What’s in a face?

When I hit my 50’s I began checking the Obits every day. Getting older will do that. I have seen several friend’s parents on the list. At least one close friend from high school. Several distant friends. Teachers. Past co-workers. Neighbors.

Obits have guidelines. Most have a picture. Most mention the deceased parents, siblings, spouse, children, grandchildren, and maybe a pet. If the deceased was a church attender it mentions the name of the church and what functions they performed at the church. Many say “Entered glory” or “Met his creator” or “Went home to Jesus”. They almost always say “Passed” or “Passed peacefully”. If there was sickness involved they say “Fought a courageous battle” and if it was a surprise they say “Passed unexpectedly”. I’m not trying to be crude but when they say that about a 98 year old I wonder when they were expected to pass.

Careers are mentioned. Hobbies. Previous addresses. Obits can be long or short. Vague or detailed. Some leave a great deal of questions that make a curious reader want to know more. Maybe the mystery. Maybe the cause. Some who are curious dig up social media trying to find out what happened (guilty).

The pictures. The pictures are interesting. Some older people will use a young photo. I’m sure there are many reasons for that. Many older Vets will use a young military photo. I personally like that. Most photos are cropped or edited. A reader can see that there is a spouse or someone else in the photo but they are always cut out. An obit photo is not about them. It’s about the deceased and only the deceased.

Some people look friendly. I look at some photos and say “I would have liked this person”. Some look funny. Some look sad. Some look angry. Can a reader tell about a person’s life by looking at their obit picture? I’m not sure. Whoever picked the photo probably picked the best one they had. Often the deceased are dressed up for a wedding or special event. It’s the ones who have a blurry or really bad photo that concern me. Was that the best photo the family had?

The photo signifies our last statement in life. I know some day that viewers will glance over my photo. If they don’t recognize me they will keep scanning looking at the others who share my page. If they knew me they will stop and read the full obit. What will my photo say? What will the brief statement of my life say? I’ve thought about writing my obit ahead of time. I like when funny people write humorous obits about themselves. If I keep procrastinating, I may wait to long.

I will be long gone by the time my obit reaches the paper. Maybe that’s what I should write, “By the time you are reading this, Brian is long gone…” Whatever is written won’t affect me one bit. The photo won’t either. Whether the picture is young or old, skinny or fat, hair or bald, I will be long gone so I won’t care. I just hope I convey that I had a good life and that I’m even happier now that I’m with my Savior.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24

Raising Support part 2

Besides being a novice at fundraising, I’m no expert at advertising either. Sometimes I understand what marketers are doing and other times I’m dumbfounded.

Example: I have been binge watching an old TV series from the 1980’s on a free cable network. The same commercials run over and over and over again.  The biggest standout commercial is for Buick. No offense, but I will never buy a Buick. I don’t care how many thousands of commercials I see, I am confident that I will never buy a Buick. It’s just not me. Is that commercial wasted? I’m obviously not the only one watching this show and maybe there will be someone who is influenced to buy a Buick but it won’t be me.

Personally I was more interested in the ads for WD-40 and their line of new products. I might be influenced there. Again, I am no expert on advertising although I know it works.

In your field of fundraising, how many letters do you send out? How many emails, newsletters, postcards? Do you only send to those who respond or do you “advertise” to a broad market with hopes of picking up a new sponsor?

I have talked with people who email MailChimp newsletters. They watch their dashboard for days to see how many people open it. After pouring themselves out and re-writing the letter they become depressed that only a few read it. It’s hard.

Are we marketing to the wrong audience (like Buick is with me)? Should we be trying to attract $10 donations (like I am with my trees) or should we go for the kill and hope to get a $50,000 donation? Wouldn’t that be nice?!

From the little I know, we need the whole gambit – $5, $10, $25, $100 and keep going. I always encourage people to give $10 a month. That’s $120 a year and most people won’t write a check for that much.

One of the people I work with went to a fundraising consultant who strongly advised sending out slow mail paper newsletters. I huffed. I was wrong. He was right. They are working. They are expensive and a lot of work but they are working.

What works for you? I got some good feedback yesterday from part 1 and I will be addressing that as we go. Please send me yours.  Brian

Raising Support part 1

I have a confession: I have more fear about raising and living off support as a missionary than living in a foreign country. No joke. In my twenties I joined many other young men who thought we could conquer the world by starting a business that would fund us to be missionaries without raising support.  Ha! At age 60 I am saying, “I am still willing to go Lord, if you pay off my debt!”

