This is a true story, the best kind. It’s a story of God’s faithfulness and his reality. It’s a story about a lesson learned in the most practical of ways for the best of purposes; trusting God with his plan.
Nineteen years ago this week, after a long season of prayer, my wife Lorraine and I decided it was time to leave the senior ranks of corporate America and respond to a calling in ministry.
With the history of a son born with multiple severe disabilities, God’s healing plan led me to Joni Eareckson Tada and the ministry to people affected by disability she founded 20 years earlier, Joni and Friends.
Despite an extraordinary founder who communicated a great vision, execution problems found Joni and Friends experiencing some difficult times.
The ministry needed a new plan and expected one to be developed by the new Chief Operating Officer who had lots of corporate, but no ministry management experience.
A primary asset to my confidence in taking the job was a man on staff named Billy Burnett, who I knew would be a great partner in ministry. An MBA, a pastor and a former engineer with outstanding people skills, Billy and I fit together like hand in glove.
“I pray in 2018 and beyond you will go forward in your calling boldly.”
With the clock ticking, we set out empowering the staff to join us in creating a new and dynamic plan that would solely respond to a direct order spoken by Jesus Christ in Luke 14:21 and 23: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame... Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
That became the sole point of our strategic plan. No variances. Execute the command of Jesus Christ to the best of our ability in new, exciting but highly focused ways – nothing more, nothing less.
By the time the plan was ready for launch, finances had reached a critical stage. Billy announced to me after work one evening, “Doug, at the rate we are going, our finances will not sustain the ministry in its current form much longer. We need a contingency plan if things don’t happen very quickly.” It was agonizing. We had just announced the exciting new plan, and it might be dead before it begins!
We spent a long evening going over worst-case scenarios.
The next morning, I got with Billy who opened with an extraordinary announcement. “Doug,” he said. “I went home and read our plan carefully. Doug, this plan is God’s plan. It’s biblically sound, and it’s going to work. This week our original budget calls for us to announce long overdue raises to employees effective in 60 days. I say we do it!”
My brain screamed “What?!” But I had gotten to know this highly competent man of great faith. His enthusiasm reflected faith in Christ, a confidence in Christ’s authority, courage to go forward and a contentment in the decision. Against my corporate instincts my mouth said, “Let’s do it!” And God smiled.
Since that day, Joni and Friends has never looked back. God has granted us 19 consecutive years of amazing growth. The effectiveness of ministry to people reached around the world has astonished even us. People affected by disabilities are receiving the Good News of Jesus Christ. Suffering is being eased. Encouragement and practical help is being delivered across the nation and around the world. God’s provision has provided a beautiful building called the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, which we moved into debt free.
This is not a story of amazing applied intellect. It is a story of the amazing faithfulness of God when men and women believe he will never abandon those seeking to execute his direct commands. Have we done it perfectly? No. Have we done it with a high degree of focus and faith in God’s promises? Yes. Is it replicable? Yes! And that’s the point of the story summarized in what we call the “4 C’s” in this order;
- Christ – Seek his spoken plan
- Confidence – In Christ’s authority
- Courage – Do not waver, you are working in the confidence received from Christ
- Contentment – The final evidence of being in God’s will
So, I pray in 2018 and beyond you will go forward in your calling boldly. Because all of God’s promises are good for all of God’s people, all the time!
Doug Mazza is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Joni and Friends, the international outreach to people with disabilities founded by Joni Eareckson Tada and the former Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai Motor America.