of students came to faith. I discipled many of these to be leaders as other Bible studies and discipleship groups started. Hence I began sponsoring people even as Russ had sponsored me. Russ also found ways for me to be involved in the church. After 5 years the church asked me to leave my teaching job and start another church as the founding pastor. Summary of Russ Sponsorship As I look back Russ was key in showing me how to sponsor others by discipling them, encouraging them, promoting them, even helping to build platforms for them to minister in. He focused more on my character and personhood than on my ministry skills. He also opened many doors for me. I followed the same pattern with many of the students at Brown during that time and saw many of them go onto to be used by God in various situations. Dave:

2 Dave was the senior pastor of that church and sponsored me to be the college and career leader due to my ministry at Brown University. After 4 years the church asked me to leave my teaching position and start a new church. Dave had actively sponsored me through the maze of church politics to the point of being appointed as and elder and ultimately starting the sister church. But once I started the new church I realized just how poorly prepared I was to be a pastor. I had no Bible school or seminary degrees so I asked Dave if he would train me in the skills of preaching and counselling. He trained me in preaching himself (he was and remains an excellent preacher), and then commended me to a program which trained counsellors, with the church picking up the training costs. Sometimes sponsorship is arranging for the one you are sponsoring to get the training that you can t teach yourself. Later, after visiting a mission field a couple of times I felt a call to leave the church and launch off in a church planting ministry that would be team based with the team exiting once the church had been planted. At the time this was an innovative, nontraditional methodology. Dave candidly admitted that I was beyond where he could help me and put me in touch with George Patterson, a missionary to Latin America, who became my first apostolic sponsor. Summary of Dave s Sponsorship Dave did a great job of sponsoring me by giving me training in areas I was lacking (including recommending lots of books for me to read!), as well as giving me platforms that would accelerate my growth whether it was in the college and career ministry, eldership, or being sent out to plant a new church. He also sponsored me into new relationships that would open doors. George Patterson: When Dave saw that I was committed to new innovative ways of church planting, he gave me a number of names of missionaries he knew and encouraged me to write them and see if they might coach and mentor me. I wrote several letters (this was long before the era) and got a reply from only one man, George Patterson. George had ministered in the Latin American world for years and had recently moved back to the west coast of the USA. He said he would be glad to train me as long as I followed his pattern: I would need to write a monthly report on what I had done, what had gone well, and even more importantly, what had gone poorly, and what I was planning on doing in the following month. He would reply with a detailed letter asking me questions and making observations. He mostly did not give directions, but rather wanted to teach me how to discover a way through the jungle of apostolic church planting. My next report to him would include my answers to his questions. He visited me and our team several times over the next 6 years. He challenged me in a number of areas where I was short circuiting my fruitfulness (his words) and that of my apostolic team. In 1991 he asked me if I would co-write a training book with him, Church Multiplication Guide. I felt very humbled that he would ask me to

3 participate and pleased when I saw my name on the cover with George s. This was another example of George sponsoring me as it opened doors to influence others. George also expanded my thinking about church planting using the word apostle for the first time in a way I could begin to unpack it with understanding. He challenged my assumption that apostolic ministry was only applicable to cross cultural ministries where the church doesn t exist. He asked if he were still an apostle even while living back in America and not active in cross cultural church planting. I was stuck because he clearly was and apostle, but it did not fit into my nice categories. He was the first one to affirm that I was an apostle, and it was through this experience that my eyes were opened to a much bigger apostolic sphere. Summary of George s Sponsorship George sponsored me by pro-active mentoring and imparted to me an outstanding mentoring framework. He trained me how to be intentional about reproducing new leaders. He showed me how you could start with the end if view even if you could not see all the twists and turns the journey involves. He was great at training me how to learn from our mistakes (our apostolic team) and use them to enter into new territory and innovation. As such, George was a great Barnabus (son of encouragement). The mentoring and sponsoring I do today in a deliberate manner, I owe to George s outstanding sponsorship of me over nearly 10 years. In 1996, after I had moved to England, he asked me to take over the training he had been doing yearly in Holland. This opened doors for me (sponsoring again) in Europe from which I am still benefiting building apostolic networks in Holland and Switzerland as well as England. Greg Livingstone and Tim Lewis (Frontiers): I connected with Greg Livingstone, the founder of Frontiers, and Tim Lewis in the mid-80s. This was a connection through a young apostle I was sponsoring at the time I will call Doc. I will cover Doc in the next paper on Reproducing by Sponsoring others since that is outside of the parameters of this paper. But note that some of those you sponsor may open doors for you to be sponsored! Doc was a PhD student at Brown and wanted to go to the mission field. He and his wife launched out with a new inexperienced mission agency, Frontiers. My wife and I went out to visit Doc and his wife in In 1985 Doc got me invited to the International Leaders meetings of Frontiers where I met Greg and Tim. Doc was instrumental in my moving away from starting large churches to starting small house fellowships using a church planting team which I started in Eagerly welcomed by Frontiers, over the next 8 years, Lewis, Livingstone, Doc and I kept asking how we could be more effective in church planting among Muslims-uncharted territory. Mutually grasping more about how teams can be more fruitful led me toform a small church planting team in Rhode Island which focused on starting house churches amongst unreached immigrant peoples. We were inspired also by Harvey Conn, a