I’m no export on raising money. I’ve never lived on support. In the next couple of blogs I am going to address some issues with donations, giving, programs, etc. I hope that you will comment and share wisdom.

Right now I am frustrated. I have been trying to raise money to plant trees in Kenya. I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook.  I thought 1,000 friends should be able to raise $1,500 to buy 300 trees. You know….Hey….if 300 friends gave $5?????? Wrong. So tell me what I did wrong. #1 FB didn’t share my excitement and I don’t think my post was shared (maybe it was blocked). #2 I began tagging friends. hmmmm I still don’t know if they went out because I virtually had no response. #3 I posted several times, tagged again, and posted again. Some people clicked “Like” but didn’t give any money. If I was a swearing man, I would say “What the hell does that mean?” Liking the post but not giving $5? Who in America on Facebook doesn’t have $5? Do I need to scream? #4 I listened to GoFundMe and began emailing people. I got a couple responses but not many.

After two weeks of harassing people and giving my own money, I have $500 of the $1,500. One donor said that she would give if I promised not to put her on another mailing list. I can totally understand that! I don’t need any more mailers either.

So here we are. I started researching raising money and thought I’d share my journey

The first article I read was https://www.thebalancesmb.com/why-donors-dont-give-2502028

Interesting. Helpful.

But I’m still lost. How do you raise money?????????????????????????? Why do some people give and others don’t? Why do some radical causes raise millions over night and others fall flat on their face? Why can we get people to write a check for millions but we can’t get people to part with $5? As I said, please share your wisdom because I am clueless!

gf.me/u/yscr5v

Surprise, Surprise It’s not what you expected

How many times do the characters in the Bible express shock and awe when God moves? How many times do they pray for God to deliver and then immediately complain that the deliverance wasn’t what they had hoped for? How many times was the answer to prayer an open door into another difficult situation that led to more crying?

I’m not against prayer for deliverance or miracles. I’m also not condemning God for how He answers prayer. We can cry out – you know that example in Luke 35, keep knocking until you drive your neighbor crazy and he finally gets up?

God does answer. Not on our timing (plenty of examples there). Not on our expectations (plenty there too!).  When we deal with God we need to be ready for the unexpected. This goes against Matthew 11:30 “My yoke is easy” but lets face it, laying down our lives for God isn’t always easy and sometimes it can be a kick in the head.

Please don’t hear that I am calling God a liar. I’m not. What I am saying is that God sees a much different picture than we do. We may see our request as a simple request – “God, I need a bicycle”. The Israelite’s wanted freedom from slavery. Seems simple – the answer wasn’t. Israel later wanted a Messiah – they got their answer but again, quite a bit of shock and awe and not what they expected.

Skip ahead 2,000 years. We’ve been hearing about the 2nd coming of Christ for a long time. We’ve been warned about the tribulation. We received plenty of “head’s up” on persecution. We shout out, “Come Lord Jesus!”

I find when we shout at God He hears us but like pestering a neighbor at four in the morning, we may get a bucket of cold water dumped on us rather than a loaf of bread!

I don’t know if Covid19 is part of the tribulation. I don’t know how it fits into God’s plan. But…..how many people are saying “I just want to go back to normal”? How many are grumbling? How many are saying “I’m tired of this (manna) I want something else?” Could we be in the wee beginnings of the tribulation and we are tired of it already?

“I want to go back” is a secret code to me. It’s part of the fatigue and fear of what is coming next. Remember that bicycle that you prayed for? Mine was a yellow Schwinn ten speed. It worked but soon after I wanted a car.  Look out for the shock and awe. I fear that it is just beginning.

All these are the beginning of birth pains.

MissiontoMission – Why?

Years ago I was sitting in a restaurant in Kitale Kenya with friends from a DOVE International conference. An American lady name Cheri came over to our table because she knew one of the local pastors. I was introduced to her and we realized that we had mutual friends. She was a part of Globe International and I have been a life long friend with the director, Doug Gehman.  Laurie and I also received mission training through a Globe course.

This kind of encounter has happened to me several times. The world is getting smaller and missions is getting bigger. Recently a friend noticed that I was a mutual friend on Facebook with a missionary. I couldn’t remember how I knew the person. It turns out that he is a YWAMer that knows my son in law from China. He was leading a team through our area and needed a place to stay. His whole team slept in our basement.

