Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Adaptation Rates

training people in Farming God's Way
In development work, especially agricultural (like mine), the question often pops up-- "how are your adaptation rates?". People want to know if your work is being taken up and practiced by the various individuals who come for training. They want to know if the "rubber is hitting the road". This is a very good concern but it has one major flaw; it presumes that effective skills and transformational ideas are only successful if taken up by large groups of people. Many people believe that if high adaptation rates are attained then a missionary or aid worker is deemed successful.

I beg to differ. It is the very few that choose to be changed who are the secret to causing bigger change in the future.

In my work with training people in Farming God's Way the adaptation rate is around 5%.About 1 in 20 trained people adapt the life-changing biblical principles and revolutionary techniques taught in the curriculum. Many are surprised by how "low" this is.

Do I want high adaptation rates -- yes! But high adaptation rates are not the goal. The goal is life transformation; for people to hear the Truth and for the Truth to set them free! The thing about life transformation is that people have to change. People have to decide to live differently. Change doesn't merely happen to people; change also involves a choice by people to think and do differently. It involves the bending and submission of the human will.

The secular world dodges this issue and idolizes culture and local ideals as things that should remain in tact (through "cultural tolerance" and "respect"). That means that secular (by that I mean non-Christian) development desires to see people's lives change without asking the people themselves to change (at least not in any drastic form). This is not only a contradiction of logic but an impossibility. Christian development is the only development that can work (pretty arrogant, eh?) because it does two very amazing things: 1) it confronts the individual with the idea that they are not doing things right (not by some human standard but by God's standard) and then it asks them to change (to stop what they were doing and start doing things differently).That, my friend, is the crux of the battle. To get people to change. This is very difficult, in fact, it is impossible. God is the only one who can cause true spiritual transformation; to convict and conform people to live in a better way. God is gracious to confront people with the need to change and He is gracious to give people both the will and the ability to change. When we avoid the need for people to change we will also avoid the possibility of them changing.

It is an amazing thing to think of how many people want to see change occur but they don't ask or require the people that they are working with to change. Until we decide to embark on this difficult task we will see very little true change in the world around us.

What was Jesus "adaptation rate"? Let us say, just for the sake of doing some math, that Jesus shared the Gospel with 10,000 people (this is VERY conservative) and we know there were 120 followers gathered together shortly after his ascension. My math (120/10,000) gives Jesus a 1.2% "adaptation" rate among the people he taught. Was Jesus "successful" in his ministry? Yes, even though few people truly followed Him at the beginning it is those whom He chose and walked with who were transformed. The people most changed were the people (his disciples) who walked closest to Him. Those few men and women turned the world upside down through the way they lived and died. They submitted themselves to be changed in every way.

Don't be fooled into thinking transformation occurs because of high adaptation rates. Transformation occurs because of having the right idea, the right way of living and calling people to change and conform daily to that Way (God's way -- His Word; Himself).

In kindness and graciousness let God's people go out and share the Good News. Let us teach people life changing habits and techniques. Let us not cower to the critics who complain that our adaptation rates are low. Nor let us dilute the message to get higher adaptation rates!

Sunday, April 6, 2014


It's always important to understand that there a undercurrents when entering a stream or river or ocean. To a newcomer these currents that are unseen on the surface may pose as a deadly threat if they are not made aware of them. Children are warned and signs are posted; " strong undertow"; "beware of undercurrent".

We also need to be made aware of the deadly undercurrents all around us within the cultures that we live in. If we think that smooth waters on the surface mean there is no danger below we may be in for a surprise that could be fatal. Or if we think that there are only the  apparent currents on the surface like health problems and unemployment to wade through we may easily be caught up in much deeper problems.

This is especially dangerous for those of us living in western societies. We think that the surface signs of health and prosperity mean that all is well deep down in the soul. Or we are just so preoccupied with surface problems that we don't pay attention to currents that are sweeping us away from God and the purposes that He created us for.

How can we avoid being swept away by the wicked undertow of the love of money or sins like lust or hate? We must be anchored; chained; leashed to the only anchor that can keep us afloat, safe and moving in the right direction in the complicated currents of life. This anchor is the Word of God; links to this anchor are the simple graces like daily reading and meditation on God's Word. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what God has said and guides us in how we should live out in obedience to God's Word.

As we get ready to head back to Uganda we will have to navigate the tricky waters of the false prosperity "gospel" taught nearly everywhere in sub Saharan Africa. Undercurrents of deception and corruption are predominant and can be easy to be caught up in. What is the secret to avoiding these? The answer is the same as  it is for avoiding the powerful undertow of self sufficiency and pride found in Canada; we will need to be holding on to the Anchor; Jesus who is the Word made flesh. Tied to him there is not only safety but the deep joy of successfully following Him through the tides and currents in a life of obedience. " To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." Revelation 3:21 

How has Jesus and His Word helped you to navigate the tricky waters around you?