4 professor at Westminster seminary who pioneered ministry among what he called hidden peoples i.e., immigrants living in urban centers who would never be reached by existing churches in the area due to their cultural differences. We had a lot of such people groups in Rhode Island. So the team I started focused on planting small house churches among first generation Italian and Polish Catholics, as well as communist Hungarians!. As I learned how to start these small communities, what I was learning had a great deal of relevance back to what the Frontiers teams were attempting among unengaged Muslims in Africa and Asia. Tim and Greg encouraged me to work even closer with more Frontiers teams by sponsoring me into relationships with several teams in addition to Doc s team. Finally in 1994, they asked me if I would move to England and work from their International Headquarters building a good mentoring network for teams. So the sponsorship of Tim and Greg was instrumental in me finally moving out of Rhode Island multiplying my ministry in several countries where the church wasn t yet. Dennis: Financial Sponsorship Perhaps one of my most important sponsors, and one of the best apostolic sponsors I know, is Dennis. Dennis is a businessman who decided to follow Jesus during my time in Rhode Island. One of the most passionate, generous leaders I have ever met, Dennis wanted to be a church planter, but God had clearly anointed him as a businessman to keep church planters on the job. After he got established in the faith, Dennis joined our apostolic team just as I was moving to England. But committed to facilitating church planters, he tracked with me, even traveled with me in several countries to strengthen those we were sponsoring. He began to do the same with his own relationships. Being a businessman, Dennis saw he could sponsor church planters who used business as their platform for encouraging church planting. He supplied finance and business/coaching relationships to a number of church planters associated with Frontiers and other agencies. Thus there are different ways to sponsor apostolic ministry. His was through the finance (and encouragement) he supplied. Without Dennis financial support I would be severely restricted in my own apostolic ministry. Thus he is truly an outstanding example of a sponsor of apostolic enterprise. He too is accruing great rewards in the Kingdom of heaven. By underwriting apostolic church planters and their projects, he is key to seeing Christ known where the church isn t. Throughout church history, God has used such people, gifted in making money, and then investing it strategically to move the Kingdom of God forward. May God multiple his kind by his example. A note for younger apostles:

5 In the postmodern era, it is likely that the Faith Missions movement will die out and this will leave a generation of older apostles without support, or at least severely limited in that capacity. And most modern churches would not be interested in supporting old timers. It is important that you be sensitive to this. The New Testament exhorts the younger generation on several occasions to share with those who are training them (Cf. 1 Cor. 9:13f, Galatians 6:6). So I would urge apprentice apostles and even teams of apostles to give heed to the possible financial needs of the senior apostles who are engaged with you. Patterns of Sponsorship From the above, let me summarize the many different ways I have been sponsored: Personal discipleship and character development; challenge to ongoing growth Opening doors for ministry Practically helping to build ministry platforms Helping me navigate church/mission politics to gain a place. Provide training for what I lacked. Or arranged for it including cost. Lots of encouragement, including personally observing my ministries. Opening my eyes to move out of my comfort zones and existing patterns. Giving me a disciplined framework for ongoing interaction and progress. Tracking and interacting on a ongoing basis from months to years. Introducing me to other people who opened doors for ministry. Getting me to face issues I would rather avoid, both personally and in ministry. Ongoing financial help for personal support and projects Things to emphasize in Sponsorship: Be relational. Believe in the person! Or don t sponsor him/her Measure growth. Sponsorship should expand the person you are sponsoring Build networks. Help sponsor people to each other even outside of your sphere Link complementary people/ministries even if it means him transfering teams Continually catalyze new groups and mentoring networks. Link those you sponsor to others that they can sponsor them let them go.

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