In my experience as a church missions leader, I have found churches, agencies, non-profits, etc. all sending people out around the world. If you travel to a developing nation it will be likely that you run into several missionaries all working under different agencies. The seed that God planted in my heart years ago was to create a platform where workers can connect with other workers and receive support from an independent group outside of their agency or church.

Guatemalan workers should be able to connect with other Guatemalan workers. One might be in YWAM and one might be Presbyterian but they are both in Guatemala – maybe living in the same neighborhood! International leaders should be available to coach, teach, and pray with a worker in Thailand. A young couple in Sri Lanka may really need a visit from a Mennonite worker who happens to be traveling through the area.

MissiontoMission is not a sending agency. It is a ministry of relationships, encouragement, support, training, coaching, care, help, and if nothing else – a communication platform for missionaries in any country, under any agency or church to connect with one another. I cannot personally fly to every worker who needs support, but there may be someone close by that can reach out and share.

We are beginning in 2020 partnering with one of my mentors, Merv Charles and starting M2M under his non profit, Amigos International. Merv will be one of our international leaders and will be available for ministry and coaching. Our beginning is with a dozen or so workers with my church, ACTS Covenant Fellowship. We will be working with ACTS to continue supporting the people who are sent from that church. At the same time we will be gradually picking up others who would like to be connected in this fashion.

How can you join in? You can start by joining M2M on “Workplace by Facebook”. Get signed in and email if you want at missiontomissions@gmail.com.

Thank you and blessings to you as you walk your journey!

Brian Fulmer

Covid19

I lost a friend last week to Covid19. It has haunted me for days. She was fine one day – laughing and working in her yard. She said “hi” as I walked past. And just like that….she was gone. It happened so fast that I couldn’t comprehend what happened. How could she be okay one day and gone the next?

As I walked past her house yesterday I wanted to stop and say hello. I wanted to go back to the way things were. I wanted to understand how this could happen. Could I have done something? It is so sad what this virus has done. It has killed people physically, mentally, spiritually. It has ruined businesses and will likely continue to ravage the business community. Maybe not big corporations but mom and pop businesses, restaurants, stores.  Will it ever be “normal” again?

We were discussing the pandemic and the struggles. I laughed about the mask requirements and the fear that many have. That’s when it hit my friend. The mocking….. It didn’t kill her physically. It killed our friendship. In one swift move it was over. Oh, you thought she died. I’m sorry. No, she and her family are alive and well. It’s our friendship that ended – at least for now. The mocking was probably inappropriate like so much of my “joking”. I tried to explain that joking is often my way of dealing with a difficult situation. She didn’t buy it and I am saddened that my speech affected her in a negative way.

This virus that has plagued the world and caused so much damage in so many ways. The cost to lives and business is staggering. We won’t know for some time what really caused all the panic and stress. We might never know. I have heard so many different theories. Which ones are right and which ones are wrong? I only know that we are being harmed in so many ways.

I pray for healing today.  For those affected by the virus and for those who are affected by the waves of damage.

 

Advertising Your Church

Let’s consider how to grow your church. If you run your business like we run most churches, it would probably be flat and dying. For the most part, churches count on word of mouth only to increase members. Let’s look at some ideas:

  1. Why would anyone want to come to your church? What makes it stand out different from neighboring churches? Do you have anything special to offer?
  2. Who do you want to reach – down and out sinners or easy care already saved Christians? Poor and needy souls or wealthy and giving independents?
  3. Do you really want more people or do you need more money to meet the budget?
  4. Young people, old people, children, families, bikers, hippies? Who do you want to attract?

Ok. How’s that going? Do you know who you want to reach?

Let’s look at some tag lines:

  1. “Brand new pipe organ and choir.”
  2. “Worship band. We’ll get you moving. Bring your earplugs.”
  3. “Padded Seats.”
  4. “Dynamic Children’s Ministry.”
  5. “Free Coffee.”
  6. “Hip Cafe.”
  7. “Mom’s Group and Men’s Ministry.”
  8. “Air Conditioned.’
  9. “Free Wi-fi – you can check Facebook if the sermon is boring.”
  10. “Plenty of off-street Parking.”
  11. “You can give your tithe on-line.” – you may not want to start with that one.
  12.  “Come as you are. Shorts, ripped jeans, t-shirts are welcome. Our pastor is a slob too.”
  13. “We care about appearance – Dresses and Suits required.”

