The New Year is a good time to reflect on how you spend your time and it has me thinking about legacies. You will leave a legacy. The question is, what will it be? Will it be good or bad? Generational sin is real and when we sin, we run the risk of passing a legacy nightmare to 3-4 generations - that's in the Bible. It's been my experience that the "passing along" can include those both on and outside our family tree. Perhaps you're on generation 2 or 3 of a particular generational hurt or hang up and well into the assembly line of passing that legacy along. If so, push the "Stop Button" on that assembly line and be intentional about a new legacy.
We aren't stuck. The Bible says that if we break generational sin, we can bless 1,000 generations. Let's claim that lasting legacy! The legacy of Biblical stars like Moses, Abraham, Mary, David, and the writers of the books of the Bible continue to pass their legacy to new generations thousands of years after they walked on earth. If we want to leave a legacy that blesses future generations, we must be intentional about it.
I've been pondering "legacy," since meeting with my State College pastor, Dan Nold, in early December. I had what I call spaghetti brain about our 2017 ministry direction. I'd been praying for weeks and great words like evangelism, staff, journeys, growth, coaching, writing, donations, and salvations twisted their way through my head leaving tangled trails that resembled strands of spaghetti piled on a plate. All were good words but that spaghetti mess of "good" blocked my hearing the Holy Spirit's "best." Pastor Dan is gifted at seeing to the heart of a matter and speaking a simple truth that untangles what I like to call the "magic knot" that has tangled everything. He gave me 2 hours in a busy holiday season that also included a looming deadline of his doctoral dissertation. I hated to ask but I needed his wisdom. He listened and asked what I wanted my legacy to be. Chills went all over my body and the hair on my arm stood up. It was the key to untangling the "magic knot."
I knew immediately that my legacy calling wasn't building Pocket Full of Change Ministries, writing books and blogs, or branding my name, Cheryle Touchton. That knowledge explained something that had always confused me. I have a strong sales and marketing background from the business world and know the importance of branding. I used it effectively in business and have always felt a little guilty for not doing a better job at branding my name, our books, and the ministry name for the sake of our ministry work. Suddenly, I understood why.
While the name Billy Graham is the perfect legacy for an evangelist like Billy Graham and a book like The Screwtape Letters is an effective legacy for the author, C. S. Lewis, the ministry Pocket Full of Change and my name are mere useful tools for leaving the legacy I'm called to leave.
So what is it? It's the urgency of the Great Commandments and Great Commission and how they work together to further the kingdom of God. My call is to help people love God, love people, and share the Gospel. It's that simple. Everything else is a tool or distraction.
As an example, evangelism helps people begin the process of loving God, which leads to a natural love of people that drives them to share the Gospel. When they share the Gospel, the cycle begins again and perpetuates itself, which to me, is the definition of legacy. When we take Gospel teams to events, not only are we leading people to Jesus, we're training people who already love God and people enough to give their time to go to these events, to effectively share the Gospel. Studies show that when children see their parents giving the Gospel, they're more likely to stay in church as adults and take their own children to church. That means that when these newly trained Gospel-sharing people return home, not only are they leading people to Christ and helping others share the Gospel, when they share the Gospel around their children, they're passing on a legacy of church attendance to their grandchildren. See how that works? Can you see why this might excite me?
I write these hopefully inspirational Monday Ministry Moments specifically to Christians. I keep the focus on some aspect of loving God and people more because until Christians love God with their entire minds, hearts, souls, and strengths, they will never love people enough to effectively share the Gospel. When they do, nothing can keep them silent.
This ministry "Evangelizes America" because we understand that the first step to loving God is to meet Jesus and that loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel throughout America is the only true hope for America. That makes anyone who goes out with us, prays for us, or sends us out by donating to Evangelize America a part of passing on the legacy of living in a country we can be proud of. That wonder of how this all works together through our mutual legacy callings for our good overwhelms me.
Pocket Full of Change Ministries probably won't survive me moving to heaven and even if it did, based on what I've observed from watching much larger ministries, the focus of the ministry would most likely change based on the legacy calling of the new director. I'm OK with that.
The legacy I long to leave is what we as a ministry pour into the people we serve in the hopes that they too will pass along the joy and importance of loving God, loving people and sharing the Gospel. Our constant prayer and focus is for the people we lead to Jesus and minister to and with to love God and people so much that if they tried to be silent about sharing the Gospel, "the rocks would cry out," to quote a Biblical phrase. Everything this ministry does and every word we write should be intentional about helping people love God, love people, and share the Gospel.
I left Pastor Dan's office energized. I knew what to do next - write another book. I've already written 3 books and 2 booklets that in some way address the topic of loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel. It's "time" to capture the practical tales, tips, and techniques that we've collected from years of intentionally having Gospel Conversations with people in our paths and circles. Maybe my vision isn't large enough but I suspect this gospel conversation "how to" book probably won't make it to the New York Best Seller's List. However, I do expect it to stay on the bookshelves of people we've impacted. People who've experienced the bright light of loving God and people so much that they began sharing the Gospel have discovered an unimaginable joy in being a part of people accepting Jesus. They want to remember the experience and how to do it again. If this "how to" Gospel book is a reminder of that and is a treasured part of their bookshelves that they show others as they share the light of loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel, that "how to" book and our experiences will have served their purpose well.
I'm going to be intentional. Between now and our first evangelism event at Mardi Gras in late February, other than 1 speaking engagement next Sunday, I'll be in a private writing season that requires silence to hear the Holy Spirit, writing uninterrupted long enough to get into a productive "writer's zone," and focused time to be intentional about completing this book. I'm turning off my phone and will check messages and respond to urgent calls, texts, and emails at lunch and dinner breaks. I'll be on Social Media briefly in the morning and before bed. If you need me, leave a message. If its urgent, call Bob. He's in Virginia alone until I finish this writing season and will visit me a couple of weekends. I intend to honor Pastor Dan's precious time by being intentional with what I heard God say.
Mardi Gras begins our intentional season of evangelism journeys and events that typically runs through December. I'll continue this Monday Ministry Moment during this "writing season" in this abbreviated form to keep you updated and give you instructions for participating. I hope to stay in our Jacksonville home for this season but will move if I can't avoid the temptation of being with beloved family and friends. I am taking a Sabbath so if you live in North Florida and you'd like me to visit your church and/or share some of these tips, tales, and techniques with your congregation or small groups on a Sunday, just ask. 2017 ministry will be intentionally focused on helping people love God, love people, and share the Gospel.
What legacy are you called to leave? You know what it is. It's what you think about when you daydream. People hear it in your rants and impassioned speeches. It's how you vote and possibly how you pick your friends. Claim it and be intentional about leaving it. Don't expect everyone to have the same passion because they have their own legacy calling. Just focus on yours.
Take inventory about legacies you're unintentionally leaving, particularly those nasty generational sins that were foisted on you. Confess, made amends, and stomp your foot at anything the evil one is using to distract you from leaving the legacy you're called to leave. Be intentional about your legacy by loving God with your entire mind, heart, soul, and strength, loving people through the unique way your legacy call demands, and always sharing the Gospel through your legacy pursuits. Happy New Year!