Try thinking out of the box. Personally, I like the padded seats and free coffee.

Next, you will need to set a budget.

  1. Let’s say you want to spend $100,000 a year in advertising. You are hoping to get new members that make an average of $50,000 a year and that tithe faithfully.  You will need 20 new members a year to pay for the advertising. You don’t want to hurt your ministry projects so you really need to get that money flowing. It kind of cuts out the down and outers though.
  2. Will you advertise on TV? Newspaper?

Last of all. Will you hire an agent who builds a campaign or do it in house?

This is a lot to think about. How will you sell your church?

Mark 13:10
And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
Childcup

 

What you see

You live 5,000 years ago. You look around and see a land that is relatively flat. Yes, there are hills and valleys but from your perspective the world is flat. There would be no other reason to think differently.

Someone knocks on your door and  says, “My friend, the world is round.” You argue with him and point out the land is flat. It is obvious. No one could live on a ball.  He responds, “Stop looking at the land around you. Look at the moon. It is round. Look at the sun. It is round. If they are round then so is our world.” You shut the door in his face and walk away.

Before we had proof that the world was round, you would have had to take a huge step of faith (vision) to imagine that the world was not flat.

If you are trying to see God based on the people sitting in church, you will probably shut the door to anyone who comes knocking. If you try to see God through established religion, you will probably turn up your TV so you don’t hear them knocking.

If you want to see God for the first time, you will need to be willing to accept the idea and then take a HUGE step of faith to understand. Forget the step. You’re looking at a huge leap. When you land, you will still have a million questions. All of us do.

Let’s go back to the world. Do you totally understand gravity? Do you understand why people in the southern hemisphere don’t feel like they are upside down? Do you understand why magma is hot in the core and bubbles up sometimes? Do you want me to go on? Believing that the world is round is only the beginning. But it is the beginning.

Don’t make the mistake of slamming your door to God before you take that leap beyond what you see every day. Don’t filter Him out because you don’t understand everything. If you could fully understand God, He wouldn’t be God.

Isaiah 40:26
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
world fell apart

Interpreting God’s Message

Try speaking in tongues to Siri.  You won’t get very far. Siri can’t interpret tongues and most of us people can’t either. Wouldn’t it be great if you could ask Siri to translate what God wants us to do? Don’t be surprised if your friends are not any better. Look at Job. He might have been better off talking to Siri than to his friends.

Prayer is not just talking to God. We also need to decipher what He is saying. Don’t be deceived. The Bible is full of examples of deceit and misdirection. It is also full of people who claimed to speak for God when they are only speaking their demands in His name.

Look out when people loudly proclaim, “God told us to……”  I may follow that person but there better be substance behind it. In other words, they get one chance. If they are wrong once I will probably not listen again. I will also not listen if it goes off the instruction in the Bible.

Be careful out there. There are no simple answers.

1 Corinthians 14:28
If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

A Rapist in Heaven

This is a shocking idea and one that will make you realize that God’s job is above your pay scale. I picked up the idea last week in a news comment online. If you ever want to read putrid hate from people, read the online comments to any news article.

Here is the scenario: 1) A man has given his life to Jesus and has followed the guidelines for eternal salvation. 2) Same man has sexual issues (you pick it – there are plenty). 3) Same man rapes a woman. 3) Woman has no relationship with God. Has never given her life to Jesus. She doesn’t forgive the man who raped her. Hates him for the rest of her life. 4) Both man and woman die on the same day and stand at judgment together. They recognize each other. Man asks for forgiveness for what he has done. Woman refuses to forgive and spats hatred at him for what he did.

God walks up to the judgment stand. 1) The man has clearly sinned but he has confessed and repented and has given his life to Jesus. 2) The woman has not confessed or repented to anything and has not given her life to Jesus. She clearly has not forgiven the man for what he did.

Looking at this scenario strictly from Biblical outlines, the man will walk into heaven and the woman will walk into hell. True or false? If you don’t like this scenario, pick another –  How about the guards in the concentration camps during WW2? How about the settlers and the Native Americans?

My pay scale of administering justice is very far from even imagining this. How about you?

Romans 14:10
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
cross